End Times Series #2 – The Millennium

imagesCA33A6SHEnd Times theology is controversial.  As a consequence many Christian churches shy away from teaching about it.  This is unfortunate, because many Christians are rightly interested in it.  They therefore get informed about it some other way, and that is very hit and miss.

In this series I’m addressing many of the main issues and giving a super brief overview of the standard reformed view of these doctrines.  You can read the series introduction here and Part 1 on the Rapture here.

One of the big ideas in End Times theology is the millennium.  This is really strange because there is only one bible passage that even mentions a millennium!  So let’s have a look at some of the highlights of Revelation 20:1-10:

And I saw an angel…He seized the dragon…or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss…to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended…I saw…the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus…They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years…When the thousand years are over, Satan…will go out to deceive the nations…And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur…(to) be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

So let’s start with the obvious things that can be said about this passage:

Firstly, it is a very exciting picture of the end of Satan.  And his end is clear – he is destroyed.

Secondly, it is clear that God rewards those who give their life for Him.

Thirdly, it talks about a long period of time.  One thousand years.

So is this a literal 1000 years or not?  Revelation is a book full of symbols.  It is a style of literature that heavily uses symbols – that’s the whole point.  Oftentimes it even says what the symbols are (eg the seven lamp stands are the 7 churches – 1:20; the bowls of incense are the prayers of the saints – 5:8; the New Jerusalem is the church – 22:9-10).  I find it quite baffling that surrounded with symbols so many Christians would think that John is talking of an actual 1000 years.  I believe he is using 1000 years as a symbol of a long time.  It is not a literal 1000 years.

I believe that one of the main points that the author, John, is making is that people who lose their life for Christ are greatly rewarded for their sacrifice.  That would be a source of great consolation to John’s first readers who lived in a time of persecution.  One of the things that I strongly dislike about some views of this passage is that by placing all of these events far into the future (for John’s first readers) it offers no comfort for them.  I do not think that was John’s intention.  I think he wanted to offer his first century readers great hope for the future.  Verses 4 to 6 do this in a truly powerful way.

The upshot is that I think this passage speaks of a long period where those who have lost their life for Christ are with him, and where the truth goes forth and has an impact all over the world.  Which sounds a bit like what has been happening ever since the church started at Pentecost.  Indeed most Christians over the centuries have understood this passage to refer to right now – the current church age.

So let me make it clear – I believe that Revelation 20 is a picture of this church age.  John wrote it to encourage believers who were being persecuted and even killed for their faith in the first century.  That’s not a radical idea – it is actually what most Christians – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox – have believed for most of church history.

John

3 Comments to “End Times Series #2 – The Millennium”

  1. Anena I am doing my best to understand the passages as their authors want me to. Why would anyone want to interpret literally when the author is speaking figuratively? I believe all of the passages. I believe that all Scripture is God breathed. If someone thinks that a passage is meant by the author to be taken figuratively then that person’s interperative methods might be criticised but their commitment to Scripture should not be.

  2. Again you keep both feet on the Rock foundation of Jesus and don’t go running in misty circles. Since Revelation is a record of Jesus communicating with John through dreams we had better pay attention to that fact! The time cannot be literal, for numbers are metaphors in this Bible book which tell more than the meaning of their sound alone. “Dear friends, don’t ignore this fact: One day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8 GW – See also Psalm 90:4). The number refers to “a lot” as you say, and that can be supported throughout Scripture. Most importantly, you realize that Revelation was written for John’s own time, and things haven’t changed much (backsliding is still rampant) so the message to “hold on – endure to the end” is vital still.
    Be blessed for your level head and faithful soul!

  3. So far your end times messages have been a little disappointing. First topic – the rapture – don’t believe the passage means what it says: next topic – the millenium – don’t believe the passage means what it says.
    Paul said I believe therefore I speak. Why not spend your time referring to passages you believe – literally.

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