One of the most highly publicized teachings today in the religious world is the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Phrases such as “It’s a sign of the times”; “The rapture is coming”; “The kingdom of God on earth is about to be established,” are flung at people from every source of mass news media. Because of the excitement stimulated by premillennial prophets many have been led to believe the Bible must teach it. However, the foundation of the premillennial concept is based on many misused passages, and its basic conclusions contradict many of the clear truths of the Bible.
Revelation 19 and 20 has been the paradise of the advocates of this doctrine. Indeed it bristles with questions. When is the battle of Armageddon? What is signified by the 1,000 year reign? Why must Satan be loosed after he has once been sealed? Whatever answers we give, let us be certain they are consistent with the theme and purpose of Revelation, i.e., a relevant message for the first century Christian (Rev. 1:1,2; 22:6,10). Furthermore, make certain we are not in conflict with the clear teaching of the rest of the Bible.
1. This is the only chapter in the Bible that mentions the 1000 year reign of Christ. Because of the emphasis modern preachers give to this subject, one might think it is found more often in the Bible with clearer descriptions than herein found.
2. Premillennialists make many claims to justify their doctrine that are not even mentioned in this passage. We must not add more than is there! For example:
a. It does not mention the second coming of Christ.
b. It does not mention a bodily resurrection.
c. It does not mention a reign of Christ on earth.
d. It does not mention the literal throne of David.
e. It does not mention Jerusalem of Palestine.
f. It does not mention us. “They lived and reigned with Christ ....”
g. It does not mention Christ on earth.
3. On what grounds can we teach a doctrine from this passage that is not mentioned?
1. The book of Revelation is unlike any other book of the New Testament because it is written in signs and symbols. However, the premillennialist must interpret this chapter differently if there is to be a literal 1000 year reign with Christ.
2. The problem is in being consistent. Even the premillennialist wants some of the terms to be understood symbolically. For example, consider his problem if these terms are literal:
c. Bottomless Pit
d. Dragon, that old Serpent
e. Seal upon the Devil
f. Souls of the Beheaded
3. In this book wherein numbers are used symbolically throughout, no rule of interpretation would justify making this number literal in Rev. 20. The number is a multiple of 10, which is the number meaning fullness or completeness. This reign with Christ indicates an unbroken and full period of rule.
1. At this point in the Revelation letter we are prepared to witness great struggle. We have had much detail about the power of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (see Rev. 12, 13). We are now given a striking description of the strength of the King of kings.
2. Christ is pictured as riding a white horse coming to judge and make war.
3. The devil has also gathered his army to fight at a “place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:12-16).
1. Like the 1000 year reign, “Armageddon” is mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible (Rev. 16:16). And like the 1000 year reign, its context indicates it is to be understood figuratively.
a. If the battleground is a literal place, then the generals who fight for the devil are going to look like frogs! (Rev. 16:13)
b. Furthermore, there must be space for one of the armies to have 200 million horsemen (Rev. 9:16).
c. There will also be a great river of blood 200 miles long (Rev. 14:20).
2. Armageddon means “hill of Megiddo” which was literally in the Valley of Jezreel where a number of famous battles were fought. It stood historically as a famous battleground between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
a. At Megiddo Barak and Deborah overthrew the kings of Canaan (Jud. 5:19); Gideon defeated the Midianites (Jud. 6:33); Saul was defeated by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:8); Ahaziah died of Jehu’s arrows (2 Kings 9:27); and here Pharaoh-Necho overthrew Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30).
b. In Revelation it stands symbolically for the battleground where the army of God finally clashes with Satan’s and overcomes.
3. Actually this place described in Revelation has no location on the maps of the earth. The battle is between righteousness and evil, and righteousness is the victor! The whole thrust of Revelation is to assure the saints of this victory and to keep them from giving over to the pressures of emperor worship (Rev. 16:15).
4. When the persecuting Roman Empire fell and the false emperor worship ceased, the Battle of Armageddon was over. The beast and the false prophet were “taken” (Rev. 19:20-21).
1. When Christ came and then arose from the grave, He bound Satan so far as limiting his power over sin and death (Matt. 12:28-29; Heb. 2:14-15; Eph. 4:8).
a. Through Christ we can now resist and be delivered from the power of Satan (I Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7).
b. This does not mean sin came to an end, but the bondage of sin was broken, and men now make the choice which lord they shall serve (Rom. 6:16-18,23).
2. However, the binding of Satan in Rev. 20 describes the limiting of Satan’s power in yet another way. He shall never abolish the church! Rev. 20 occurs in point of time after the cross and during a period when the church is under severe persecution. At Armageddon’the beast and false prophet have been defeated (Rev. 19), and now the scene turns to the victory over Satan.
3. This binding seems to represent the vindication of the cause of Christ in overcoming this Roman persecution. Never before nor since has the church been put under the severe test it suffered under this world rule which tried to enforce emperor worship.
1. The cause of Christ is vindicated, and the kingdom shall never be destroyed. This is “the first resurrection “ Revelation was written at a time the cause of Christ was about to be crushed, or so it seemed. Those who refused to worship the emperor as Lord were being persecuted, some to the point of death. Instead of the cause for which they died being abolished, the persecutors shall be brought to an end, and the cause of the Lord shall be resurrected.
2. The first resurrection is therefore the emergence of the cause of Christ out of apparent defeat (like in Ezek. 37:14). Those who had part in this period of struggle shall be joyously and victoriously rewarded (Rev. 2:7,10-11).
3. The thrones John saw were occupied by those who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast nor his image nor had received the mark of the beast.
The 1000 year reign of Christ taught in Rev. 20 is representative of a full and complete period of time now in progress. Neither Satan nor any other force can alter the purposes of God (Heb. 12:28).