And I saw coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
Of any of the chapters in Revelation, chapter 20 often causes the most amount of differing interpretation from many theological perspectives. There is no way I can capture all of them here. Some of those topics include: the 1,000 year reign of Christ, when believers are actually resurrected, are there one or two resurrections, and how are people included or excluded from the book of life. Obviously there are huge theological implications for each of these questions.
But my goal has been as we have gone through the book of Revelation is to keep things as simple as possible. Secondly, we must be careful to not make interpretations from this book that don't align with the rest of the teaching in the bible. Today I mainly want to look at concept brought up today called the 1,000 year reign of Christ.
There are three main views of the 1,000 year, often called, "millennial reign of Christ". Here is a summary of the three major views from the Life Application Bible,
1. Postmillennialism looks for a literal 1,000-year period of peace on earth ushered in by the church. At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be unleashed once more, but then Christ will return to defeat him and reign forever. Christ’s second coming will not occur until after the 1,000-year period.
2. Premillennialism also views the 1,000 years as a literal time period but holds that Christ’s second coming initiates his 1,000-year reign and that this reign occurs before the final removal of Satan.
3. Amillennialism understands the 1,000-year period to be symbolic of the time between Christ’s ascension and his return. This Millennium is the reign of Christ in the hearts of believers and in his church; thus, it is another way of referring to the church age. This period will end with the second coming of Christ.
A big part of what stance you take is whether you employ a literal or symbolic view of the 1,000 years. Note how much symbolism has been presented so far in the book of Revelation. Remember all the 7's, 3's and finally 10's that have been used so far Remember 10 is the number of completeness. So 10 times 10, or 100, would be more complete. As you can see using the number 1,000 could mean perfectly complete.
I believe position 3, "amillennialism" is the most tenable. Why? Because if we are in the 1,000 reign of Christ, as symbolized by what we say in the Creed that Jesus "sits at the right hand of the Father", then only God knows when that time will be complete. Scripture teaches us that time will be complete when the full number of Jews and Gentiles have come into the body of Christ by God's sovereign will. Only God knows who that includes, but we know that God desires all people to be saved.
So what is the bottom line? Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, as confessed in our Creed. We believe in both a judgment and resurrection, when both the dead in Christ and those who are living in Christ will be taken to heaven. This view eliminates purgatory or other theories about people having second chances, after they die to be saved. Of course, God can give as many chances as he chooses, but the bible teaches that it is appointed once for a man to die and then face judgment. (Hebrews 10:25) In our Apostle's Creed we also confess, "Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead."
So then how might Revelation 20 apply to our lives? First, the bible teaches clearly there will be judgment of all people, based on their response to God's offer of salvation through Christ? This means that people we know may live with Christ forever, or be apart from him forever. Does it really matter whether that is before or after a 1,000 year reign of Christ? I think it is a better use of our time figuring out how to reach people far from God than arguing just when and how the 1,000 year reign will happen. What do you think?