Revelation 20 and Amillennialism by William Cox
Although this is written by a Reformed Clavinist this is still one of the best explanantions I have read of the Amillennial understanding of Revelation 20.
by William E. Cox
Without agreement on some basic premises, there can never be a proper exegesis of any passage of Scripture. Therefore, before beginning the actual exegesis of Revelation 20, we make the following observations.
- The passage itself gives no explanation of John's meaning. Therefore, one must interpret this scripture by other scriptures.
- There is a definite rule of hermeneutics which teaches us that obscure passages of Scripture must be governed by the clear passages. To teach that this obscure passage near the very end of the Bible is the key to understanding the rest of the Bible is to fly in the face of such known rules of interpretation.
- It is self-evident that this lone passage dealing with the millennium is couched in a book of the Bible literally filled with symbols, numerology, figures of speech, poetic language, spiritual lessons couched in Old Testament terminology, etc. Although this is true, the very word 'revelation' in verse 1 of chapter 1 means 'unveiling.' This first verse of the Revelation also informs us that this unveiling was 'signified' to John. This word means that the message, or unveiling, was given in symbols, or figures. So, there is something amiss when a symbol which was given to unveil God's plan becomes a veil of obscurity dropped over in such a manner that only a chosen few can understand its meaning.
'The youthful student of Scripture should be reminded, first of all, that its figurative language is no less certain and truthful than its plain and literal declarations. The figures of the Bible are employed not simply to please the imagination and excite the feelings, but to teach eternal verities' (E. P. Barrows, Companion to the Bible, p. 557).
- Since the Revelation was written primarily to bring comfort to the Christians of John's day, who were being persecuted, it is obvious that a correct understanding must be gained by learning what these symbols and figures meant to the people of that day. A study of that period reveals the fact that John's readers were accustomed to the Greek theatre, where everything was acted out, with the actors wearing different masks in different scenes to bring out the characters they portrayed. Therefore, it was the most natural thing for God to inspire John to portray his spiritual lessons as scenes of a drama of real life. We concur with the devoted New Testament scholars who have discovered for us that the Revelation is written as a drama and the form is apocalyptic. Two especially well-written books on this subject are Worthy Is the Lamb, by Ray Summers, and The Meaning and Message of the Book of Revelation, by Edward A. McDowell. Both books were published by Broadman Press, Nashville, in 1951.
- Apocalyptic writings are known to have definite characteristics, such as figurative language, imagery, numerology, hyperbole, and the like. These are used for a purpose - to teach spiritual lessons to God's people. These characteristics are used much in the same way a producer uses stage props and scenery. The important thing in watching a drama is not the props, but the message they help to portray. The same is true with reference to the apocalyptic literature, including that used by inspired men of the Bible. The numerology, imagery, etc., are not meant to be ends within themselves, but rather they are used as means to an end in teaching a lesson God has for his people. Few people would think of attending a play and becoming so interested in the scenery as to substitute it for the play itself. Yet this is often done by many who study the apocalyptic books of the Bible. They become fascinated by the chin-whiskers worn by the actor and miss his lines completely. They are so enraptured by the stage setting that they fail to grasp the story itself.
- An axiom of Bible study is that most sections demand literal interpretation unless the context or other known Scripture passages demand figurative or spiritual interpretation. In apocalyptic literature the very opposite is true; here one must interpret figuratively, unless literal interpretation is absolutely demanded. The nature of such books as Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Revelation makes understanding impossible apart from an appreciation of the tools of the artist who painted the picture.
- Premillennialists take only a part of Revelation 20 literally, while freely 'spiritualizing' most of the chapter. They also fail to harmonize the chapter, stopping short after verse 10. Every part of the chapter should be interpreted in its context. Whereas verses 1 through 10 are said to teach a literal millennial period following the second coming of Christ and falling between two resurrections and two judgments, verses 11 through 15 definitely teach a general judgment, attended by all the dead, small and great, after the millennium. These verses will be dealt with in more detail later; suffice it to say now that to find two opposing doctrines in the same chapter of the Bible is to contend that the Bible contradicts itself. Of course, no person who accepts the Bible as infallible can believe such a contradiction exists.
Revelation 20 falls into four natural divisions, each division containing a central thought. Let us get these divisions before us and interpret them as teaching spiritual truths in spiritual language, under the religious symbolism of the age in which they were written. Our conclusion must then be substantiated by clear teachings found in other sections of God's Word.
The Binding of Satan
'And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more: until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time' (Rev 20:1-3).
A close reading of these verses makes it obvious that they contain one central thought - a binding of Satan. It is also obvious that the thought is conveyed through symbolism. Even those who insist on a literal one thousand year binding of Satan hasten to say that most of the other symbols are to be interpreted spiritually! They admit that the key, the abyss, the chain, the sealing, etc., are obviously figures of speech; they also agree that Satan is not literally a dragon and at the same time a serpent, but that John is describing him poetically. While these folk insist on taking part of this chapter hyperliterally, they can see the incongruities involved in binding Satan, a spiritual being, with physical chains and keys. This is why they admit that parts of this section of Revelation are to receive a figurative interpretation.
The question arises here, as in all parts of the Revelation, as to just who is to be the judge in deciding what parts of a given verse are to be interpreted literally and which parts symbolically. Who gives the millennialist the right to decide that one word is literal while the very next word is symbolic, then to ostracize another Christian for daring to suggest that both words might be symbolism? To say that Satan is to be bound after Christ comes the second time, then released again, contradicts many clear passages of Scripture. Assuming this to be so, and assuming that one Scripture passage does not contradict another, let us search out clear teachings of the New Testament concerning a binding of Satan. It is to be noted that John nowhere fixes the time for this event.
Only one event coincides with John's picturesque language here in Revelation 20:1-3 - this event is the defeat of Satan brought about by Christ's first advent and crucifixion. For those who object that Satan still has much power today, let it be noted that John does not picture him as obliterated, but merely imprisoned. Many a prisoner has been known to operate from inside barred windows through henchmen on the outside. And many a dog, though bound, has bitten people who came within the confines of his chain. Satan is bound, but with a long chain. Our Lord certainly overcame him and pronounced sentence upon him (John 12:31); however, the sentence will not be completely executed until the second coming (2 Thess 2:7,8). Satan was eternally doomed when, on the cross, Christ bruised the head of the serpent in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.
Floyd E. Hamilton (The Basis of Millennial Faith) makes some helpful observations on the subject of Satan's being bound.
'I suppose that no one would insist that Satan is to be bound with a literal chain of iron or some other metal, for Satan is a spirit and material chains could not hold him captive for a moment. Binding always means the limitation of power, in some way. When men bound themselves with an oath not to do something, they agreed to limit their own power and rights to the extent of their oaths. A man and wife are bound by their marriage vows, but that does not mean that they are bound in respect to other relationships in life. A slave is bound to his master, but he lives his life as a human being with freedom to do countless other things which do not interfere with his relationship as a slave to his master. So Satan's being bound does not mean that he is powerless to tempt people, and we know that he does. It is merely limitation of Satan's power in one particular respect especially, that of ability to deceive the nations. During the interadventual period the gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations, and Satan is powerless to prevent it. The way of salvation has been opened to all nations and there is nothing that Satan can do to block that way' (pp. 131-32).
'In Hebrews 2:14, the writer tells us, that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Christ brought the devil to nought, that is, He limited the devil's power in such a way that all his efforts amounted to nothing, and his power was definitely frustrated. All these things show that in the New Testament Christ claimed that in a very real sense he had bound Satan, and limited his power. In Revelation 20, one particular aspect of that binding is before us, namely, the limiting of Satan's power to deceive the nations as he did before the coming of Christ. From that time forward during the whole of the interadventual dispensation Satan is defeated in fact. He can still go about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but in this particular respect he is a caged lion' (ibid., pp. 132-33).
When Jesus sent the Twelve on a preaching mission (Luke 9:1) he gave them power and authority over all demons. He also sent seventy disciples on a similar mission, and they returned rejoicing in the fact that even the, demons are subject unto us in thy name (Luke 10:17). Then it was that Jesus said to them that he beheld Satan fall from heaven. We take this as a reference to his defeat of Satan at the cross (see Rev 12:7-12). Our Lord went on to say to the seventy disciples, Behold, I have given you authority ... over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).
Matthew records a time during our Lord's earthly ministry (Matt 12:22-29) when the enemies of Christ accused him of casting out demons in the power of Satan himself. Our Lord took this opportunity to point out that his mighty works proved (1) that he had established his kingdom (vs. 28), and (2) that he, being stronger than Satan, had come into Satan's house (this world) and bound him (vs. 29).
Following the Temptation, our Lord issued a command to Satan which was immediately obeyed (Matt 4:10,11). Our Lord referred to his crucifixion as the casting out of Satan (John 12:31-33). Paul also refers to the cross as follows: Having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Col 2:15). John informs us (1 John 3:8): To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Paul shows the defeat of Satan's power when he says (Eph 4:8): When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive . The writer of Hebrews (2:14) says that through his death our Lord brought to nought the devil. This shows conclusively that our Lord bound Satan (i.e., limited his power) at the first advent.
We concur with Hamilton that John, in Revelation 20:1-3, refers to only one facet of that limitation, that is, Satan's power to deceive the nations by keeping them from hearing the gospel. Before Christ came, only the Jew (except for the rare instances when Gentile proselytes were circumcised and made partakers with Israel) was offered the plan of salvation. Thus Satan was able to deceive the nations (Gentiles) by keeping them from hearing the gospel and being saved. After Calvary, however, Satan's power to do this was bound. Our Lord then said: All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28:18,19).
Having said that Satan was bound, John went on to say that he would be released at the end of the millennium for a little time (Rev 20:3). Now this also is in keeping with the clear teachings of the New Testament. This loosing, I believe, corresponds with the appearing of the man of sin referred to by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Paul's statement, The mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way, corresponds perfectly with what we have said about the limiting of Satan's present power. This restrainer is taken to be the Holy Spirit. This also points up the fact that Satan is bound, having only such power as God grants him. Whenever God is ready, he will remove the restrainer; that is, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way (2 Thess 2:7). Then, says Paul, the lawless one (man of sin) will be given full power to deceive them that perish (vs 1O). Paul goes on to say that the Lord Jesus Christ will slay the man of sin (Satan) at His second coming. Compare this teaching and order of events with John the Revelator's teaching in Revelation 20. John says that after the millennium Satan, who has been chained during that period, will be loosed for a little time (vs. 3) and that he will then go about to deceive the nations. John says, in symbolic language (vs. 9), that fire from heaven will put down Satan and his followers. A comparison of 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2 with Revelation 20 cannot help but reveal that Paul and John both speak of the same events. And both passages agree entirely with many other clear passages of the Bible dealing with our Lord's second coming and events preceding it.
The Millennial Reign
'And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years' (Rev 20:4-6).
The main thought of this passage is the millennial reign. This reign takes place during the same period in which Satan is bound. We established from verses 1-3, compared with clear New Testament passages, that the time of Satan's binding is the interadvent period. So that to fix the time of Satan's binding is to fix, at the same time, the time of the millennium.
Keeping in mind John's use of drama, symbols, and numerology, let us examine the stage setting and 'props' for this depicted event. Then let us arrive at its message in the light of other New Testament passages. John says the people of this millennial reign are seated upon thrones. He then describes those who are seated on the thrones as persons who were martyred for their faithfulness to Christ, having refused to worship the beast or his image; their faithfulness was evident by their not having the mark of the beast on either their foreheads or their hands. Here, then, are three characteristics of those on the stage of this inspired drama: (1) they are reigning with Christ; (2) they are martyrs for the faith; and (3) they do not have the mark of the beast. Actually, this is a description (in figurative language) of every Christian of every age. Although some feel the word 'soul' in this passage can refer only to those who have departed this life, this term is used throughout the Bible to refer to living people (Gen 46:26; Exod 1:5; 12:4; Acts 2:41; 7:14; 1 Peter 3:20).
As for the reign of the saints, John himself referred to the living Christians as kings and priests (Rev 1:6). Certainly a king is one who reigns. Paul speaks in the past tense (Col 1:13) when he pictures the present reign of the saints: Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. Eph 2:6 also is in the past tense: And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. As to the description of those on the thrones as martyrs, this also can be applied to every Christian, since the words 'martyr' and 'witness' are taken from the same root word. Every genuine believer is a witness (martyr) and is commanded to sacrifice his life for the Lord. To become a genuine believer, or follower of Christ, is to become, immediately, persecuted - martyred - for his sake. In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 20, our Lord himself tells us what to expect: A servant is not greater than his Lord. If they persecuted me they will also persecute you. In John 16:33 Jesus says: In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Paul tells us in 2 Tim 3:12, Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
In Revelation 7 John saw the future of all the saints of all time (vs. 9) and described this entire multitude as those who had come through the great tribulation (vs. 13), having been washed in the blood of the lamb. The third characteristic of these saints was their not having the mark of the beast. This would immediately cause a mental picture to form in the minds of the early Christians. The Roman rulers had attempted to deify themselves. The big contest in John's day was between Christ and emperor worship. John himself was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos because he refused to substitute 'Lord Caesar' for his Lord Jesus. It is a known historical fact that Domitian had statues of himself placed in strategic places and commanded all people to bow down to them. A committee was appointed to see that each person paid homage to these statues, thus acknowledging the emperor as divine. All who complied with this order received an official seal upon a part of the body, and without this mark a person could neither buy nor sell in the Roman world. This was what John called the mark of the beast. The first beast was the emperor, while the second beast referred to the enforcement committee.
In contrast to this mark of the beast, each Christian receives the mark of God's approval (see 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30; Rev 7:3, 4). Thus the Christian of every generation is a martyr for his faith, while at the same time he reigns with Christ. Someone has well said that God does not take his people around persecution, but that he protects them through it. Here, then, is a divine paradox: God reigns spiritually in the hearts of his people even while they are persecuted in their physical surroundings. Christians indeed find their lives by losing them.
Those who reign during the millennium are said to have experienced a first resurrection, while the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were ended. Premillennialists take this passage to indicate two bodily resurrections, separated by one thousand years. This contradicts many clear passages of Scripture and indeed contradicts the last division of this very same twentieth chapter of the Revelation.
When viewed symbolically, however, this passage coincides nicely with many clear passages from the New Testament. The new birth is spoken of in many places as a resurrection from the dead. Certainly this is the first resurrection. In the Gospel of John the same man who wrote the Revelation records a message of Jesus in which he spoke of two distinct resurrections, one of them being spiritual (the new birth), while the second is physical.
In speaking of the first resurrection (Rev 20:5), John said the rest of the dead lived not (the word 'again' is not in the original) until the thousand years were finished. This is in perfect agreement John 5:25, where our Lord said that only those who heard his voice would live. It is, in fact, in agreement with the New Testament, which teaches that all unbelievers remain in trespasses and sin, while all believers have already been made alive - resurrected.
Revelation 20:6 is a restatement of John 5:24, where our Lord is recorded as saying that the believer hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Note the language as John says in Revelation 20:6 that he who has a part in the first resurrection will escape the second death. That second death is spiritual rather than physical is apparent from fact that those cast into the lake of fire - which is the second death (Rev 20:24) - are tormented throughout eternity. It is incongruous to have John say that a physical resurrection guarantees against a spiritual punishment. Both are spiritual, both the first resurrection and the second death. Blessed and holy is he that hath part first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power (Rev 20:6).
The Loosing of Satan
'And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever' (Rev. 20:7-10).
Everything dealt with in the first six verses of Revelation 20 is already in the process of fulfillment. Here, in verses 7-10, John is given a vision of things to happen just before and at the time of our Lord's second coming. Satan, whose power was limited (bound) by our Lord's victory on the cross, will have his complete power restored in the very end of the millennium, and will begin a full-scale warfare against the church. Paul informs us (2 Thess 2:7) that this warfare is already going on, but in a limited way. This limitation is because of the present 'binding' of Satan in his power to deceive the nations concerning salvation. In calling this final battle Gog and Magog, John is following the pattern of the entire book of Revelation - he uses Old Testament terminology to teach New Testament spiritual truths.
John does not leave his hearers to speculate as to what he means by this coming battle which he calls Gog and Magog. In vers 9 he says that the target in this battle will be the beloved city, which is headquarters for the camp of the saints. Contrary to those who make this battle apply to national Israel, John tells us that the beloved city is actually the church, which, of course, includes all believers. All are agreed that only the church is referred to in the New Testament as the bride of Christ. In chapter 21 of the Revelation John specifically says that the city of Jerusalem in his apocalyptic message represents the bride of Christ, or the church.
'And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the Glory of God' (Rev. 21:9-11).
The writer of Hebrews used this same symbolic language in speaking of the present position of the saints: But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (Heb 12:22,23). John predicts how this battle will end and also the destiny of Satan who will lead it. John saw that when the battle reached its very height, then fire from heaven would destroy all the enemies of the saints (Rev 20:9). Paul describes the same event, in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-2:8, and he, too, teaches that the second coming of our Lord will bring this great battle to its end. John describes it as fire from heaven, while Paul terms it the breath of Jesus' mouth at the manifestation of his coming. Paul also mentioned flaming fire in connection with the second coming (2 Thess 1:7). To make these two different events is to beg the question by haggling over word pictures.
'For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness' (2 Thess 2:7-12).
Satan's being loosed for a little time coincides with Paul's man of sin being given full sway just before the second coming of our Lord. The fact that Paul says God will send a working of error upon the unbelievers at that time also points up the fact that Satan's power to deceive is limited (bound), and that he can act only as God permits.
The General Judgment
'And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire' (Rev 20:11-15).
In this future scene John prophesies what is to happen following the millennium. He sees the time when the millennium will have ended, and Satan will have been released for a little time. He will have led an unprecedented warfare against the Christian church, only to have been defeated by the glorious appearing of the Christ. Then John sees that a general judgment follows.
That verses 11-15 depict a general resurrection followed by a general judgment seems so self-evident as not to require a discussion. Suffice it to say that in these verses we find: (1) all the dead are to be present at this judgment, the great and the small; (2) two different kinds of books will be used, the book of life containing the names of the saints, and the books containing the works of the unsaved; (3) a separation will take place, determined by the book of life (cf. Matt 25:46 and John 5:29 with this section); and (4) death will be conquered at that time: And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. Paul says elsewhere that the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and he definitely fixes that as the same time that Christians are to be resurrected and rewarded (1 Cor 15:26,51-55).
It would be difficult to find a more exact description of a genera] judgment than that recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. We know from other scriptures that the resurrection will precede the judgment. And if one is general, both are general. To base a doctrine of two bodily resurrections upon a chapter containing this vivid picture of one general resurrection is a poor searching of the Scriptures. While dogmatism is unwarranted in any part of Revelation 20, verses 11-15 lend themselves more readily to dogmatism than do verses 4-6.
As we close this section, a definition of terms would seem to be in order. As one studies the charts which dispensationalists use so profusely, one will notice that they often depict a 'first' physical resurrection followed one thousand and seven years later by the 'general resurrection.' This is a contradiction of terms. For the general resurrection has traditionally referred to a resurrection of all the dead of all time. If, as the premillennialists teach, all Christians are raised separately from the unsaved - then a second resurrection could not be properly called a general resurrection.
What the premillennialists actually have are two partial resurrections. In terming the latter of these a general resurrection they are attempting to stay within the framework of historic Christian teaching while at the same time inserting doctrines which disagree radically with the historic teachings of the New Testament, church fathers, Protestant reformers, and commentaries. This is another of those places where the chiliast cannot have his theological cake and eat it. To believe in a general judgment is immediately to cease being a chiliast in the true sense of the word.
Far from being a key, Revelation 20 is a recapitulation of many clear teachings of the Bible. While its language is apocalyptic, it does not contradict the clear passages. It reiterates those teachings.
In studying the Revelation one needs constantly to keep in mind Paul's admonition that the letter kills while the spirit gives life. One must go beyond the stage settings and chin whiskers in John's spiritual drama. The spirit of Revelation 20 coincides perfectly with the clear teachings of the New Testament. Here, as in John 5, the writer describes two resurrections - the first being the new birth, the second being the bodily resurrection. The first resurrection takes place when one is born from above, and, immediately, one is made a participant in the ongoing millennial reign of Christ; this is the kingdom of God, wherein God now reigns in the hearts of all true believers. The second resurrection will take place at the harvest which is the end of this present age; this will precede the general judgment (compare Matt 25:31-46 with Rev 20:11-15). This is to be followed only by the final state which is described in Revelation 21 and 22.
The present phase of the kingdom and the millennium are synonymous terms. The kingdom is best defined as God reigning in the hearts of his followers. The great majority of chiliasts - premillennialists, futurists, and dispensationalists - agree that the kingdom of God is the millennium. They argue, however, that it does not exist today, but will be established after the second coming of Christ. They distinguish between the kingdom of heaven - which they admit exists today - and the kingdom of God.
The New Testament uses the terms kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven interchangeably (compare Matt 11:12 with Luke 16:16; and Matt 4:17 with Mark 1:14, 15). Since the kingdom and millennium are admittedly one and the same and since the kingdom already is a reality - then the millennium of Revelation is realized eschatology. The millennium, like the kingdom, was instituted by our Lord.
Although Jesus manifested the kingdom (millennium) at his first advent, it will be consummated at his second coming, then turned over to God the Father. Each school of thought agrees that the millennium represents a co-reigning with Jesus. The Scriptures teach that the kingdom presently belongs to Christ, but that he will turn it over to the Father once the last enemy (death) has been destroyed. In order for one to co-reign with Jesus, that reign would need to take place before the kingdom ceases to be under the jurisdiction of Jesus.
One cannot accept the fact of a general resurrection or universal judgment and still be a chiliast. Thus to prove from the Scriptures that there will be a universal or general judgment is to prove, ipso facto, that the millennium - whatever else one might believe about it - must take place before the judgment.
Revelation 20, the only chapter in the entire Bible which mentions the millennium, records a universal judgment (vss. 11-15) following the millennium.
Historic Christian teaching has always been that:
- as a result of the fall, the earth and mankind have been under Satan's spell;
- the Old Testament prophets predicted a golden age during which Messiah would overcome Satan, write God's laws on the hearts of God's people, and reign over the earth with his people;
- Jesus, at his first advent, overcame Satan (bound him) and instituted the golden age;
- all believers-having been released from Satan's power - reign with Christ;
- Jesus will return a second time to the earth, and at that time there will be a universal resurrection, universal judgment, renewing of the earth;
- then follows the final state in which all believers will reign throughout eternity in heaven while all unbelievers will suffer punishment in hell throughout eternity.
These historic teachings represent the thinking of the great majority of church fathers, Protestant reformers, Christian educators, and recognized commentaries. They are also subscribed to by every major denomination, and no extant creed differs noticeably from them. Yet, surprisingly enough, beliefs which are foreign to these have infiltrated just about every known denomination.
These beliefs are taught throughout the Bible in a progressive revelation. They are just as surely taught in the book of Revelation. There, John uses the style he was inspired to use, i.e., apocalyptic language. This type of language makes great use of poetry, symbols, numerology, and the like. John forewarns his readers of his intention to do this very thing. This is the meaning of the word signify in the very first verse of the Revelation.
Apocalyptic language does not make the book of Revelation any less true than any other part of the Bible. In fact, there is usually deeper truth in symbolic language than can be expressed in plain words. This apocalyptic language does make it extremely important that each reader bridle his imagination. Otherwise, he may place too much emphasis upon the stage and actually miss the message of the play itself.