You are currently viewing Please explain: What is the millennium all about?

Please explain: What is the millennium all about?

What is the millennium all about?

Remember the circumstances surrounding Christ’s return to heaven? Jesus takes his disciples outside Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives. “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). We recall that a couple of angels appear and herald, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Christians refer to that “coming back event” as the Last Day. What will happen between Ascension Day and the Last Day? Some churches claim that before the final day, there will be a millennium.

Millennium is a word derived from two other Latin words: mille (thousand) and annus (year). A millennium is a period of one thousand years. Some Christians profess that before judgment day there will be a time of peace and prosperity on earth lasting one thousand years, a millennium. Individuals who hold to this belief are called millennialists. You may also hear the word chiliasm, coming from the Greek word for a thousand: chilioi. Hence, this teaching is called millennialism or chiliasm. To summarize, millennialism is a false belief that there will be a semi-utopian period of Christ reigning on earth for one thousand years before the final day. Revelation chapter 20 is one of the sections of God’s Word that is referenced to support this false belief.

When it comes to millennialism, like apples, there are many different varieties, for example premillennialism, postmillennialism, Zionism, and dispensationalism. This article will not explain all those varieties. Instead, it will uncover the truth of what God’s Word means when it speaks of a thousand-year reign of Christ.

Life in the New Testament era

When Revelation chapter 20 speaks of a period of one thousand years, it is using symbolic language to describe the time between Christ’s first and second comings. This one-thousand-year period is not literally one thousand years. How can we know this? Grab your Bible and turn to Revelation chapter 20.

The phrase “a thousand years” occurs in verses 2,4-7. “He seized the dragon . . . who is the devil . . . and bound him for a thousand years” (v. 2). Does this mean Jesus came to earth and literally tied up Satan with a chain? Hardly.

We know this by looking at the book of Revelation itself. An important rule when interpreting God’s Word is knowing the kind of literature we are reading. Revelation is full of symbols and pictures that are not to be interpreted literally. Jesus himself tells us so. Compare Revelation 1:12 with Revelation 1:20. We are told the lampstands are not literal lampstands. They are a picture.

The same is true in Revelation 20:1,2. Jesus doesn’t come to earth and literally tie up Satan with a chain. Instead, the Holy Spirit paints a vivid picture of Jesus defeating the devil. Christ did this by his life, death, and resurrection. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Satan is now bound, chained, like a vicious dog. Those who stay outside of Satan’s reach are spared from harm’s way. For how long? A thousand years. The number 1,000 signifies a long but specific period of time. We are talking about the entire time of the New Testament era.

Millennialists think that for one thousand years Satan will have no presence on this earth and people’s lives will be relatively trouble-free. Scripture doesn’t teach this. When Peter warns, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), he is noting that Satan will always be prowling around until the end of the world. There is no hint of a one-thousand-year hiatus from the devil’s temptations sometime in the future.

But what of the phrase “after that, he must be set free for a short time” (v. 3)? This poses little problem for Christians to understand. Jesus speaks in clear terms that as the end of the world draws closer, the world will become more ungodly (cf. Matthew 24:21-25). We can observe this fact in the United States: Things that were once deemed immoral by most in society are slowly becoming acceptable behavior to more and more people.

Jesus’ reign from heaven

In Revelation 20:4, the phrase “a thousand years” refers to the length of time during which those who were beheaded for the faith are reigning with Christ. Once more, when we know the one-thousand-year period refers to the entire New Testament era, it is easy to see that all believers, even after they die, continue to reign with Christ.

Remember that millennialists emphasize that Christ will rule for a one-thousand-year golden age on this earth. Where is such a teaching found in God’s Word? Scripture does not speak of the Messiah ruling in an earthly kingdom for one thousand years. In his brief dialogue with Pilate, Jesus clearly annunciated that his kingdom was not of this world but is from another place (John 18:36).

Paul reminds us that when God exalted Jesus to his right hand, Jesus does indeed rule over everything right now for the good of his church (Ephesians 1:20-22). Christ has been, is now, and always will be reigning. John, through the Holy Spirit, confirms this earlier in Revelation. He says our Messiah “will reign for ever and ever” (11:15).

Jesus’ only and final return

Every form of millennialism believes that Jesus must make at least two more returns to earth for judgment day to occur. Such a message is contrary to what the Bible consistently announces. If Jesus was planning to return another time before the end of the world, he surely would have stated so. But Jesus gives no indication of an additional return before judgment day. What he does repeat over and over is that the one time he returns to this earth, it will be on the Last Day. On this day the Good Shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats (cf. Matthew 25:31-45). There will be no golden age of rule here on earth but only eternal misery in hell or eternal joy in heaven.

The one-thousand-year reign of believers is happening right now. Christ has defeated the devil.

Jesus tells us to search the Scriptures. Nowhere else in the Bible does it speak of Jesus making multiple returns to this earth. The apostles Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), John (Revelation 1:7), and Peter (2 Peter 3:10) all teach the same thing Jesus did. Christ will return visibly only one more time—on the Last Day.

The danger of milleniallism

A real danger of millennialism is that it may take our focus from the there and then of heaven and cause us to think mainly about the here and now of a semi-utopian life on earth. God’s Word forbids such thinking. Instead, we must set both our hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-4).

The Holy Spirit has made us alive in Christ. This is the first resurrection in Revelation chapter 20. The one-thousand-year reign of believers is happening right now. Christ has defeated the devil. So we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Author: Kenneth Brokmeier
Volume 111, Number 06
Issue: June 2024

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry is part 1 of 53 in the series please explain

Facebook comments