I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch 20 vv1-10.
This covers the period of one thousand years when Satan is bound, and Christ is reigning with the saints.
So I'm going to be asking the question; what's the meaning of this "Millennium"?
In the context of the Revelation story, it's an interval of peace after the destruction of the Beast.
The peace is then broken by one final assault from God's enemies.
We can find parallels for this in other parts of the Bible.
In Daniel ch7, after the Fourth Beast has ben destroyed, the other kingdoms are allowed to continue;
"Their lives were prolonged for a season and a time"- Daniel ch7 v12
Ezekiel forecast a time when God's people had been brought back from exile.
Ther homeland had become "a land of unwalled villages", inhabited by "the quiet people who dwell securely"- Ezekiel ch38 v1
Nations are then brought up against the land by "Gog of the land of Magog".
Revelation highlights the parallel by using the same names ("Gog and Magog") for the nations of the world that come up against "the camp of the
The thousand year period is defined from the moment when Satan is "bound", to prevent him from deceiving the nations.
So the crucial point is to establish exactly when that happens.
One option is that Satan has been
bound by an event in the past.
Which implies that the reign of Christ has already begun.
This is the option which has been labelled, a little unfairly, as "Amillennial" (= "there is no millennium").
The classic explanation comes from St Augustine in the "City of God" (Book 20, ch7).
He equates the binding of Satan with the "binding of the strong man", as announced by Jesus in Mark ch3 v27, and thus with the work of Jesus
He does hesitate between two different ways of interpreting that "one thousand".
He has half a mind to take it as a literal number (which would be a mistake, we now realise, because more than a thousand years has elapsed since
His alternative opinion is that John "used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of the world, emplying the number of perfection
to mark the fullness of time. For a thousand is the cube of ten."
(I've used the "ten-cubed" interpretation myself in previous threads. I must have picked it up from "City of God", though the borrowing was
Either way, the beginning of his thousand year kingdom is marked by the life and death of Christ and the introduction of the gospel.
This is an attractive solution, taken in isolation.
The problem is fitting it into the overall structure of Revelation.
If the beginning of ch20 represents the work of Christ, then the events of the previous chapters would need to be taking place before
But the starting point of this book is the persecution troubling the church of John's time, and it then looks forward
in the expectation of
So this chapter comes much too late in the story to be identified with the beginning of the Church's life.
Another option is that Satan is being
bound by the advance of the gospel.
This is the option which has been labelled "post-Millennial", because Christ is expected to return once the process has been completed.
There's a natural connection between this theory and mission work.
I'm sure it owes much of its popularity to the fact that taking the gospel to every part of the world was becoming a practical possibility from the
eighteenth century onwards.
But it seems to me that it's vulnerable to the same objection as Augustine's approach.
The "time of tribulation" events of the previous chapters should have been taking place before
Satan was bound.
And the explanation that "they all took place in the first century" doesn't really work for the global catastrophe of the Trumpets and Vials.
So the difficulty, once again, is reconciling this theory with any consistent chronology of Revelation.
One more option is that Satan will be
bound, when Christ returns.
This is the option which has been labelled "pre-Millennial", because Christ comes before the MIllennium starts.
At first glance, it appears to be following the chronological sequence of Revelation.
So it's a very natural interpretation for anyone who's focussing their attention on the book.
Nevertheless, there are difficulties which need resolving.
In the rest of the New Testament, in the teaching of Jesus about the "coming of the Son of Man", and in the teaching of Paul about the "Day of our
Lord Jesus Christ", the Return of Christ is associated with a time of judgement.
But the time of judgement, in this chapter, comes after
the thousand-year kingdom.
"The Day of the Lord", the time when Jesus comes "like a thief", is associated with the time when "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and
the elements will be dissolved", in 2 Peter ch3 v10.
Bu the flight of the earth and sky, in this chapter, comes after
the thousand-year kingdom.
And in the rest of the New Testament there is no suggestion of any subdivision of the period following the Return of Christ.
Paul simply says "So shall we be always with the Lord"- 2 Thessalonians ch4 v13. End of story.
So there seems to be good reason, after all, to place the Millennium before
the Return of Christ.
My own solution to this problem rests on the belief that this book is addresssing two sets of readers at the same time.
John was writing, in the first instance, for the benefit of the church of his own time, suffering harassment and worse from the Roman authorities.
At the same time, though, his message can be taken up for a later church suffering the same kind of experience.
This leads me into the thought that there ought to be two
fulfilments of the Revelation prophecies.
One would be for the benefit of the church suffering in the end-time.
But the church of John's time would be getting nothing out of this prophecy, unless there was going to be a fulfilment which could be applied to their
I'm going to offer the suggestion that this "thousand-year kingdom" represents the interval between these two fulfilments of prophecy, thus coming
after the first fulfilment and before the second.
This would be my brief summary of the Revelation events which would need to be "fulfilled";
1. A persecution of the church, implied in the background of ch1.
2. The great crisis of ch6, the "4 Horsemen" episode. I took this to be God's reaction to the previous persecution.
3. The rise of the two "Beasts" of ch13, the great world-state and its leader. This implies a recovery from the events of ch6, so I suggested that the
Beasts might rise to power on the strength of leading the world out of that crisis.
4. The renewed persecution of the church by the Beast.
5. The destructive catastrophe of the Trumpets and Vials.
Finally, the events of ch19- the intervention of the "white horse" and the battle of Armageddon.
Now, it seems to me that a version of this pattern can be found in the later history of the Roman Empire.
1. The persecution had already started in John's time.
2. The Roman Empire came close to collapse in the third century, under the impact of invasion, secession, and civil war.
3. The empire recovered under a series of stronger emperors, culiminating in the work of Diocletian. This earned him the nickname PARENS AUREI SAECULI
("Father of the Golden Age").
4. Diocletian and his colleagues then launched a campaign to eradicate the Christian church. Since the Christian faith was then limited to the Roman
world, this was the nearest approach to "universal" persecution that the church has ever experienced.
Finally, there was a version of the "white horse" in the shape of the emperor Constantine, and a version of Armageddon can be found in the battle of
Milvian Bridge, which was fought, according to legend, under the banner of the Cross.
So these events fulfilled, in a sketchy way, most of the expectation of Revelation- the final catastrophe of the Trumpets and Vials is the only
important element that doesn't have a parallel.
The consequence of Constantine's victory was that persecution came to an end, thus answering the church's prayers from chapter 1, when the problem was
Roman oppression. That is the first fulfilment of prophecy.
But, of course, history did not come to a close. Events have continued.
The common assumption about the Fourth Beast in Daniel's vision is that it represents Rome, since it seems to follow the empires founded by
But if the Fourth Beast really is the persecuting power of Rome, Constantine's victory would show how that Beast could be overcome by the intervention
of Christ, while the other kingdoms were allowed to continue.
It also provides an explanation of the binding of Satan.
Satan appears in Revelation mainly as a promoter of persecution, which is his motive for giving power to the Beast of ch13.
But Constantine's victory, and the policy of toleration which followed, meant that Satan had been "bound" as a persecutor. The "binding" remains in
place, in the sense that the "total" persecution which was attempted in Diocletian's time has never been resumed.
(Satan has also been "bound" as an Accuser of Sin, by the current freedom to preach the gospel)
So the period since Constantine has been a time of comparative
peace for the church, a time when the church has been "dwelling in unwalled
villages", as it were.
The episode of "Gog and Magog" would then describe the end of this period of peace, when Satan has been liberated to attack the gospel and to
stimulate attacks on the church.
I suggest that this would take the form of a second, more complete, more final fulfilment of the first nineteen chapters of Revelation
This would then be followed by the Return of Christ, and by the time of judgement described at the end of the chapter.
In other words, I'm returning to Augustine's view of the thousand-year kingdom- that it refers to the currrent age of the church. Except, of course,
that I'm giving it a later starting-point than he did.
The implication is that Christ is already reigning, and he's reigning in the company of the saints.
Special reference is made to the martyred saints, but they're not, if we look closely, the only saints in this picture.
For John says that he saw those "to whom judgement was committed" and also
the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony.
There's reason to think that the first-mentioned group includes Christians in general;
"God has... raised us up with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus"- Ephesians ch2 v6
We're told that the "second death" has no power over these people, but this is obviously true about all
those whose names are written in the
Book of Life.
So Augustine does not limit the "first resurrection" to the martyrs, but simply identifies it with the spiritual and eternal life which is promised in
"He who hears my words, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life"- John
Perhaps we should, in deference to the text of Revelation, at least allow a place of honour to the martyrs.
With that qualification, the "millennial kingdom" appears to have this meaning;
That there is a sense in which Christ is already reigning in the world.
And that those who belong to Christ are already reigning with him.
edit on 6-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)
edit on 6-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)