What is the Millennium?

In Part 1 we surveyed the issues surrounding eschatology. Part 2 focused on the timing of the rapture. Now in Part 3 we will turn our attention to the millennium.

The “millennium” refers to a one thousand (1,000) year period, more specifically, the 1,000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6.

“1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.

4 Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.”

This is the only place in Scripture where the millennium is explicitly mentioned. Scholars find other places they think it might be mentioned, but that is highly debated.

As you can tell from the text of Revelation 20 above, the millennium concerns Satan’s binding and Christ’s and the saints’ reign on earth. The concept of a “reign” carries with it the idea of a kingdom. In this case, that would be the kingdom of God, the good news of which Jesus spent His entire ministry proclaiming (cf. Luke 4:43). Therefore the questions surrounding the millennium are questions surrounding the kingdom of God. The questions are many:

  • Have we experienced this kingdom in its fullest sense or is there more to come?
  • Is this 1,000 year period literal or figurative?
  • When will this period of time begin?
  • Could we currently be living in the millennium?

These and more are the questions we will wrestle with in this post.

The Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God has been around since the creation of the world. Adam and Eve had a chance to obey God and make a good kingdom decision, but instead listened to the voice of Satan. Noah did listen to God’s voice and was a part of His kingdom, while the others of his generation were not. In Genesis 12 Abra(ha)m was chosen to be the earthly father of this kingdom, eventually leading to the 12 tribes. In Genesis 49:10 it was prophesied that “the scepter will not depart from Judah,” suggesting one from this tribe will be the earthly king over God’s kingdom. This prophecy was realized when King David was installed as king over Israel and it held true as his sons continued to reign over Judah (the southern kingdom) for years to come.

When we fast forward to the New Testament, we learn that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy. Luke 1:32-33 tells us that Jesus (who is from the family line of David) will “be given the throne of His father David” and that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” God sent Jesus to this earth to be the final and perpetual king of His kingdom. During His earthly ministry, Jesus proclaimed this kingdom (Luke 4:43), told parables concerning this kingdom (Luke 13:18-21), performed signs of this kingdom (Luke 7:21-22), and talked of this kingdom’s final and coming consummation (Luke 13:28-29; 22:16).

But when will that consummation be? When will believers experience God’s kingdom in all its fullness? Historically (and to keep it simple), there have been three answers to that question. Premillennialists posit that the end of the seven year tribulation will bring about the millennium, and that after those 1,000 years God’s kingdom will be consummated. Postmillennialists believe we are currently in the millennium, a span of time that will be concluded when Jesus returns and brings the kingdom. Finally, amillennialists suggest that the millennium is not a literal thousand year period, but that it lasts from Christ’s first to second comings.

There are a few differing types of premillennialism, but I will focus on historic premillennialism. Those from this camp understand the 1,000 year reign of Christ spoken of in Revelation 20 to be literal and believe it will occur after Christ’s second coming and prior to the final consummation of God’s kingdom. Most historic premillennialists also believe in a pretribulation rapture, so here is the way they see the end of time playing out: (1) rapture of the church; (2) seven year tribulation; (3) second coming of Christ; (4) millennial reign of Christ; (5) eternity (kingdom of God fully consummated). This position presents the most literal and straight-forward reading of Revelation 20.

The postmillennial position involves the belief that the kingdom of God is currently being extended into the world through the proclamation of the gospel. As a result, the world will eventually be Christianized and enter into a prolonged period of peace and righteousness. As believers fulfill the Great Commission, the kingdom grows and this world is redeemed.

Following this period, Christ will return, setting into action the resurrection, the judgment, and the rest of eternity (the consummation of God’s kingdom). According to this view, the millennium, which involves the reign of Christ over this earth, is not necessarily a future event that will commence after His return, but is something this world may currently be experiencing. As a result, there is no need to believe that the millennium refers to a literal thousand year period.

Postmillennialists have differing views on other events, such as the rapture and the tribulation, but the main thing is that they place the millennium of Revelation 20 before any of them.

Much like postmillennialists, amillennialists do not believe that the 1,000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20 is literal. As apocalyptic literature, the book/letter of Revelation uses symbolism to convey its message, therefore suggesting it cannot be understood literally (as the premillennialist understands it). Here is an amillennialist’s interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6:

Christ’s birth and death is what bound Satan, what secured the victory over sin and death for all believers. Yet that victory is not yet fully realized. Satan still has some say in this world, but he can no longer keep people from believing the good news of Jesus Christ. These earthly events are what Revelation 20:1-3 depicts. Moving on to the next three verses, which take place in heaven during this time period, we see people sitting on thrones and reigning with Christ. In these verses the word resurrection does not refer to a literal and bodily resurrection but to the fact that believers who die are not really dead, for their souls are in heaven with Christ. This first resurrection refers to a believer’s spiritual resurrection immediately following death. “The rest,” who do not come alive until the end of this unspecified period of time, are all the non-believers, whose end will be the second death and the lake of fire. But for all those who experienced the first resurrection, they will also experience the second one (which will be a bodily resurrection), and the second death will have no power over them. This refers to the fact that all believers will be made alive and transformed and will reign with Christ forever.

Because they do not hold to a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ, amillennialists have differing perspectives on other eschatological events.

I hope that I am never forced to choose between any of these positions because I have difficulties with each of them. They each have elements with which I agree and disagree, or at least question. So instead of naming the view I hold to, let me briefly sketch the conclusion I have come to.

Christ’s first coming, including His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, ushered the kingdom of God onto this earth in a way it had never been experienced before. When He ascended into heaven, He did not take the kingdom with Him. It is still here for you and I and Jesus is still the King, ruling and reigning from the Father’s right hand. Therefore the kingdom is a present reality; it has been realized in some sense. We can experience its power here and now on this earth. Yet there is more to come. The kingdom has not reached its full potential (it has not been fully consummated/experienced). There is no doubt that Satan still has some say in the matter. Christ’s death and resurrection won the war, but there are still some battles to be fought.

At some point, believers will reign with Christ. In my book Revelation 20:4-6 makes that clear. The question, though, is two-fold: how and when will they reign? Will this be a literal 1,000 year reign that will take place after Christ returns? Or is this a symbolic rule taking place now in which living believers serve as Christ’s vice-regents on this earth and sleeping believers reign with Him from heaven? Obviously the answer depends on your interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6, which depends on the hermeneutic (method of interpretation) used.

If I had to lay out a sketch of my thoughts, I would order things this way: (1) tribulation; (2) rapture/resurrection of believers; (3) millennium (on this current earth); (4) eternity (in the new heavens and new earth).

As you can tell, my view concerning the millennium is not set in stone. My purpose in writing this is not necessarily to sway you any certain way. My goal is to educate you on the issues and inspire you to dive deeper into them on your own. Grace to you as you begin this endeavor!

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Published by Travis Flanagan

I am a believer, husband, and father who loves serving the Lord and the local church. I am currently an associate pastor of youth/discipleship and a pastoral research assistant for two pastors. Educationally, I have a BA and an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Criswell College. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My research interests include the early church and Greco-Roman voluntary associations (and especially the relationship between the two!).

16 thoughts on “What is the Millennium?

  1. I dd an interesting study many years ago where I took the King James Bible and compared the use of the term “Kingdom of Heaven” and \Kingdom of God”. I seemed to remember coming to the conclusion that these are two different things, one that is with us now and one that is still to come. I lost the notes so can’t remember all that helped me get there. I just may have to f=go through that study again. It was fascinating, and can really only be done using the King James, because other translations do not treat the wording the same.

    Have you ever tried to look at it that way?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe that the kingdom of heaven and of God are the same. Different authors of Scripture (like Matthew and Luke) just chose different terms to describe the same reality.

      As far as basing a study on a certain translation of the Bible, that is dangerous. No translation is perfect, and when making a point based on a specific word it is necessary to rely on the original languages the Bible was written in.

      Thanks for reading and inquiring!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice Comment!
        I agree with your comment on Hermeneutics. Using the English to make doctrinal statements is where misunderstanding and misuse of Scripture is worst! Like my comment on Hell. _Everlasting_ is an interpretation based on Greek, not Hebrew! And since Matthew was writing and recording Yeshua Jesus in Aramaic, well, the difference on what people _read_ and what was _understood_ two thousand years ago…well. The Fire “burns as long as there is something to burn” in Hebrew idiom.


  2. Thanks for all that you do with your blog. I think that my posts may help you to have good food for thought on thee Millennium. The posts that relate to the end of time can be found on my Equipping Blog, and are numbered from 110 backward. If there is a number in the Post Name, there will be end times info to be found in such a post. Here is a key: “What is the purpose for the millennium?’ I show that purpose, as well as the purpose for the tribulation. Please keep up your good work. Eschatology is a wonderful course of study. Here is the Equipping link. https://cchurchchurchblog.wordpress.com/ Please have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post!
    I agree with you completely! The existing millennial positions all fail to take into account the Reign of David as the signature of the millennium. David is _not_ going to reign in the Kingdom of God, as that is reserved for Yeshua Jesus the Messiah. David was promised the Kingship, so he gets to be the on-earth ruler in the stead of Christ.
    We inhabit the New Jerusalem halfway between Heaven and Old Earth with Christ. We (may) have access to the Old Earth as witnesses for that thousand years. At the end when Satan is released, the final harvest will bring the new believers into New Jerusalem, and the people remaining, along with Satan attempt to assualt the New Jerusalem. Yeshua Jesus slays them all with one word! The Old Earth is turned into the Lake of Fire.
    I diverge here and believe that people will not burn forever. They will burn up like “thorn branches send up sparks” (anothe OT point about hell).
    I think you got me going. I am going to have to write my own Bog entry on this.
    Again, Thanks! Good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eve was tempted by the Serpent, not Satan. Satan is a creation of the New Testament and Christianity.
    And God forbid the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Man chose knowledge and freedom before the authoritarian dictates and apparently didn’t trust God!
    Given the authoritarian structure of the leadership of the church, I wonder who would benefit from complete submission to authority? It’s pretty obvious!


  5. A thought provoking post. There are many opinions on the millennium. However, the Bible is very clear on what the millennium is, when, and what will occur prior to it and after it. There is a book that answers all of our questions biblically, not under the cloak of denominationalism. I think you might find it interesting since it
    covers the historical chronology from Adam to the White Throne Judgment after the millennium. It has a table of what the 666 is and a calendar derived from Daniel’s seventy sevens prophecy. It is a nice gift-size booklet of 78 easy read pages.


  6. The part of eschatology that all of us interested need to appreciate is that each person has their own ‘ending’ in terms of their individual lifetime, so when we as believing people trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, meet up with eschatology, we are blessed still because of hop, unlike godless people who only have their portion in this world, the people are God have a goodly inheritance. Faith in us who believe is timeless.

    I notice Hayden that you believe many Christians now living on earth will experience the great tribulation to some degree and then the rapture will follow. You noted too earlier in the post that the standard interpretation is that the rapture will take place first followed by the great tribulation; of course there is great confusion and chaos in the world about the sudden disappearance of so many people.

    It really doesn’t matter what I believe about the particular interpretations of the sequence of events that are taking place now and will in the future. The coming of the Son of Man in power will come at a time when no one is expecting it, and as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the time of the coming of the Son of Man: distress of nations, young people killing themselves and others, corruption rampant at almost all financial institutions, and godlessness which really the worst sin of all time because of the generational destruction it precipitates.

    I know that the kingdom of heaven which the prophet Jeremiah spoke of, along with many other prophets, is one wherein the government shall be on His (the Son of Man) shoulders, the one born of the house and lineage of David, and his authority and dominion supplanting all other government and nations to a position of subservience and laying down before Him, which governments and nations would do well to take note of right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like your comment on how we as individuals have no real say in the ending. It will happen regardless. Good point!
      I do want to point out that you repeated a common fallacy rampant in the modern church: “We will not know when it happens”. A careful reading of the parables of the Fig tree, and his cursing of the figtree, that WE WILL KNOW THE SEASON, but not the actual hour or the day, which is reserved for the father. there will be a block of time that is obvious to Christians that it imminent, and to be ready. But the actual day within that time period is revealed.
      Rumors of wars and so forth are continuing to the end times, but there will be some special events that will occur just before the end.
      That is why we keep trying to figure it out. Those special events in the OT prophets was “The Day of the Lord”. We know that severe persecution will occur before that event.
      Current Christian Doctrine on the Rapture has removed us from the OT thinking that the Rapture is to occur sometime prior to the Tribulation. Hence the arguments over the pre- mid- post.
      Yet Jesus’s prophecy — which is intended of for his “adopted believers (Christians) says that the end will be when “Stars fall from heaven like an untimely rippened fig”.
      If that is the case, then Revelation 6:1 is the place that happens, and the rapture in the very moments of the asteroids coming down to pummel the earth. After that is the daas the Jews have to live through in order to “see their redeemer” for who he really is, Yeshu Jesus the Messiah.

      This is called the Pre-Wrath Rapture and is different from the other usually packaged ideas.
      See: Marv Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture book. Very informatinve for a seeker of knowledge of the latter days.
      With regards, Ray

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like your interest in what my comment read, and I liked your overall post too, but you did misquote me because I didn’t say “We will not know when it happens.” I think you were referring to the comment I made in my post when I wrote “The coming of the Son of Man in power will come at a time when no one is expecting it, and as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the time of the coming of the Son of Man…” In context I’m sure you see the difference so it is not a fallacy on my part at all, but I understand everyone sees things differently and some people do repeat things they think are in the Bible but really are not, and I don’t want to do that, so if you read Luke 12:40 you will see where I am coming from. The concern of Jesus for his church is for being ready at any time obviously which was the thrust in the early church where Paul preached. If you also read Luke 21 you will see which you already know I’m sure since you do love to study the Bible, that God is looking at the heart of the matter and so the warning to us has to do with avoiding the ‘snare’ that shall come upon those inhabitants of the earth (those not in covenant with God through Jesus Christ), and behavioral issues like drunkenness and careless living which Christians are tempted to engage in are those kind of things that the people headed to perdition readily accept and participate in, so Jesus wants us to not be casual about how a little leaven leavens the whole lump if I may borrow that phrase from the Bible. Thanks Marv. I hope to hear more from you.


  8. For those who might be interested in my book, “The 2,466-Year-Old Calendar Nobody Could See.” (That big orange picture in the comments is the link to Amazon.com) I am offering the eBook edition for free until midnight tonight. 2/17/18. It’s free, so give it a whirl and see what the Bible says about it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


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