“Your statement of faith claims that God will literally reign on earth for 1,000 years. Where in the Bible does it say that and why do you believe it? Thanks.”
Good question! Suffice to say; even though the early Church Fathers (pre-Nicean Church) like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Papias all seem to affirm a literal interpretation of the Christ’s millennial reign, no one truly knows the fine details of how the Second Coming will fully play out. Affirming a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ is a sequential interpretation of the six times its mentioned in Revelation 20:1-7, where Satan is bound for one thousand years, true believers are resurrected to reign with Christ during this time, and then Satan is released after the time is up and people still ally with him against God (i.e., Battle of Gog and Magog, v.8-10). In this view, Jesus Christ ushers in a global theocracy from the heart of Jerusalem for one thousand years, ending with the final rebellion, judgment, and new creation of heaven and earth.
Views on eschatology (the doctrines of future things) and the Millennial Kingdom differ from person to person here at Bible Discovery, though most of us (including myself) are premillennialists. Will Christ Himself physically reign for 1,000-years in Jerusalem and then judge the world or will we, the Church, spiritually institute the Millennial Reign through the power of Christ prior to His Second Coming? Or is 1,000 years a mere figurative number as the Apostle Peter echoes from Psalm 90:4, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8)? The clear passage at stake here is Revelation 20, specifically verses 4-6, 8-9 and 11.
When Approaching Prophecy
Pastor Rod reads these passages as tangible realities. But there is legitimacy for struggling with eschatological consistency. Like most visions and prophetic imagery, the truth of its content is wrapped with metaphorical veils, foggy analogies and symbolic contingencies that one can easily get tangled trying to untie all the knots. And John’s apocalypse is no exception. As the Apostle Paul so eloquently expresses, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears…. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face…” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). For example, Revelation is layered with Biblical numerology. The number 10 represents “totality” and so the red dragon and beast from the sea both have ten horns (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3; 17:7), and the beast also has ten crowns on its horns (Rev. 13:1) symbolizing total authority over government. Likewise, the number 1,000 represents “fullness in quantity” as 10 x 10 x 10 indicates “divine totality and fullness”. This, to some, seems to be a figurative signpost for the “fullness of time is complete”. But just because the number carries symbolic meaning does not mean we can negate its reality. After all, the Feast of Passover is a highly symbolic meal based on an actual event as a means of remembrance.
Literal v. Figurative
Before I continue, the first thing to keep track of is the word literal. Literal just means ‘what exactly do the words refer to’ – so a metaphor, analogy, figure of speech, or symbol can be the literal meaning and context of the sentence. When dealing with visions, dreams, symbolism and prophetic content, I think the appropriate way to look at these instances, as N.T. Wright aptly points out, is either in an abstract or concrete sense.
If abstract, examine if the intention is supposed to be figurative, representational, hyperbolic, or mere overemphasis on a point, such as when Jesus ‘advocated’ for self-mutilation (Matthew 5:27-30) or when the dragon stands on the shore and the sea (Revelation 13:1). This is pictorial language to help express the intensity and scope of truth that underpins the imagery of the message (also notice, it does not use clarifying terms such as “like” or “as” to show that it is metaphorical language).
If concrete, then examine if it is a spiritual, physical, or dual instance. And if dual, is it both instances at the same time sort of how miracles display an immediate overlap of physical and spiritual realities, or can one instance occur before the other sort of how the OT narratives preceded the NT covenant as physical patterns of what was to spiritually come through Christ?
Further, most of the imagery throughout Revelation is hyper-symbolic. It seems unnecessarily difficult to believe that an actual dragon is physically standing on the sea and shore somewhere in the world while you are, quite possibly, reading this article. After all, when symbolic imagery does occur, John often gives overt clarification of its intended meaning such as the dragon’s ten horns (Revelation 17:12). So it’s appropriate to look at all this prophetic imagery as occupying something, whether it is a person, nation, place, thing, theme, time, or event. In our case, we’re dealing with an event, the Second Coming of Christ, and a timeframe of 1,000 years. Will this event happen in our physical world or is it a spiritual reality draped over a concrete event? And is the 1,000-year reign physical, spiritual or neither?
On Differing Views
Without going into significant detail, all views in Christian eschatology – amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism (which is divided into pre-tribulation or post-tribulation) – believe in a concrete Second Coming of Christ. The teachings differ purely on the basis of when it will happen and how it will play out. It’s important to note that the Second Coming of Christ in the “flesh” is attested to throughout the Gospels and in each of these views. In fact, it’s essential to Christian doctrine. Pastor Rod, like all members of Bible Discovery, firmly believes in Christ’s Second Coming in the physical sense of it. But Christ’s return in the physical does not exclude the spiritual.
Conclusion: Christ’s Really Reigns for 1,000 Years
Pastor Rod, who is a premillennialist, affirms that at this moment in time there is a union, if you will, of the spiritual and physical realities upon Christ’s return thereby manifesting these supposed figurative details into actual concrete accounts of reality. Verses 4-6 seem to have a spiritual relationship as John says, “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded” as part of the “first resurrection”, but then verses 8-9 seem to bring the context into our space and time, which takes place after the first resurrection. Since the resurrection of the righteous reign with Christ during this time, it suggests that there is a special union between the physical and spiritual world for 1,000 years. There’s no dichotomy – it’s a theonomy.
This is in reference to Isaiah 60-65, particularly 65:20, which indicates that people can still die during this time. In Revelation, people can still reject Christ as their authority, even ally themselves with Satan (Revelation 20:7-10). And if Revelation is clear that after the new heaven and earth take place there is “no more death” (Revelation 21:4, Isaiah 25:8-9, 2 Peter 3:13), having been thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14), how then can people still die? Also, how can people not be saved? If people can still die and not be saved, this highlights the significance of the second “general” resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:11-13 and the “second death” mentioned in Revelation 20:13-15.
Also take notice that a literal reading of the 1,000-year reign suggests a parallel to the natural length of human life prior to the Flood, without the life-bearing properties from the Tree of Life. Since the new heaven and new earth have yet to come (until v.11, which is expressed later in Revelation 21), then mankind will live according to their optimum natural condition (Isaiah 65:20, 22-23) of 1,000 years until “completeness comes” when God remakes everything into its eternal Edenic state.
At any rate, Jesus reigns forever! I hope that helps gives some clarification on Pastor Rod’s view on the Millennial Reign. Thanks again for your question, Walter!
Matlock Bobechko | December 20, 2019 – 10:15 AM EST. Revised on June 9, 2021 – 12:55 PM EST