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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Millennium


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The word ‘millennium’ means ‘a thousand years’. Though not found in the Bible, the word refers to the thousand years mentioned in one of the visions of the book of Revelation (Revelation 20:4-6).

Symbolism in Revelation

Revelation belongs to a kind of literature known as apocalyptic, where teaching is given in the form of strange visions with symbolic meanings (see APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE). Readers of the first century, being familiar with that kind of literature, probably understood the visions without too much difficulty. Readers of later generations have had much greater difficulty, and this has resulted in a variety of interpretations of the details of the book (see REVELATION, BOOK OF).

Among the interpretations of Revelation 20:4-6 there have been three main viewpoints, popularly called amillennial, premillennial and postmillennial. Because of the book’s apocalyptic characteristics, which involve angelic beings, strange beasts and mysterious numbers, many interpreters hesitate to measure off an exact period of one thousand years calculated to the year, month and day. There is considerable agreement, however, that the thousand years represent a long period, whether precisely measured or not.

The different viewpoints are largely concerned with determining what the thousand years reign of Christ refers to (v. 4), and this in turn is tied up with the meaning of the words ‘came to life’ (v. 4-5). Also, the different viewpoints usually consider these matters in relation to the return of Christ, even though Revelation 20 does not mention the return of Christ.

Thousand years reign with Christ

Those who believe that the thousand years reign of Christ refers to his present exaltation in glory are called amillennialists (a meaning ‘without’), because they do not believe that the vision refers to a literal reign of Christ on earth. They consider that the martyrs who ‘come to life’ and reign with Christ are believers of the present Christian era. Through their union with Christ in his death and resurrection, they have already been made alive and made to sit with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:6). According to this view, the other ‘coming to life’, which takes place at the end of the thousand years, refers to a resurrection of all humankind that takes place at the return of Christ. This resurrection leads to final judgment (Acts 24:15). God’s people then enter with him into the full enjoyment of the eternal age (Revelation 21:1-4).

By contrast, other interpreters consider that the thousand years reign of Christ refers to a literal reign on earth. Since Christ must return to earth before (pre) this reign can begin, they are called premillennialists. They consider that the martyrs who ‘come to life’ and reign with Christ are believers who are raised to life at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). According to this view, the other ‘coming to life’, which takes place at the end of the thousand years, refers to a second resurrection. This occurs at the end of the earthly millennium, when the wicked are raised to face final judgment (John 5:28-29). After this comes the eternal age, where God and his redeemed people dwell together in unending joy (Revelation 21:1-4).

The postmillennial view is that Christ will return after (post) the millennium. This view is not as widely held as the two previous views. It has similarities with the amillennial view in its interpretation of the two groups who ‘come to life’ and in its understanding that the thousand years reign of Christ does not refer to a literal reign on earth. However, it has a more optimistic view of life in the world prior to Christ’s return. Whereas the amillennial and premillennial views expect greater opposition from the forces of antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), the postmillennial view expects an era of peace and contentment, brought about through the evangelization of the world. According to this view, the thousand years reign of Christ refers to the rule of the kingdom of God in the world (Matthew 24:14; Romans 11:11-15).

Thousand years binding of Satan

In the visions of Revelation Chapter 20 the thousand years reign of Christ seems to correspond with the thousand years of Satan’s imprisonment (Revelation 20:1-3). At the end of this time Satan is released, then, after a brief but violent rebellion, destroyed (Revelation 20:7-10).

The amillennial and postmillennial view understands the binding of Satan to refer to his conquest by Christ at the cross, so that people might no longer be enslaved by him (Hebrews 2:14-15; cf. Luke 10:17-18; Luke 11:20-22). On this view, the rebellion of Satan refers to the great outbreak of evil by the forces of Satan at the end of the present age. The destruction of Satan comes, therefore, at the return of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8; Revelation 16:12-21).

The premillennial view understands the binding of Satan to refer to his inability to interfere during the coming earthly reign of Christ (Matthew 25:31). On this view, the rebellion of Satan refers to a final attempt by Satan to overthrow Christ’s kingly rule. The destruction of Satan comes, therefore, at the end of Christ’s earthly reign (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).

The central truth

In spite of the different viewpoints concerning the thousand years reign of Christ, all are agreed that it speaks of the triumph of Christ that he shares with his people (Matthew 19:28; Romans 5:17; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Timothy 2:12). All are agreed also that the return of Christ is the hope of the church, and that it encourages Christians to greater devotion, increased holiness and more enthusiastic evangelism (Matthew 24:42; Luke 19:11-26; Acts 1:7-11; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3; 2 Peter 3:11-13). See also ANTICHRIST; DAY OF THE LORD; ESCHATOLOGY; HEAVEN; HELL; JUDGMENT; KINGDOM OF GOD; RESURRECTION; SECOND COMING.


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Millennium'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/m/millennium.html. 2004.

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