Revelation 20:1-6, in relation to the one thousand years, is quite a controversial passage and has been the subject of great debates for a long time. From this passage, there are two important points that John has written down:
- In verse 1 – 2, John saw an angel coming down from heaven holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. What is he bound for? In verse 3b: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.”
- In verse 4 – 6, John saw thrones and souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus. These souls came back into what is called the first resurrection and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
There are three prominent views on what the thousand years mean and when it will happen:
According to this view, Christ’s second coming will occur before the millennium (the thousand years). Chapter 19 speaks of Christ’s second coming and his judgement of the beast and his followers. Premillennialist believes that what happens next in chapter 20 (the thousand years) happens chronologically after chapter 19 (Christ’s second coming). Furthermore, the thousand years according to premillennialist is taken literally, an actual 1000 years where Christ reigns with those who have been resurrected (Revelation 20:6).
According to this view, Christ’s second coming will occur after the millennium (the thousand years). However, the thousand years is not taken literally, but only symbolically, referring to the age between Christ’s first and second coming. Christ’s second coming concludes what is referred to as the thousand years. This view argues that Revelation 19:11-21 refers to the same event as Revelation 20:7-10, both referring to Christ’s second coming, a twin portrait. Up until this point, postmillennialism will share their point of view with the third view, amillennialism. But the difference is postmillennialism believes that there will be great repentance on this earth in the thousand years before Christ’s second coming, because during this time Christ reigns with the resurrected souls of those who had been beheaded, an optimistic view of the end of the age. Although they also believe that there will be great persecution just before the thousand years end, after which Christ will return.
Amillennialism views the thousand years paradoxically. On one hand they agree that Christ is reigning with those who had been beheaded and that Satan has been bound with chains, but on the other hand they also believe that Satan and his followers are still at large persecuting Christians and leading them astray. In Matthew 28, after Christ was resurrected, He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” At this point, whilst Satan has been defeated, he has not yet perished. While Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, not everyone acknowledges this. This is why His people are sent out to make disciples of all nations and Jesus has promised to be with them to the end of the age. This doesn’t mean that everyone who hear the gospel will accept it, but His people will receive persecution, torture, and even death. But for those who have been killed or beheaded because of the gospel, their souls are resurrected and reign with Christ for the thousand years. During Christ’s second coming, His sovereignty will be fulfilled. That’s when all knees will bow, and all tongues will confess that Jesus is the lord. But before that, Revelation 20 speaks about a brief period of great tribulation where Satan will be released for a brief period. This is also said in Matthew 24:21-22 “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Since the believers have not reached its final number, God’s people will continue to preach the gospel until that number is fulfilled. Then Christ will come at the end of the thousand years and God’s people will be resurrected and will reign with Christ forever.
May we be encouraged to have patience and continue to be faithful. While our time here may be filled with hardships and persecution, there will be victory for us, and God’s justice will be upheld. Revelation 19:14 “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.” is speaking about the believers with white horses who are following their general and will have victory. And in the new heaven and the earth we will continue to grow in our knowledge and love for him that will never end. Verse 12 indicates that no matter how deep we know Him , there are still things that are beyond what we know and have experienced about Him.