Millennium is a word that has caused more confusion than possibly any other word in the Bible, but it isn’t actually in the Bible.
Revelation 20:3 refers to a 1,000-year reign of Christ. The Greek word used for 1,000 is ‘chilia’ but in 405AD Jerome compiled the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible and translated the word as ‘millennium’. So this became one of the several Latin words that have crept into some English translations of the Bible that never were in the earliest Greek manuscripts.
Over the last several hundred years, various scholars have built systems of interpreting biblical prophecy based on the books of Daniel and Revelation along with the meddlesome Millennium. But it’s not really the word itself that is the problem, it’s the insistence by its champions in interpreting Revelation as a literal calendar of events.
The basis of the various Millennium schemes is that Jesus will return physically to Earth to rule ‘with an iron sceptre’ (Revelation 2:27) for 1,000 years.
This idea is developed from just six verses of scripture, Revelation 20:1-6, and the outline of most schemes goes like this:
- Jesus will return physically to Earth and set himself up in a rebuilt temple on The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
- He will rule like an Old Testament king, re-institute the temple sacrificial system and the Law, and administer justice with iron resolve.
- Salvation through Faith alone will no longer apply.
- Any contact with God will only be possible through physical exposure to King Jesus.
- In some schemes, 144,000 Jews will serve as the immortal soldiers of the King.
Now consider more carefully some of the problems caused by this belief system:
- The presence of God would then be limited once again to one place in geography and time. One of the great benefits of the Holy Spirit coming into the world is that any saved person, anywhere and at any time can enter into the presence of Almighty God.
- If the Lord returned to take up long-term residence on Earth, then where would he locate? In Jerusalem, of course; and a rebuilt Temple would probably be his headquarters. The problem is that 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 has this to say; “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” So, if the temple is ever to be rebuilt in Jerusalem it will be a sign of the antichrist, not of the return of Jesus.
- During the 1 000 years, there would be many millions of people living on Earth. Would they remain alive all that time? Would babies be born? But more importantly, how would they be saved? If Jesus is ruling with a ‘rod of iron’ as the ultimate benign dictator, then what of free will and what of grace? Would salvation again be a matter of works?
There is also a very serious theological problem with the doctrine of the Millennium that imputes the value of the Atonement. Revelation 20:1-3 reads; “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time”. In terms of a literalistic scheme of interpretation, this would mean that Satan is only “‘bound” when Jesus returns at the beginning of the 1,000 year period. So what was the crucifixion all about then? What did Jesus mean when He declared to His disciples two millennia ago that “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)? And what did Paul mean when he wrote: ‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’’(Colossians 2:15)? Surely any teaching that claims that when Jesus died on the cross He did not decisively deal with Satan is seriously in error and effectively empties the cross of Christ of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17).
What do I believe concerning the 1,000 years referred to in Revelation Chapter 20? Well, I can’t really state it any better than I did in my book Revelation in the Stars, which is available as a free pdf, should you wish to read it, HERE:
I believe that the millennium is a present reality. Christ ushered it in with his first advent, and it will be succeeded by the final state at his second coming. I believe that Almighty God has only one plan of salvation, based on the finished work of Calvary. God saved specific Old Testament saints through their trust in his grace, and all other believers since have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that there are just two ages – this present age, and the age to come referred to as the new Heaven and Earth. I believe that at the cross Jesus Christ bound Satan from having authority over humankind, but that he will loose the devil on Earth near the end of time. Actually, I think that Satan will incarnate as the final anti-Christ. I believe that the church lives in a world of tribulation, but that this tribulation will grow progressively worse. At the very end, Jesus will come again, in a single cataclysmic event, to bring history to its close, and to usher in the final state. He will come with those believers who have previously died and have been with him in Heaven. As he comes again to Earth, the believers still on this planet will join him (be raptured) and accompany him to the planet’s surface, where he will judge all mankind. God will resurrect all humanity with immortal material bodies, both the saved and unsaved, and all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He will banish forever from his presence those whom he does not know, the unsaved. Those who are his disciples will receive rewards in accordance with what they have done during their earthly lives. Then this present world will be purified by fire, destroyed, and remade without the limitations of space and time as we know them. Heaven and Earth will be one, and God will at last dwell within his creation with his beloved children.