There are three views of the thousand years and they all have subsets:
1. Premillennialism is the view that Jesus will return to earth, defeat all of the evil in the world, bind Satan, and then will reign on earth a thousand years with all of the resurrected believers (1st resurrection) and the 2nd resurrection is all unbelievers so that they can face the Great White Throne of judgement.
2. Amillennialism is the view that there is not a literal thousand year binding of Satan or reign of Jesus on the earth, but the thousand years is symbolic and describes Christ’s reign throughout the Church age while is also describes Satan as being restricted as to what he can do. The believers are not resurrected in bodily form, but are resurrected in a heavenly form.
3. Postmillennialism is the view that the thousand years represents the triumph of the Gospel and a period of peace will precede the second coming of Christ. The millennium is literal, but only the martyrs of 6:9 are resurrected to reign with Christ as a special reward (1st resurrection) while the 2nd resurrection is for everyone else; believers and non-believers alike. Believers will be rewarded while unbelievers will face the lake of fire.
Osborne*** sees view 1; Beale* sees view 2; Mounce** sees view 3.
Instead of settling on one of these views, we will try to see where the text leads us. One observation is clear; throughout the Apocalypse, chronological order is not a given and just because the below passages may seem to be chronological, doesn’t necessarily mean that they follow a chronological pattern. We have seen this time and time again; especially with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls which all end with the eschaton.
Beale* goes to great lengths to describe that the final battle that appears in 20:7-10 is the same battle that occurs in 19:11-21 which is also described in 16:17-21. Beale’s conclusion is also based on his careful analysis of Ezekiel 38-39 which is one OT prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. (Pgs. 972-983). His analysis is far to much to place here, but one of his points must be noted. We know from 15:1 that the final plagues (the bowl judgements) will conclude God’s wrath. So, if the seventh bowl concludes God’s wrath, are we to have a separate judgement after a millennium? Or, is the millennium a retelling of what we have just been exposed to from a different point of view? We have already seen how this happens over and over again throughout the Apocalypse. He also says that 12:7-11 parallels with 20:1-6 and offers a great comparison. (See Pg. 992).
1 And I saw an angel coming down from heaven having the key of the abyss and a great chain in1 his hand2. 2 And he seized3 the dragon, the old snake4, who is the Devil, and Satan5, and bound him a thousand years6. 3 And he threw him into the abyss and shut and sealed it over him7 , so that he might not deceive8 the nations until the thousand years may be complete9. After these things, it is necessary for him to be released a little while10.
4 And I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgement was given to them11 , namely12 the souls of the ones who were beheaded13 because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God14, and whoever did not worship the wild beast nor his image, and did not receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand15. And they came back to life16 and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (And the rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years was complete.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who who has a part in the first resurrection17; the second death does not have authority over these18, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with him a thousand years.19
1 ἐπὶ (in)
or “on”. It’s possible that the key and the chain were on the angel’s opened palm.
There is One Who holds the keys, into Whose hand all judgment is given. There is One to Whom Satan will answer. There is One Who has seen the end from the beginning. There is One Whose purpose is being fulfilled, and it will be to our good. It is hard to understand things now, but one day we will see the big picture.
2 In 9:1, we see an angel coming down from heaven to open the abyss during the fifth trumpet judgement. It is quite possible that this is the same angel. From the seen in Chapter 9, we can conclude that the gateway of the abyss remained open and will now be shut in order to imprison Satan. Osborne*** (Pg. 699) draws from 1 Enoch 10 to state that the abyss is a prison for demonic spirits.
1 Enoch 10: 1-7
1 Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spake, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, 2 and said to him: Go to Noah and tell him in my name "Hide thyself!" and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come 3 upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it. And now instruct him that he may escape 4 and his seed may be preserved for all the generations of the world. And again the Lord said to Raphael: Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening 5 in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may 6,7 not see light. And on the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire.
The chain is used to either chain Satan’s arms and feet so that he can’t move (Mounce** Pg. 352) or used to chain him to the wall inside the abyss. Either way, he’s not getting out until he is released.
3 ἐκράτησεν (he seized)
Greek: “he grasped”. The angel took hold of him securely.
4 ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος (the old snake)
John has turned the Greek language on it’s head again! ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος should be in the accusative, but it is in the nominative. The TR replaces this with the correct Greek: τὸν ὄφιν τὸν ἀρχαῖον. Beale* says that John placed the nominative here to link the readers with the parallel phrase in 12:9: ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, ὁ καλούμενος Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς. Here: ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, ὅς ἐστιν Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς. (Pg. 994).
5 Parallels with 12:9. See more information on Satan’s titles there.
6 Osborne*** (Pg. 701) gives good background on Jewish thought on a thousand years (Psalms 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8; 2 Enoch 32:1-33:2; Jubilees 23:27-28), but he has to give way to the symbolic use of numbers throughout the Apocalypse. If all of the numbers throughout Revelation are symbolic, then it is also probable that the 1000 year is symbolic as well. We have seen already that 10 is figurative for “completeness”. Here, we have a multiple of tens: 10x10x10.
Mounce** believes that John is describing a literal millennium. (Pg. 359).
Beale* believes the millennium to be figurative says that “binding” of Satan happens at Christ’s resurrection which restricts him. (Pg. 985).
7 “Sealing” here is used as a form of “locking”. In other words, Satan has been thrown into the prison of the abyss, the gate to the abyss shut and locked. There is a parallel here to Mark 3:20-30.
8 πλανήσῃ (might not deceive)
Greek: “might not lead astray”.
9 Note that there are nations (people) left after the final battle! Osborne*** believes these people to be supporters of the antichrist that did not participate in the final battle. (Pg. 702). We will see them again in 20:7.
The question now is: “What does the imprisoning of Satan do to the ones left on the earth and what does it mean?” As Osborne*** states: “This is at the heart of the premillennial-amillenial debate.” (Pg. 702). The amillenial view here is that Satan is “restricted” and “limited” in what he can do during the “church age”. The “seal” placed on him limits his power in such a way that he can’t prevent the spread of the Good News to the people who are called. He can only try to hinder it. The problem with this view is the wording within this passage itself. If the reason that Satan is bound in the first place is to keep him from “leading the nations (people) astray”, then how can this just be a “restrictive” binding and not a “full” binding. We find out in 20:7, that his release leads to the deceiving of the very same people that he was deceiving to begin with. Beale* sees this view and points to 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12 as showing that Satan is already at work, but restrained. Immediately before the 2nd coming of Jesus, Satan will be released so that he can deceive the nations to come together and try to destroy the church preceding the end. (Pgs. 984-989).
10 μικρὸν χρόνον (a little while)
Greek: “a little time”. So why should Satan be released at all? According to Osborne***, it is to show that all evil must be completely destroyed as we will see that Satan’s deceit once again leads the people of the earth astray in 20:7-10. (Pg. 703).
11 Parallels 1 Corinthians 6:2 and Daniel 7:21-22. As Beale* (Pgs. 995-996) indicates, this is a figurative way of say that the saints will rule and judge with Christ.
12 καὶ (namely)
Greek: “and”. Here, καὶ is used to show who is sitting on these thrones. This is common throughout the Apocalypse.
13 This is the first time that “beheaded” is used in Revelation. It basically reiterates that the martyrs were killed. It also tends to limit who is being spoke of in the text.
In Islam, beheading is the appropriate response for all who refuse to submit to their religion which denies the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
14 This phrase may be indicative of Christians and Jews, people of the Book. The testimony of Jesus is the gospel and could remind us of the New Testament. The word of God may point to the Jewish Scripture contained in the Old Testament. We find God revealed from beginning to end.
All those who hold on to their faith in God will face persecution in the world and find life.
15 So, who are “they”? As one can see from my translation, I see “they” to be the martyred believers spoken about throughout the Apocalypse. This is a build on from 2:26-27; 3:12; 3:21, and 5:10 and that in the immediate context of this passage, the martyred believers are in view. Osborne*** (Pgs. 704-705) sees this as well, but broadens it to include all believers through out history. This can certainly be backed up by what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Mounce** sees them as the “heavenly court” of Daniel 7:26 because the text is vague on the matter (He doesn’t see καὶ as “namely”, but as “and”). He also sees the souls that had been beheaded as a reference to martyrs only. (Pgs. 354-355).
Beale* sees them as the suffering christians through out the church age, but with angels as well. He points to 2 Timothy 2:11-12 to back up his claims. (Pg. 991;966).
Τιμόθεον β 2·11 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος εἰ γὰρ συναπεθάνομεν, καὶ συζήσομεν·
12 εἰ ὑπομένομεν, καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν· εἰ ἀρνησόμεθα, κἀκεῖνος ἀρνήσεται ἡμᾶς·
11 A faithful saying: For if we die with him, we also will live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we will deny him, that one will also deny us.
16 ἔζησαν (they came back to life)
or “they lived”.
There is debate if this means that a person actually comes back to life in bodily form. Based on the parenthesis about the rest of the dead in verse 5, this means an actual bodily resurrection. The amillennial view believes that this refers to either the new spiritual life following conversion or to the heavenly exaltation of the saints after death in the intermediate state (after death, but before the return of Jesus). The one’s who hold this view point to 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Osborne*** (Pgs. 706-707). The view boils down to if there is actually an earthly reign of Jesus or is everything in heaven.
Beale* (Pg. 1008) makes a great argument that 2:10-11 parallels with 20:4-6. In 2:10-11, Jesus tells the faithful members of the church in Smyrna: “Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give to you the crown of life.” He argues that it it both presumed and plausible that “the crown of life” would be given to them as soon as they die. Thus, they “live” in a spiritual, intermediate state before the coming of Jesus.
So far, we have not seen Jesus return to earth, yet the believer lives. The rest of the dead could refer to all those who did not choose Jesus and wake from the dead. They remain in the dominion of death.
17 As with the debate above, there different views as to what the first resurrection means. Beale* believes it to be a heavenly resurrection (amillennial) , while Osborne*** (Pg. 708) believes it to refer to an actual bodily resurrection of all believers on earth (premillennial). Mounce** sees it as an actual resurrection limited to the martyrs of 6:9. The first resurrection is a special reward for the martyrs for remaining faithful and giving their lives for the faith (postmillenial).
18 The second death seems to be clear. It is an eternal death in the lake of fire (the Gehenna). See Matthew 10:28.
There is one resurrection and two deaths. The Greek word here for resurrection is:
anastasis * an-as'-tas-is * From G450[G450 ἀνίστημι * anistēmi * an-is'-tay-mee * From G303 and G2476; to stand up (literally or figuratively, transitively or intransitively): - arise, lift up, raise up (again), rise (again), stand up (-right) CWS
This word implies a return to life, of being able to stand in the presence of God, made possible by Jesus. We are healed and able to rise from our brokenness because He helps us up. Like the man lowered down to Jesus by his friends, our sins are forgiven and the mat is no longer needed. The sense of this word may more aptly be understood as an indication of preeminence, of honor, and in the vein of first fruits.
Another word (see below) is used as related to the dead that stand before the Throne of Judgment. They are made to stand in the presence of God, but not for long. Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life is not resurrected to life, but brought before the throne to account for their deeds. There are multiple books needed to account for the works of every man if they do not seek the grace offered by Jesus Christ. Thus they remain part of the shadow of death until the second, and final death. Rejecting Jesus means remaining in that state of death which leads to the second death, like sitting on death row with no appeal.
ἵστημι * histēmi * his'-tay-mee * A prolonged form of a primary word στάω staō (of the same meaning, and used for it in certain tenses); to stand (transitively or intransitively), used in various applications (literally or figuratively): CWS
Our works are disregarded, our sins remembered no more. Only our name is needed, for we have taken His name. One book is needed.
19 There is a symbolic message implied with the reign of a 1000 years. Bullinger, in his book “Number In Scripture”, says 10 is one of the numbers that symbolize completeness. In particular, it represents the “perfection of Divine Order”. If one then observes that 1000 is 10 to the third power, and 3 being the number of the Divine, what this may be describing is the perfection of Christ’s reign.
We are told we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We sit with Him on His throne. New life has been given and the Holy Spirit serves to confirm this gift. For the believer, eternal life has begun once we believe in His name. that we believe God.
Jesus once spoke a parable of a strong man tied up that his captives might be freed. I believe He was speaking of the dragon. The same gospel that frees us from the power of Satan serves to chain the prince of the world, for we are no longer captive to death. Satan is sealed by the same seal that confirms we are children of God: the Holy Spirit.
The rest of the dead are those who do not seek the life that is in Christ. Satan is set free, and this may be what happens when the false peace of the Antichrist comes to an end in the middle of the final week as prophesied. Forty-two months of that seven year period remain. The wrath of God is fully poured out at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)