Before we begin, let us pray…
“Lord God, help us to know your ways; teach us your paths. Lead us in your truth, and teach us, for you are the God of our salvation; for you we wait all day long. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”Worship Sourcebook
We come now to the third sermon point of our sermon series about the Great Cosmic Battle and it is about the Millennium. This morning we will focus our attention to this period of time where Satan is bounded, the first resurrection occurred, and the final cosmic battle ensued. We will limit our preaching to the first six verses of Chapter 20 wherein we will look at the meaning of the symbolic casting down Satan into the pit (verse 1), and the meaning of the term first resurrection of the saints in heaven (verse 6).
But before we proceed in our study of these text a proper definition terms are in order. We need to answer these questions. What do we mean when we say millennium? What are the various interpretation held by Christians today? What is the difference between premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism? Finally, what do we think is the proper view that is most consistent with the whole counsel of God.
So the third sermon point is divided into there parts: 1) What is the millennium?; 2) What is bounding of Satan?; 3) What is first resurrection. We will answer today the first question and continue next week for the last two questions.
What is the millennium?
The term millennium is the Latin word for a thousand years. “Mille” means thousand while “annus” means year. Scripture uses this term here in Revelation 20:2-3 where it is used in context to describe the length of time when Satan is bound. It reads, “And he (the angel who holds the key) seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.”
The millennium event described here in Chapter 20 as it chronologically relates to the second coming of Christ is highly contended. There are three dominant views held in history and the most popular view today is known as premillennialism. Premillennialist believes in the literal interpretation of Revelation and as a result considers the second coming of Christ happening prior to the millennium period. This view interprets Chapters 19 and 20 as events happening chronologically. That since the last part of Chapter 19 speaks of the second coming Christ then surely the millennial event starting in Chapter 20 must come after next.
The Premillennialist position is further subdivided into those who believes in the pre-tribulation popular called as “The Rapture”. This secret coming of Christ reserved only for the elect aims to save the saints from the seven tribulation that will occur prior to the second coming of Christ. This view is the most modern view today which we identify as the Dispensational view. And the seven year tribulation is an import from Daniel 9:24 which refers to the final events of the seven weeks prophesied by Daniel. Combined with the literal interpretation from both sources (Old and New Testaments) then the timeline of the events for the Pre-tribulation Premillennialist position is: 1) Secret Rapture; 2) Seven Year Tribulation; 3) The Second Coming of Christ; 4) The Millennial Reign of Christ; 5) The Judgment.
The second type of Premillennial position is a much simpler version of this modern Dispensational view. It is often referred to as historic Premillennialism and are commonly referred to the as Post-tribulation Premillennialist. Simply put, there are no rapture, no literal seven year tribulation. So the timeline of the Post-tribulation view is 1) Great Tribulation; 2) The Second Coming of Christ; 3) The Millennial Reign of Christ; 4) The Judgment.
Now, the weakness of these views comes from its literal interpretation of the book of Revelation. A literal reading of John’s vision of Revelation 20 where an angel holding a key and binding a celestial being to the bottomless pit would definitely not make any sense. A celestial being is a spirit and obviously not bound by a physical lock and chain that can be opened by a literal key. The language is highly symbolic and must be interpreted as such.
Also, the misapplication of secret rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4 and the literal seven year tribulation from Daniel 9 forces a timeline that is arbitrarily applied in events envision by John in Revelation 19 and 20. Sound interpretation of Scripture does not allows to bring an interpretation of other texts which is not intended by the original author. I think the Pre-millennial/Dispensational view is inconsistent and in some way a faulty interpretation of the book of Revelation.
The next two views hold a symbolic understanding of the whole millennial period. They are the Postmillennial and Amillennial view. Both views the millennial pertaining to the period between the first and second coming of Christ. The numerical symbolism of the one thousand years points to number 10 raised to the power 3. Ten means generations or toledot while 3 means divine fullness like the unity of the three persons. This means the one thousand year period does not pertain to the literal 1,000 years or a period of 12,000 months. Rather, a divinely appointed long period of time between generations.
The Postmillennial differs from the Amillennial only with the interpretation of what happens prior to the second coming of Christ. This view holds to a positive interpretation of history wherein the bounding of Satan eventually leads to a golden age of the church where the gospel and the rule of Christ is universally applied. It means that prior to the Second Coming of Christ, the church will flourish and find itself at the peak of its influence in the world. This understanding of entering a golden age of the gospel comes from the interpretation of the symbolic binding of Satan which leads to the gospel being preached to the nations.
Dr. Dennis Johnson explains: “What is distinctive about postmillennialists’ reading of Revelation is their interpretation of the two elements in John’s vision that are explicitly attributed tributed to the thousand years: the dragon is bound, preventing him from deceiving the nations; and martyrs come to life and reign with Christ. Postmillennialism sees these two features in combination as symbolizing not only the worldwide spread of the gospel among the nations but also the overwhelming fruitfulness of this evangelistic advance vance in the salvation of individuals and in the transformation of cultures, tures, countries, and world civilization as a whole”-all before the physical return of Christ. As a vast majority of the world’s population become Christians, families, societies, and nations are transformed by disciples ofJesus who honor his lordship over every dimension of life, public as well as private.”
The postmillenial position is held mostly by reformed scholars and theologians on the early centuries prior to the first world war. According to Keith Mathison, “Postmillennialism was widely held among the Puritans. It was also the dominant view among Reformed theologians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was taught, for example, by men such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, James Henley Thornwell, A.A. Hodge, and B.B. Warfield.” And in the Savor Declaration of the Congregationalist Churches of the 16th century states in Chapter 26, paragraph 5:
As the Lord in his care and love towards his Church, hath in his infinite wise providence exercised it with great variety in all ages, for the good of them that love him, and his own glory; so according to his promise, we expect that in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of his dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged, and edified through a free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable and glorious condition than they have enjoyed.
For the Postmillennial view, the timeline is: 1) The millennium; 2) The Golden Age of the Church; 3) The Secong Coming of Christ; 4) The Judgment.
This brings us to the last view we need to consider in relation to the millennial period and it is what we believe to be most consistent compared to the Premillennialist view and more realistic compared to the Postmillenial view and that is Ammillennialism.
Amillennialism, together with the Postmillennialist, understands the millennial period symbolically. The letter a at the beginning of the word amillennialism stands for no millennium does not pertain to the absence of the millennial period. Instead, it interprets that there is no literal millennial reign often characterized as the Golden Age of the Church. At the same time, this position believes that one thousand years, not as a literal number of years count but the period between the first and second coming of Christ. Christ already rules and reigns from the heaven. Within this period, persecutions and tribulatiom occurs but at the same time, the preaching of the gospel is unhindered. It believes that the whole millennial period is characterized by this seemingly strange paradox but maintains the consistency of this position in every generation. Yes in the last of days the final but short outbreak of persecution will occur and yet it will only but a short period of time. For the amillennialist, the greay tribulation as well as the flourishing of the church happens simulateously within the same symbolic period called millennium. So the simpliest of the timeline is traced this way: 1) The millennium; 2) The Second Coming of Christ; 3) The Judgment.
The Second Helvetic Confession written by Heinrich Bullinger favors the view of no millennial reign when it states in Chapter 11:
“We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth.” Prior to this the Confession asserts: “But Christ will come again to claim his own, and by his coming to destroy the Antichrist, and to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31). For the dead will rise again (I Thess. 4:14 ff.), and those who on that day (which is unknown to all creatures [Mark 13:32]) will be alive will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye,” and all the faithful will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, so that then they may enter with him into the blessed dwelling-places to live forever (I Cor. 15:51 f.). But the unbelievers and ungodly will descend with the devils into hell to burn forever and never to be redeemed from torments (Matt. 25:46).
This view teaches the when Christ comes back again, he will consummate God’s wrath against his enemies then brings judgment to all.
What we believe about the last things or eschatology matters. While many Christians hold different views about it, we need to determine for ourselves what we think properly reflect what Scripture teaches as whole. Rather than settling with a vague idea about the matter, we must diligent study God’s Word. Jesus promises to lead his people, by his sanctifying grace, to the knowledge of God’s truth (John 16:33). The Psalmist proclaims, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” We were presented this morning with three views regarding the relationship between the Millennium and the Second Coming of Christ. Let humbly meditate on them and pray that the Holy Spirit guide each of us, and help us understand God’s perfect and holy will.
Next week, we will continue our study of Revelation 20:1-6 from the Amillennial perspective.
ZCRC(Imus), Christ rules over us in the heavens and when he returns, he will bring God’s judgment over the wicked and deliver his people from persecution. Let us encourage one another with these words. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.