This study, taught by pastor Barry Forder at our Sunday morning service on Sunday 26th June 2016 is the 22nd in our verse-by-verse study through the book of Revelation.
As we move into chapter 20 we meet what is referred to as the ‘millennium’. The word ‘millennium’ comes from the Latin words ‘mille’ meaning a ‘thousand’ and ‘annum’ meaning ‘years’.
In this study we look at the millennium and try to understand a little about this period of time from what the Bible reveals. In verse 6 of this chapter we read, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”. Thus, on the surface at least, this would seem to indicate that when Christ returns to sit on the Throne of David (Luke 1:32 / 1 Cor 15:25 / 2 Sam 7:16 / Daniel 2:44 / Dan 7:27 / Ezek 37:21-22) He will then reign on Earth for a period of 1000 years. To someone reading the Bible for the first time, it is unlikely they would interpret the four clear references in this chapter to 1000 years as meaning anything other than a literal period of 1000 years. However, as we note in this study, there are a number of different ‘interpretations’ that suggest these events are not literal, but should rather be understood as being symbolic.
This immediate problem is that this view ignores the opening words of the book, where it is stated: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Rev 1:1)
There is no implication found anywhere in the book that these things are merely given to illustrate spiritual truths, depicting a struggle between good and evil; nor is this position consistent with the rest of the Bible. In Matthew 24 when Jesus was asked about the events preceding His return, He answered plainly and simply, and as we have seen, He then summerised the key events that are later expanded upon in the book of Revelation. It should also be stated that the Old Testament prophecies, which in many respects became the hope of the nation of Israel, can’t just be put to one side because either.
That being the case, one might well ask why the allegorical approach gained any momentum at all, let alone be the principle view taught in most seminaries today. We will explore the roots of this in a while, but at the end of the day we ultimately come back to the same question: Is this chapter (and indeed this book) meant to be understood as unfolding literal events that will take place, or should it be seen as symbolic? [and if so, symbolic of what?].
In essence, either God through His Word has revealed there will be a period of 1000 years when Christ will reign following His Second Coming, or this is just picture language, symbols designed to illustrate some other point. If the latter is true, the question has to be asked, what point is being made?, and who is it that decides how to interpret what we read?, (if what we read does in fact not actually mean what the surface text says?!)
May this study challenge you and stir you to go and tell others of God’s mighty kindness and love!