Sermon Manuscript …
Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate
- The Millennium: “a thousand years of peace that Christians like to fight about”
- The Millennial Debate: not an issue to divide over (and yet very significant)
- The Key Passage: Revelation 20:1-6
- Overview of Revelation 19-22:
1. The Second Coming of Christ (19:11-21)
2. The Millennial Reign of Christ (20:1-6) *
3. The Final Defeat of Satan (20:7-10)
4. The White Throne of Judgment (20:11-15)
5. The New Heaven and Earth (21-22)
- Key Question: When is the Millennial Reign of Christ?
Is it now, or is it future?
Amillennialism: Now (the present age is the Millennial Kingdom)
Postmillennialism: Now (the present age is becoming the MK)
Premillennialism: Future (the MK begins at the Second Coming)
- Revelation 20:1-6:
(1) And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. (2) And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
(4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (5) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Three Simple Reasons Revelation 20 Must Teach Premillennialism:
- 1. Satan’s Binding Is Present (not Future)
- Primary Question: Is the timing of Satan’s binding present or future?
- Amillennialism: Present
- Postmillennialism: Present
- Premillennialism: Future
- Key Point: Revelation 20:1-3 is simply incompatible with the New Testament’s portrayal of Satan and his influence during the present age.
- Revelation 20:1-3: pictures a period of time in which Satan is completely cut off from having any kind of influence whatsoever here on earth (sealed specifically in the abyss):
- Luke 8:31-32:
- Revelation 9:1-3:
- Revelation 11:7:
- Revelation 20:7-8:
- The NT makes it very clear that during the present age, Satan is very active on the earth: “He prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8):
- Satan filled the heart of Ananias & influenced him to lie to Holy Spirit.
- He sent a messenger to buffet the apostle Paul.
- He thwarted Paul from traveling to Thessalonica.
- He snatches the Gospel from unbelieving hearts
- He tells lies.
- He holds unbelievers under his dominion.
- He tempts the children of God.
- He takes advantage of them.
- He is the “god of this world.”
- He deceives believers just as he did with Eve.
- He disguises himself as an angel of light.
- He influences unbelievers to live lives of wickedness.
- He battles against the children of God.
- He deceives and entraps unbelievers.
- He holds unbelievers captive to do his will.
- He is the father of those who practice sin.
- He deceives those who dwell upon the earth.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 makes is clear that Satan is in fact involved in deceiving the nations in the present age: “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
2. The First Resurrection is Physical (not Spiritual)
- Primary Question: Is the “first resurrection” physical or spiritual?
- Amillennialism: Spiritual (first resurrection = regeneration)
- Postmillennialism: Spiritual (first resurrection = regeneration)
- Premillennialism: Physical
- The First Resurrection Cannot Be Regeneration
- The word translated “resurrection” (anastasis) is used 42 times in the New Testament and nowhere else is it used to refer to regeneration
- The same form of the same Greek verb translated “they came to life” (ezesan) is used to refer to a physical resurrection in verse 5 (and therefore must refer to a physical resurrection in verse 4)
- The grammar of the passage indicates that the entire group of individuals who are raised in the first resurrection is raised at the beginning of the 1000 years & reigns together w/ Christ for entirety of the 1000-year period
- According to the amillennial and postmillennial view that the first resurrection = regeneration, the individuals described in verse 4 are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit until after they are martyred!
- The First Resurrection Must Be a Physical Resurrection
- Fits with the consistent use of the word “resurrection” (anastasis) in the NT (41 out of 42 times)
- Sees the words “they came to life” as referring to the same kind of resurrection in verse 5 as it does in verse 4
- Makes perfect sense of the terminology “first resurrection” which obviously implies a second resurrection (the resurrection of the wicked)
- Fits the context in which John sees those who were killed in the physical realm coming back to life in the physical realm.
3. The Thousand Years is Literal (not Symbolic)
- Primary Question: Is the thousand years literal or symbolic
- Amillennialism: Symbolic
- Postmillennialism: Symbolic
- Premillennialism: Physical
- Significance of Question: if the 1000 years are literal, then it couldn’t refer to the present age (like amillennialism says) because the present age is nearly 2,000 years and counting.
- Argument for the Symbolic View
- The Book of Revelation is full of symbolism in general and symbolic numbers in particular.
- The number 1000 is symbolically significant: it refers to either a long period of time or a complete period of time.
- Argument for the Literal View
- The vast majority of the 254 numbers in the Book of Revelation are intended to be understood literally.
- Any time a number is used with a time indicator in Revelation—such as days, months, or years—there is no clear indication that it is symbolic.
- Nowhere in Scripture—not even in 2 Peter 3:8—is a thousand years used as a symbolic designation
- When John intends to express an indefinite number of something in Rev 20, he does so not by naming a specific number like one thousand years, but rather by using indefinite expressions like “for a short time” (v. 3) or “the number of them is like the sand of the seashore” (v. 8).
- Three Questions to Determine if Something Is Symbolic:
- Does it possess a degree of absurdity when taken literally?
- Does it possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically?
- Does it fall into an established category of symbolic language?
For Example: The trees clapping their hands (in Isaiah 55:12)
Yes: literal trees don’t have hands
Yes: communicates time of great rejoicing
However: 1000 years meets none of the proposed criteria!
- Key Point: If God wanted to say that reign of Christ would last for a literal 1000 years, how else could He have done it? What else could He have said?