“The Thousand Years” (Revelation 20:1-6)

“The Thousand Years” (Revelation 20:1-6)

The Thousand Years

The Thousand Years

Brad Mills / General

Revelation / Millennium / Revelation 20:1–6


In Adolph Hitler’s first speech as the German Fuhrer, he assured the nation that Nazi Germany would last a thousand years. He believed that Germany needed to return to its roots in the Holy Roman Empire which inspired visions of “agriculture virtue, simplicity, community, and social harmony.” In other words, it was an inspiring and idealistic view of the future. Hitler often riled up his troops with references to the Thousand Year Reich. That, together with a cocktail of methamphetamines, was how they endured tireless ground and air combat. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Hitler’s reign only lasted 11 years.

Although Hitler’s reference to a thousand year reich is quite famous, it pales in comparison to the popularity of the thousand years reign of Jesus Christ and his saints found in Revelation 20:1-6. This is the only passage that speaks of a millennial reign, but it has possibly been the subject of more books and articles than any other passage in Revelation. There are three basic ways of understanding the Millennium:

1. Premillennialism: Christ returns and establishes his reign on earth (XR > MR > GWT). We could add a distinction betwen Classic Premillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism, but the basic view of when the Millennium takes place in reference to Christ’s second coming is the same.

2. Postmillennialism: The Church enjoys peace and prosperity and expansion at the end of this age, then Christ returns (MR on earth > XR > GWT).

3. Amillennialism: Symbolic of present age between Christ’s first and second coming (MR from heaven > XR > GWT).

There are representatives of each one of these views among us today. Even the leadership of the church is not in full agreement (last I checked). It’s perfectly okay to differ on this fairly minor point of doctrine. All of us agree that Christ will return and have the victory at the end of this age. This is not worth dividing the church over.

Read Revelation 20:1-6.

The millennium is about the victory of suffering saints. Those who have died with Christ will live with him (2 Tim 2:11-12). Those who endure through a life of trials and temptations—and by his Spirit persevere—they will reign with Christ.

The death of believers brings us into a state of reigning with Christ from heaven.

› But, in order to get to the reign, we must begin with…

I. The  Binding  of Satan (1-3)

Another angel comes down from heaven marking a new phase in John’s vision (1). This angel is seen with “the key to the bottomless pit”. The angel also had “a great chain” with which he would bind the dragon, Satan, for a thousand years (2). Satan was thrown into the pit where he was locked away, unable to deceive the nations any longer (3). This period of binding will end when Satan is released to deceive the nations once again, gathering them for the battle of Gog and Magog, which will mark the time of his final defeat (7-10).

Everyone acknowledges that Satan is or will be bound, but the question is: (1) when did/will that binding take place? and (2) to what extent is he bound?

Premillennialism: Christ will bind Satan upon his return so that he is utterly incapable of interfering with God’s purposes. They tend to read Revelation in chronological order. Since the previous chapter depicted the judgment that accompanies Christ’s return, the next vision must depict the next stage of history. There are several reasons to question this assumption:

• “Then” (Καὶ) can link a sequence of visions as well as provide historical sequence. However, angelic descent always reflects a break in historical sequence (7:2; 10:1; 18:1; 20:1). “I saw an angel coming down from heaven” is a key phrase in determining where recapitulation is occuring in John’s vision.

• The final battle has been repeatedly and clearly portrayed at several points prior to this passage (16:14, 16; 17:14; 19:11-21). All the enemies are cast into the lake of fire which implies a cyclical structure. That is simply one example of the many parallels found when comparing each cycle.

• How can Rev 20:3 chronologically follow Rev 19:15, 21. There would not be anyone left to deceive after they have been judged and destroyed.

Another feature that premillennialists focus on is a strict literal reading of the thousand years. But the vision is filled with symbolism. Are we to assume that Satan is a literal dragon who is literally bound by a chain and sealed in a literal pit? That would contradict other passages of Scripture which define him as a spiritual being. If all of these details are symbolic, we should probably assume the same about reference to the thousand years. We have interpreted numbers symbolically throughout our study of Revelation.

Finally, premillennialists typically understand the binding of Satan as “complete termination of Satan’s activity on earth”. They point to passages that speak to his present power. Satan is “the god of this world” who blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4). He is “the prince of the power of the air” who continues to influence “the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). He continues to prowl around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt 5:8). If this is true of Satan now, in what sense could he be bound?

Postmillennialism: Satan will be bound for a lengthy period of time near the end of this present age.

Amillennialism: Satan was defeated and bound during Christ’s first coming. This was necessarily inaugurated during his ministry. Jesus had to bind the strong man in order to plunder his house (Mt 12:28-29). When the seventy-two disciples returned from their successful evangelism, they rejoiced that they had power over demons. Jesus told them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk 10:17-19).

The climax of this binding occurred on the cross. Satan was “cast out” while Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” (Jn 12:31-33). Jesus disarmed the evil powers by triumphing over them on the cross (Col. 2:15). Jesus became flesh and blood “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Heb 2:14). This is all consistent with an earlier vision John had of the great dragon being thrown down to earth (Rev 12:9).

Clearly then, there is a sense in which Satan has already been defeated and his power limited. In fact, our passage defines his limitations precisely. “So that” (3) is a purpose clause that defines his binding. Satan is bound from deceiving the nations. He is unable to carry out Rev. 20:7-10 until his release. As soon as he is allowed, he deceives the nations and gathers them at Gog and Magog for the final battle.

Beale: God’s “seal” on Christians does not protect them in every sense but only in a spiritual, salvific manner, since they suffer from persecution in various physical ways (see on 7:3; 9:4). Conversely, God’s seal on Satan prevents him from harming the salvific security of the true church, though he can harm it physically.

In order for Satan to be bound and cast into the pit, Jesus had to be nailed to a cross and buried in a tomb. It was the death of Christ that ensured the binding of Satan. And it is the binding of Satan that secured the redemption of all the elect from every tribe, tongue, and nation!

We could point to the work of any number of missionaries who took the light of the gospel into the darkness of unreached nations. Because Satan has been prevented from deceiving the nations, we can have confidence in our missionary activity. We can know that God’s Word will indeed reach every nation.

Regardless of your millennial view, Revelation conveys the decisive defeat of Satan. This ought to leave all of us with confidence in Christ’s victory at the end of this age.

› The binding of Satan makes possible…

II. The  Reigning  of Saints (4-6)

When did/will their reign begin?

Premillennialism: Christ will bind Satan upon his return so that he and his saints might experience a golden age of reigning on the earth before he is released and finally defeated at the end of the millennium. Then, the final judgment will take place. The problem with this view is that it requires two separate physical resurrections (one of believers before the MR and one of unbelievers after the MR). But this is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture’s teaching on a single resurrection of all people (Isa 26:19-21; Dan 12:2; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 2 Thes 1:7-10). It also means that the MR creates a gap between the return of Christ and the final judgment (unparalleled in Scripture).

Postmillennialism: While Satan is bound, the church will experience increasing levels of peace and prosperity prior to Christ’s return. The problem with this view is it means we are nowhere near the return of Christ, since nothing like a golden age for the church has or is taking place on a global level. History tends to be out of accord with this interpretation. More importantly, I don’t believe it does justice to the whole counsel of God’s word.

Amillennialism: The souls of deceased believers are presently reigning with Christ in heaven. There are no earthly expectations for a physical golden age until we enter into the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev 5:10; 22:5).

John sees saints seated on thrones (4). Some of these saints were made up of the souls who had been beheaded and were earlier seen crying out to God under the altar (Re 6:9). These were combined with the saints who had not worshiped the beast or received his mark. All of these saints experienced the beast’s persecution, but not all of them were martyred. The martyred church represents the Church Triumphant which is made up of martyrs and faithful witnesses who endure.

John sees these saints come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. They are partakers of Christ’s resurrection life (Rev 3:21). Believers participate in the first resurrection when they die and their souls are immediately with the Lord. They will reign with Christ, in that intermediate state, until they return with Christ in judgment. In the meantime, they enjoy priestly privileges of immediate access to the presence of God.

“The rest of the dead,” who do not come to life until the thousand years are ended (5), must refer to unbelievers. They have no part in the first resurrection. Therefore, they do not reign with Christ nor will they be protected from the second death. On the other hand, believers will receive the “crown of life” and remain unharmed by the second death (Rev 2:10-11).

C. Clemance: They who are the Lord’s rise twice, and die but once. They who are not the Lord’s rise but once, and die twice.

131 Christians Everyone Should Know Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The time is fulfilled for the German people of Hitler. It is because of Hitler that Christ, God the helper and redeemer, has become effective among us.… Hitler is the way of the Spirit and the will of God for the German people to enter the Church of Christ.” So spoke German pastor Hermann Gruner. Another pastor put it more succinctly: “Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler.”

Hitler encouraged his propagandists to promote this kind of idolatrous worship alongside their worship of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among the Confessing Church, which publicly denounced Hitler’s propaganda in their Barmen Declaration (1934). As the intensity of persecution increased for anyone in opposition to Nazi Germany, many pastors were scared into silence. Bonhoeffer decided to join the German secret service and serve as a double agent. Instead of collecting information in Europe, he helped Jews escape Nazi oppression.

When it was discovered that he was rescuing Jews, as well as we as peripherally involved in various assassination plots against Hitler, he was imprisoned and hanged just one month before Germany’s surrender. A camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s hanging said, “In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Because of Christ’s resurrection we know that when we die, we have a place prepared for us. We have a Heavenly Father who runs to meet us. We have a Savior who gladly shares his inheritance with us.

We can face death with confidence knowing that our earthly suffering will be replaced with heavenly glory. All of Satan’s efforts to destroy the Church really serve to strengthen her spiritual reign throughout this present age. This passage assures us that the number of saints reigning from heaven will continue to grow until the appointed time of Christ’s return.


Both the binding of Satan and the reigning of the saints are benefits believers receive because we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection. We do not place ourselves in the position of defeating Satan. We would crumble before his power.

But he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. And because he who is in us is the Spirit of him who defeated our Accuser, we know that we will take our seat on heavenly thrones when we die.

Let us declare that message with the confidence that the eyes of many who have been blinded by the god of this world will be opened by the Savior who defeated him!


Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:22 PM February 17, 2020.