Revelation 19–20. Act III. Pt. II. The Return of Christ. Is There a Millenium?

Key Notes: Christ the Conqueror. A thousand years of peace? The White Throne Judgment. Two resurrections.

The consummation of the Age is in three major sections: the destruction of Babylon, the Second Coming of Christ and the Final State. We study each major event separately.

Rev.19:1–8 Worship in Heaven precedes the Second Advent and Christ's War. Similarly, worship preceded the opening of the Seven Seals and the sounding of Seven Trumpets (4:1–5:14), and also the outpouring of Seven Bowls (15:1–8). The message of these scenes is that the destruction of the earth and civilization is undertaken with solemn prayer, with a consciousness of righteous wrath against evil; and with the rejoicing of martyred saints. In Rev.19 there is rejoicing over the destruction of the Harlot, and celebration of the coming of the Bride of Christ. Voices of a great multitude, the four living creatures and the 24 elders, and God Himself are heard in the praises.

19:7 Although the marriage of the Lamb is announced, it does not come to view until Rev.21:2 when the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven.
•In a similar way, we note that the Seventh Trumpet announces that "the Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev.11:15), but the realization comes in Rev.21.
•"Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great..." is announced in Rev.14:8, but realization comes in Rev.18.
•The assemblage of armies at Armageddon is in Rev.16:16, but the final battle occurs in Rev.19:19.

This anticipation and fulfillment is referred to as a "rolling horizon". That is, there is progression of thought through the book suggesting a time-line of events, but a period elapses between prophecy and fulfillment.

19:9–10 In a short interlude, an angel tells John to write "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." John fell in worship, but was chided for worshiping the angel who is a created being --a fellow servant. And he is reminded that all prophecy has to do with Christ. He will fall down in worship of an angel again (Rev.22:8) and one wonders if he has not become overwhelmed by all he has seen.

19:11 In a climactic scene of the book, Christ ("The Word of God"; "King of Kings and Lord of Lords.") appears on a white horse with the hosts of Heaven, to smite the nations with the sword of His mouth, to rule with a rod of iron, to tread the winepress of the wrath of God Almighty. His garment is dipped in blood. Isaiah 63:3–6 indicates that this is not His own blood, but that of slain enemies.

We are accustomed to think of Christ as king and conqueror. It is something else to think of our Lord as the destroyer of evil and evil people, although the King and the Judge are the same. And we are reminded that John, the beloved disciple, wrote the Gospel with the most famous verse ever spoken; "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) This same John in Revelation now portrays Christ in quite opposite terms--that whosever does not believe in Him shall perish and not have everlasting life.

The joy of Heaven is the destruction of evil. God holds out loving hands to embrace all mankind who come to Him in faith.
" I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices." (Isa.65:2).
But when the final Day comes, the sword is drawn. Too many of us listen to Plato who said God does only "good" things. Judgments then are seen as random events, merely bad luck, accidents of nature. Our insurance companies call natural disasters "acts of God" and rightly so.

19:20 The Beast and False Prophet are captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The rest of mankind are slain with the sword of His mouth.

20:1–4 Satan is bound and thrown into the abyss.
Thrones are set and the martyrs, and all who have not worshipped the Beast come to life in the first resurrection and reign with Christ 1000 years.
"He who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father." (Rev.2:26)
"{He}...has made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on earth." (Rev.5:10)
See also Dan.7:27; Matt.19:28; ICor.6:2 for further evidence of the saints reigning and ruling. This implies that people will not be sinless during the Golden Age. Justice and judgment will still need to be carried out.

20:7–10 After 1000 years Satan is released and it is clear that mankind is still easily deceived. He and his armies are overcome near Jerusalem and Satan goes into the Lake of Fire.

20:11–15 At the Great Throne Judgment, the rest of the dead are resurrected and judged. Now Death goes into the Lake of Fire and all those whose names were not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

In summary, this section describes a sequence of events after the destruction of Babylon:

•Christ returns in power with the hosts of Heaven. 19:11–16
•His enemies are destroyed--food for the birds. 19:17–21
•Satan is bound in the abyss. 20:1–3
•The first resurrection raises the righteous dead. 20:4–6
•Christ reigns with His saints for a thousand years. 20:4–6
•Satan is again loosed and deceives the nations into fighting against the Lord. 20:7–9
•Satan and his human armies are finally defeated. 20:9
•Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and the False Prophet. 20:10
•The second resurrection and final judgment puts the rest of evil mankind in the Lake of Fire.
* Death itself is finally destroyed. 20:11–15

The reign of Christ for a thousand years is the center of controversy in this passage. (The rapture of the church is another conspicuously missing feature and creates another controversy). The Millennium is controversial for several reasons:
•It is the only place in Scripture where a definite thousand year period is described. Elsewhere "a thousand" is used to indicate a large number:
     "The cattle on a thousand hills" are mine." (Psa.50:10).
     "A day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere". (Psa.84:10).
     "May the Lord...make you a thousand times as many as you are...." (Deut.1:11).
     "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past...." (Psa.90:4)
•Satan was bound during Jesus' life. Matt.12:22
•Nowhere else is the resurrection of the dead as clearly split into two events.
•The Millennial concept was abused by sensual enthusiasts of the early centuries who had visions of fabulous fertility of the earth.

There are the counter-arguments for the last three points.
•Satan was bound during Jesus' life, as He demonstrated by casting out demons, and saving souls from Satan's grasp. But Satan in the abyss where he cannot deceive the nations is different, and is yet to come.

•Jesus taught that there two resurrections--one to "life", the other to judgment:
"...the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." (Jn.5:28)

And Daniel says “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan.12:2) Therefore the first resurrection must be the resurrection of saved sinners and the second, the resurrection of lost souls.
Progressive revelation is an important concept: the newest information adds vital details.

•Speculating about sensual pleasure in the Millennium spoiled the doctrine of the Millennium and gave teachers beginning with Augustine an excuse to disregard it. However, we should not dismiss Biblical teaching because some people misuse it. People have had frightful arguments over their views of the Lord's supper and baptism, but that should not lead us to ignore these vital observances.

Amillennialists are Christians who deny a literal thousand years, and see the martyred saints now reigning with Christ in heaven. They believe that reign of Christ is the Church Age. [So far it has lasted 2000 years].

Postmillennialists believe in the gradual transformation of society into the Kingdom of God by the Church. They believe that the preaching of the Gospel will convert the world.

Premillennialists take Rev.20 literally and believe that the reign of Christ will be on a higher plane than the Church will experience until then. The early church fathers were largely premillennial, but the doctrine disappeared after Augustine until the middle 1800's when conservative scholars revived it.

Amillennialists and postmillennialists tend to be optimistic about the Church's accomplishments in the world. At worst, they are either liberals who believe in the gradual improvement of civilization by Christian influences, or are aggressive n their pursuit of political power as Catholics were in the Middle Ages. Premillennialists tend to be pessimistic and at worst are prone to desert the field of political involvement and social improvement.

The arguments against the amillennial view:
•Although the specified time of a thousand years is missing from other texts, the concept of a reign of righteousness and peace by God with His saints on the earth is a strong theme in the OT as well as the NT. It is, however, difficult in many prophecies to separate out the Millennial State of peace and righteousness, from the Final State of "all things new". Isaiah is rich in teaching of a reign of righteousness and peace.

•"Come, let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord... that He may teach us His ways ....For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isa.2:3–4)
•"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. ...for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isa.11:6–9)
•"Then the moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders he will manifest His glory." (Isa.24:23)
•"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things....And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples....He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth...." (Isa.25:6–8)

• ..."until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field....Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness in the fruitful field. and the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever." (Isa.32:15–17)
* "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa.35:10) The whole chapter is on this theme.
•"No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for a child shall die a hundred years old...." (Isa.65:20)
•"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the Lord; so shall your descendants and your name remain. From new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord". (Isa.6622-:23)

The reign of righteousness and peace is also in the New Testament.
• "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt.13:43)
•"Many will come from the east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven...." (Matt.8:11–12)
•"Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...." (Matt.25:34)
•"Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God." (Rom.8:21)

The Millennium is the almost universal dream of human beings. The Romans during the life of Augustus Caesar believed that they had entered the Age of Gold. Plato's Republic (5th century BC), Thomas More's Utopia (16th century AD), and Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto (20th century) are proposals for creating Utopia, the ideal human society.

The Marxists are a good example of philosophical thinkers who believe that human society was perfectible. They cared about the poor. They believed they were doing good for their fellows. They used intellectual repression, imprisonment, torture and murder to try to bring about a equitable and peaceful society. It was a horrible disaster. Christian efforts to bring about the Millennium during the time of the Reformation were disastrous also.

However, Christians own the Millennium. We are the rightful heirs to all the good things that God has to give. We are the ultimate optimists because we have been allowed to view the future and know that it will be wonderful. But we must trust God to do things His way. So the Millennium is both a disaster to be shunned--should humans seize the initiative and try to bring it in by force--and a glory to be declared, for God will one day not only bring a reign of peace and justice in the world, but even the corruption of nature will be reversed.

Praise God!