Below is a recent article written by BRIAN MELIA for Prophecy Today. Link at the bottom of the article.
After Jesus was resurrected, during the 40 days before his ascension, he spent much time with his disciples and spoke about the kingdom of God. Following the Lord’s teaching, the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” He then told them they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations. (Acts 1:3-8). Though Jesus recalibrated the disciples’ expectations on timing, he did not question their belief in the coming kingdom. This is hardly surprising, as he had previously told them: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28 NKJV). Peter later declared in the temple precincts: “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). This clearly points to a future restoration.
The move towards a Greek ‘spiritualised’ view
The renowned church historian Philip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church1 described what he called “the most striking point” of the early church’s eschatology. He wrote that “the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years,” was “a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers”. However, the later influence of Greek thinking, in leading to an allegorical or spiritualising method of interpreting much Scripture, especially many prophetic passages, from teachers such as Origen in the third century and later Augustine, led to widespread rejection of the premillennial view that Jesus would return and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years.
Today most churches hold to the amillennial view that there will be no such reign on earth. In the same manner of ‘spiritualising’ scripture, many churches today also teach supersessionism, (commonly called ‘replacement theology’) which is the view that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plans and prophetic blessings with the Church often being called ‘spiritual Israel’ or ‘true Israel’, which historically has often tragically led to antisemitism.2 Yet as we will see later, Israel has a pivotal role in Jesus’ millennium rule.
A clear chronology
Archbishop Langton’s 13th century chapter divisions do not help in interpreting Revelation 20. This final part of Revelation reads in a chronological order, as Revelation 19:11 through to chapter 21:8 gives a sequence of many of the events of the Lord’s return. John introduced these events with the words “I saw” (Greek ‘kai eidon’) (Rev 19:11) and this phrase is then repeated throughout this section of Revelation to emphasise the chronological sequence.
This final part of Revelation reads in a chronological order, as Revelation 19:11 through to chapter 21:8 gives a sequence of many of the events of the Lord’s return.
These are some of the consecutive events:
- Jesus, at his return, overthrowing the forces of rebellious nations, and the defeat and fierce judgment of the Antichrist and the false prophet
- the binding and sealing of Satan in the Abyss
- the first resurrection; the thousand years reign of Jesus
- the defeat of a final rebellion after Satan is released
- and then the new heavens, new earth and the new Jerusalem.
Yet to deny the belief in a millennial reign of the Messiah Jesus on the earth and to fit with a theological view that the millennium is symbolic of ‘the church age’, the amillennial view has to place the events of Revelation 20:1-6 (with its key details on the thousand years reign) out of sequence and before the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19.
The binding of Satan
To further their view, amillennial teachers claim that Satan is bound now (but in a limited way), which would mean, in effect, that the nations are not deceived. However, this does not do justice to the description of Satan being bound, locked and sealed in the Abyss. The Abyss (Greek abussos) is the place where the ‘Legion’ demons begged not to be sent (Luke 8:31) – this describes a total limitation, not a partial restriction, of Satan’s power in the millennium. Also, the Scriptures clearly demonstrate that Satan is still deceiving the nations, such as 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.”
The Scriptures clearly demonstrate that Satan is still deceiving the nations.
The parallels between Revelation 20 and what was revealed to Isaiah about this time are striking: “In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders – with great glory” (Isa 24:21-23). Satan and his demons are here described as “the powers in the heavens”.
The rule of the saints
At his return, Jesus will defeat the armies of his enemies who have invaded Israel and surrounded Jerusalem in their hatred, with Antichrist and his forces meeting their end (Joel 3, Rev 19:11-21).
The saints who were resurrected and translated during the ‘first resurrection’ (Rev 20:4-6, 1 Thes 4:14-17) rule on the earth with Jesus in the millennium.3 In Psalm 2:6-8 the Father says of Jesus: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy mountain… I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.” The Scriptures make it clear that this rulership is shared with his saints (Rev 5:10; Rev 2:26-27, 1 Cor 6:2). The apostles have a special role governing the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30). The parable of the minas was told by Jesus because the people wrongly thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (Luke 19:11). This parable shows that responsibilities given in the coming kingdom will be related to faithfulness in using the master’s resources − “take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17).
The premillennial view is that the first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6) is the resurrection of the saints. To counter this, the amillennial view has to claim that this is not a literal resurrection but something else – such as being born again or a description of the present bliss of the saints in heaven. However, outside Revelation, the word resurrection (anastasis) is used 39 times and 38 times it means a physical resurrection. In addition, the context makes it clear that physical resurrection is the meaning here, as the reference to the righteous coming to life and reigning with Christ for a thousand years is contrasted with the resurrection of the unbelieving dead who ‘come to life’ at the end of the thousand years to face the great white throne judgment.
The best fit for many prophecies
One of the strongest arguments for a literal millennium period is that many Old Testament prophecies fit neither the present troubled age nor the complete perfection of the eternal state; they are best understood as the intermediate age of the millennial kingdom reign of Jesus. We would be wise to heed the counsel of JC Ryle who wrote: “Cultivate the habit of reading prophecy with a single eye to the literal meaning of its proper names. Cast aside the old traditional idea that Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion must always mean the Gentile Church, and that predictions about the second Advent are to be taken spiritually, and first Advent predictions literally. Be just, and honest, and fair. If you expect the Jews to take the 53rd of Isaiah literally, be sure you take the 54th and 60th and 62nd literally also.”4