What is the Millennium and why does it matter? To answer these questions I think we need to consider a few things first. I am often struck by how frustrated people get when they try to understand eschatology, the study of the last things or end times. People will often complain we have several ideas to choose from but which one is correct and why does it matter? I will answer this by saying the harder things in the Bible take time to fully understand and revelation is usually revealed over time in stages. We don’t like that answer because we live in a microwave, instant culture, but in my experience the difficult things take time and God does not give us everything at once.
With that said, I believe studying the book of Revelation can be very rewarding and actually teach you how the Bible is written in other places or to say it better, studying Genesis 1-2, the book of Daniel, Ezekiel and other prophetic books help us understand the language and structure of Revelation. So to answer the question of the millennium, we must first explore the structure and language of Revelation. If we misunderstand this, then really we are wasting our time and will certainly be lead into error.
Let me start by naming the literary device used in Revelation, it is called recapitulation or parallelism. So what is happening is a re-telling of the same events in a different way. For instance, most of us are familiar with the Creation story in Genesis 1. However, some theologians have stated that Genesis 2 is a second creation story. But, of course, this is false. Genesis 2 is a retelling of certain creation events in chapter 1 from a different perspective with more detail. While chapter 1 gives an overview of the creation of man and woman, chapter 2 fills in some of the gaps with much more detail. When we read the book of Daniel, we find chapter 1-6 about Daniel, Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, the handwriting on the wall, the lion’s den, etc. While there are major themes and progression, it is chronological through much of Daniel’s life. However, chapters 7-12 seems to be topical and a retelling. For instance, chapters 2 and 7 are talking about the same kingdoms, but from different perspectives and with different details. Daniel chapter 8 talks about two of the kingdoms (Medo-Persia and Greece) with much greater detail. Again we have this recapitulation or retelling of the same events from a different perspective. This literary device was common in Jewish apocalyptic literature.
So what does this have to do with the Millennium in Revelation 20. Well, we will learn that the millennium may be mentioned only once in the Bible, but Revelation 20 describes the same principles and events we find earlier in Revelation and in other parts of the Bible, it just uses different language and a different perspective to do that.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. Rev. 20:1-3
No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. Mark 3:27
The verses in Revelation 20 are talking about Jesus coming and binding Satan by setting up his spiritual kingdom on earth. A kingdom that Daniel tells us is without end and will cover the entire world. The text of Revelation 20 is telling us of Satan’s defeat at the first coming of Jesus with his sacrifice on the cross and his exaltation to reign at the right hand of the Father. Haven’t we heard this before, YES! It is parallel to the gospel message of Jesus!
To understand the millennium we must first understand the message of the Bible and the structure of apocalyptic language. When we are patient to do this, we understand not just the millennium, but many aspects of the Bible. I will share some other key reasons to study the millennium in my next post.