It was only four and a bit years ago that the year 2000 rolled around. Which was a bit of a non-event really. At least for me. MOST New Years are like that for me – I rarely stay up ‘til midnight.
But it was a REAL let-down for those people expecting HAVOC. You remember the hype? Computers would crash, planes would fall out of the sky. Power stations would grind to a halt. Water and sewerage would stop, and banks would close.
And there were people who stockpiled money, food, water, petrol.
But when Jan 1 rolled around, and things were exactly the same. I think some people were actually DISAPPOINTED. Or maybe it was just embarrassment!
But it’s a disappointment that was NOTHING compared to the disappointment in some CHRISTIAN circles. Because there were people all over the world predicting that the year 2000 would be when Jesus would return. When the end of the world would begin.
And it all turned on the way they read these few verses in Revelation. To do with THE MILLENNIUM. A thousand years.
Mind you, they weren’t on their own. People have been trying to work out the date of Christ’s return. And when the millennium would START. Or when it would END. Almost since the time Jesus LEFT.
Apparently the year 1000 was a big one for this type of speculation. During the last few months of 999, worldly goods were sold and given to the poor; swarms of pilgrims headed east to meet the Lord at Jerusalem; buildings went unrepaired; crops were left unplanted; and criminals were set free from jails.
But when the year 999 AD turned into 1000 AD, nothing happened.
Today we’re looking at a section of the Bible which has created more disagreement among Christians than perhaps any other. It’s the only place in the whole Bible that mentions the Millennium. The thousand year period. And it’s only mentioned four times in passing. All within six verses.
And it’s an extraordinarily difficult passage to be SURE about. In fact, Bible-believing Christians disagree at almost every point. But three things are certain. And this is the message I want you to take away above everything else. Here it is. Are you listening? (It’s there at the bottom of the talk outline.)
Some details might be hazy, but three things are certain – judgment is coming,
Jesus is victorious, and
Satan is bound, defeated and destroyed.
Say it with me.
Judgment is coming,
Jesus is victorious, and
Satan is bound, defeated and destroyed.
I want to do something different today. I want to skim through the passage. And then quickly outline the three main positions about the Millennium. I’ll tell you which of these I think is the best option.
Then we’ll stop, and give some time for questions. Then we’ll spend a few more minutes, putting aside the specific questions about the millennium, looking at what God wants us to say to us from the passage.
Let’s start at the beginning. Scene 1. Ch 19 v11. It describes Christ’s physical return. John sees heaven standing open, and a rider on a white horse. It’s Christ himself.
He’s a fearsome sight. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. His robe is dipped in . His name is the word of God, and out of his mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations.
And backing him up are the armies of heaven, riding white horses too. Wearing robes of fine linen. Which we know from earlier are the righteous deeds of the saints. A pure lifestyle.
And he’s riding out in WARFARE against the nations, and ruling them with an iron rod.
But it’s no contest. The armies are defeated, and the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. And the rest of the armies are killed with the sword in Christ’s mouth.
But notice it’s not a LITERAL battle. They might be singing ONWARD Christian SOLDIERS, but they’re not carrying -launchers as they do it!
There’s only ONE WEAPON on display here. It’s the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus. Which we know is THE WORD OF GOD. Which, in THIS picture, is an instrument of JUDGMENT.
And, in another striking image, Scene 2, the vultures are called in, and there’s an of gluttony. As they feast and gorge themselves on the bodies. All those who bore the mark of the beast, and who rebelled against the rider on the white horse.
It’s a picture that’s borrowed from Ez 38 and 39. What God’s promised for those who are the enemies of God’s people. Gog and Magog. And he’s promising it again.
And THEN. In Ch 20, we see the idea of the Millennium introduced. The thousand years. Scene 3. What John sees next.
An angel comes from heaven, holding a great chain. He wraps up the dragon, Satan. Threw him into the abyss, locks it and seals it.
And have a look at WHY. V3. To keep him from DECEIVING THE NATIONS ANYMORE until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
But then the scene changes again. Scene 4. Thrones in heaven. With judges seated on them. The souls of martyrs – those who’d testified about Jesus, and been killed because of it. And they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The same period of time that Satan is bound.
And then, from v7, ANOTHER scene change. At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released for a short time. And he’ll deceive the nations, and they’ll assemble to fight against God’s people.
But the battle will be over before it starts. Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire, to join his two assistants the beast and the false prophet.
And our final scene is from v11. God’s great white throne of judgment. Earth and heaven flee from him. The sea gives up its for him.
And all humanity stands before him. And are judged in one of two ways. Depending on whether their names were in the book of life. To be thrown into the lake of fire. Or to be Spared.
That’s a quick flyover of this section. And so you’ve got some idea how the thousand years, or the millennium, fits in.
(Any questions there?)
The three main views about the millennium are called pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, and a-millennialism.
Pre and Post mean before and after. And they refer to where Christ’s return will be in relation to the millennium.
So PRE-MILL people say that FIRST Christ will return, and THEN the millennium will begin. The millennium will be a time when Christ has physically returned to earth, and his followers will rule with him, either from heaven following the rapture, or on earth. But the rest of humanity won’t rule. But they won’t be judged yet either.
And pre-mill people are looking for a range of SIGNS – like a great tribulation, or literal promises about the restoration of Israel, or signs of the anti-Christ – before Christ’s return.
I believe pre-millennialists make mistakes at a whole range of levels – interpreting OT prophecy, and reading Revelation literally for example.
But the main assumption pre-millennialists make, here in Rev, is thinking that THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IN THE VISION is the SAME as THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IN HISTORY. They treat Revelation as a TIMELINE which readers can decode to know the future.
But we’ve seen all the way through/ that Revelation’s not LIKE that. It RE-TELLS the same events from different camera-angles, and in different ways. Just because John SEES things in a particular order, it doesn’t mean they occur that way in history.
Have a look at what I mean. In Ch 19 v21, the rest of the armies who fight against Christ were killed with the sword from his mouth. Now, that’s figurative – the sword is the word of God, and it’s probably talking about judgment. But even so – there’s no-one left to deceive. They’re all . It’s FINAL. Munched up by the vultures.
But then, down in Ch 20 v3, Satan is bound, and thrown into the abyss TO KEEP HIM FROM DECEIVING THE NATIONS. But if the events are consecutive, then there’re no nations left to DECEIVE. The final battle needs to happen AFTER Satan is bound.
The vision doesn’t show consecutive historical events.
So, for various reasons I don’t think pre-millennialism is the right way of putting the Bible together.
Then there’s POST-MILLENNIALISM. In that view, Christ returns AFTER the period represented by the thousand years.
What’s more, this period of Satan being bound, and the martyrs coming to life and reigning with Christ, WILL BE/ or IS/ Or HAS BEEN (depending on when you think it starts) a time of UNPRECEDENTED FRUITFULNESS for the gospel. A golden age. Cultures and countries will be transformed. As a MAJORITY of the world’s population will become Christians.
They interpret v4 as describing an EARTHLY reign.
But it seems much more likely to me/ that v4 is talking about what’s going on IN HEAVEN while events during the thousand years happen on earth.
Many Presbyterians over the centuries have held this view. But I can’t see the biblical evidence for this rosy picture of Christ’s golden age of rule.
I think there’s a better view. And that’s Amillennialism. Both Pre and Post-mill understand prophecy –especially OT prophecy, I think, incorrectly. They go looking for LITERAL fulfilment in the first heavens and earth, when what God’s promising is SYMBOLIC fulfilment. Or it’s fulfilment that will only come with the NEW heavens and earth.
Things like the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple. Of rivers and fruit trees. Of lions laying down with lambs. Of freedom from sickness and sin.
But I don’t think that’s the right way to read prophecy, as a general rule.
A-Mill, like post-mill, holds that Christ will return AFTER the period of the millennium. The major difference is the way it understands the millennium. It doesn’t see this period as semi-curse-free or suffering-free. Or of wonderful victory.
A-millennialists see that we’re living in the millennium at the MOMENT. It’s a period where Satan has been DEFEATED, but not DESTROYED. BOUND, but still wriggling and kicking.
And that’s certainly the way I see the rest of the Bible describing this present age.
Listen to what Jesus says about the time he was heading towards. John 12:31:
31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; NOW THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD WILL BE DRIVEN OUT. 32 But I, WHEN I AM LIFTED UP FROM THE EARTH, will draw all men to myself.”
It was through his ON THE CROSS that the JUDGEMENT of the WORLD TOOK PLACE. It was through his ON THE CROSS that SATAN was DEFEATED.
Paul says much the same thing in COLOSSIANS: Colossians 2:15
15 And having DISARMED the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
And I think that Jesus is saying a SIMILAR THING when he talks about SATAN BEING BOUND in Matthew 12:29. Jesus says that he has BOUND the STRONG MAN. And there is a SENSE in which he is PLUNDERING HIS HOUSE.
HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? HOW IS SATAN’S HOUSE PLUNDERED? SATAN’S HOUSE IS PLUNDERED through the PREACHING of the GOSPEL. WHEN PEOPLE COME TO FAITH IN JESUS they are NO LONGER a part of SATAN’S KINGDOM – they then BELONG TO JESUS.
In Luke 10 we read about JESUS sending out the 72 to preach the message of the Kingdom. They come back and report to Jesus. Look at what he says to them: Luke 10:18-20
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Now that DOESN’T MEAN that we live in a SATAN FREE WORLD. But it DOES MEAN that SATAN is a BEATEN FOE and that we need FEAR NOTHING FROM HIM.
YES. There will still be SIN and SUFFERING. There will still be those who DIE because of the WORD OF GOD and TESTIMONY of JESUS. We will still have to RESIST BABYLON’S SEDUCTIONS.
But SATAN is BOUND. His HOUSE is BEING PLUNDERED. He’s like a vicious dog on a chain. He’s tied up. He has no power as long as you stay clear of him. But if you get too close you’ll feel his teeth.
That, I believe, is the right way to be understanding the period of the millennium. It fits what this passage actually SAYS. And it fits what the rest of the Bible says about the time between Christ’s two appearances.
What I want to do now is spend the last few minutes talking about what we DO know from this passage. Let me make three points (Do you remember what they are?)
- Judgment is coming,
- Jesus is victorious, and
- Satan is bound, defeated and destroyed.
Judgment is coming,
First, judgment is coming. Right at the end of our passage. God’s great white throne. And everyone, without exception, will be judged. Even the . They’ll be raised to stand before God, and the evidence will be presented.
Books will be opened Every thought, and action. Every word. Every look. Every secret desire. Every rash and hasty decision. Every regret.
Evidence of guilt or innocence.
But God’s decision isn’t based on WHAT YOU DO. Because there’s ANOTHER book. And there’s nothing in this book except NAMES. It’s the book of life. Everyone whom God has chosen – destined – for life with him.
MAKE SURE YOUR NAME IS THERE. I can’t make that plea STRONGLY ENOUGH.
Make sure you’ve turned from your rebellion. Make sure you’re living with God’s Son, Jesus, as your king.
Because if you DON’T, here’s what’s in store for you. V14
Rev 20:14-15: 14 Then and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second . 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. NIV
Judgment is coming. Make sure your name is in God’s book of life.
2. Jesus is Victorious
Two. Jesus is victorious. It’s an amazing picture there from 19:11.
When the persecuted Christians are tempted to see their Lord as DEFEATED and BROKEN. Weak and crucified. The reality is FAR DIFFERENT.
Eyes of blazing fire. Crowned with many crowns. Robe dipped in . A sharp sword that strikes the nations. THIS is the King we serve. The King we FOLLOW.
And notice that WE PLAY A PART. Our robes are white and clean. That’s our righteous lives. We’re fighting our spiritual battle RIGHT NOW. As the temptation is to NOT be different. To fit in. To conform. To look after number one. To compromise.
But this glorious King is HONOURED as we live different, holy, pure lives for him.
Listen to the promise Jesus makes to the church at Sardis.Ch3:4.
Rev 3:4-5: 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. NIV
3. Satan is bound, defeated and destroyed.
Third, Satan is bound, defeated and destroyed. Sometimes, we give Satan more credit than he deserves. We see how awful the world can be. How devious and deceptive Satan is. How easily people seem to swallow his lies. And we despair.
But the picture from these verses is that Satan is a TOOTHLESS TIGER. Jesus defeated him at the cross. He’s a spent force. A punch-drunk boxer, swinging out wildly in any direction he can.
Satan played his hand, and the best he had was a pair of threes. And he’s been BLUFFING ever since.
This picture is that he’s BOUND. People CAN respond to the gospel. We CAN push back the territory of the prince of this world. Because the GOSPEL IS POWERFUL. Truth CAN overcome LIES.
We follow a GLORIOUS LORD. We proclaim a GLORIOUS GOSPEL. We look forward to a GLORIOUS FUTURE.