We explore whether the thousand-year reign described in Chapter 20 of Revelation is literal or metaphorical. During this millennium the dragon and accuser, Satan, is thrown into the pit of damnation, ushering a new age. These thousand years are an important time for those who will reign – the martyrs, apostles, and followers of Jesus – all who have lived a life of faithfulness.
In this episode we approach chapter 20 in Revelation.
We have seen that Revelation is a very simple book with a very simple message if you approach it in the way it’s written. If you come to Revelation wanting to know what’s going to happen, there’s no simplicity at all. But that’s not what it’s written for. It gives us some inkling of what’s going to happen, but for a purpose.
It’s a very simple book. It wants us to read, hear or understand, and do. And what he wants us to read and understand is what’s written here. And what’s written here is two predominate messages, two predominate takeaways.
One is—no matter what happens, no matter how crazy things look, God is, where? On his throne. Nothing happens that’s not authorized from this throne. Nothing. God’s always there. That does not change no matter how crazy things seem.
It seems that some of my friends from the past that I’ve been reconnecting with are running into some of our other friends that were really devote-walking believers during their college days and have since said, “I don’t want anything to do with God.” And that’s not that unusual to run across people who have decided, you know, I’m an atheist.
What seems to be an underlying cause of atheism is not intellectual disbelief. It’s that God disappointed them somehow. Things didn’t work out like I was entitled for them to work out. And so, I’m going to get God back by not believing in him. That seems to be pretty common.
And what’s missing there is the idea that things are supposed to work out a certain way according to the way I want it to. All of us would prefer that until it happens that way, and then we say, “God, why did you let that happen?” Because we just don’t know. We don’t know what’s in our best interest. And God does.
We’ve seen everything that happens in here authorized from the throne. The word throne shows up 41 times in Revelation. And we’re going to see it again today. Throne, throne, throne.
And the game of thrones that we’re looking at includes all of us if we are the faithful ones.
That’s the first big take away.
The second one is God wants us to do something, and the something is very simple: Be a faithful witness; do not fear death. Any kind of death: rejection, difficulty, fiery trials. Don’t fear those things. Just be a faithful witness. Do what I give you to do and don’t stop doing that all the way to the end.
And that’s Revelation. It’s very simple.
Satan is thrown into the pit for a thousand years
Let’s start in chapter 20, we’re seeing the culmination of all things.
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 in 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.
So, we see this angel coming down with a chain in his hand. This kind of reminds me of watching a cowboy rope a cow.
We’ve got some cows on our ranch, and some of them are kind of crazy. We had these three cows get loose for a month. We couldn’t find them on the place for a month. And, finally, one day we saw one of them. I happened to be with the cowboy. So we went and grabbed some horses and started running after them. And I watched this cowboy rope this cow and drag him for a long distance.
And that’s kind of the image that comes in my mind here. You’ve got this angel comes down and says, “Come here you old snake! Get over here!” Grab this chain. Drag him into the door. Throw him in. Shut the door and then seal it up. That seems to be kind of the picture that we have here.
We saw the pit opened another time
Now this bottomless pit has been opened once before. Let’s look at it real quick. It’s back in Revelation 9:1. It says, Then the fifth angel sounded—That was the fifth trumpet—And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke came out.
In this particular case, this looks like a fallen angel that’s given the key to the pit, and he’s letting these demonic forces out that are something like locusts and go and plague the earth.
In one case there’s a fallen angel opening the bottomless pit; and in this other instance, we have one of the good angels opening the bottomless pit and putting something in. And the thing that he’s put in is actually Satan.
Satan the dragon
It’s interesting this word dragon is in Greek the word drakon, and it’s a word that shows up in Revelation only in the New Testament. But in the LXX, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it shows up quite often.
When Moses throws his rod down and it becomes a snake, it’s the same word in the LXX.
This term devil and Satan, we’ve seen these terms before. Satan is a transliteration of this Old Testament Hebrew word satan which just means accuser. In fact, the word satan shows up eight times in the Old Testament before it’s translated Satan. And each time it’s just accuser or accusation depending on the form of the word.
But this devil is the Greek word diabolos, and most of the time in the New Testament it’s translated devil, but there’s one instance where it’s not. Let’s look at it.
1 Timothy 3:11. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not diabolos. And the word is translated in your Bible probably slanderer or gossiper, accuser.
Satan the accuser
So Satan likes accusation, and he likes slander—selective information in order to bring down your character. That’s one of Satan’s key orientations.
You remember in chapter 2, I think it was, Pergamos, it says that Satan’s throne is there. Pergamos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. And Satan is still the prince of this world. So when you see political campaigns Satan is present there and always has been.
1 John 2 takes on some real meaning here because we have this slandering accuser. Look at 1 John 2. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. 1 John’s written to believers, and the point of 1 John is—don’t sin, and here’s what you do if you do. Because there were these gnostics going in and saying sin doesn’t really matter. That’s just something you do in your body. Your spirit is all that matters. And he was countering this. No, sin matters a lot.
And if anyone sins—So I don’t want you to sin, but if you do, if anyone does sin—we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins—
So we have this accuser standing before God accusing us day and night; and we have Jesus there taking up for us. T56hat’s a really cool picture. But it’s not a picture that says, “Oh good. Now I don’t have to do anything.” It’s a picture that says Jesus is there, and no matter what we do, we have him to keep us as a child. But there are these massive consequences to the choices we make, and so let’s make good choices.
So he binds him for a thousand years and puts him in this bottomless pit, shuts him up, and sets a seal on it. And this seal is the idea of an authority. You know, they sealed Jesus’ tomb. And the idea is if anyone breaks this seal, there’s a penalty to pay because the authority said nobody opens this up without my permission.
And, once again, we see here that the throne is emanating the power. Nothing happens without permission from the throne all the way through this.
And what is disallowed now is deception. Satan is not going to be allowed to deceive the nations. And something very remarkable is going to happen as a result of not deceiving the nations. The world is going to be almost perfect for a thousand years.
The thousand years is literal
And he stays in this bottomless pit until this thousand years is finished. Does anybody remember the finished word, the Greek word that’s finished or completed. Teleo. The telescope word. To see something that—there’s the end of my sight. Finished. Completed. Which gives very clear indication that this thousand years is not a figurative term. It is an actual period of time. It’s a thousand years. And the thousand years is going to start, and the thousand years is going to end. Which, once again, goes back to the throne. All this is timed out. It’s on a calendar.
Do any of you keep a Day-Timer or an Outlook or something like that? That somebody asks you, “Are you available on November 15?” you say, “Just a minute.” And you go look and say what you’ve prescribed is going to happen on November 15 even though you don’t know whether you’re going to be alive on November 15th, really, or if the earth’s going to be here still on November 15th. But we plan anyway, right? We plan and say, “If the Lord wills.”
But in God’s case, he has an Outlook, and it’s going to happen. And it’s on there. And this thousand years has a start, and it has an end. Which brings a real interesting question: When is the start?
Let me show you a couple of things here that are very fascinating. Look at Revelation 12:6. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. This is the three-and-a-half-year period that we’ve seen over and over again. And there are many other references to three and a half years. And it’s 1260 days. That’s a pretty precise term, don’t you think? And that’s how long Israel is going to have to hide because there’s this persecution, this great tribulation, this massive persecution of believers and destruction on the earth. That’s 1260 days.
But look at Daniel 12:11. Now we know we’re in this 70th week of Daniel, this 70th seven-year period, and this abomination of desolations in the middle of that seven-year period is what starts the Great Tribulation, this 1260 days, this three-and-a-half-year period. We know that from Daniel.
So in Daniel 12:11 it says, And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up—So that tells us two things. One is that there is this abomination of desolations that is a starting point. And, again, we saw that earlier in Daniel as well. And that associated with the abomination of desolation is this taking away of sacrifice which tells us that there is, what? A temple. Yeah, there’s sacrifice, so there’s a temple. The temple’s been reconstructed.
So from that time, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. There’s 30 days not accounted for. One thousand two hundred and sixty days Israel flees into the wilderness, so there’s 30 days either on the front or the back of that where something else happens.
And then verse 12 says, Blessed is he who waits and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.
So you add another 45 days, and something else momentous happens. Now I have no idea what that is. I don’t know if the 30 days is on the front or the end. I don’t know what happens in those 30 days or those 45 days. I’m sure there are things you could piece in here and try to figure out what that is. I don’t think that’s the point.
I think the point is God has all this programmed out. It’s real specific. And on that day something really amazing is going to happen. On that day.
You can only have that be the case, if what? God’s on the throne. You can only have that be the case if God’s in control of history. And that’s one of the huge takeaways from Revelation. No matter how crazy things look, God is in control. He’s on his throne. He is in charge of history.
But, Satan is going to be in the bottomless pit for a thousand years, and then he’s going to be released for a little while, which is really odd. But that’s what’s going to happen.
Martyrs reign with Christ a thousand years
Let’s go to 20:4. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
A thousand years shows up four times in seven verses. It’s a pretty well emphasized point. And do you know what I think that means? It’s going to be a thousand years. A thousand years is a long time. A thousand years ago, vikings were roaming the earth. It’s going to be a totally different place for an entire thousand years.
Is the Millennium certain and physical?
Now, how certain is this? Can we be certain there is a Millennium? Is this just not a spiritual indicator that something spiritual is going to happen?
Let me just show you one Old Testament passage: Isaiah 9:1. And let me start with the middle of verse one.
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali—that’s the Galilee area.
And afterward more heavily oppressed her—This is talking about something that’s going to take place
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Has anybody ever heard that verse before? Who’s that talking about? Jesus. And we know that verse from the New Testament because the Jews were saying whoever good ever comes out of Galilee? Well, look at this verse in Isaiah. The Messiah comes out of Galilee.
And then it goes on and says, verse 3:
You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor—You’re going to be delivered from oppression.
As in the day of Midian. I think that’s probably referring to Gideon’s deliverance. I think it was the Midianites that came upon Israel there.
For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
Does that sound familiar? Because we had this time period where we had to clean up and it took a ton of time to clean up from the battle, and the blood ran to the chest of a horse. So there’s going to be a massive battle.
Then look at verse 6.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
Now, has this already happened, verse 6? For unto us a child is born, Unto us a Son is given. Has that happened? Yes. Was it spiritual or physical? It was physical, right?
And has this happened? And the government will be upon His shoulder. Well, sort of. He is on the throne, and nothing happens without his permission. But is he here reigning on the earth? Not yet.
So is the first part certain and physical, but the second part is spiritual and uncertain? If he’s going to come once as a child and serve, and he’s the king of the earth, does it make any sense that he wouldn’t come a second time and set up his kingdom?
The first one’s kind of hard to believe. The second one is a no-brainer. Of course kings set up a kingdom! The fact that there’s this great interlude was a great mystery, and we’re living in the middle of that mystery.
But given that the first part’s happened, it’s a no-brainer that the second part will happen.
And there’s going to be a physical, thousand-year reign on this earth. There’s no doubt about it.
Who is sitting on the thrones?
Now the question becomes, —I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. So who is them? In this passage here, we see part of the answer in the next sentence: Then I saw the souls—psyche, the lives—of those who had been beheaded—
Now as an aside, this term souls being psyche, lives is very encouraging to me because you can go through, and anywhere you see souls, you can substitute in life. It means you as a person, you as an individual, your personality.
This is very encouraging to me. There’s not any sort of a change in who I am in the sense of me as an individual. The change is in the housing that I’m in and the station that I’m in.
I’m ready for a new house. Mine’s falling apart. My body’s starting to deteriorate, and I’d like to have a new one. So that part I look forward to. But I’m really glad I get to still be me. And that’s going to be us. And who is going to sit on this throne?
Martyrs are sitting on the thrones
Well, part is those who have been beheaded for the witness of Jesus. Witness. Remember the Greek word that’s witness? Martyreo. These particular witnesses are what we call in English martyrs because they lost their lives. They were beheaded.
So apparently beheading is going to become extremely widespread. We can see that starting a little bit in our world. Beheading is making a big comeback. We could be right on the doorstep. We don’t know.
So then the question is, is that all who’s sitting on the throne? I’m going to say, no, that’s not all who’s sitting on the throne. I’m going to show you some verses where I’m going to advocate that there’s other people sitting on the throne during the millennial kingdom.
The apostles are sitting on the thrones
Let’s look at Matthew 19:27. Then Peter—the spokesman—answered and said to Him—Jesus. And this is after they’re doing the rich man can’t go through the eye of the needle, and Peter’s responding to that. And he says, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
Don’t you love Peter? I do. I just love Peter. He speaks on behalf of me. Because this is what we all want to know: What’s in it for me?
We try to pretend like we don’t seek our own best interest. This is the way this works. We’re designed in such a way where we can’t not seek our own best interest. Let me restate that. We can’t not seek what we perceive to be in our own best interest.
The point of renewing the mind is to get God’s perspective so we can actually seek what’s in our best interest instead of what we think is in our best interest but is actually in our own destruction. Peter’s not shy about that. He says, well, we left everything to follow you! What do we get?
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration—the millennial kingdom—when the Son of Man—that’s Jesus—sits on the throne of His glory—his glory as the king of the earth, as the king of humanity—you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. That’s what you get, Peter, but don’t get above your raisin’ because it’s not just you.
Everyone who suffered for Christ’s sake
Verse 29. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Eternal life is a gift and a reward. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
I’m going to give you a tremendous reward. But you know what? I might give somebody who is really puny, in the eyes of man, just as great a reward.
This would indicate to me that at least the twelve disciples are included. And I’m a hundred percent confident that they aren’t going to be beheaded because they already got martyred once. They’ve already been martyred. So they’re included.
But is it only them? I don’t think so. I don’t think so because he said in that passage in 19:27, he says it’s not just you. I’m going to include everyone who suffered for my sake.
And, again, what’s one of the main takeaways from Revelation? One of the main takeaways from Revelation is if you’ll be a faithful witness, I’ll make it worth your while. I’ll make it worth your while.