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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Revelation: Millennium

13: Millennium – several views
The fourth and fifth images of victory show Satan bound and Jesus reigning with the Saints for 1,000 years, the Millennium. But what does it mean?

One thousand years: Symbolically, 1,000 = 10x10x10 = the time of man (10), made complete (raised to the power of God, or 3). But it could also be a physical period of time, possibly 1,000 years, or just a generic long time, which is yet to come to pass.

Premillennial Interpretation:
This is the oldest interpretation in the Christian church.

Jesus will come. He will defeat the beast. The dead saints will rise and reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. Then Satan will be let loose. He will be defeated again. The final resurrection will take place and the saints will go to heaven.

The prefix PRE indicates that Jesus comes BEFORE the millennium.

This interpretation unites Jewish apocalyptic and Messianic ideas: The Messiah comes and establishes a reign on earth. The thousand years then coincide with the fulfillment of other Jewish prophesies, such as the return to Jerusalem, rebuilding of the Temple, etc. Meanwhile we on earth have no hope of prevailing against Satan as he is free to do as he wishes till Jesus return.

Amillennial Interpretation:
Augustine, in the 5th century, saw Revelation more symbolically, with Christ’s death as more central, and the spiritual reign of Christ as more important to the message than the earthly reign of saints.

In this interpretation, the 1,000 years is now. We reign with Christ on earth, against Satan’s (limited and hopeless) opposition. Satan is destroyed when Christ returns, and then God brings in a new creation.

The prefix A implies there is no physical thousand year reign, no future millennium to wait for, just the the symbolic millennium of the present day.

This interpretation separates Jewish apocalyptic and Messianic ideas. Christ reigns now, through suffering, in our hearts. The image of Satan thrown down to earth (Revelation 12:9) is combined with that of Satan bound (Revelation 20:2-3): Satan fights now on earth, but has already lost the battle. He never has free reign until the day God removes his protection in the end times. We can prevail against Satan now because God is helping us. And we will prevail in the end, because God will destroy him.

Postmillenial Interpretation:
This interpretation was popular in the 17th century: Believers held that the church would spread the gospel throughout the whole world. A Golden Age of peace and justice would last literally, or symbolically, 1,000 years. Then Christ will return.

The prefix POST indicates that Christ returns AFTER the millennium.

The interpretation places more emphasis on what we can do, and less on what God will do. It became less popular when progress towards an earthly Utopia became less likely.

Just for reference, most early Reformation leaders believed in a literal 1,000 years where the church prospered, from the Fall of Jerusalem until 1073AD. Under their interpretation, the anti-Christ took control of the Christian (Catholic) church in around 1073AD, causing heresy and persecutions.

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