Revelation series part 34
Who are the Millennials?
The term millennials as we most often hear the word today, was most likely coined by William Strauss and Neil Howe in a 1987 book they co-authored.
Also know as Generation Y or Gen-Y – they meant it to describe the first generation of those who would graduate High School in the year 2000 and a bit beyond.
In 2006, Psychologist Jean Twenge dubbed millennials “Generation Me”. Her book was titled: “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before.”
But long before these terms and ideas were coined, Christians have discussed and debated what is called “The Millennium.” A term taken from this passage in the reference to, The Thousand Years.
For that is what a millennium is – 1000 years.
If you have been a Christian for very long, and especially if – as virtually all of us here – you were raised in our 20th century brand of American Evangelicalism, the idea of the millennium has probably impacted the entire way you understand Scripture.
More pointedly, it may even define how you understand the book of Revelation and the whole range of end times events surrounding Jesus’ 2nd coming.
Other than a handful of references, our clearest understanding of this millennial period comes from this chapter. From these 15 verses.
But where it exactly fits in the scheme of the last days or end times, is a place of great disagreement among believing scholars.
So here we need to do a bit of a very brief historical survey.
Now the view of the millennium with which most of us are probably familiar, is what is called: Dispensational Pre-millennialism. And it has a specific and detailed view of how the last days will play out. Though there are some variations on it in some groups.
The most common form of Dispensational Premillennialism was made popular by books like Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth” and the very successful “Left Behind” series.
But this view falls within a spectrum of views on the end times. In reference to the millennium or the 1000 years mentioned in this text, that spectrum looks broadly like this:
There are 4 main views on this question of The Millennium – all 4 of them orthodox; and all 4 of them held to by sound Biblical scholars and Bible teachers.
I personally have no vested interest in which one you may hold to.
For in the final analysis, the BIG, the REAL issue for Christians isn’t our view of the millennium, but the fact that Jesus IS coming back, literally, physically; and that our great hope rests in His return, the resurrection of the dead and His eternal reign in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
As long as we agree on THOSE facts, we can be one.
The order of events leading up to the New Heaven and Earth – including this 1000 years period called the millennium – is interesting, but ultimately not all that important; though arguments over the order of events have at times split both churches and entire denominations. Much to our shame.
As the writer to the Hebrews emphasized: Hebrews 9:27–28 / And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Or better yet – when the Disciples asked the resurrected Jesus if He was about to restore the kingdom to Israel – Jesus replied: Acts 1:7 / He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
This of course begs the question for every Christian: Are you eagerly waiting for Him?
If not, I would argue, you cannot truly live the Christian life; as it is meant to be lived.
It is a most important reality, central to the life of every Christian.
While some in my generation can well be accused of “millennium madness” in trying to nail down every detail of prophecy surrounding Jesus’ return while ignoring growth in the image and character of Christ – so many today can rightly be charged with having very little regard for Jesus’ return, and being woefully unprepared for it; let alone actually yearning for it.
A lack of personal anticipation of Jesus’ return has the exact same effect as does over-preoccupation with the details – we grow lazy and disinterested in making true spiritual progress in our growth in Christ and in preparing to receive Him when He comes.
It becomes more of a far off fantasy than a motivating truth that informs and impacts everyday life.
The Apostle Paul shows how the doctrine of Jesus’ return impacted him when in jail and expecting to be executed for The Faith, in his last letter before his death:
2 Timothy 4:6–8 / For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
In another letter John puts these 2 ideas of looking forward to Jesus’ return as our great hope and living the Christian life like this:
1 John 3:1–5 / See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
In other words, my hope in Jesus’ return, in wanting to be ready for Him and living in concert with who He is and what He came to do (to take away sins) informs my attitude toward and relationship to – sin; and thus life in this present world.
I cannot be looking forward to His coming with all my heart and at the same time living as though sin doesn’t matter.
His goal is to make me entirely pure as He is pure – and so I begin to seek out how, by His Word and the power of His Spirit to live in accordance with that goal
He appeared the 1st time to take away sins, and there is no sin in Him – so I want to cast off sin as I look to welcome Him back.
Can you imagine meeting Him and then saying: “Look, I know you died to pay the price for my sin, to free me from sin’s dominion and to make me holy as you are holy, but to be honest, I just wanted to live my life the way I saw fit, and figured you’d deal with sin once you got here.”
It reminds you of Augustine’s confessions reflecting on himself before his conversion; he admits: “But I wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” For I feared lest Thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished.” (Book 8, ch. 7)
Do I HAVE to say that doesn’t fly? No, I didn’t think so.
That said, let’s take a very brief look at these 4 views of the millennium and then look at the passage itself to see 4 key things.
1. Dispensational Premillennialism
The order of events from this view happen like this – a. Jesus’ 1st coming.
- The church age (Rev. 2-3)
- Rapture of the Church (secret return of Jesus) which those who hold this view are waiting for now.
- Then the 7 Year Great Tribulation will come while the Church is gone.
- Jesus’ 2nd, 2nd coming & 1000 year reign
- After the 1000 years, Satan is loosed, there is the final battle called Armageddon & Final judgment.
- New Heavens and New Earth.
Of the 4 we’ll look at today, this is the most recent view.
The idea of a secret rapture of the Church was not taught before the mid- 1860’s.
It was popularized by J. N. Darby and codified in the Scofield Reference Bible – the first ever “study Bible”.
It is the view of some very solid men like Chuck Swindoll, James Montgomery Boice, John MacArthur, Harry Ironside, & many, many others.
It is the view I was raised with.
It has some problems though; as EACH of these views do.
It’s biggest problem to me is the idea of a 2nd coming of Jesus at the so-called “rapture” of the Church which is in fact – secret.
Such a secret appearing is hard to reconcile with: Revelation 1:7 / Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Or: 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 / For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
This sounds like a pretty public and noisy affair to me; not at all secret.
In effect, the view proposes 2, 2nd comings. One invisible, one visible.
This is also sometimes called a “futuristic” view or “Futurism” because essentially, nothing in the book of Revelation from ch. 4 until ch. 20 has anything to do with the Church at all.
It sees all of what we’ve covered in these past months as events still to come, and all transpiring within the 7 years of the Great Tribulation.
I think our current study has demonstrated that the balance of the book is in fact very Church focused and of great value to the Believer in every age.
Revelation 1:3 / Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
The unusual and specific blessing for Christians attached to reading the Revelation would seem to demand that Christians in every age see its importance for them and not assume the bulk of it has nothing to do with them.
In any case, I am not throwing stones at this position.
It is an orthodox view and many of those who I would hold in high regard as the soundest of Biblical scholars take it.
If in fact this is the way the end times unfold – you’ll get no weeping and gnashing of teeth from me.
If in the end, the Church does escape the Tribulation, I will be most happy to be wrong.
But I don’t think so.
As the “post” indicates, this view essentially holds that the Gospel will have such a global impact over time, that for all intents and purposes the world will be Christianized and THEN Jesus will return.
The millennial period is seen as just that long period of time when Christianity is the predominate world condition before Jesus comes back.
It is a very attractively optimistic view.
And it always enjoys a resurgence when the Church experiences revival or times of ease and growth.
Many of the Puritans and the likes of Jonathan Edwards, John Owen and Charles Hodge held this view.
It underwent a severe decline when WWI, WWII and the Great Depression occurred; but is growing in some circles today.
2 theological camps promote it today: What is called Dominion Theology – which promotes Christians taking over politics, economics, even by force if necessary. This is big in some Charismatic and Pentecostal groups.
In Reformed circles Postmillennialism finds its home in Theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism – which looks to establish Old Testament law as normative for American (and all) society.
Men like Rousas Rushdoony, Gary North and Greg Bahnsen are examples of modern champions of this view.
You don’t have to remember any of this, there won’t be a test.
Its biggest problem seems to be passages like Jesus’ sermon in Matt. 24 and 2 Tim 3:12-13
2 Timothy 3:12–13 / Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Or Jesus’ own lament: Luke 18:8
Luke 18:8 / I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The 1st view is quite recent (19th century). The 2nd had an earlier introduction – perhaps around 1100 – but didn’t catch on until the 17th century. Amillennialism (poorly named by the way) however can trace its roots all the way back to St. Augustine – circa 400.
The main idea here is that the millennium is simply the entire time between Jesus’ resurrection and His 2nd coming.
So the Church is IN the millennium now.
It posits that Satan has been bound in some way now so that the Gospel has been free to go out into all the earth.
It does have the advantage of being very simple and clean. Jesus came; Jesus died; Jesus rose again; The Church enjoys the spread of the Gospel; a tribulation period comes near the end; Jesus returns and judges the world. Done.
It was the dominant view of the Reformers – and it is the most common view in Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and even Amish circles today.
Its biggest problem to me, is that it cannot reconcile this idea of Satan being bound now, with passages like 1 Pet. 5:8 telling us Satan is a roaring lion still out there seeking people to devour; that he IS -not WAS – the “Prince and the power of the air” Eph 2:2; and that Christians are repeatedly admonished to resist him.
Ephesians 2:2 / in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
In contrast to that, our text today says: Revelation 20:3 / and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
It is hard to imagine Satan being thought of as not being able to deceive the nations today given the growth of false religions like Islam, the proliferation of Christian cults and rise of atheistic secularism. It just doesn’t seem to fit the facts.
4. Historic Premillennialism
This leads us to our 4th, and coincidentally, our oldest view.
This view was the most common from the days of the Apostles until Augustine, whose amillennial view can be traced to being a reaction against abuses of historic premill.
We can read it in Papias (AD 60-130), a companion of Polycarp – both of whom were personal disciples of the Apostle John.
Justin Martyr (circa 120 AD) and Irenaeus (circa 150 AD) held it.
It became the view of Spurgeon, G. E. Ladd, Francis Schaeffer, Gordon Clark, Vern Poythress, etc.
It happens to be the view I take. And it is confessedly messy. It leaves all sorts of unanswered questions.
Questions like, who will be this mass of people ruled over during this time?
Will the resurrected saints in glorified bodies interact with these people during that time? How?
And what is the millennium even for?
I’ll try to touch on some of these later.
In this view, tribulation increases at various times and various places until it perhaps culminates in a final escalation just before Jesus returns.
Then, at Jesus’ return, His 1000 year reign on earth begins.
I think it makes the most sense given the whole of Scripture.
1st, it appears to be the plainest reading of ch. 20.
2nd is the fact that there are several other passages – like Isa. 65 which we had read this morning, that depict an incredibly different existence on earth which has never yet been experienced, but which nonetheless falls short of the entirely new heaves and new earth of chapters 21 & 22.
To use the language of Isaiah 65:20–21 / No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
In the New Heavens and the New Earth we know there will be no more death.
But here, there is the idea of someone dying at 100 or 120 being too young! And, the building of houses and planting food continues as normative.
With the view then that we are still awaiting the 2nd, but not secret return of Jesus – His coming and conquering being what we just studied in ch. 19 – that takes us back to our text and it divides itself up into 3 sections.
1-6 The Millennium
7-10 The Final Vanquishing of Satan
11-15 The Great White Throne Judgment
All we have time for this morning is vss. 1-6, The Millennium itself. And there are just 4 things to note about this 1000 year period after Jesus’ return.
Revelation 20:1–3 / Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
1-3 / Satan Bound. It would not be a stretch to label this portion the humiliation and binding of Satan.
It is of no small importance to see this fallen angel called “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan” – combining all 4 titles given to him in the Revelation – so unceremoniously dispatched.
This monster who has incited opposition to God from the very beginning; who has tried his all to oppose God Himself; who set himself up as a god of sorts; who delights to have brought misery, savagery and sin of all kinds into the world to afflict mankind as made in God’s image; who labors with all of his might to blind mankind to the Gospel of saving grace in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; who continues to torment Believers by temptations to sin, to doubt the goodness, faithfulness and holy character of God; who tries to make God suspect and untrustworthy in His love and mercy toward sinners and incites every form of false religion and irreligion among men – bound by a nameless, Joe Average angel and cast into bottomless pit, chained.
There is no great ceremony.
He is summarily dismissed as though a pesky gnat instead of the giant he imagines himself to be, and so many of us have been deluded into fearing.
He thinks himself God’s antithesis. But he doesn’t even rate the cosmic equivalent of a military funeral.
He is brushed off into obscurity.
What a delight it will be for Believers to witness this binding first hand.
We who have been so grieved by our temptations.
We who have hated sin but have lived our lives in a world infused with his God-hating mindset.
We who have loved righteousness because of grace and have endlessly lamented each time we believe one of Satan’s lies and fall into sin – we will see him bound at last!
It is not the least of the Believer’s comforts to know that this turn of events will mark the beginning of our eternal joys.
Yes, as we’ll see later, he will be allowed to have some activity after the 1000 years – but for those sharing in this 1st resurrection – we’ll never face the activity of Satan like we have in this life – again. We’re not in Heaven yet – but oh what a reprieve it will be! The beginning of eternal glory.
And what a blessing to mankind as a whole. 1000 years without his evil influence anywhere to be found in the earth.
The nature of this binding is comprehended in this – he will not be able to deceive the nations during this time.
A marvelous time this will be!
The inhabitants of earth exposed to the bodily presence of Jesus, under His just reign, along with the resurrected saints – and no influence from the Devil whatsoever.
Again, the text says he WILL be released for a little while, but for this extended period of time, his actions will be null and void.
As Robert Mounce notes: “The purpose of the confinement is not to punish him but to prevent him from deceiving the nations.” Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 362.
But even this, is still short of Heaven.
Then what must Heaven be?
4 / 1st Resurrection Re 20:4
Revelation 20:4 / Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Some have thought this resurrection only applies to those who were beheaded for the faith.
But one asks, why only THOSE martyrs? What about those burned alive or drowned or hanged or whatever?
Instead, the text seems to indicate this is all of those who have refused to worship the beast or take its mark – i.e. all those who have remained faithful to Christ – in every generation.
In some way then, all those who have died in Christ, joined with those translated at His return, serve in the administration of Jesus over the earth for this period. Remember Jesus’ parable in Luke 19?
A nobleman goes off into a far country to receive title to a kingdom. Before leaving, he calls 10 of his servants, gives them some money and asks them to employ it in his interests until he returns.
Upon his return, each gives an account of what he’d given them and each is rewarded according to what they had done on His behalf.
By way of it, Jesus was telling His disciples He was going to be gone for a period of time, and that before He left, He would give His servants part of His wealth to use in His interests until He returned.
In the parable, when the nobleman/Christ returns – He gives each one authority over a number of cities proportionate to their efforts on behalf of His Kingdom.
So here, we see that this in some way will be literally fulfilled.
Those who have served Christ in this life – at His coming will serve in His administration over this earth.
What exactly that looks like – we can only guess. But it clearly is a picture of union with Him and sharing in His ruling and reigning over the nations.
Believers will not just waft off into some formless afterlife – we will be actively employed in His Kingdom as His imperial agents.
Once again we are struck with this thought – if this is but the state of the Redeemed in the Millennium, what then will our final state be like in the New Heavens and the New Earth?
No wonder then Paul will write: 1 Corinthians 2:9–10 / But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Where has the Spirit revealed what we cannot imagine? Right here!
5 / The 2nd Resurrection
Revelation 20:5 / The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
We won’t take time to unpack this further this morning, because we’ll deal with it more in the 3rd section on the Great White Throne Judgment.
Suffice it to say here that the text clearly states there will be a 2nd resurrection after the 1000 years are completed. And that resurrection will have special reference to unbelievers, those who rejected the Gospel and took the mark of the Beast in this life. Those who lived for themselves instead of for Christ Jesus.
Jesus Himself referenced this in John 5:28–29 / Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
What we didn’t know until this revelation was given to us here, is that these 2 resurrections would be 1000 years apart.
And it is a good reminder of why we need the entire Bible to interpret the entire Bible. One verse taken alone is seldom sufficient to get the whole of what is being communicated.
6 / Reigning with Jesus
Revelation 20:6 / Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
With this we close this morning.
3 things to consider for those of you who are Christ’s today.
Those who belong to Jesus by faith in His atoning sacrifice on Calvary – need never fear Hell again. Never!
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the 1st resurrection – the 2nd death, which is as we will see, eternal Hell, has no power, no authority over them.
Eternity is settled.
Come quickly Lord Jesus!
They will be priests of God and of Christ.
God is not interested in establishing some sort of priestly class among Christians. As he first revealed to Israel in Ex. 19:6, His desire is for ALL of His people to be priests.
To John’s Jewish mind, and that of his 1st readers, this would have been most potent. For it was the priests alone in Israel’s history who had access to the Tabernacle, and especially, for the High Priest, to the Holy of Holies – the very presence of God.
But each Believer will have unfettered, unclouded, unveiled access to God and Christ.
No intermediaries are needed in any way.
Beloved, we will be in His revealed presence as His own priests, with absolute access and availability at all times.
Paul says that right now, our experience of God is somewhat dim, as though reflected in the poor mirrors of His day.
But not then.
We will see Him as He is. Changed and transformed to be able to approach the unapproachable light 1 Tim. 6:16 says God is.
We’ll reign with Him.
WITH Him. As Heb. 1:3 says Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father when He was raised from the dead – so will we sit down with Him as though in some inexplicable, mysterious and glorious way, we’ll have the right to sit on His throne with Him.
Beloved, I do not have the slightest idea of how to imagine the wonder of what that means.
But here it is.
And all of this is meant as a comfort to the saints as we suffer now – in whatever ways we suffer – this is just before us. Hold on!
And, it is meant as an inducement to saint and sinner alike to abandon sin in any and all of its forms.
To flee to, cling to, serve and adore Christ.
Unbeliever – today is the day you can find complete deliverance from the 2nd death in turning to Jesus by faith, and trusting His sacrifice in your behalf as fully satisfying the Father for your sins.
Believer – seeing this is our coming reality – oh how we need to fight, put off and do everything we can to separate ourselves from the remnants of indwelling sin, and the allurements of this present world and age.
Christ is coming! Let us prepare for it now.