I often hear people say that they have embraced the Amillennial view of biblical eschatology “in spite of” what they read in Revelation 20. I want to go on record in saying that I have embraced Amillennialism precisely “because of” Revelation 20. Continue reading . . .
I often hear people say that they have embraced the Amillennial view of biblical eschatology “in spite of” what they read in Revelation 20. I want to go on record in saying that I have embraced Amillennialism precisely “because of” Revelation 20. I find the evidence from this passage to be altogether persuasive in telling me that the “millennial” reign of the saints is a reference to the experience of co-regency on the part of those believers who are now in the intermediate state with Christ. Thus, the millennium is a current phenomenon, in heaven, spanning the age between the two advents of Jesus Christ. Here are ten reasons why.
(1) Amillennialism is better suited to explain the restriction placed on Satan in Revelation 20:1-3. Contrary to the claims of premillennialism, Satan’s binding is not universal, as if during the span of the “1,000 years” he is prevented from doing everything. Rather, he is prevented from perpetuating the spiritual blindness of the nations and keeping them in gospel darkness. He is also prevented from provoking a premature global assault on the church which we know to be the battle of Armageddon.
(2) Amillennialism alone can account for why Satan must be bound in the first place. According to premillennialism, Satan is allegedly prevented from deceiving the very nations who at the close of Revelation 19 have already been defeated and destroyed at Christ’s return. In other words, it makes no sense to speak of protecting the nations from deception by Satan in 20:1-3 after they have just been both deceived by Satan (16:13-16; cf. 19:19-20) and destroyed by Christ at his return (19:11-21; cf. 16:15a, 19).
(3) The amillennial reading of Revelation alone makes sense of the obvious parallel between the war of Revelation 16, 19, and 20. This parallel is reinforced when we note that the imagery in Ezekiel 39 related to Gog and Magog is used to describe both the battle in Revelation 19:17-21 and the battle in Revelation 20:7-10. Clearly, these are one and the same battle, known as Armageddon, that consummates the defeat of God’s enemies at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. They are just as clearly not two different battles separated by 1,000 years of millennial history. This is all confirmed by reference to “the war” (19:19; already noted in 16:14, 16; cf. 20:8). The same Greek phrase “the war” (ton polemon) is used in all three texts (Rev. 16:14; 19:19; 20:8). In fact, in 16:14 and 20:8 the same extended phrase “to gather them unto the war” (sunagagein autous eis ton polemon) is used.
(4) Amillennialism makes more sense of the symbolic nature of the number “1,000” in Revelation 20. In other texts “one thousand” rarely if ever is meant to be taken with arithmetical precision. This is true whether the context is non-temporal (Ps. 50:10; Song of Solomon 4:4; Josh. 23:10; Isa. 60:22; Deut. 1:11; Job 9:3; Eccles. 7:28), in which case the usage is always figurative, indeed hyperbolical, or temporal (Deut. 7:9; 1 Chron. 16:15; Pss. 84:10; 90:4; 105:8; 2 Pet. 3:8).
(5) Amillennialism recognizes the obvious parallel between Revelation 20:1-6 and Revelation 6:9-11. The latter text unmistakably describes the experience of the martyrs who have been beheaded because of the word of their testimony on behalf of Christ. So, too, Revelation 20 portrays the experience of “souls” beheaded for the sake of their testimony concerning Christ. Simply put, the cogency of amillennialism is seen in its recognition that in both texts the intermediate state is being clearly portrayed.
(6) Amillennialism alone does justice to the obvious parallel between Revelation 20:1-6 and Revelation 2:10-11. The latter is an encouragement given to prospective martyrs. They are to be faithful unto death and Christ will give them the “crown of life.” Likewise, in Revelation 20 those who die for the sake of their witness are granted “life” with their Lord in the intermediate state. Reinforcement of this parallel is found in the fact that only here in Revelation 2 and again in Revelation 20 is reference made to “the second death,” from which the faithful martyrs are promised deliverance.
(7) Related to the above is the fact that in Revelation 3:21 those who persevere under persecution and “conquer” or “overcome” are said to sit and reign with Christ on this throne. This is precisely what is said of the martyrs in Revelation 20. They come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years.
(8) Amillennialism alone accounts for the use of the word “thrones” in Revelation 20:4. This word, both inside Revelation and elsewhere in the NT, consistently refers to heavenly thrones, not earthly ones. These are the thrones in the intermediate state on which the faithful martyrs sit and rule together with their Lord and Savior, King Jesus.
(9) Amillennialism alone explains the significance of the ordinal “first” as a modifier of “resurrection.” Closer study reveals that whatever is first or old pertains to the present world, that is to say, to the world that is transient, temporary, and incomplete. Conversely, whatever is second or new pertains to the future world, to the world that is permanent, complete, and is associated with the eternal consummation of all things. The term first is therefore not an ordinal in a process of counting objects that are identical in kind. Rather, whenever first is used in conjunction with second or new the idea is of a qualitative contrast (not a mere numerical sequence). To be first is to be associated with this present, temporary, transient world. Whatever is first does not participate in the quality of finality and permanence which is distinctive of the age to come. Thus the “first resurrection” is descriptive of life prior to the consummation, which is to say, life in the intermediate state.
(10) Finally, the hermeneutical principle known as the Analogy of Faith is best honored within an amillennial system. When asked for an explicit and unmistakable biblical affirmation of a post-parousia millennial kingdom, premillennialists typically point to Revelation 20, and only Revelation 20. But as we have seen, Revelation 20 is neither explicit nor unmistakable in teaching an earthly millennial kingdom. Furthermore, no single passage in an admittedly symbolic and comparatively difficult context should be allowed to overturn (or trump) the witness of a multiplicity of passages in admittedly didactic and comparatively straightforward contexts. To put this same point in the form of a question: Do the statements in other New Testament books concerning end-time chronology necessarily and logically preclude the notion of a post-parousia millennial age in Revelation 20? I am convinced that this must be answered affirmatively.
My contention is not that the passages in the Pauline, Johannine, and Petrine corpus simply omit reference to a post-Parousia millennial age. If that were the case it is conceivable that we might harmonize Revelation 20 with them, making room, as it were, for the former in the latter. But those texts (see Kingdom Come for an exposition of each one) are not such as may be conflated with the notion of a future millennial kingdom. These passages clearly appear logically to preclude the existence of such a kingdom. My argument is that a premillennial interpretation of Revelation 20 actually contradicts the clear and unequivocal assertions in such texts as John 5, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8, 2 Thessalonians 1, Hebrews 11, and 2 Peter 3.
Rather than reading these texts through the grid of Revelation 20, the latter should be read in the clear light of the former. Sound hermeneutical procedure would call on us to interpret the singular and obscure in the light of the plural and explicit. To make the rest of the New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament) bend to the standard of one text in the most controversial, symbolic, and by scholarly consensus most difficult book in the Bible, is hardly commendable hermeneutical method. We simply must not allow a singular apocalyptic tail to wag the entire epistolary dog! We must not force the whole of Scripture to dance to the tune of Revelation 20.
Those, then, are at least some of the reasons why Revelation 20 itself persuades me that amillennialism is true.