The Millennial Kingdom is found specifically in Revelation 20. Elsewhere throughout prophecy there are events mentioned that will occur during the Millennial Kingdom. As with all prophecy and all of scripture in general, there are varying viewpoints on the Millennium. For the purposes of this article, we will be examining the dispensational premillennial view. We believe this to be the most literal view although we recognize other viewpoints to be derived from the Bible as well and do not look upon them as unbiblical.
Some differences that the other views hold (this is not exhaustive)
Amillennial – 1,000 years is not literal. The Millennial Kingdom is occurring now within the hearts of Christians. The church has taken the place of Israel and has inherited all the blessings promised to Israel.
Postmillennial – The Millennial Kingdom follows this present age. It is brought about by an advance of the gospel as the world continues to get better and better. The church has taken the place of Israel and has inherited all the blessings promised to Israel. (It should be noted that this view was popular through the 1800’s but lost a lot of followers in the 1900’s after two world wars.)
Historic premillennial – The second coming of Christ and the rapture occur at the same time just before the millennium. Christ is currently reigning in heaven but will return to earth but necessarily for a literal 1,000 years. Israel and the church are distinct but God is not finished with Israel.
To understand the Millennial Kingdom, one must have some understanding of what occurs before it. Just before or at the very beginning of the tribulation is the rapture of the church. This is followed by seven years of tribulation. At the end of the tribulation Satan calls together all of the armies of the world to Armageddon to battle against God. Christ returns with the armies of heaven of defeats those who are gathered to wage war against him.
At this time the beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown directly into the lake of fire. Satan is thrown into the abyss and bound for a thousand years. At this time there is a separation of the sheep and the goats. There are those who were too young or too old to travel to wage war against Christ but are nevertheless against God. Also, there are saints who were saved during the tribulation who were not killed. All people will be called before Christ at this time.
Matthew 25:31-34 describes this: “’When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”
At this time, those who were martyred during the tribulation will be resurrected. They will reign alongside those who were raptured earlier and had returned with Christ at Armageddon. Revelation 20:4-6 describes this: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Those who have died or were raptured will reign with Christ over the living during the Millennial Kingdom. During this time it will be a return to what life was like in the Garden of Eden. Creation will be restored to the way God had intended it, but not fully. There will still be sin and death. Sin will be dealt with quickly however, and death will be rare as the one who dies at 100 years of age will be considered a youth. Isaiah 65:20-25 describes this.
“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.”
This passage is why we believe that some other views of the millennium must be rejected. This does not describe heaven because there is still death. But likewise, it does not describe our current state. It must occur sometime between now and when we reach heaven and someplace that is not in heaven. It is feasible that if given enough time medical science may reach these heights but it has not to this point nor has it for the past 2,000 years. It is not possible to reason that this is occurring in a spiritual way in the hearts of Christians.
During the Millennial Kingdom we see God complete His promises to Israel. This is why the distinction between the church and Israel is important. If the church has taken the place of Israel as the “spiritual Israel” the promises of God to Israel can also be fulfilled spiritually and not literally. Promises that have to be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom involve restoration of land to Israel. (They have never occupied all of the land that God granted them and possess only a small part of it today.) Likewise, David was promised an heir would sit on his throne but David’s throne has remained empty for almost 2,600 years. Jeremiah 33:14-21 speaks of this:
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’ For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.'” The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “This is what the LORD says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant–and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me–can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.
Those who believe in a spiritual Israel must believe in a spiritual Millennium because of what takes place during that time. A separate and literal Israel is in line with the view of a literal Millennium. Undoubtedly the view of a literal Millennium has gained followers since 1948 when Israel regained a national identity and took hold of Jerusalem and a significant part of their Promised Land.
At the end of the Millennium will be one final time of rebellion. Despite living with Christ and witnessing the miracles of the Millennium, the hearts of men are still hard and some will rebel. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be released from the Abyss and he will deceive many and gather them for battle against God’s holy city. However, a battle won’t even take place as fire from heaven will devour them. At that time, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown a thousand years earlier. Thus ends the Millennium. After the millennium all people will be judged and there will be new heavens and a new earth created.
Some scholars note that the thousand years may be figurative and may be representative of any long period of time. While this may be so, we find no reason for not taking the number as literal. Other views of the Millennium must take the number as figurative because if it is the reign of Christ in the hearts of Christians, we have long since exceeded one thousand years. Ultimately, we do not believe that the number of years is as important as the fact that the events should be understood to literally occur in the future.