Revelation #13b : The 1,000 Year Reign – Revelation 20
sermon Revelation 20 : Pierre Constant, 2022_10_23, AB Lausanne church
title : Revelation #13b : The 1,000 Year Reign – Revelation 20
Throughout our meetings, we have pointed out that evangelical Christians differ in opinion as to
the interpretation of Revelation. We had briefly
sketched four interpretative approaches to this last
book of the Bible, as well as to biblical apocalyptic literature in general (the books of Daniel, Zechariah,
and certain sections of the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel). These four interpretative approaches are: the
preterist approach, the historical approach, the futurist approach, and the idealist approach.
These divergent approaches have given rise to various schools of thought about prophecy in general
in the Bible, schools that attempt to structure the whole of biblical revelation according to various
temporal or chronological schemes. Everyone agrees to speak of a general movement going from creation to
new creation, but differ in how to subdivide the story of God’s relationship with his people.
In order to better grasp the stakes in the interpretation of Revelation 20 , it will be useful to present, even if
summarily, these great schools, whose names refer mainly to their relationship between the
return of Jesus and the reign of 1,000 years (the “millennium”) referred to in Rev 20.1-10 .
A. An overview of the schools of thought concerning eschatology
Even before distinguishing the various schools of thought, it is worth quoting in full certain warnings
written by Frédéric Buhler already more than fifty years ago:
No prophetic view is entirely immune to objections. None agrees
perfectly with all the biblical texts. One could even believe that there is a providential intention
in the imprecision of certain teachings. If certain future events are well attested by the
Scriptures (corporeal and glorious return of Christ, resurrection of the dead, removal of
resurrected or transformed believers, final judgment, destruction of the earth with the works it contains,
appearance of a new earth and new heavens where justice will dwell), the sequence of
events is not given to us with enough precision to enable us to establish a
detailed and rigid program. We also note among the proponents of each thesis a variety of
That said, we can roughly distinguish four schools of thought on this subject:
1 F. Bulher, Return of Christ and the millennium. Diagrams of the main prophetic systems (Mulhouse: Center for
Christian Culture, )
• This school has existed in various forms, but as a complete system it really began
around 1830. Popularized by James Nelson Darby and CI Scofield (notes in the “Scofield Bible” of 1905).
Very widespread among the “Darbystes” (Christian brothers), very popular in the twentieth century
• Names associated with it: James Nelson Darby, CI Scofield, Lewis S. Chafer, Charles Feinberg, John
Walwoord, JD Pentecost, René Pache, André Lamorte , Charles Ryrie, Darrell L. Bock
• Thesis that the 1,000 year reign (often taken literally) is after the return
of Jesus Christ, a reign in which the Kingdom of God is reestablished on earth after a period of “great
• The most detailed, distinct system
• A subset of premillennialism, which divides history into several “dispensations” (often
seven in number), each ending in human failure and judgment from God :
o Innocence: from creation, in Eden, until the rupture (expulsion from the garden)
o Consciousness / freedom: from the rupture until the flood
o Government: from the flood to the tower of Babel
o Pilgrimage / promise: from flood until the promulgation of the Law (or again, from Sodom
o Law / Israel: from Sinai until Calvary
o Church / grace: from Calvary until the rapture of the Church
o Kingdom : from the millennium to the great white throne
• This school has the following merits:
o Has the merit of being very structured, sequential,
o Emphasizes the specificity and novelty in the passage from the OT to the NT
o Appeals to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures
• It is however, criticized for the following elements:
o This system is not found anywhere in one place (each element is interpreted
according to the system, but the system as such is not found anywhere)
o The divisions into dispensations are random or at excess
o He tends to complicate and multiply things: two returns of Jesus (for the saints and
with the saints), three judgments (of the saints before and after the tribulation, and at the end of the millennium),
four resurrections (of the saints, at the end of the tribulation, at the end of the millennium, and of the rebels
after the millennium)
o Interpret the Church or the New Covenant as a parenthesis in God’s plan, a plan
B following the rejection of Jesus from the Jews. In fact, according to Galatians 3-4 and Romans 9-11, if
there is a parenthesis, it is rather to be placed on the side of the Law, and not on the side of the New
Covenant. . . The entire epistle to the Hebrews strives to present the New Covenant, inaugurated by
the coming of Christ, as the fulfillment of the promises of the OT, and not as a
parenthesis before the coming of the kingdom.
o To rebuild the wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, knocked down by the work of Christ
o To present the work of Christ and the Church as not announced by the prophets
o To prefer an earthly Jewish kingdom, with the restoration of worship leviticus (return of the
sacrifices, rebuilding of the temple)
o To adopt a literal, materialistic interpretation of the prophecies of the OT in contradiction with
several passages of the NT
Historical pre-millennialism (to distinguish it from dispensational pre-millennialism):
• Existed before dispensationalism (hence the name “historic”)
• Teaches that Jesus returns before the 1,000 year reign (the latter not necessarily being
• Some associated names: George Eldon Ladd, Andrew Bonar, Charles H. Spurgeon, Francis Schaffer,
Jules-Marcel Nicole, Ruben Saillens
• Although less structured than dispensationalism (it does not suffer from random divisions into
dispensations), it distinguishes between two resurrections (believers before the 1,000 year reign, rebels at the end)
• He is criticized for:
o Interpreting certain OT prophecies literally
o To maintain the existence of two peoples of God (although this does not exist among all premillennials)
o To insert a 1000 year interval where Daniel 12.2 and 2 Peter 3 seem to coincide
events (a single resurrection in Daniel, the destruction of the world
immediately following the return of Jesus in 2 Peter 3 )
• But he has the following merits:
o He does not fall into what are perceived as excesses on the part of dispensationalists
o He takes seriously a more literal (or at least, less symbolic) interpretation
of Revelation 20
o It points out the a-millennial difficulties in their interpretation of Revelation 20 (which we
will see later)
o He too underlines the specificity and the novelty in the passage from the OT to the NT
• Model in which the millennium gradually attaches to the age of the Church which, by its influence,
brings about the kingdom of God and leads towards the return of Christ, thus opening the door to eternity. The
millennium thus coincides, according to this approach, with the last part of the history of the Church.
• Very popular at the end of the 19th century among several Protestant and even Catholic theologians:
Charles Hodge, AH Strong, BB Warfield, Pierre Prigent
• Presents a very optimistic vision of the history of the Church which, by its positive influence, opens the way to the
kingdom of God
• He is criticized for:
o A utopian view of the history and influence of the Church
o To conceive of the kingdom of Christ without the presence of its king
o To confuse the millennium with the last phase of the history of the Church
• Two world wars have considerably dampened the enthusiasm for seeing our world as
improving ( which seemed obvious at the end of the 19th century)
• This school does not conceive of the millennium as a separate earthly reality,
detached from the Church age, during which Jesus physically reigns on earth
• According to this school, the millennium is confused with the entire Church period (thus it is distinguished here from
postmillennialism). The kingdom is more of a spiritual order, where Jesus reigns over his own, and also reigns
over our world, “although we do not see now “that all things are subject to him”
( Heb 2.8 )
• A-millennialism interprets OT prophecies as overwhelmingly fulfilled
metaphorically (or typologically) in the Church, not literally in a future reign of Israel
return to his country
• This school has the following advantages:
o It bases its approach to the interpretation of the prophecies of the OT mainly on the way in
which the NT quotes the OT
o It thus underlines the great continuity between the Ancient Alliance and the New Alliance
o It takes better account of the literary genre of the Apocalypse, and does not necessarily attempt
to interpret the texts in a literal way
• It nevertheless faces certain criticisms:
o It tends to “spiritualize” certain texts where a literal interpretation seems preferable
o It leaves no special place for the nation of Israel in the future unfolding of God’s plan
o His interpretation of Revelation 20 is far from unanimous
• Although it takes better account of the literary genre of Revelation, we will have to analyze Revelation 20
in more detail to determine if this interpretation does justice to the text. The differences between these schools of interpretation cannot, however, serve as a criterion for associating or dissociating with other people who are truly brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. They thus have no place in a Church’s creed, any more than in a theological school’s creed, even if each Church or each school has its theological “colors”. Let us also remember that adopting a responsible attitude towards eschatology means first of all being vigilant, being ready,
not to doze off spiritually. It is also to grow in holiness ( 1 John 3.2-3 ): eschatology should not be
a matter of division, but a motivation for sanctification. It is finally a healthy look towards the future, where all the
children of God can hope for the coming of the new heavens and a new earth, where justice will dwell (2 Pet
3.11): waiting for the return of Jesus Christ, it is the hope of our future regeneration, not a reason for
B. Overview of Revelation 20
This chapter can be divided into four sections:
Satan bound for 1,000 years (20.1-3)
If we read this text without importing a whole eschatological system, this text emphasizes one thing: the
fact that Satan is bound for 1,000 years, after which he must be loosed for a little while. In a
way, this text is much less important than the next two ( Revelation 21–22), because our
Christian hope is not in a 1,000 year reign, nor in Satan being bound, but our
Christian hope is directed rather towards the New Jerusalem, towards the new heavens and the new earth, the
eternal presence of God.
Interpretations of this passage are often divided into two camps:
Understand this text literally (or quasi-literally) (dispensationalism)
• “1,000 years” means a true literal period of 1,000 years
• Satan is totally prevented from operating
b. Understanding this text symbolically or metaphorically (a-millennialism)
• 1,000 years is understood metaphorically, referring to the time between the first and second
comings of Jesus
• Satan is slowed down, prevented from deceiving God’s children
c. But other interpretations are possible, notably (historical pre-millennialism)
• The “1,000 years” can refer to an indefinite period of time
• Satan is totally prevented from operating
How to find it?
First of all, it should be noted that numbers are often to be interpreted symbolically in
apocalyptic literature, and this one is no exception to the rule. Although it is not impossible that it is a
period of 1000 years in the literal sense, it is unlikely.
What is important, however, is the central point of these verses: the fact that Satan is bound and enclosed. Although
many attempt to interpret this text from several texts elsewhere in the NT, we must instead
ask how the Revelation of John presents the work of the devil. Does the whole of Revelation
present Satan as being bound?
• Reading texts such as Revelation 12, where the devil / the dragon, irritated, goes to make war on the rest
of the descendants of the woman, or Revelation 13 , where the devil has as allies two beasts (the brutality
of empires, the seduction of false prophets), or even Revelation 17 where the beast appears for a
time, disappears, reappears again, it seems that the devil still has a lot of freedom
of action which contrasts with the situation described in Rev 20.1-3 .
• Revelation 20 describes a period of time when the devil is defeated for a long time, but
will reappear at the end. The a-millennial school interprets this end as the “great tribulation,”
mentioned earlier in Revelation. But this school has even more difficulty in sustaining its
interpretation of v. 4-8 which we will see later.
Again, notice the central point of these verses: Satan is imprisoned in the chasm which is closed and
sealed above him, so as not to deceive the nations any more, after which he will be released for a little while.
Why this gap in the unfolding of God’s plan? The text does not say so, but we can advance
one or two reasons, with caution:
• God will be patient, once again, with the world. If the saints ask God for justice (cf.
Rev 6.9-11 ), God seems ready to be patient (cf. 2 Pet 3.9 )
• Perhaps God does this to demonstrate his justice (what we call the legitimation of God, to
vindicate his justice). Often people say, “If we lived in a perfect world, if we
weren’t corrupted by society, human beings would demonstrate their true goodness.” The reality seems
quite different: even with a perfect government, even in the absence of Satan and his henchmen, human
beings will still choose to rebel against God!
• Our fundamental problem is therefore not at the level of education, or at the level of
social structures. Our fundamental problem as human beings is the fact of wanting to determine for ourselves
what is right or wrong, and inevitably we choose to rise to the very rank of
God. Nothing in the
world can change our basic nature except the blood of the Lamb.
The 1,000 year reign (20.4-6)
John describes people as the beheaded or the slain, because of the testimony of Jesus and the word
of God (two elements regularly mentioned together in Revelation).
Who are these people ?
• Only martyrs? If so, then only this kind of martyrs (what to do with the quartered, the drowned,
etc. ? received the mark of the beast on the forehead or on the hand. We have already indicated that these expressions designate all the members of the people of God. They are described elsewhere as virgins, the redeemed from among men, the 144,000, those who have received the seal of God, and so on.
• So it’s not just those who were martyred during the so-called “great tribulation,”
but all of God’s people.
• These are the ones who have part in the first resurrection, over whom the second death (eternal judgment) has
• They are also the priests of God and of Christ, an expression to be compared to Rev 1.5 b-6.
b. What are these people doing ?
• According to v. 4, they “come back to life.” The Greek expression can be confusing.
o According to the a-millennial interpretation, one should simply translate “and they lived,” an
expression to be understood in the spiritual sense, in relation to their conversion.
o The question is, which life is it: eternal life, or resurrection from the
• The verb used is the verb “to live” . It is always the context that indicates
what kind of life it is. The v. 5 specifies that this is the first resurrection , a term
regularly used in reference to the resurrection from the dead. Proponents of a-millennialism
claim that the verb in v. 4 must be understood in the symbolic sense of eternal life, of conversion.
The problem raised by this interpretation is the fact that this same verb is the same one used
in Rev 2.8 “This is what the first and the last say, he who was dead and who has come back to life”; or
again in Rom 14.9 : “Christ died and came back to life to be Lord of the
living and the dead. This interpretation of the verb to the effect that it is about eternal life and not about the resurrection
of the dead, seems to come more from the system than from the text itself. Personally, it does not
convince me. I believe it is a real resurrection. especially in light of what John says
in v. 5.
c. What does 1000 years mean?
• Many dispensationalists take it literally.
• But according to what we have seen so far, this figure is probably to be taken figuratively. It
means here a long period of time.
d. What kind of reign is it?
• The text is surprisingly silent on this subject! It is nowhere specified that this reign is on earth
(although this is not impossible), in Jerusalem, with a rebuilt temple. A reign with Christ in
heaven is quite possible, but it cannot be proven, neither by this text nor by other texts.
• we have here in fact the positive counterpart of what is indicated in the negative at v. 1-3: While Satan is
bound for 1,000 years, the saints who share in the first resurrection reign with Christ for those
same 1,000 years.
Let’s be careful not to include here a whole series of supposed predictions of the OT (often interpreted in a
literal way). Let us also remember that many of the OT promises about the reign of God over his people
have already been fulfilled when they return from exile, and that these fulfillments should serve as a
hermeneutic grid for us to understand how we should interpret these promises . . It will not suffice to say that
these promises must be interpreted in the literal sense, whereas the biblical texts regularly point in
another, often symbolic direction. It is the whole of the OT and the NT that should serve as our
interpretive grid as to how to understand these promises of the OT, not the presupposition that
these texts must be interpreted literally. To say otherwise is to go against the
vast majority of Scripture.
The Final Battle (20.7-10)
At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is released, to seduce the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog,
to make war on the “camp of the saints” and “the beloved city” (v. 9 ).
Who are these kings?
• In Ezekiel 38 , Gog is a king, and Magog is his territory, a territory located in Assyria. Many
interpret this passage as referring to an invasion of Israel from this region (Iran or Iraq
today), to the coming of the kings of the East and ending with the battle of Armageddon (cf. Apoc
16.12-16). Note, however, that Rev. 16.14 refers to kings “of all the earth,” and Rev. 20.8
speaks of the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, and not only in the East. Attempting to
identify them with Russia, Iran, or Pakistan is more fabulation than sound exegesis. . .
• These two names, Gog and Magog, seem simply used metaphorically to designate
the kings of the earth.
b. Who are they attacking?
• John indicates that they ascend to the surface of the earth (are they simply demons, reminiscent of the
locusts of the fifth trumpet – Rev 9.1-11 ?).
• They invest “the camp of the saints” as well as “the beloved city. » Is it Jerusalem? The “city”
in Revelation sometimes refers to the people of God (a symbol we have already noted in 4
• What seems more important is the outcome of the battle: in language evoking an episode in the
ministry of the prophet Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:10-12 ), fire descends from heaven, devours them, while the the devil himself
is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophets are already (cf.
19.20), and they are tormented eternally (cf. 14.11).
The Great White Throne (20.11-15)
This is the second death, previously mentioned in v. 6: “The second death has no power over them. The judgment referred
to is certainly the final judgment:
• All living beings must render account
• Earth and heaven flee before his face, i.e., the whole universe disappears, leaving make way for the new
heavens and the new earth (which will be discussed in chapter 21)
• The “book of life” is presumably the book in which are recorded the names of all those who
belong to the Lamb. The Psalms mention a “book of life” ( Pss 56.9 , 69.29), as does
the Epistle to the Philippians (“whose names are in the book of life” – Phil 4.3). This phrase appears
six times in Revelation (3.5, 13.8, 17.8, 20.15 [twice], and 21.27), more than anywhere else
in the Bible.
The dead are judged “according to works”:
• John has already noted, many times, that the victory, the priesthood, was acquired by the blood of the Lamb.
• To be judged according to one’s works is to receive according to what one deserves. Revelation repeats again
and again that the inhabitants of the earth do not repent of their works, and that even after a long
reign of Christ, they rebel again.
• Far from teaching salvation by works, this passage rather teaches the perdition of all in
response to their evil works (cf. John 3:17-19).
The book of Revelation was not written to scare, but to comfort God’s people.
However, this comfort is not offered by hiding the reality of the Last Judgment, sweeping
God’s justice and accountability to our Creator under the rug.
However, when Revelation – and even Jesus – speaks of judgment, it is never in a morbid way,
as if God were pleased to make the wicked suffer. It teaches that it is precisely to spare us
eternal death that the Lord Jesus offered himself, he, the Lamb immolated from the foundation of the world.
Whereas God decided to create the world , he already knew that this creation would come at the cost of the death of his
Son. And it is at this price that he created us, that he loved us, that he redeemed us, and that he will have glorified us.
Our salvation depends on him from beginning to end.
1. And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
7. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Related Links / Notes
Study Notes are translated from the original French version prepared by Pierre Constant who has been Associate Professor of the New Testament at the Toronto Baptist Seminary since 2003. The orginal French notes are in “note” form, and are not a direct transcription of the video. The notes provided here follow that form, but are detailed enough to help provide a deep understanding of the texts in the book of revelation.
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