Teaching series from Revelation

Jesus' Millennial Kingdom

Revelation 20:1-10

Teaching t23022


Revelation is a series of visions concerning the end of the age and establishment of God’s kingdom. But it is more than simply a random collection of visions—it is a story complete with a plot, key characters in tension, a climax, and an aftermath (resolution following the climax). Last week, we studied the climax (Rev. 19)—the victorious return of Jesus. But there are still issues that need to be resolved (EXAMPLES?). This is what Rev.20-22 describe. We begin this week with John’s description of the first stage of Jesus’ kingdom, which theologians often call the millennial kingdom. There are hundreds of passages about this period in the Old Testament, and we’ll look at some of them in a few minutes. But let’s start with what John describes.

Read 20:1-10. As with all of John’s visions, this one also contains several symbols, including the chaining of a dragon in a cage with a key. But symbols still convey a literal reality. With that in mind, let’s distill what this passage is teachingabout the first stage of Jesus’ kingdom...

This vision’s overview

The first thing we need to understand is that this period is distinct from the final, perfect and eternal consummation of God’s kingdom. Notice the contrast between “1000 years” for Jesus’ reign here (20:2,3,4,5,6,7) and the duration of Satan’s damnation (20:10 - “forever and ever”). Some evangelical scholars believe that “1000 years” is symbolic (I personally am inclined to believe that it is literal, because chronological numbers in Revelation are usually literal. ) But what is clear is that John is emphasizing that this phase of Jesus’ kingdom has a definite beginning and end, while the “new heavens and earth”—the final consummation of God’s kingdom—lasts forever (22:5).

In other words, this phase of God’s kingdom ushers in substantially greater blessings than our present age—but it is not the final, perfect and eternal kingdom of God (STAIR-STEP CHART).

It begins with Satan’s binding (20:1-3). The one who originally rebelled against God, and who lured the first humans into rebellion, and who invented the system of deception called “Babylon the Great” will be banished (presumably along with his demons) so that he is no longer able to deceive humanity. For the first time in millennia, the “spiritual atmosphere” of earth will be unpolluted!

Briefly explain the Amillennial interpretation of Satan’s binding. How contradictory this is to both the Bible (cf.Eph.6:12; 1Pet.5:8) and personal experience (If “all of Satan’s teeth have been pulled out,” then I’ve sure been gummed pretty badly!).

Jesus’ resurrected followers will reign with Him (20:4,6). John draws special attention to the Tribulational martyrs. Because they were faithful to Jesus even to death, they will be raised from the dead to reign with Him during this portion of his kingdom.

But they will not be the only resurrected believers who reign. Other passages (and maybe 20:4a) state that believers who died much earlier will also reign with Jesus during this time. These believers will be raised from the dead prior to this time, at the event Christians often call the “rapture” (cf.1Cor.15:51,52; 1Thess.4:15-17). At this event, which evidently takes place before the Tribulational period, Jesus will meet believers in the air—not on the ground, as He does at His Second Coming.

Over whom do they reign? Evidently, over the mortal believers who were rescued by Jesus at his return (LAST WEEK)—and over their offspring who repopulate the earth during this time (Ezek.47:22; Jer.3:16).

It ends with Satan’s brief release and final judgment (20:7-10). What is implied here (and stated clearly in Old Testament passages) is that war and human rebellion break out only when Satan is released and deceives the nations. This raises two obvious questions:

Who joins Satan in his rebellion? Probably not the believers who entered this kingdom, but their offspring, not all of whom evidently come to personal trust in Jesus even while enjoying so many benefits from His reign. Surely we can understand this, since many of us have done the something similar.

Why does God allow this to happen? God does not give us a clear answer to this question, so we can only speculate. We might just as will ask why didn’t God judge Satan or the first humans the moment they rebelled. God delays His judgment so that more may be saved (2Pet.3:9). He may also be accumulating evidence to overturn Satan’s accusation against His right to rule. It may also complete the demonstration of the folly of rebellion against God—which may explain why humans and angels will retain free will in the eternal state, but never rebel (Isa. 66:24).

Now that we have learned what John’s vision reveals about this stage of Jesus’ kingdom, let’s learn more about what life will be like during this period. Hundreds of Old Testament passages describe this period as the fulfillment of the promise God made to Israel—that one of king David’s descendents would come as God’s King and bring the blessing of God’s good rule to Israel , and through Israel to all the nations. Some of the clearest pictures of this blessing come from Isaiah.

Isaiah’s description

There will be true social justice (Isa.29:19-21) and lasting world peace (Isa.2:4). Finally, civil power will be wielded by a King who has perfect wisdom, incorruptible character and full authority—and He will govern through delegates who are completely godly. Imagine absolutely no governmental lying, corruption, pork-barrel legislation, etc.!

There will be unprecedented worldwide spiritual enlightenment. Because the Messiah will be personally present, all peoples will have access to his instruction (Isa. 2:2,3). Understanding of who the true God is and what He has done for humankind will cover the earth (Isa.11:9). The Holy Spirit will also be poured out on all people (Joel 2:28). Imagine being able to learn about God through Jesus’ personal instruction and unimpeded by spiritual deception!

The curse over nature will be substantially removed. Briefly explain the intended relationship between nature and humanity. Because humanity is back under God’s loving dominion, nature will be back under humanity’s loving dominion. The earth will be abundantly productive (Isa.4:2; 35:1a,2a), and the destructive hostility of animals will be removed (Isa.11:6-9a). Imagine a world without natural disasters (erroneously called “acts of God”)! Nature will not be annihilated—it will be in complete harmony with itself and with humanity.

The earth’s inhabitants (except for the resurrected believers) will remain mortal, but without sickness (Isa.33:24) and calamity (Isa.65:19b-23). As a result, they will live much longer lives. Imagine a world without hospitals and health insurance premiums!

For all of these reasons, it will be a time of great joy and celebration for God’s people (Isa.35:10). It will be a fantastic party! When I was a kid, I went to church services that were incredibly boring and somber (funeral for dead founder). One day, I asked someone there what heaven would be like. They told me, “Heaven will be like a church service that never ends.” Aghhh!!!! You can’t imagine how this affected me (maybe you can). The Bible says that God’s kingdom will be neither boring nor somber! It will be that party of all parties that you don’t want to miss!

So what?

Now we come to the same question we have asked at the end of every one of these visions of the future. So what? What relevance does this have to you and me today?

The most important answer to this question is: You can participate in this period of history! Read 1Cor.15:22-24. God promises to raise all who “belong to Christ” when He returns (general time indicator) so that they can witness and participate in this final phase of Jesus’ victory over evil. The only condition is that you must belong to Christ. Do you belong to Christ? Have you told Him that you want to belong to Him? Have you asked Him to forgive you through His death and to take leadership of your life? This is all that it takes—but it does take this decision. Is this the day you will make this decision? It will have an eternal ripple-effect of good!

Another answer to this question is: Passages like these also enable Jesus’ followers to intelligently face the future with both realism and hope.

I say “intelligently” because the same Bible that predicts this future period of history has also accurately predicted hundreds of historical events that have already been fulfilled. This is not wishful thinking or blind faith; it is informed faith.

Human visions of the future are usually humanistic—they take God out of the equation and extrapolate human qualities and capabilities.

Some visions are naively optimistic (FAITH IN EDUCATION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY PREDICTIONS; FAITH IN TECHNOLOGY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 21ST CENTURY.). These visions are naïve because they don’t reckon with the reality of human and demonic evil (LEWIS: “Education just makes humans more sophisticated devils”). The last century alone should be enough evidence to crush this wishful thinking. Fallen human history is going to get worse, not better.

Other visions are excessively pessimistic. This breeds pessimism, cynicism, and even despair. But the same Bible that warns us about the impossibility of humanistic utopias also promises us that Jesus is coming back to prevent humanity from destroying itself and to restore God’s kingdom on earth. So we can persevere with hope even during times of severe difficulty.

NEXT WEEK: As good as the Millennial Kingdom is, it is only a prelude to the New Heavens and the New Earth, which we will begin studying in two weeks. Next week, however, we will study the final judgment...

On what basis would we decide something is symbolic? We have to be careful that we don’t abuse this to dismiss things we don’t like! The criteria include: it is identified as a symbol in the passage (e.g., the “dragon” is Satan [20:1]); it is used as a symbol or figuratively elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., “thrones” could be symbolic because they are used that way in Rev. 4); the same event is described in other passages that communicate the literal reality which the symbol conveys (e.g., “lake of fire and brimstone” describing eternal separation from and retribution by God [2Thess. 1:8,9]); a literal interpretation contradicts clear biblical teaching and/or makes no rational sense (e.g., “dragon chained with a key” – angels do not have physical bodies like ours, and are not constrained by human prisons ([Acts5:19; 12:7-10]).

“42 months,” “1260 days,” and “time, times and half a time” all refer to 3.5 literal years because they are based on Dan.9:27, which refers to a 7 literal years.

God promised Daniel that the “saints” would take possession of the kingdom with the Messiah (Dan.7:22,29). Jesus promised his disciples that they would sit on thrones and rule with Him during this time (Matt.19:28). Paul promised the Corinthian Christians that they would judge the world (1Cor.6:2).

“This is the first resurrection” here means the first resurrection narrated in this vision (after Jesus’ return), in contrast to the second resurrection in this vision, which is to face judgment. This is not the first resurrection ever. Jesus has already been resurrected, and Christians will be resurrected prior to this event at the Rapture.

Old Testament passages emphasize the preeminence of Israel (and especially Jerusalem) during this period. Jesus will rule from Jerusalem (Isa.2:2). The Temple in Jerusalem (Isa.56:7) will apparently commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice. Gentiles will bring Israelites and their wealth to Jerusalem (Isa.60:9-14).

Isaiah’s kingdom visions describe both this period and the final consummation (“the new heavens and the new earth”). See for example Isa.60,65,66, which seem to be a composite of both periods. This is a common phenomenon in Old Testament predictions of future events. The prophet often sees two or more future events as one, without understanding the (sometimes considerable) gap of time between them.