Thursday, March 27, 2014

P1 Interpreting Revelation 20:1-10 - Interpretive issues and the various positions on the millennium


Revelation 20:1-3 "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time."

There are certain chapters in the Bible that legitimate and Godly Christian people differ upon in terms of interpretation.  Revelation 20 stands among one of the most discussed and at times hotly debated chapters among the 1189 chapters of God's Word. Today we want to begin noting some key positions that one finds when studying this amazing chapter of the Book of Revelation. 

Points upon which all Bible believing Christians agree in interpreting Revelation 20
Before getting to the differing interpretations, let us first consider what all Christians agree upon with regards to Christ's second coming generally and Revelation 20 in particular.

1. Clearly all are in agreement that Christ will have a literal, bodily, visible return.  According to Bible Teacher John MacArthur, 1 out of every 25 New Testament passages speak on His return. In all the major positions held about what we read in Revelation 19-20, virtually all interpreters are united in affirming that Revelation 19:11-21 is speaking about Christ's literal, bodily return to earth.

2. In my consideration of the major viewpoints on Revelation 20 from listening to lectures, sermons and readings of nearly all the major creeds and confessions of church history, it has been observed that the latter half of Revelation 20 (vss 11-15) finds near unanimous agreement.  Throughout church history the major areas of emphasis on this particular section of Revelation have been the resurrection of the dead and final judgment. 

3. Southern Baptists fall within the mane of the historic Christian church on the subject of Christ's return.  The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads in its article on "Doctrine of Last Things: "God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord." 

In considering the above three points, there is general uniformity on Revelation 20:11-15 speaking of the final judgment that will occur as the final and ultimate event that closes out history and proceeds the Eternal State of Revelation 21-22.  What this means then that our area of focus can be narrowed down to Revelation 20:1-10.         

Why there are differences of interpretation on Revelation 20:1-10
   The real areas of difference of interpretation on Revelation 20 chiefly arise from how the first ten verses are handled and read. I am sure readers could add five more differences to the list I have below.  Yet in order to avoid making this post to cumbersome, we will stick to the five major areas one finds consistently in the literature on this subject.  The areas of difference arise from the following considerations:

1. Is Revelation 20:1-10 recapping current history from Christ's resurrection to 2nd coming or is it following from His 2nd coming in Revelation 19:11-21?

2. Is the reference to "First Resurrection" speaking of salvation or of a future resurrection of the righteous at Christ's return?

3. Is Revelation 20:1-10 detailing more than one resurrection or is there only one general resurrection of both righteous and the wicked at the end of history? Many will include discussion of 20:11-15 in answering this question.

4. Is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ only spiritual and present, spiritual and earthly with an already/not yet component or entirely earthly in the future?

5. Is the number "1,000" a literal reference to a future 1,000 year reign of Jesus or is it a symbolic round number referring to His current reign in Heaven over the earth or a little bit of both?

Listing out the four major interpretations of Revelation 20:1-10
Three major positions, with one having two variations (and thus a total of four views in all), exist in determining the answers to various interpretive issues and questions outlined above.  Though many details could be cited, for sake of simplicity, we will for now just list each viewpoint, their names and the broadest definitions. The reader is also encouraged to consult the chart included at the beginning of today's post.

 1. Premillennialism - Those who hold to this teach that, when Christ returns, He will set up a literal earthly kingdom for 1,000 years, followed by a brief loosing of Satan to deceive the nations, the Great white throne judgment and then the bringing in of the "New Heavens and New Earth".  The reason for the name "premillenialism" is due to the prefix "pre" referring to "before" and "millennium" being "1,000 years". As stated earlier, two variations exist within the Pre-millennial interpretation which for now we will just list their names: 

a. Classical Premillennialism 
Sometimes called "Post-Tribulational Premillennialism".

b. Dispensational Premillennialism.
Sometimes called "Pre-tribulational Premillennialism

2. Amillennialism.
This position teaches that Christ began His reign at His ascension into Heaven and is ruling and reigning over a spiritual kingdom right now.  Being that it denies a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ, the term "A-millenialism" is used (a=no and millennium = 1,000 years).  History (according to this view) will continue in its downward spiral and at the end Christ will return, judging the world and Satan, and bring about the new heavens and new earth. 

3. Post Millennialism 
This position teaches that Christianity will continue to increase until the whole world is taken over by the gospel.  Though not every individual will be saved, yet post-millennialists contend that every nation will eventually see many of their people saved.  It generally teaches that the church will continue to evangelize until so many people are converted that Christ will then return at the end of the future golden age or "millennium" )post = "end" millennium= 1,000 years).  Post-millennialists take passages such as Psalm 2 and missionary passages such as Matthew 28:18-20 to refer to the triumph of the gospel over unbelief.  


1. The above image comes from the following link:

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