The 1,000 Year Reign

This is the final article addressing the “end times” doctrine, if you missed any of the previous ones, please ask for a copy. So far, we have assessed each point of the doctrine against the word of God and have found the following views to be lacking in consistency with what the Bible teaches: (1) Signs of the End. (2) Rapture. (3) Seven-Year Tribulation. (4) Armageddon. Now we will examine the next era of the “end times” timeline, the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth, reigning from the physical location of Jerusalem.

The concept of the 1,000-year reign stems from a statement in Revelation 20:4, where it speaks of those who died faithful to the Lord during a great tribulation (the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70), and it is said that “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” A few things are troubling about accepting the “end times” theology based on this scripture. For one thing, this scripture does not say, nor suggest, that the reign of Christ would be from the earth. Rather, the context of these words suggests that this is a heavenly reign, in that these faithful are already dead, and the Lord Himself ascended into heaven in Acts 1. So then, if all parties involved have already left this earth for thrones beyond the imaginations of this world’s kings, it would be necessary to infer that this is a spiritual reign. Another concern is the direct use of 1,000 years as a literal period of time. Those who take the 1,000 years to be literal do not consistently use all the numbers in the book of Revelation literally. It seems to be common practice to make the numbers in the book either literal or figurative depending on what is the best fit for one’s particular beliefs. It is not within man’s power to decide their interpretation of what the Creator has communicated to His creation. What God has said, is what will be, and we must honor His will. The reason we cannot accept a literal 1,000 years is because it is not allowable by the very words of the book of Revelation. The book began with an explanation that this is a revelation of Jesus that had been “signified” to John. This word means to communicate through signs. There are a few numbers that God uses in this book that are used elsewhere in the scriptures and their meanings are relatively simple with a good understanding of the rest of the bible. God uses numbers like 7, multiples of 10, and multiples of 12. Seven is used throughout God’s word as a number whereby God accomplishes a specific purpose. Multiples of 10 are used in the Bible to identify the completion of any given matter; the higher the multiplication, the more God desires to show the completeness of a matter. Twelve is the Old and New Testament number for the people of God.

Now, for a moment, let’s imagine that the 1,000 years is literal, what do we have then? Well, according to the text, we still don’t have a 1,000-year reign of Christ! The text specifically said, “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years,” and “they shall be priest of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” The text does not even address the length of Christ’s reign, it only addresses how long these martyrs will reign with Christ. Even in the old days of sons beginning to reign with their fathers, the length of the sons reigning with their fathers does not indicate how long their fathers had reigned. So, again, if one insists on taking the 1,000-year reign literally, they could only conclude that the martyrs reigned for 1,000 years, and not Christ. We can add to this that there is no mention of Christ having a physical reign, nor that it would be in the physical Jerusalem, nor that it would take place in our future. All of this must be imagined in order to place our faith in today’s “end times” theology.

Coming back to the substance of the text, what then is the 1,000 years? The context deals with Satan’s defeat in his cause to dissolve the church during the great tribulation of the fall of Judea (this was a first-century event, after all, the book said these are the “things which must shortly take place,” 1.1; 22:6). With the complete failure of Satan’s plan (as signified by Him being cast into the bottomless pit), we see, in perfect contrast, the complete victory of the Lord’s faithful. This is signified by the 1,000-year reign. As 10 is identifiable as completeness, so 10x10x10 describes the intensity and certainty of the victory here in this text. So, the number 1,000 is not in reference to an amount of time, and neither are the other numbers in the book. The 1,000 years do not convey a time period, but they convey an idea of the exceedingly great victory of those who remained faithful to the Lord, even unto death.

We have seen that the end of the book of Revelation does not teach a 1,000-year reign of Christ, whether literally or figuratively. So then, what is the truth about the reign of Christ? Do we know when it will be, and its duration? Absolutely! The Lord has left us with a vast amount of information about His reign, all of which is much easier to understand than the book of Revelation, and still continues to deny the doctrine of a future 1,000-year reign of Christ in the physical city of Jerusalem.

The first thing to note about God’s reign is that it has always been, and always will be. The thought of a 1,000-year reign is foolishness in light of the scriptures which declare that God reigns forever and ever. Even before Christ came to the earth the scriptures teach “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all” Psalm 103:19. And when Jesus was on the earth, but had yet to die as our sacrifice, He said “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” Matthew 11:12. So, God’s reign and kingdom existed before the cross of Christ. Before Jesus was betrayed, He spoke how “all things have been delivered to Me by My Father” Matthew 11:27. This certainly included the reign and kingdom of God, for when the Lord rose from the tomb, He said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” Matthew 28:18. If we believe the Lord, then we must believe that He has had all authority delivered to Him by His Father; a reign that is not from the literal city of Jerusalem, but a reign that extends through the heavens and the earth. The fact that Christ took the reign at His resurrection is evident in other places as well, like when He said to His apostles, “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1. A crucial text is in Luke 17:20-21, when Jesus is asked when the Kingdom of God would come (isn’t that exactly our question too?). The Lord answers that the Kingdom is not something to be seen with eyes, but it is spiritual: “the kingdom of God is within you.” It is evident that the New Testament church understood the reign of Christ as something that had already happened, such as in Colossians 1:13, when, in the past tense, Paul states that Christians have already been “conveyed into the kingdom of the Son.” And consider how John speaks to his brethren as “companions” in the “kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” Revelation 1:9. And when Paul calls Jesus “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” 1 Timothy 6:16. Jesus is King now; He rules now. This is a great message in God’s word, but it is sometimes lost in the flood of false teaching about a short, 1,000-year future reign of Jesus.

Article by Tanner Campbell.