Revelation Part 4: The Millennium

[PART 3]
     This is the
fourth lesson in a short series on the wonderful book of Revelation. The
lessons in this series are as follows: the dating, the timing, the martyrs, the
millennium, and the bride. All of these lessons will be for the purpose of
arguing the following: “The Revelation that was seen by John was written prior
to the destruction of Jerusalem and found its full fulfillment in the overthrow
of Judaism in AD 70.” While this proposition may seem intimidating and, perhaps,
threatening to some, I encourage you to read the lessons with an open heart and
mind – trusting only in God and not man. As mentioned, our fourth lesson will
be on the millennium.
     In this article,
I want to give a biblical answer to some questions concerning the timing of the
millennium. Within the churches of Christ, we have gone out of our way to
defeat premillennialism, but at the same time we have been somewhat vague in
our own definition of the events in Revelation 20. One preacher said it like
this, “It is one thing to expose premillennialism’s erroneous use of
Revelation 20 and quite another to give a satisfactory, harmonious, scriptural
explanation of the passage.” – Art Ogden
[http://www.aogden.com/online/1000year.htm].”  

     As we begin one
of the more difficult subjects in this series (and in the Bible!), I must ask
you to throw away any pre-conceived ideas that you have about the millennium.
It may be that you view the millennium as a literal thousand years. Perhaps you
believe that the millennium is an undefined period of time that has its
beginnings in our future. Some, and, frankly, most of the audience of this
particular lesson will have the idea that the millennium stands for the
Christian age as a whole. Regardless of what your position is, I ask that you
forget all of that for a moment and let us simply explore the Bible.
     If you have read
parts one, two, and three you learned that the dating of Revelation is prior to
AD70. This matters because the dating of the book plays a great role on the
timing of the fulfillment of the book as you read. You also discovered that the
timing of the fulfillment of Revelation was described as being “at hand” and
was said to “shortly come to pass.” In the third lesson, you read about the
martyrs and how that they would be vindicated at the time of the judgement of
Babylon – which we found to be Jerusalem. We have not offered any verses so far
because we hope that you will have the previous essays in mind prior to reading
this. That is vital in order that you can understand where I am coming from.
Without any further delay, let us begin by asking some simple questions.
  1.        What marks the beginning of the millennium?
  2.        Is the millennium a literal one-thousand-year
    period?
  3.        What takes place after the millennium?

     As elementary as these three questions
might seem, I want to emphasize that if we can identify the beginning and the
end of the millennium, then we can determine the length of the millennium, and,
for our purpose, can determine if the millennium is past, present, or future! Don’t
be fooled, though! The seeming simplicity of our proposed method of
investigation does not accurately represent the complexity of the subject that
we are dealing with. For example, one preacher said about the millennium, “Revelation
20:1-6 is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand, and
there is little or no agreement among Bible scholars on this passage[1]
(Branam). That being said, let’s begin!
Introduction
     We are not as concerned with getting exact
specifics for the beginning of the millennium. Instead, we will briefly look at
Revelation 20 and then seek answers in the New Testament. I propose that the
millennium began sometime between Matthew 1 and Acts 10 and ended sometime
between 66 and 70 AD. This is a very generous guess for the beginning of the
millennium, and I will say that I have in my mind a much narrower window, but
my plan is to work our way down from that broad estimate to a more reasonable
conclusion. Please read Revelation 20 below so you have an idea of the context
in which the Millennium is found. If you don’t wish to read the lengthy text,
you can also refer to the outline I supplied.

“Then I saw an angel coming down from
heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He
laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and
bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and
shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no
more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be
released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and
judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been
beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not
worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their
foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a
thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand
years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who
has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power,
but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a
thousand years. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be
released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in
the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to
battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of
the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire
came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived
them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the
false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the
earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I
saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And
another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged
according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The
sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead
who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then
Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And
anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”
(Revelation 20:1-15).

     A Brief Outline of Revelation 20.
           1.      
Before the Millennium
a.      
The Devils was not yet bound
b.      
Christ had yet to being to reign
c.      
The saints had not started to reign.
d.      
The first resurrection had yet to begin
          2.      
During the Millennium
a.      
Satan is bound
b.      
The saints reign with Christ
c.      
Those who reign with Christ participate in the
first resurrection
          3.      
Following the Millennium 
a.      
The rest of the dead are raised
b.      
Satan is released for a little while
c.      
The war with Gog and Magog begins
d.      
The saints are saved, but the beloved city
Babylon is destroyed
e.      
Satan is crushed
f.       
The great white throne judgment takes place
g.      
Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire
h.      
In chapter 21, we find a description of life for
a child of God after these events.
     I’ve created this short outline to the
best of my abilities to help us to identify the timeline for the millennium. Our
first job is to examine the events prior to the millennium and those during the
millennium to try and pinpoint when the millennium began.
The Beginning of the Millennium
     What we are going to attempt to do is look
for statements in scripture to determine when Satan was bound and when Christ’s reign began and His saints joined Him (which we will examine in the following section).
While there is some disagreement on this – even among those who believe in some
sort of fulfilled eschatology – I’m going to suggest that the millennium began
with the resurrection of Jesus. Before I tell you why, however, let’s work on
closing the gap presented in the introduction (Matthew 1 – Acts 10). The reason
why I presented the timeline that I did is because I wanted to include
everything from the birth of Christ to the preaching to the household of Cornelius. 
     We can begin moving the timeline inwards
by recalling Matthew 4 when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Matthew 12:29 also
shows that Jesus, through casting out demons, was waging war with Satan for the
purpose of binding him and then spoiling his house. Jesus further Illustrates
this in Luke 10:18 when he said, concerning the seventy’s success, “I saw
Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Leading up to the
crucifixion of Christ, Jesus spoke of the “ruler this world” three times, and He
mentioned that he was about to be “cast out” and “judged” (John 12:31; 14:30;
16:11). Later in the New Testament, the Hebrews writer said, “Inasmuch then as
the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in
the same, that through death He might
destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil
, and release
those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”
(Hebrews 2:14-15).
     The meaning of the word “destroy” (καταργέω, katargeo) in
this passage is not immediately obvious when we consider the English text
alone, so allow me to reference some Lexicons here. While it does mean destroy
or abolish, when we investigate the use of this word, we see how a knowledge of
the Greek definitions help us to see a connection to the scene in Revelation
20.

to render idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative: τήν γῆν, to deprive
of its strength, make barren (A. V. cumber), Luk_13:7; to cause a person
or a thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power
(A. V. bring to nought, make of none effect)
” – (Thayer’s Unabridged;
e-sword version).

cause to be idle, hinder in one’s work” – (Liddell, Scott, Jones – A Greek-English
Lexicon; e-sword version)

to make idle or inactive (χέρας,
Eur., Phœn., 753): of soil occupied by an unfruitful tree, Luk_13:7.
Metaph. (Inscr.), to render inoperative or invalid, to abrogate,
abolish:
” – (G. Abbott-Smith; e-sword version)

     If you re-read
Revelation 20:2-3 with this definition in mind, can you see the connection
between the binding of Satan of Revelation 20 and the cross-event? I argue that
it was through Jesus’ death that Satan was bound – that is, hindered. Secondly,
notice the comparison that is drawn in Hebrews 2:14, 15 between the Devil and
those who were washed in the blood. In releasing those who were in bondage,
Christ bound Satan. Jesus’ resurrection was vital to this procedure.
“and declared to be the Son of God with power according
to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4)

“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has
sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that
He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

During
the Millennium
     One of the key indicators that the first century church was living in the
millennium is the reign of Christ and His saints. If it can be shown that the
reign of Christ with His saints had begun, then it can also be shown that the
millennium had begun per the description in Revelation 20. In the following
verses, you will see that Christ was sitting on the throne and His saints were
reigning with Him in the first century. Knowing what we do about the binding of
Satan from the previous section, I would say the following is further good
evidence that the Millennium began at the resurrection of Christ.
The Reign of Christ

“Therefore
being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the
promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘THE LORD
SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, TILL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR
FOOTSTOOL.” ‘ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly
that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts
2:33-36)

“which
He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His
right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and
might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also
in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to
be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him
who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23).

The Reign of the Saints

“You
are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us – and
indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!” (1
Corinthians 4:8)

“But
you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special
people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“and
has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion
forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).

Following the Millennium
     Regardless
of when the millennium began, one sure thing that we can find in Revelation is
where it ends. The events that follow the millennium help us to pinpoint the
timing of its completion. The particular events that we will focus in on are
the war with Gog and Magog and the New Heavens and Earth. If we can show that
the battle with God and Magog and the New Heavens and New Earth scenes of
Revelation 20-21 took place in the events surrounding the overthrow of Judaism
in AD 70, then we have proven our point: the millennium began at the
cross-event and ended during the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and
the Parousia of Christ (cf. Matthew
24:27).
Gog
and Magog
     While I don’t have access to any of the
audio or video (it has yet to be released), Don Preston introduced some similar
material at the 2016 Memphis Eschatology Conference in Memphis, TN, so I am
grateful for his work on this subject and the seed that he planted to get me
thinking about this specific aspect of the timing of the millennium.[2]

     First off, here is my argument: the battle
of Gog and Magog is the same battle (literally “the war”) that is seen
throughout the book of Revelation – including the alleged “battle of Armageddon.”
If this is the case, then the typical futurist interpretation of this these
texts goes down the drain. Here are some examples for you to consider.
     In a YouTube video, postmillennialist
Kenneth Gentry said, “The Battle of Armageddon… is simply another phrase concerning
[the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70].”[3]
On the other hand, when dealing with Revelation 20, Gentry said, “The ‘millennial’
era has already lasted almost two thousand year; it may continue another
thousand or ten thousand more, for all we know.”[4]

     This problem is also demonstrated in amillennialist
Art Ogden’s views on Revelation.[5]
Concerning Armageddon and the battle that was to follow, Ogden says, “Titus
stayed in the region around Caesarea until most of the forces from the north
arrived, and then moved to Jerusalem for the ‘battle of the great day of God
almighty.’[6]
Ogden attributed that battle to the Fall of Jerusalem (page 317). Like Gentry,
when dealing with the subject of the battle of Gog and Magog and the
millennium, Ogden says, “Many of these saints have already been reigning with
Christ for 100’s of years, according to the historical order, but John views
them continuing at least another 1,000 years corresponding concurrently with
the binding of Satan. What a comfort it is to know that the dead in Christ
continue to live and reign with Christ.”[7]
As seen in the rest of his commentary on chapter twenty of Revelation, Ogden (though
he believed the events concerning Armageddon were fulfilled in AD 70) saw the
end of the millennium and the battle of Gog and Magog yet future.
     With both of these men, they saw the
events surrounding Armageddon as events that have already transpired (which we
whole-heartedly agree with!), but they both saw – at the time of these writings
at least – the millennium as an ongoing reality with a yet future consummation.
Included in this belief is a future understanding of the battle of Gog and
Magog; however, after examining the evidence, the scriptures will show that
this dichotomy was not intended in the original writing.
     For starters, let’s focus on the phrase τὸν[8]
πόλεμον
(lit. the war). This phrase is found in Revelation 16:14; 19:19;
and 20:8. When a definite is used in this manner, it is known as an anaphoric
article. “The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference. The
first mention of the substantive is usually anarthrous because it is merely
being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article
is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned.”[9]
For example, I may say, “My uncle fought in World War II. He met his wife during that time, and we he returned
from the war, he proposed to her.”
In this case, the use of an anaphoric article in “the war” refers back to a
specific war – World War II. Such is the case in the latter part of Revelation.
To see this, you may simply read back through the text to see the similarities between
the passages (see what I did there!).
     There are those who disagree with our
conclusions concerning the timing of the book of Revelation, but they are still
able to see the correlation between Armageddon and the battle of Gog and Magog.
For example, Wayne Jackson wrote, “It is not impossible that the expression
“the war” (see 20:8, and note the definite article, as expressed in the better
Greek texts – ASV) may be analogous to “the war of the great day of God
the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14), which is depicted in all its fury in
Revelation 19:11-16. A substantial case can be made for the view that this is
but an equivalent for the Day of Judgment, which will demonstrate the decisive
wrath of God against his opponents.”[10]
Also, “Concerning this remarkable description, the following observations are
in order: First, the one coming from heaven is clearly Christ, the Word (Jn.
1:1,14), and the white horse is a symbol of His victorious conquest. Second, He
is coming to judge and make war. But judgment will take place at His Second
Coming (Mt. 25:31ff); hence, His war against the enemies of Jehovah will occur
at that time. Third, the Lord smites the rebellious nations with a sharp sword
that proceeds out of His mouth. Elsewhere, Paul shows that at the time of His
“coming” (Grk. parousia — a technical term for the Lord’s
final coming in judgment[11]),
Jesus Christ will slay His foes “with the breath of His mouth,” and bring them
to naught (2 Thes. 2:8).
In
summation, our argument is arranged logically as follows: (1) The battle of
Armageddon will occur when Christ comes to judge (Rev. 16:16; 19:11). (2) But
He will judge at His Second Coming. (3) The battle of Armageddon will thus take
place at the Second Coming of Christ. We can then additionally reason: (1) The
Armageddon war will take place when Jesus destroys His enemies with the breath
of His mouth. (2) But such will occur at His Coming. (3) Therefore, Armageddon
is the punishment inflicted by Christ at His Second Coming.”[12]

     Since we have already determined in
previous articles that Babylon has reference to Jerusalem and that it would be
destroyed in order to avenge the blood of the martyrs at the “great day of God
the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14), then you can understand why “the war” (and
the end of the millennium) would not be separated from those same events.
The
New Heavens and New Earth
     After the visions of the war and the
judgment, Revelation 21 presents to us a scene of incomparable splendor. What
we read is a vision of the bride of Christ who is clothed with the fire-tried
righteousness of the saints (1 Peter 1:7). Behold the splendor of the temple of
God!

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no
more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of
heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a
loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,
and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be
with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more
pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the
throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,
“Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me,
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I
will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He
who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be
My son” (Revelation 21:1-7).

     Notice what all these New Heavens and
Earth are called: holy city, New Jerusalem, bride, and tabernacle of God. Let’s
make a few observations concerning these terms. 1) The only city ever called
the “holy city” is Jerusalem (Matthew 4:5; 27:53; Revelation 11:2; cf.
Revelation 11:8). This city is not the old Jerusalem, but it stands in contrast
to the old Jerusalem. Prior to its “coming down out of Heaven,” Paul said of
this city, “but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians
4:26). Also, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait
for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ “(Philippians 3:20). Finally, “For here
we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). This
city or common wealth – the New Jerusalem – stands in contrast to that Old
Jerusalem. In order to be considered worthy of the city that was “to come”, the
Hebrew Christians were told to go outside of the camp (Hebrews 13:13). 2)
Unless Christ is a polygamist, the bride here is none other than the church of
Christ (Ephesians 5:21ff; Revelation 19:7ff). 3) The tabernacle – or temple –
of God is also the church (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16[13]).
4) The New Heavens and New Earth also refer to the church as seen in Isaiah 65-66.
In fact, Stephen quoted from this text in Acts 7:48-50 to refer to the
rejection of the Old Jerusalem and the acceptance of the new – the church (cf.
Isaiah 66:1). Without going into more detail, it can be seen that the New
Heavens and New Earth (who’s arrival was at hand and shortly to come to pass)
is the church – the New Covenant temple. A further discussion of this topic can
be found in the next article that should be posted a little faster than this
one was!
Conclusion
     We have shown in this essay that the
millennium had to follow within the time restraints laid out in the first and
last chapters of the book of Revelation. In my estimation, it began with the death
and resurrection of Christ, and it ended during the time of the fall of
Jerusalem a “little while” before the Parousia
and the revelation of the New Heavens and New Earth.



[PART 4 ADDENDUM]



[1] Branam,
Lonnie. “The Millennium.” San Fernado Church of Christ. Web. Accessed 1-12-2017
http://www.sanfernandochurchofchrist.com/SermonView.aspx?ID=863
[2]
Don Preston: http://donkpreston.com
Memphis Eschatology Conference (William Bell): http://www.allthingsfulfilled.com
[3]
Kenneth Gentry. The Beast of Revelation (12
of 25) The Battle of Armageddon
. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS9CAp7WEZE.
Accessed January 29, 2017
[4]
Kenneth Gentry. Three Views on the Millennium
and Beyond
. Page 55. 1999.
[5]
Ogden’s commentary on Revelation, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets, is one of the best out there in terms of
setting the stage for a proper interpretation of Revelation.
[6]
Art Ogden. The Avenging of the Apostles
and Prophets
. Page 320. 2006.
[7] Ibid. page 358
[8] The
definite article is found in the Majority Text and Westcott-Hort, but not in
any versions of the Received Text that I have access to.
[9] http://www.bcbsr.com/greek/gsubs.html
[10]
Wayne Jackson. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/986-gog-and-magog-what-is-the-meaning-of-revelation-20-8
[11]
Note: Amen! And, by the way, James 5:8 and Matthew 24:27, 34 place this within
the first century generation.
[12] https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/631-armageddon-the-next-of-the-left-behind-series
[13]
On a side note, compare 2 Corinthians 6:16 to Revelation 21:3. Notice how both
texts compare to Ezekiel 37:27! 

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