Revelation 20

Revelation 20

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The Thousand Years

20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

The Defeat of Satan

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Judgment Before the Great White Throne

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.


Revelation 20 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Judging by the amount of attention given by so many people to the first 10 verses of the chapter you would think it’s the most important segment of the book of Revelation. For it is within this chapter that we see an unprecedented time in human history.  It’s a hot ticketed chapter because 1000 years is mentioned.  People have had their heyday on this for centuries.  And this is one of those chapters that great brings division between Believers as to what it all means.  Some even become downright aggressive, argumentative – determined their theology is correct.

And so with that – let me state two things as we dig into this.  The first is to simply bring to our attention something Peter wrote:

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”

2 Peter 3:8

We have been in the thick of codes and symbols.  There have been mysterious numbers as well within.  It is important to remember God’s timing of things is not necessarily ours.  And as Peter points out – what we may perceive with timing actually means nothing to God.

But more importantly – we must be reminded this chapter and all that goes on within it should not become more elevated above the basic themes that are here – and the most important one is Jesus Christ returns.  The final judgment and removal of all wickedness takes place.  There is the looking forward from here on out of an eternal state of being.  There are some really marvelous pictures we will see in the last 2 chapters of the book.  And so, not only in these moments but in our own thinking — we must be cautious.

No single passage in the book of Revelation captures readers imagination more than this one right here.  And no chapter brings more division among God’s people than this one right here.

We’re going to step into the classroom a moment.  Most have all been raised or taught to some degree something concerning this.

Premillennialism – literal 1000 year reign.

Jesus returns to earth and establishes an earthly kingdom, reigns for 1000 years with His saints.

Arguments supporting:  Based on literal reading of text and also literally reading various prophets and their words when it comes to a future kingdom in connection with The Day of the Lord.  However, there are divisions within this camp of belief.  For some there are 2 separate peoples of God:  Israel (The Jewish tribes) and the church (All Believers).  The mission and destiny of both of these are quite distinct: 

The ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is to be regathered in their historic homeland and be restored as a nation.  They also put their faith in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah.  The belief is that through the literal 1000 year reign, this comes to pass.  The rest of the Believers (non-Jewish) do not share in this future program as they are raptured out of the world prior to the Great Tribulation.  There are 2 different judgments.

But there is division in this view among the premillennialists when it comes to the rapture.  I want to speak about the rapture a moment.  Although there are references to this (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 24:29-31;24:40-41; 1 Corinthians 15:52) the Bible never uses this word (Greek or Hebrew) rapture anywhere in regards to all Believers being instantaneously taken up to heaven.  This doctrine was never mentioned in any Christian writings until 1830 AD.  The concept is all Believers will be removed from the earth and transported directly to heaven.

Pretrib – the rapture of the church will occur before the Tribulation period begins (4:1).  This approach allows believers prior to the rapture to be spared the terrible Tribulation period.

Midtrib – rapture will occur midway through the Tribulation

Posttrib – the rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation – just prior to the second coming of Jesus.  The church is called to persevere through the tribulation period.

Amillennialism – a long spiritual reign – figurative

Amillennialists do not believe in an earthly interim kingdom before the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21).  On the other hand, they do believe in a figurative Millennium, referring to the present gospel era, the reign of deceased saints with Jesus in heaven, or both.  They affirm the millennium.  Their belief is that nowhere else in the Bible is a literal 1000 year reign of the Messiah over the earth mentioned.  In the book of Revelation, where symbols abound and numbers carry a spiritual rather than literal significance, the 1000 years simply conveys the idea of a long period of time. 

The 1000 years is a spiritual, not an earthly, reign.  They reject the premillennialism because it seems to undercut the unity of one people of God that’s so important to the covenant concept found in the Bible.  The coming to reign with Christ a thousand years is a spiritual resurrection.  This basically means the conversion and being Born Again. 

So, the first resurrection is the coming to Jesus as Savior, the second resurrection is when Jesus returns and the wicked and the righteous are judged before the throne of God.  This view teaches that He is reigning in heaven and spiritually on the earth through His church.  So there’s not a literal 1000 year reign, He’s already reigning within the heart of His people.

Postmillennialism – 1000 years is symbolic.

Jesus returns after the 1000 years (which is simply figurative not literal) They teach that the forces of Satan will gradually be defeated by the expansion of the Kingdom of God throughout history until the second coming of Christ.  Basically, good gradually triumph’s over evil – the world becomes Christianized.  It’s an age in which the world will be transformed by the Gospel and Jesus returns. 

They do believe in an actual earthly kingdom, however Jesus is not physically present on earth during this golden era.  He’s present spiritually by the Holy Spirit so that the gospel transforms society.  They believe Christianity will dominate the world.

And here is what’s so frustrating about this all – any if not all of these ideas have some solid thought and can have Scriptural basis to support them.  But this passage of Scripture has been something that absolutely stirs strong feelings, strong division even, among the Body of Christ.  And I ask you, is that right?

When we are surrounded by people today who are not even open to the Lord Jesus Christ and whose fate rests in an eternal state without Him – in the end, does what this 1000 years and the Pre/A/Post really matter?

What matters is who’s with Jesus.  And so if the Pre’s are right – then praise God – we’re with Jesus.  If the A’s are right – then praise Jesus we’re with Him.  Even if the posts are right – it’s all good.

You see what matters, at least to me – is simply that we have but one life.  One life.  And so do all the others who surround us day in day out.  Whether it is a literal or figurative 1000 year reign makes no matter to me.  What honestly matters to me is that everyone I know are there with Jesus.  That’s what matters to me.

For 20 chapters we’ve looked at have had some pretty graphic and disturbing images.  But as we round out our study in Revelation – I want to tell you – the best – the very best is yet to come.  For the last 2 chapters reveal the new heaven and earth.  It reveals some magnificent images for us to hold to.  This book, as you recall, is a loving warning from God.  He’s peeling back the finality of time, and warning people to be ready.

Revelation 20 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

If someone comes up and asks you, “How do you interpret Revelation?” most likely, they are referring to Revelation 20:1-10.  The question of pre or postmillennialism is the first order of business. It simply answers the question, “Does Jesus return before or after the 1000 year reign?”

For simplicity, I’m going to highlight the 4 main views. There are many views that branch off of these, but here are the main 4 – Historic Premillennial, Dispensational Premillennial, Postmillennial, and Amilennial.

Historic Premillennial

Historic Premillennial would be what most of the early church fathers believed (Ireneaus, Polycarp, & Justin Martyr to name a few). The main idea of this view is that it puts the church age front and center. They believe the prophecies of the OT refer to the church age and that in the end times, it will be the church, not necessarily the Jews, who will be the main players. The timeline of this view goes Tribulation, Second Coming, 1000 Year Reign of Jesus, and then the Final Judgment.

The strength of this view is that it does line up well with John’s writing in Revelation if (and this is a big if) you believe he is writing chronologically and literally. There are many weaknesses. Most notable is the fact that this view is so literal, it becomes difficult to tie every victorious prophecy to the church. In addition, Jesus said that when He returns, it is the end of the age, and at the end of the age, people would no longer marry or be given in marriage (Luke 20) and that He will judge the world (Matthew 25).

On a literal timeline, Jesus came back in Revelation 19 (previous chapter). It is difficult to reconcile how these things could occur while at the same time believers are ruling with Jesus for 1000 years on earth. For example, how can Jesus judge all people and usher in an entirely new age but also rule with believers on earth for 1000 years?

Dispensational Premillennial

Dispensational Premillennial is similar to historic, but there are a few big differences. On the timeline, this view distinguishes a Rapture from a Second Coming while the 1000 year reign is sandwiched in between. It also separates the promises to the church age from the promises to Israel. Dispensationalists believe that God will again turn His attention back to the Jews in the end times. Many of us were indoctrinated with this view with the “Left Behind” series.

Dispensational premillenialism shares some of the weaknesses of its historic cousin, but I would add that, in my opinion, the biggest flaw is the strong emphasis put on the Rapture which actually, believe it or not, wasn’t even developed until the early 1800s. The Rapture itself is also difficult to defend given the fact that the early church (who was the main audience of John’s letter) was not raptured from their Roman tribulation.


This leads us to a completely different take – Postmillennialism. This view believes that the age we are currently living in will naturally transition into the 1000-year reign of Christ, culminating with the Second Coming / Final Judgment. This is a view held by the Puritans, and proponents of this view start to take a more symbolic view of Revelation.

This is a strength of this view given Revelation is written with highly symbolic language. However, this view believes that Jesus will return to a saved earth, not return to save the earth, and most postmillennials believe that the tribulation already happened back in John’s day. This presents a lot of issues, most notably, that there is no imminent return of Christ, like a thief in the night, just as He has promised.


And this brings us to the last view, Amillennialism, which is the most symbolic of all the views. Amillennialists believe that we are currently living during the symbolic 1000-year reign of Christ since Jesus has defeated Satan and is reigning in Heaven at the right hand of God. From there, this view believes the tribulation will hit, and when Christ returns, He will do exactly what He has said – execute judgment, bring this world to a close, and set up a new heaven and a new earth.

Because this view is the least literal, the weaknesses are in the details. If we are living during the 1000 year reign, is Satan really bound and what does that mean? And what about the first resurrection here in Revelation 20? Is this a bodily resurrection or only a regeneration that occurs?

As you can see, there is no perfect view! Though church denominations are dogmatic about their particular convictions on Biblical interpretation, many have flipped flopped over the years with their views of the millennial reign. In fact, many scholars have as well. This point alone illustrates that no one has the timeline of Revelation nailed down with certainty.

When Jesus came the first time, Micah said that Messiah would come out of Bethlehem, Hosea said that Messiah would come out of Egypt, Malachi said that Messiah would come to the temple, Zechariah said that Messiah would come to Zion and Isaiah said that Messiah would come to Galilee. It would have been interesting to hear all the views that would crop up in our generation if we had lived back then! But what we have realized is that as difficult as these prophecies were to reconcile, Jesus did ALL of these things during His lifetime!

The point is, God’s ways are not our ways and if we had it all figured out, then we would be God. We must focus on what we do know.

We know evil is destroyed.

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:10 NASB

We know that death and Hades will be destroyed and that those who are saved by faith will reign with Jesus.

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  15  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:14-15 NASB

As you study this for yourselves, the most important question to ask is, “What will this view lead me to do?” For example, I personally do not believe in the rapture, for some of the reasons I’ve described above. But on top of this, belief in a rapture does cause some to grow complacent in their faith. If Jesus is going to come to rescue us, our faith will never be tested, we don’t have to do anything difficult for His Kingdom, and the moment we are primarily focused on is our rescue, not our obedience.

Making disciples, loving our neighbors, and persevering through trials can easily get sidetracked if we allow our view to supersede the priorities that Jesus has already established in Scripture. So, consider your view, but probably more importantly, consider how that view changes how you are currently living, and if those changes line up with how Jesus has called each of us to live in His Word.

Additional Resources

Revelation 20 Sermon
The Boxcutter Podcast – Revelation 20: A Day Is Like A Thousand Years

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