The Millennial Kingdom
Mr. U Thant, former Secretary General of the United Nations, addressed 67 scholars and statesmen on the requirements for world peace. He asked these questions: “What element is lacking so that with all our skill and all our knowledge we still find ourselves in the dark valley of discord and enmity? Why is it that, for all our professed ideals, our hopes, and our skills, peace on earth is still a distant objective seen only dimly through storms and turmoils of our present difficulties?” (Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 260). U Thant never answered his own questions. But the Scriptures have answered them.
Will there ever be world peace? Yes. Christ has promised that He will return to the earth and establish world peace. That time is called the Millennium, a Latin word meaning thousand years—a thousand-year reign of peace, prosperity, and plenty never before experienced in history, all orchestrated by Jesus Christ.
Theologians differ on their views of the Millennium. Amillennialists believe there will be no earthly reign of Christ before or after His Second Coming. Postmillennialists believe that the whole world will be Christianized, submitting to the gospel a thousand years before Christ’s return. They see Christ’s return taking place after the Millennium. Premillennialists believe that Christ will return before the Millennium to reign on the earth for a literal thousand years. I believe that the Premillennial interpretation is correct.
This is shown in Revelation 20, a great summary of Christ’s millennial rule on earth, Satan’s destruction and destiny, the Tribulation saints, various resurrections in the Bible, and the Great White Throne Judgment.
Restraint of Satan
After the awesome destruction at Armageddon, Satan will be consigned to the bottomless pit. John wrote, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand” (v. 1). A special place called “the bottomless pit” has been prepared for Satan and demons (9:1–2, 11; 11:7; 17:8). This is not hell, where the wicked dead reside.
Who is this angel? Some have identified him as Christ, but there is no evidence to confirm this interpretation. The Lord has given this angel great authority to implement His mission. This authority is signified by a “key” to lock and unlock the opening of the abyss. A “great chain” was given to the angel with which to shackle Satan. Scripture does not define the makeup of the chain, but it will render Satan inactive for a thousand years in the abyss.
First, the angel “laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan” (v. 2). That is, the angel strong-armed Satan, seizing and holding him firmly. Only God-given authority can subdue Satan. Second, the angel “cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” (v. 3). The incarceration, chaining, and sealing guarantee that the dragon will be rendered incapable of deceiving or interrupting the peace promised by Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.
Peace will prevail on the earth during this time for two reasons: Satan and his demonic host will be sealed, unable to deceive the world; and Christ will rule on the earth with a rod of iron (19:15), allowing no wickedness to be manifested. Third, “he must be loosed for a little season” (v. 3) after the thousand years have run their course. Why “must” he be loosed? This question will be dealt with in verses 7–9. Note that the duration of his confinement is “a thousand years” (v. 2). This is not a symbolic number, but a literal thousand years.
Resurrection of Saints
John is given a revelation concerning those who have part in the first resurrection. The apostle said, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them” (v. 4). This statement is vague, lacking specifics about who is sitting on the thrones and what judgment they will carry out. Identification of the group is somewhat easier because it is reported that they have part in the “first resurrection” (v. 5). Some scholars believe they could be the 24 elders who represent the church (4:4) and will reign on the earth (5:10). But there is no mention of the 24 elders or 24 thrones in this context. Others identify the saint occupants of the thrones as the apostles (Lk. 22:29–30), but there is no mention of the apostles in this context. Still others believe the occupants could be all the saints who comprise the armies of Christ in 19:14. This view is supported by the promises given to the bride of Christ (2:26–28; 3:21) and all saints. Those who return with Christ in glorified bodies will be the Old Testament saints, church age saints (the bride of Christ), and Tribulation saints martyred for their faith (“the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark,” v. 4). All these will “reign with him a thousand years” (v. 6).
Paul teaches that there are various stages to the first resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20–24). Each person is to be resurrected “in his own order” (v. 23). The church will be resurrected before the Tribulation begins. The Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints will be resurrected just before the Second Coming of Christ after the Great Tribulation. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (v. 5). This is the bodily resurrection of all unsaved people who ever lived, all of whom will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium.
Those who take part in the first resurrection are called “Blessed and holy” (v. 6). This is the fifth of seven beatitudes mentioned in Revelation. “Blessed” speaks of joy, satisfaction, complete and fulfilled peace within believers. On such people “the second death hath no power [authority]” (v. 6). There are two deaths mentioned in Scripture—physical and spiritual. Believers in Christ will only experience physical death, unless they are caught up alive in the Rapture of the church. The “second death” is both physical and spiritual and will be experienced by unbelievers (Mt. 10:28). The first death results in burial, but those facing the second death will be physically resurrected at the proper time and cast alive into the lake of fire (20:14). It is second only to the physical death mentioned above. This is an eternal death, which means that people will be separated from God forever, cast into outer darkness, and suffer eternally in the lake of fire. The second death does not mean annihilation. People will be conscious during their eternal torment in the lake of fire (v. 10; see Lk. 16:22–25).
But righteous believers “shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (v. 6). Being priests of God and Christ will entitle believers to unlimited access and intimate fellowship with God. Resurrected saints will be given the privilege of ruling with Christ on earth for the entire Millennium. The form this rule will take is not revealed in Scripture. It will not be limited to the Millennium but will extend into the eternal state (22:3, 5).
Release of Satan
Once again the angel revealed that when “the thousand years are ended, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth” (vv. 7–8). There is no indication how Satan will be released from the pit, but he will pick up where he left off, going about to deceive the nations in every part of the earth.
Why will God allow Satan this last opportunity to deceive the people born in the kingdom? Scripture is silent on this question, but it is not difficult to speculate on some of the possible reasons. First, mankind living in the most favorable social, religious, and political order, when given their own choice, will manifest sin because of their depraved and ungodly nature. Mankind’s problem is not environmental—it is a heart problem. This was clearly seen when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Second, it will reveal that God’s sentence against Satan and those who follow him is just. Third, God’s nature is holy and just, and all His judgments are eternally consistent with His righteous character.
Who are the ones Satan will deceive within the nations? The offspring of righteous saints who will enter the Millennium in their natural bodies. They will be reared in a perfect environment, but many will not receive Christ during the kingdom age. They will be easily deceived by Satan.
“The nations which are in the four quarters of the earth” (v. 8) are not the same as those that will take part in Armageddon. These are nations formed during the Millennial Kingdom. The number of unbelievers during the Millennium will be the largest the world has ever known—they will be “as the sand of the sea” (v. 8). “How can this be?” you ask. During the Millennium the curse will be lifted from the earth, allowing peace among nations, longevity of life, elimination of disease, and enormous food production.
The nations “in the four quarters of the earth” are described as “Gog and Magog” (v. 8) without any explanation. The words Gog and Magog are first used in Ezekiel 38–39 to identify a confederation of nations coming down from the north to invade Israel. Although the names Gog and Magog are the same as those used in Ezekiel 38–39, this is not the same battle. This battle is different in time and details, although agreeing in character and object.
The Ezekiel battle will take place during the first half of the Tribulation; this battle will take place after the Millennium. In Ezekiel 38–39, the nations will not come from the four quarters of the earth, as they will here. After the Ezekiel battle, the dead will be buried; here they will be devoured by fire from heaven. Satan will lead the army mentioned in the Revelation battle, but he is not mentioned in the Ezekiel battle. Dr. John Walvoord points out, “The words Gog and Magog are used symbolically, ‘much like the term Waterloo’ to express a disastrous battle, but one not related to the historic origination of the term” (John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 303). Thus, the terms are symbolically used for the unsaved people whom Satan will gather together to try and overthrow the Lord’s rule on earth.
Satan will lead this enormous army against “the camp of the saints…and the beloved city” (v. 9). The beloved city is Jerusalem, which will be the capital of the world from which the Lord will reign in righteousness (Jer. 3:17). The Lord will allow Satan to bring this huge army to Jerusalem for their own destruction. Once the army is gathered to do battle, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (v. 9). The picture is similar to the great destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, when God rained down fire on those wicked cities. The destruction of Satan’s feeble attempt to overthrow God and His universal rule will be forever put to rest.
John describes the destiny of Satan: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (v. 10). Satan, the great deceiver, who began his deception before the world was created (Ezek. 28:15), will find his ultimate destiny in the lake of fire. The Satanic trinity of the Devil, the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet will be tormented in the lake of fire “day and night forever and ever” (lit., to the age of ages). It cannot be made any clearer. The false idea of annihilation of the wicked is forever put to rest with those words.
Each person has a major choice in life: Receive Jesus Christ and enjoy eternal life in the Millennium and beyond. Or, reject Christ and suffer in the lake of fire. Have you made your choice?