1. What is “Chiliasm”?
is a term describing whoever believes that before the Final Judgment
and the complete fulfillment of the divine plan, there will be a
long period of literally 1000 years, during which time Jesus Christ
and the saints will be reigning from heaven, over those who will
still be living on earth. They believe it will be a period of
material prosperity and abundance, because during that time, the
devil will be "bound" and will not be interfering with people in any
way. These are their beliefs along general lines, although there are
certain differences from one religion to another.
They base the aforementioned mainly on the 20th chapter
of John's Revelation, which -however- each of their religions
interprets in its own way. Others say for example that the 1000-year
reign will be for those people who will never go to heaven; others
claim it is for those who will eventually go. Yet others say that it
is a period FOLLOWING the Second Coming of the Lord, during which
the entire world will be Christianized. In a more extreme placement
we have the Adventists, who speak of 1000 years of terrestrial
It would be difficult to mention all the Chiliast theories and
eschatological scenarios, which is why we will confine ourselves to
their basic arguments, and to documenting the correct interpretation
from within the Bible.
2. A brief historical overview of Chiliasm
Because of the complexity of the subject, from very early on, even
renowned men of Christianity had misunderstood the words of chapter
20 of Revelation. There is even testimony about a certain attendee
of the apostle John (the author of Revelation), Papias. Other
ancient adherents of the verbatim Chiliast positions are considered
to be Cerinthus, Justin, Tertullian, Irenaeos, Lactantius, Methodius
of Olympus, e.a..
However their positions have little to do with the contemporary
Chiliast views, as we shall see in other articles. Indeed (as we
shall see), some of the aforementioned personages in fact have not
written something incorrect as regards the 1000-year reign - only
about the temporal duration of world history - having
confused the Eschatological with the Historical interpretation,
which -even then- was before their time! (a specific analysis to
follow in a future article). On the other hand, Chiliasm was opposed
by Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, Gaius the Elder, Augustine,
Gregory the Theologian, Epiphanios, Hieronymos, etc.
During the Reformation, Anabaptists rekindled the Chiliast idea,
while Luther opposed it. From the Anabaptists, the idea moved
through many subsequent Chiliast movements, and even reached most of
the Protestant denominations in Greece in our day – as well as
almost all of the "Bible Students” branches that had inherited it
from the Adventists (whom they had broken away from). Today, most
people in Greece know as "Chiliasts" the self-proclaimed "Jehovah's
Witnesses," who are a branch of the "Bible Students Association".
However, the Evangelical and Pentecostal religions in Greece are –in
their majority– also Chiliast ones.
The fact that even prominent Christian men have fallen into the trap
of Chiliasm is indicative of the difficulty that the subject poses,
for one who has not found the key to a proper understanding of the
verses in the 19th and the 20th chapter of
Revelation. But with God's help, we believe that at the end of this
study, the reader will be able to see the correct interpretation in
a simplified manner, without leaving him any doubts as to what our
Lord's 1000-year Reign signifies.
3. The controversial passage
In it are mentioned the following - according to the rendition of
the Greek text:
Revelation: 19:17-20 - 20:10
“19.And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their
armies, gathered together to make war against the One seated upon
the Horse, and against His army. 20 And the beast was caught, and
with him the false prophet, who wrought miracles before him, by
which he had deceived those who received the mark of the beast, and
who worshipped his image; both were cast alive into the lake of fire
that burned in brimstone. 21 And the remainder of them was slain by
the sword of the One who was seated on the Horse - whose sword
proceeded from His mouth - and all the vultures were sated with
“1 And I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding the key of the
abyss and a large chain in his hand. 2 And he took hold of the
dragon, the serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, who deceived
all the world, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 And he cast him
into the abyss, and closed him in and sealed him on top, so that he
could not deceive the nations again, until the 1000 years are
completed. After that, he must be set loose for a short time. 4 And
I saw thrones, and those who seated themselves upon them, and
judgment was given unto them; I also saw the souls of those who were
beheaded for their witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and who
had not venerated the beast or his image, nor had received his mark
upon their foreheads or upon their hands; and they lived and reigned
with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not
live, until the thousand years were over.
This is the First
Resurrection. 6 (Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the
First Resurrection); over them, the second death has no authority,
but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with
him during the thousand years. 7
And when the thousand years are completed, Satan shall be released
from his prison, 8 and shall come out to deceive the nations in the
four corners of the earth - Gog and Magog - to gather them together
to the war, whose number is as the sands of the sea. 9 And they rose
upon the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the
saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and
devoured them. 10 And the devil who had deceived them was cast into
the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet
are, and he shall be tormented day and night, unto the ages of
4. The 7 visions
A proper interpretation should be based on an overall view of the
Christian gospel, and then - in harmony with it – provide a
step-by-step analysis of the visions from within the Holy Bible
itself, without any points left unsupported .
Here below, we shall provide an overview of chapters 19 and 20 of
Revelation, and then analyze them.
The contexts of the controversial verses begin with v.11. The
passage in Revelation from 19:11 to 20:10 that primarily interests
us is not of one single vision, but a collection of visions
that the Apostle John the Theologian had seen - which DO NOT HAVE
A CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE. In other words, the fact that one
vision was recorded in writing “before” the other vision, does not
necessarily mean it was describing events which had actually taken
place “earlier” in Time.
These visions are 7 in number:
(Revelation 19:11-16): It is a description of the heavenly armies,
led by Jesus Christ, which are ready to wage war.
(Revelation 19: 17-18): This is the call of a certain angel, for the
vultures to go and devour the corpses of the enemies defeated by the
heavenly armies of Jesus, mentioned in the previous vision.
(Revelation 19:19-21): Here, we read that the enemies’ ranks have
made their appearance and are likewise ready to do battle against
the Lord Jesus Christ.
These ranks consist of the kings of the earth, led by the Beast and
the False Prophet. Also
recorded here is the outcome of this battle, which is the crushing
of the ungodly troops, and the casting of the Beast and the False
Prophet into the “lake of fire” - that is, into the second death,
from which there will be no resurrection (Rev. 20:14).
This vision ends with the
vultures feasting on the flesh of Christ's enemies.
(Revelation 20:1-3): In the
first three verses of this chapter is the description of Satan being
bound for 1000 years, so that he can no longer mislead the nations.
This is the vision that
confuses Chiliasts the most, because they are under the impression
that it is (chronologically) the continuation of the previous
vision. But as we shall see further along, the events that are
described here in fact PRECEDE the visions mentioned previously.
(Revelation 20:4-6): This is
a vision that chronologically runs in PARALLEL to the preceding
vision; it is a parenthesis, intended to highlight what takes place
in the Church during the 1000 symbolic years with Satan bound.
It tells us about the
Christian rebirth, referred to here as the "First Resurrection"
(Ephesians 2:1, 5). This
resurrection is misinterpreted by almost all Chiliasts as a bodily
resurrection that will take place during the Second Coming of the
Lord; however, this in fact pertains to the resurrection of the
spirit, not the body, given that the events portrayed in this
vision also make mention of souls. It
is about the rebirth that the faithful undergo, beginning at the
Resurrection of the Lord Jesus in 33 AD and up until the period of
the war mentioned in the preceding visions – which is to take place
shortly before Christ's Second Coming.
Because of its lengthy
duration, this period was symbolized by the lengthy time period of
1000 years – which, by God’s standards, is like a single day, (a
Christian day) (2 Peter 3:8).
(Revelation 20:7-9): Described
here is the same war that is mentioned in the previous visions,
except with different wording.
(Revelation 20:10): This vision may be part of the previous one,
however we are mentioning it separately, because its topic unfolds
in a non-material sphere, given that it refers to the end of Satan,
who is the one considered to be responsible for the war in the
From the above, it is clear that the central theme of these visions
is a certain specific war.
5. Chiliasts' arguments
In the Chiliasts’ correct comments, they counterpoise certain
arguments. We will now take
a look at the most basic of their arguments - which are common to
most of the Chiliast confessions:
Revelation 20:2-3 says that during the 1,000 years that Satan is
bound, he can no longer mislead the nations. But until this day,
there hasn’t been any era during which Satan has not been deceiving
the nations. This proves that the 1000 years cannot have begun yet,
therefore, the 1,000 year reign cannot be referring to the Christian
era, nor does the “first resurrection” imply their rebirth from the
time of Christ onward.
As evidence for the above argument, the Chiliasts use the following
verses which show that Satan has always been misleading the nations:
Matthew 4: 1-10, Ephesians 6:11-12, Ephesians 2: 2, Revelation 2:13,
Revelation 12:3-17, Revelation 13:4, Revelation 16:14.
These verses indeed prove that Satan's deception of nations
has never ceased throughout human history, to this day - nor will it
cease, through to the end of the Christian era.
But Chiliasts make one basic
mistake here: they forget to
ask themselves: IN WHAT will
Satan be deceiving the nations, after the 1000 years have ended?
The saints mentioned in the vision have not yet begun to reign,
nor does any Christian reign today, just as none had reigned during
Paul's time, according to 1Corinthians 4:8.
This verse does, indeed, speak of the reign of certain Christians
which has not yet begun. However,
they (Chiliasts) ignore the fact that certain others already used to
reign, according to Ephesians 2:5-6.
Even if Christians were kings as of now in some way, over which
subjects would they reign?
Again the Chiliasts ignore the meaning of the word "reign" as we
shall see further along.
The vision in Revelation 19:20 cannot possibly be talking about the
same theme as 20:10, because the former mentions only the casting of
the Beast and the False Prophet into the lake of fire, whereas the
latter mentions the casting of Satan, where the Beast and the False
Prophet have already been cast, earlier on.
But here, Chiliasts have not understood that although these verses
speak of events of the same era, they are referring to completely
different things, and different areas.
The first resurrection is not spiritual but bodily, because those
mentioned did not voluntarily die by the axe, like the "beheaded"
per Revelation 20:4. Those
however who partake of the “first resurrection” voluntarily “die” at
the death of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-6; Romans 6: 4-6).
Again, those who think this way have not understood what the First
Resurrection is, and furthermore have not yet understood to whom
Revelation 20:4 is referring, inasmuch as it refers to both the
living and the deceased participants of the First (and spiritual)
The second death has no power over the first resurrection, as
Revelation 20:6 says. But if the first resurrection is spiritual,
not physical, how can they be at risk of losing faith and be
defeated by death? (1st Corinthians 10: 12. Hebrews 10: 26-31/
In reply: if one is in the
stage of illumination, the second death has no power over them. And
of course the Lord's co-regents are in a state of holiness!
How is it possible for the 1000 years to have begun at the first
Coming of Christ and are still continuing, given that twice as many
years have passed since then?
But this is not a literal 1000 years – it is a symbolic number.
These are in brief the most important arguments of the Chiliasts.
In the analysis of the
correct interpretations that follows, the answers to all the above
will become evident.
6. The one war
The first thing that we should examine is whether the visions in the
Revelation verses 19:11-21 and 20: 7-10 are speaking of the same war
- the war of Gog. This comprises one of the basic evidences as to
when the 1000-year Reign begins.
Revelation 19:19: "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth,
and their armies, gathered together to make the war against the One
seated upon the Horse, and against His army".
We notice that before the word “war”, there is the definitive
article "the", which means that it refers to only one single war.
In Revelation 20:7-9 we also notice the following mentioned:
"7.And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be released
from his prison, 8 And he shall come out to deceive the nations
which are in the four corners of the earth - Gog and Magog - to
gather them together to the war – whose number is as the sands of
the sea. 9 And they rose upon the breadth of the earth, and
encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire
came down from heaven, and devoured them”.
Likewise here, we observe that AFTER THE END of the “1000 years”,
Satan will be deluding the nations into embarking on a certain war,
which is denoted by the definitive article: "THE", which means
the only war.
Gog is mentioned as the representative of the nations, whose troops
will be as many "as the sands of the sea." According to the vision,
they will encircle "the beloved city" Jerusalem, until fire descends
from heaven and destroys those troops.
The reason that (at least in Greece) the Chiliasts have not paid
attention to the definitive article in the Bible text is that they
chiefly use translations, and not the original text of the Bible.
Thus, they have been
adopting the errors of the translated texts without paying due
attention to what the Bible actually says.
The translation by Neophytos Vamvas which they mainly use - but also
other, subsequent translations – have omitted the definitive article
"the" before the word "war", making those translations appear to
speak of "some" war, and not of the one -the unique– war, which all
the visions that we are examining deal with.
Having therefore determined that it is the one and the same war that
will be waged against Israel shortly before the Lord's Second
Coming, we can surmise that the “1000-year” Reign will end shortly
before the Second Coming, just before Gog's armies attack Jerusalem.
7. How are the nations deluded?
When Chiliasts argue that "Satan is still deceiving the nations
even today, therefore the 1000-year Reign has not yet begun",
they are assuming that the verse implies that the nations will be
deceived IN ALL ISSUES. But is that indeed the meaning of the verse?
While Chiliasts have no evidence to support their assertion, we can
in fact indicate the answer, from within the Bible itself.
As we have seen, Revelation 20:3 says that Satan was “chain-bound”
by the angel for 1000 years, "so as to no longer deceive the
nations". And then, that "he must be released for a short time".
Consequently, after being unchained, he will again be deceiving the
nations. But the answer to what he will be deceiving them about is
given to us, in Revelation 20:7,8:
“And when the thousand years are over, Satan shall be released from
his prison, 8 and he shall come out to deceive the nations which are
in the four corners of the earth - Gog and Magog - to gather them
together to the war, whose number is as the sands of the sea”.
So, Satan's first job, when he is "released" at the end of the 1000
years, is: "to mislead the nations ... to gather them together for
is what Satan will be deceiving the nations into doing - and not
everything in general, as the Chiliasts assert. It is the one and
only thing: THE war. Satan was bound, to hinder him from deceiving
the nations into gathering for THE war of Gog, and that alone.
And while Satan is bound for 1000 years to NOT deceive the nations
about the war, he is not hindered from luring them into many other
things, such as: crime, immorality, idolatry, etc.
These 1000 years are not therefore necessarily an item that pertains
exclusively to the future; it can also be something already
existent, seeing as Satan has not yet succeeded in gathering the
nations for THE Gog war.
8. The 1000 years are symbolic
In 2 Peter 3:8 is the key to
comprehending the number 1000. It
says there: " But, my beloved, be not ignorant in this one thing -
that one day is to the Lord as one thousand years, and one thousand
years as one day ".
But let’s stop to think: does
God actually count time in days? According to Hebrews 1:2, “God,
through His Son and Logos, also created the ages”. Since God is the
Creator of Time and is NOT dependent on this creation of His, how
could it ever be possible that He would need to count Time?
In the Bible, the word "day" has many meanings to God. For instance
in Exodus 20:11 we are told that God created the earth and the sea
as the habitation of man "in 6 days". But in Genesis 2:4, we see
that God did it in one day: "in the day in which the Lord God made
the heaven and the earth ".
Thus, the word "day" has a variable duration for God, and only
implies a "period of time". The
6 creative “days” therefore signify 6 creative periods, and when he
says, "the day that He made the heaven and the earth", it means "the
period when He made heaven and the earth".
Likewise, the apostle Peter in his 2nd Epistle 3:8 implies that a
period of 1000 years which seems so long to us, is so insignificant
for God, as is a small period of a human day for us. God does not
count time in days!
But also in the context of this verse, the apostle Peter is
indicating exactly the same thing. In
the passage 2 Peter 3:3, he tells us that in the last days (which
began in Christ’s time), there would be people who would mock the
Christian hope of Christ's Second Coming, by saying, "Where is the
promise of His Coming, after so many years?" And he continues
in verse 5: "Because they wittingly
(The Apostle Peter uses the Present tense of the verb ignore, which
indicates that he was referring to the mockers of his time, hence
implying his time as "the last days."
We are pointing this out,
because if there was to be a final, future period of 1000
years - AFTER the present period - the Christian period would not
have been called "the last days").
“For this reason”, (says the apostle in verses 8 and 9), “because
even 1000 years for God are as insignificant as one day, do not
think that God will delay in fulfilling the promise of His Coming”.
The Apostle Peter here uses the 1000 years as symbolic of a lengthy
period extending from his time, through to the Coming of Christ -
that is, a stretch of Time which – to this day - is actually around
2000 years, and not 1000.
Another example that the number 1000 is used symbolically, and not
as a specific measure of time, can be found in Psalms, 90:4: “For
one thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday which has
passed, and as a night’s watch”.
The Psalmist here gives us two different measures for 1000 years. He
tells us that they are "as one day which has passed", but also "as a
night’s watch", which is a period used in antiquity, shorter than an
entire night (Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:38).
It therefore does not stand
to reason, that for the Time-less God the 1000 years would actually
“count” as one terrestrial day, and at the same time “count” as a
4-hour period like a night’s watch. Obviously, the Psalmist is not
referring to a fixed length of time, but merely a symbolical period.
The 1000 years may be a lengthy period of actual time, but it is not
numerically as large as the "myriads" quoted in 1 Samuel 18:7:
"Saul has smitten his
thousands, and David his myriads".
Obviously the “thousands” and the “myriads” mentioned here
are likewise not LITERAL values, but symbolic ones.
Nor is a brief period of 10 years given a literal duration:
“10 Don’t worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw
some of you into prison, and you will be tested and made to
suffer for ten days.” (Revelation 2:10).
The number 1000 therefore is used to denote a significantly large
magnitude - although not an excessive one – which is used almost
everywhere, even in contemporary, everyday expressions.
Hence, we can now understand why the “1000 years” are purely
symbolic, and that it should not puzzle us, given that from their
inception, more than 2000 actual years have passed.
9. The kings
In the 5th of the visions that we are examining in
Revelation 20:4, we learn that during these symbolic 1000 years
-between the First and the Second Coming of the Lord – there are
some who will reign together with Christ. Who are they?
The passage mentions three categories of people:
1. Those that were seated on thrones and were given the right to
2. Those who had died for God’s word in the course of history, and
3. Those that will die (will be “beheaded”) during the Antichrist’s
persecutions for refusing to worship him (Rev. 13:15).
Clearly, all these are references regarding the corpus of the
Church: the Saints, the
deceased and the living, who have partaken of the First Resurrection
– a thing that the prophet Daniel had also prophesied:
Daniel 7:9,10,18,22,27: “I beheld until the thrones were placed, and
the Ancient One of days was seated... thousands of thousands
ministered to Him, and tens of thousands (=myriads), were present
before Him; the judges were
seated, and the books were opened... and the saints of the Most High
shall receive the kingdom, and shall have it unto all the ages.
[...] I beheld, and that horn made war with the saints, and
prevailed against them; until the Ancient One of days came and
judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time
arrived, and the saints received the kingdom... And the kingdom and
the authority and the majesty of the kings that are under the whole
heaven will be given to the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom
is an everlasting kingdom, and all authorities shall worship and
The similarities in Daniel and Revelation are amazing – and
indicative that they are clearly talking about the same theme.
Again we notice mention of
royal "thrones", and in fact, Daniel tells us here that these
“kings” are the saints of the Most High.
They are the judges – the
"criterion" - just as kings have judgment rights (2nd Chronicles
1:10). In fact, their
judgment here is directed against that little “horn”, which
symbolizes the Antichrist, as well as the beast that leads Gog's
armies in Revelation.
Therefore the saints, (the living and the reposed), as participants
of the First Resurrection through Holy Baptism, are the ones who
co-reign with, and are seated alongside the Lord in heaven, for the
entire duration of the Christian "century", according to the apostle
Ephesians 2:5,6: “And although we were dead by our trespasses, we
are revived together with Christ, (for by grace you are saved), and
have been raised up and made
to sit together in heaven, in Christ Jesus”.
This, of course, is yet more evidence that the 1000 years are
symbolic, since it is not possible for ALL the saints to reign for
1000 years, given that they belong to different eras.
10. Regency and Priest
To be referred to as "king" is not always implied in the political
sense, but also in the sense of authority.
It likewise does not imply
that the saints will literally sit on thrones, and that they will
wear actual crowns and rule over a certain people!
As we have seen, their first royal function is to judge the enemies
of God (Revelation 6: 9-11. 18:20,21).
The term “kingdom” also carries the meaning of authority. Let us not
forget the authority that God gave to man, to "conquer the earth"
and "to have authority" over all other creatures, but not over other
However, Adam forfeited his authority over material creation with
his sin. The very soil that nourished him with its fruits and
delighted him with all kinds of flowers, now sprouted thorns before
him (Genesis 3:17-20). The animals that he himself had named and
governed would become perilous for man in the future. And so the
“king” over God’s Creation became a slave to sin and death, a slave
to the devil.
However, after the First Resurrection that the saints receive
through holy baptism, they will reign once again, over life and over
Romans 5:12,17,21: “For this, just as by one man sin entered into
the world and death by sin, thus death passed upon all men, since
all have sinned... For if by
one man's trespass death reigned through that one,
much more so, they who
receive an abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall
reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ...
So that, just as sin had
reigned in death, thus will grace reign through righteousness unto
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
That is why the saints are called: "a
regal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9), and why
Revelation in the passage being examined calls them "kings and
priests" (Revelation 20:6).
Galatians 3: 27-29: “For as many of you as have been baptized into
Christ have put on Christ... And if you are Christ's, then you are
Abraham's seed and inheritors according to the promise”.
Romans 8:17: “...and if children, then also inheritors; inheritors
of God, but also co-inheritors with Christ; so that if we co-suffer
with Him, we may also be co-glorified with Him”.
Thus, apart from the regal quality, the saints also have the
hieratic characteristic as the "body of Christ", inasmuch as they
partake of His qualities.
But what is the function of a priest?
In the Bible -to which this study is confined- we can see that a
priest makes offerings to God on behalf of someone.
We can see this in the
function of the priests in the Old Testament, where the priest
sacrifices animals for his own sins as well as for the sins of the
rest of the people (Leviticus 11:11-16).
So, let's take a look at some of the sacrifices that a saint offers
Hebrews 13:15,16: “Through Him therefore let us offer a sacrifice
of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips
which confess His name. And
do not omit good works and
your help to the community,
because it is with such sacrifices that God is pleased”.
Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of
God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice
-holy, pleasing to God- as your logical (spiritual) worship”.
Every saint, therefore, offers to God his body, his worship, his
good deeds, his confession of faith, and generally offers back to
God all that He had first bestowed upon man. But he offers all this,
not only for himself, but also for the sake of all Creation, over
which he is rendered a leader.
When God fashioned Adam “according to His image and His likeness”,
He made him king and priest. And indeed, Adam was the only piece of
Creation that could represent it, and who could offer something from
Creation to its Creator, of his own free will. He was the “priest”
who offered sacrifices to God, which were derived from Creation and
were offered to Him for the sake of Creation. He was representative
of Creation, and he also represented it.
Thus, today that mankind -in the Person of Christ and the Church-
has returned to its first relationship with God and is reconciled
with Him, Christians can once again be priests over Creation and
themselves, offering spiritual sacrifices to God, like those
We have seen that the 1000-year Reign is only a lengthy symbolic
period, symbolized by the number 1000.
It is the Christian period
of the "last days", which covers the Time span between the First
Coming of the Lord, until just before His Second Coming. During this
stretch of Time, Satan is "bound", ONLY in his attempts to provoke
THE final war, while “free” to deceive the nations in every other
During this stretch of Time, the saints (as partakers of the First
and spiritual Resurrection), co-reign with the Lord, being partakers
of everything that Adam had forfeited through his sin.