Watchtower

The 1000-year Reign is already present

The eschatological interpretation of the “1000 years”

 
Source:  http://www.oodegr.com/oode/esxata/xilietis1.htm

This article is an interpretive proposal of the Orthodox prerequisites for the eschatological interpretation of a theme which has repeatedly been the object of misinterpretations and exploitation by various eschatological groups. Other Orthodox levels of interpretation are the Historical and Spiritual interpretation of this multi-leveled prophecy, which however will preoccupy us in other articles.

1. What is “Chiliasm”?

 “Chiliast” 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 desolation.

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

Chapter 19

“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 their flesh”.

Chapter 20

“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 ages”. 

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:

1st vision (Revelation 19:11-16): It is a description of the heavenly armies, led by Jesus Christ, which are ready to wage war.

2nd vision (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.

3rd 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.

4th vision (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.

5th vision (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).

6th Vision (Revelation 20:7-9):  Described here is the same war that is mentioned in the previous visions, except with different wording.

7th Vision (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 previous visions.

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:

1. 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?

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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) Resurrection.

6. 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/ 6:4-8).

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!

7. 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 THE war".

That 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 ignore this,…"

(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 judge.

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 obey Him”.   

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 Paul:

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 Priesthood

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 people.

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 Creation:

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 today:

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 mentioned above.  

Recap:

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 way.

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.  

 

 

 

 

Translation by Helene

Article published in English on: 24-10-2019.

Last update: 24-10-2019.

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