The 1000-year-old Kingdom of the Past

The historical interpretation of the 1000-year Kingdom



In a previous article we presented an eschatological interpretive proposal on the fulfilment of the prophesied 1000-year-long Reign.  The present hermeneutical proposal of the Orthodox prerequisites is the second part: the historical interpretation of a theme which has repeatedly been the object of misinterpretations and exploitation by various eschatological groups, and which had even confused certain 1st century Fathers, who, given their temporal place in History could not perceive the distinction between the eschatological and the historical aspects of the prophecy, because its historical aspect had not yet been fulfilled during their time.


1. Searching for a literal 1000-year-long Kingdom

In the previous article on our study regarding the 1000-year Reign, we indicated that at the eschatological level, the 1000 years are symbolic, not actual, and that the 1000-year Reign is already present.

And yet it is noteworthy, how certain Church Fathers of the first centuries of the Church perceived the 1000 years as an actual period of Time; in fact they proposed arguments to support it. These were men who had met previous Christians of the first century A.D., who had heard with their own ears those very Apostles preaching!  Could it be they were justified, when speaking of a tradition from the time of the Apostles, regarding a period of literally 1000 years?

Before hastening to reject their positions as “erroneous”- the way their contemporaries but also certain later Fathers of the Church did - it is worth investigating how that same prophecy (which we showed that in its eschatological aspect it speaks of a SYMBOLIC period of 1000 years stretching across the Christian era and continuing to be present to this day), has another level of fulfilment, in an actual, Historical period of a 1000-year duration!

While during the Fathers’ time in the first centuries A.D. this Historical aspect was still unfulfilled, in our day (1800-1900 years later) and our advantageous spot in History, we are able to discern that those earlier holy Fathers WERE NOT MISTAKEN when they spoke of 1000 literal years!

They were obviously NOT LYING, having ascribed this specific aspect of fulfilment of the 1000 years to people who had personally heard the teachings of the very Apostles.  Their only “mistake” was to confuse the two levels of fulfilment and regard them as one single fulfilment – the reason being that both those levels (at the time of the Fathers) BELONGED TO THE FUTURE!  They could not have possibly imagined that the prophecy was to be fulfilled literally, just a few years after their time (as they expected), but that the very same prophecy also had a “broader” fulfilment, with the symbolic 1000 years stretching from their time, through to the Second Coming (as analyzed in our other article).

Thus, some had imagined that the 1000-year Reign would follow after the bodily resurrection of all the deceased - and in no way the opposite - which however was already taking place.

In this second article, we shall prove that those holy Fathers who had spoken of 1000 literal years were also correct, as were the other holy Fathers who supported the symbolic aspect of the 1000 years. The fact is, each of the two sides had focused on different elements of that same prophecy, and none of them could have imagined that the same prophecy had two different kinds of fulfilment, with a vast span of centuries between them!

2. Let’s recall the text of the prophecy

Before showing how the literal 1000 years were fulfilled in History, let us take a look again at the prophecy itself, and specifically focus on the section of it that was historically fulfilled, in an era of the past:

Revelation 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.”

3. The “binding” of the Devil and his "immobilization" regarding THE war

Some of the prophecy’s elements seen below are exactly the same as those appearing in the article on the Eschatological fulfilment; the reader can visit that article for details. For the present analysis, we shall only mention those elements briefly, in order to discern the differences between the two kinds of its fulfilment.

As expounded in the Eschatological fulfilment article, likewise here, the Devil has one objective:  To assemble the nations in a total war against the City of God.  And, just as in the other fulfilment, God has likewise “bound” him – that is, He has not allowed him any opportunities to achieve his purpose (to make war against the City of God) for a long period of Time. He has been rendered “immobile” (in the abyss), until that long period of time has expired, where he cannot proceed with his sinister objective.

And - just as in the Eschatological fulfilment - likewise here, as soon as Satan is “released” - that is, as soon as God allows him to proceed with his objective – his first move is to execute his plan of assembling the deceived nations to strike against the beloved City of God and encompassing it.

4. The 1000-year-long Empire of Christians

In seeking a historical fulfilment of the prophecy, however, about a 1000-year Reign, the first thing that we need to ask ourselves is:  Was there ever in History a reign - an empire - that lasted for at least 1000 years?  Because the prophecy specifies this detail very clearly:

“...and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years...”

“...And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be released...”

There certainly was such a Reign!  The sole empire that had endured for more than 1000 years was the one that we refer to in our day as “the Byzantine Empire”, or in previous times as “the Christian Roman Empire”!

Notice carefully here!  In the entire History of the human race, this was the only Reign that LITERALLY lasted more than 1000 years!   And it was not by coincidence that this unique Empire was a Christian one!

      “...and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years...”

Shortly after the passing of 1000 years, this Christian kingdom was dissolved, by the antichristian powers of the political Ottoman “Beast”, which were founded upon the dogmatic bases of the pseudo-prophet at the time.

So, when did the so-called “Byzantine Empire” begin to exist, and when was it destroyed?

Every State centre has a capitol city.  So did that 1000-year-old Christian State. When – after three centuries of persecutions - Constantine the Great (later Saint Constantine) decided to give his Romaic empire a new “orbit” and boost and lead it to Christ, he changed the capitol city!

On the 11th of May, in 330 A.D. Constantine the Great inaugurated his new capitol, and named it “Constantinou-polis” (Greek: the city of Constantine).

Of course the empire was not a Christian one from the beginning, given that Constantine himself was still an idolater – up until before his death, around 337 A.D., when he was baptized a Christian. Then, for the first time in History, an actual Christian Empire had come into being! For the first time in History, Christian Emperors reigned over that Empire, from then, and for over 1000 years thereafter!

It was during this specific period that Daniel’s ancient prophecy found its worldly-historic fulfilment:  that, pursuant to the perennial persecutions of the faithful by the forerunners of the Antichrist and the coming of Christ (“the Ancient One of the Days”), saints would thereafter be “in charge”:

“I kept watching, and that horn made war with the holy ones (the saints) and prevailed over them, until the Ancient One of Days came and gave judgment to the holy ones of the Most High; and the time arrived, and the holy ones took charge of the kingdom.” (Daniel 7: 21-22).

With this new city as its capitol, and with Emperors who confessed that they worshipped Jesus Christ, this newly-founded Christian Empire spanned a course of around 1100 years. But in the end, after an almost 2-month siege by the Ottomans, it was finally destroyed, on the 29th of May, in 1453 A.D..

And when the thousand years are fulfilled, Satan will be released from his prison and he will come out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for the war, whose number is as the sands of the sea. 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 the sky and devoured them.” (Revelation 20: 7-9).

Quite interesting is the description of the populous army which – after the 1000 years had elapsed would encompass the “beloved city” – the Christian city.  Equally interesting is the reference to a “fire” that would fall from “the sky” and “devour” them: it is strongly reminiscent of the “liquid fire”, which only the Byzantine empire had developed as a weapon to be launched from a high place – the city walls in this case – in order to fend off the Ottoman hordes as they strived to clamber up the walls, or dig tunnels beneath them. (We need to point out here, that the words “from the sky... BY GOD” – as seen in contemporary texts of the Book of Revelation – is not witnessed in the older extant texts, which is why critical texts do NOT include them either.)

When we see such an amazing fulfilment in practice, in History, taking place within a span of literally 1000 years (and slightly more!), who can claim that those holy Fathers were wrong to believe that the prophecy was to be fulfilled literally? How could we persist ONLY in the Eschatological fulfilment of the prophecy, and turn a blind eye to the one that had so obviously been fulfilled - that is, the sole, 1000-year-long, historically recorded empire in History?

This was a Christian Empire, which, apart from its historical dimension also had it spiritual dimension – as also seen in the prophecy:  

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.”  (Revelation 20:4-6)

Of course, as indicated in our other, related article on the Eschatological fulfilment of the prophecy, here too we can likewise see the inference to the SPIRITUAL resurrection and the SPIRITUAL death – and not to a certain supposed terrestrial resurrection or a certain supposed biological death. The same therefore applies here: the “First Resurrection” and the “Second Death” are characteristic terms which in no way signify a bodily resurrection (analyzed in another study).

The only variation within in this historical level of fulfilment is that - apart from the heavenly Reign that the Christians (the adopted children of God who have undergone a spiritual resurrection through Holy Baptism, and who have attained illumination and theosis) enjoy together with Christ, they also had a WORLDLY kingdom within those 1000+ years of the so-called Byzantine Empire, as an autonomous State.

After three centuries of persecutions by the idolaters of the Roman Empire, and after an innumerable number of “axe-beheaded” martyrs in Roman arenas and locked in prisons for refusing to venerate Caesar’s monstrous state power as “god”, certain of those former victims of persecution eventually sat on worldly thrones. And the prayers of those enthroned kings of that Christian nation were offered up to the Lord and God of the universe: Jesus Christ.

5. Why did they have to acquire worldly authority?

The Lord Jesus Christ had made it absolutely clear to His interrogators: “My Reign is not of this world.  If My Reign was of this world, my servants would have fought so that I wouldn’t be surrendered to the Jews.  And now, My Reign is not from here.” (John 18: 36).  How is it therefore possible for the Lord to support such a worldly Christian Reign thereafter?

The first thing we should stress regarding this point, is that we need to remember that although God had also disagreed with the worldly reign that the ancient Israelites had demanded from Samuel, He nevertheless accepted their petition, and in fact had BLESSED IT – on the proviso that they would obey His Law – given that not all faithful are in the state of illumination and theosis, so as to feel that they don’t need such a reign.   In the world of deterioration that we are living in, God respects the right of the not-yet-illuminated people to live in accordance with the laws of deterioration, for protection from their enemies.

After three centuries of persecutions, God deemed it useful for those people to make allowance for a SECULAR, 7-PERIOD LONG REPOSE (=respite) – as we shall see further along – so that the Church could regain Her strength after all those persecutions that She had suffered, and blossom across the width and the breadth of the world – with Her bearer that same (Roman) empire which used to be Her worst persecutor!

Indeed, during that millennium the Church had achieved great things in every sector of civilization and spirituality. In complete contrast to the indescribable Protestant and Pagan slander, this blessed period produced the greatest Christian masterpieces of Patristic Theology and psychotherapy. Throughout the vast geographic expanse of the Byzantine Empire, people could now, for the first time, freely worship the Lord Jesus Christ, without their life and their families being in danger of persecution. Furthermore, that Christian Empire not only did not attempt to expand by overthrowing other peoples; in fact it had become the spiritual mother to many other peoples, by having introduced them to Christ as well as to the civilized way of life. 

It was also when one of Isaiah’s historic-level prophecies was fulfilled:

“2 For in the last days, the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, and the house of God shall be on the edges of the mountains and shall be elevated above the hills, and all the nations shall come to it. 3 And many nations shall travel there and say, “Come along, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He shall announce to us His Way, and we shall follow in it.”  (Isaiah 2:2-3)

God had granted to His Christian flocks a 1000-year period of freedom and prosperity, as long as they remained within His blessing. It was a window of freedom in which the Gospel could be extended to every corner of the world, allowing for a deeper study and comprehension of it, in a manner unprecedented in the history of mankind; something that – despite their omissions and their falls – they had achieved to a significant degree.

After that blessed period, the Christian Church entered the modern age, equipped with an inexhaustible wealth of Patristic wisdom, historical experience and popular support, ready to confront the provocations of a more civilized world, whose acculturation was decisively due to that same Church, with Her noble principles that had been grafted into mankind. 

Of course it would have been ideal if the Church had expanded dynamically “in the Spirit” – without any worldly crutches – from within the gifts of the Pentecost, which had shaken the world of the first century after Christ. However, during this sixth creative “day” that we are traversing, the world is not perfect just “very good” – and that “imperfect” but nevertheless “very good” worldly Christian reign of around 1000 years was the best that Christians managed to achieve, in a deteriorating world.  And it too was blessed by God!

 6. Why then?

It is obvious, that it was the best suited period for such a Kingdom to appear on the stage of History:  the Church needed a PAUSE in the persecutions, after having commenced Her opus in such a vast geographical zone that was to function as a refuge. It would be a period in which the Church could deepen, expand, preach and educate peoples, and prepare Herself for the eventual challenges of the modern world.

The initial Coming of Christ had to have preceded everything, and the Empire had to extend into the nations.  There had to be an extended, vast empire that could function as a bridge between nations: an empire that could provide an educative and precise language (like the Hellenic one) - refined to a large degree by the lamp light of the precedent Philosophers, and civilized to the era’s highest possible degree - in order to “endow” the newly-established Church with the best provisions for Her mission.

Having foreseen this important era, the Omniscient God had prophesied and symbolized it from the very beginning, by using as its “blueprint” the very 6 “days” of Creation found in the Book of Genesis.

Pertinent to this prophecy, Saint Irenaeus wrote the following in the 2nd century:

"In accordance with the cycle and the progress of the days [...] should one meticulously try to learn on what day Adam had died [...] it is clear that the Lord had suffered death, in obedience to His Father, on that day during which Adam had died while disobeying God. Now he died on the same day that he had eaten [...] on the day that precedes the Sabbath, which is the sixth day of Creation, in which Man was created.”  (“Testing and overturning of falsely-named knowledge, Book 5, 23:2)

"2...a synopsis of this entire apostasy, which had taken place in the span of 6000 years; Given that it was in that number of days that this world was made, in the same number of millennia it must be completed. Also, this is the reason the Bible says: “And the heavens and the earth and all their adornments were completed. And God completed His works that He had made, on the sixth day, and He rested on the seventh day, from all the works that He had created.”

This is the summary of the things that were created earlier, as well as a prophecy about what was going to take place eventually.  Because the “day” of the Lord is one thousand years and in six “days” He had created all things in full, it is therefore obvious that they will end, after six thousand years”.  (“Testing and overturning of falsely-named knowledge, Book 5, 28:2,3).

“These things are (going to take place) during the years of the Reign – that is, during the seventh “day”, which has been blessed, on which God rested from all His works which He created, which is the actual Sabbath of the righteous.” (“Testing and overturning of falsely-named knowledge, Book 5, 33:2).

Saint Irenaeus writes the following, regarding the necessity for the then persecuted Christians to reign over the hostile world that had been tormenting them:

“Precisely within that same Creation in which they had toiled or were wounded and tested with every kind of torture, it was only fair that they receive recompense for their pain.  And within that Creation in which they were killed because of their love for God, it was only fair that they be brought back to life. And within that Creation where they had been made vassals, it was imperative that they should reign.” (“Testing and overturning of falsely-named knowledge, Book 5, 32:1).

Having himself lived in the era of the persecutions, the need for justice was “deeply embedded” in Saint Irenaeus, as it was for the martyred saints of the Apocalypse:

"And when he broke the fifth seal, I saw beneath the sacrificial altar the souls of those slaughtered for the word of God, and for their witness that they had for the Lamb; and they cried out in a loud voice, saying: “Until when, o Master, You who are holy and true, will You not judge and not demand our blood from those inhabiting the earth?”

And to each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to rest a little while longer, until they are supplemented by their co-servants and their brothers, who are to be killed just like them.”  (Revelation 6: 9-11).  

It was therefore a rendering of justice by God, to give the persecuted Christians authority over their persecutors!  It was His early response to the prayers of the holy Martyrs, and it was a foretaste of events during His eternal Reign, during the Age to come!

At the end of his terrestrial life, Saint Irenaeus was included among the souls of those slaughtered holy Martyrs, given that he was assassinated during the persecution by Septimus Severus around 220 A.D..  He, along with other holy Martyrs of his time who had united their voices with the slaughtered souls of the holy Martyrs of the Apocalypse, considers it to be fair – at the end of the 6000 years of human History – “that there be a vindication for the Lord’s people, and that authority be given to them, over the ones who had tortured them”, according to his words.

And indeed, God did judge their sufferings, as mentioned in Revelation:

”Rejoice upon her (Babylon), o heaven, and you, saints and apostles and prophets, for God has judged your suffering out of her.” (Revelation 18: 20).

In a parallel (but now past, historical) fulfilment of the eschatological events that we are still anticipating, the then capitol of the Antichrist’s forerunners – Rome (a Babylon twin) – had abruptly “in one day” (11th May of 330 A.D.), ceased to be the capitol of the Empire, and “judgment and the reign” were given – literally, on the terrestrial political scene – to the Saints of the Most High. God had judged the holy Martyrs’ suffering and had heard their prayers “after a short while”, and gave His people a 1000-year respite from the persecutions!

Saint Irenaeus had perceived that, in the narration of the 6 Days of Creation there was a PROPHECY.  Having lived in the second century A.D., just before the 6000 years after Adam were completed, he had corresponded each Creative Day of Genesis to 1000 years of human history, and had concluded that after those 6000 years had elapsed, there would follow a 1000-year RESPITE for the faithful!

However, given that his place in History did not allow him to see the fulfilled image of the events in the prophecy (whereas we are able to look back and see from our vantage point in our day), he thought that the fulfilment of the 1000-year Reign was only one, and that thereafter would follow the End of this world and the general resurrection of the dead in the Age to come.

Just as the Apostles in Christ’s time had imagined that the Coming of the Lord was only one - and regarded the two Comings as one and the same - expecting the End in their time, likewise Saint Irenaeus was expecting the End (a seventh Day, of a millennium-long Respite) a short while after his era, which was a little before the end of 6000 years of post-Adam human History.

The 1000-year “Day of Respite” indeed happened abruptly, just as Saint Irenaeus (and other contemporaries of his) had thought.  Except that it wasn’t the final fulfilment!  It was only one of the fulfillments of the prophecy.

However, that which Saint Irenaeus, the Holy Martyr Justin, or the author of the “Epistle of Barnabas” and other Fathers of the first and second centuries A.D. had anticipated about their immediate future is a theme that will preoccupy another, future article...


Reproduction of Constantinople at the peak of the Byzantine era


"CONSTANTA"                                             TIBERIUS

Gold "Solidus" coin of Constantine - the standard currency of the Byzantine Empire




Translation A.N.

Article published in English on: 31-10-2019.

Last update: 31-10-2019.