The Thousand Year Reign of Christ

by Bryant Evans on February 10, 2009

Within the current evangelical religious culture there is a great hope and longing for that is commonly known as the thousand year reign of Christ. Also known as the millenial reign of Christ this idea asserts that Jesus will one day return to earth, defeat all the enemies of the cross and will himself sit upon the throne of David in Jerusalem. From there the victorious Lord and his saints will reign upon the earth for one thousand years. At the end of the thousand years the saints will go with Jesus to their eternal heavenly home. There is a sense in which the idea of a thousand year reign of Christ is exciting. Certainly the idea of final victory over the scoffers and persecutors is attractive. But is it what the Bible teaches?

If you will continue reading I think you will agree that while attractive and inviting, the doctrine is not Biblical.

Can we first of all agree that everything we can know about the coming of Christ we know from Scripture? Can we join together on the basis of the Bible alone? If so, we can move forward.

Origins of the Thousand Year Reign of Christ

It is uncertain where the teaching of a thousand year reign began. We know there was some interest in the idea of  Christian chiliasm as early as the second century AD. Much of this arose, it is thought, from the earlier Jewish ideas of a messianic earthly reign. Today, this is known as millennial thought and is today seen mostly in the form of premillennialism and is caught up together with the idea of the “rapture.”

This doctrine, together with the idea of a rapture and a world-ruling antichrist was popularized first in modern times in the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 and 1917 which remains today as a staunch defender of premillenial thought, in the writings of Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” and later Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ “Left Behind” series of fictional novels. Today it is a generally accepted doctrine within most protestant faiths and often brings  surprise to adherents to learn that someone disagrees with it.

What we can say for certain, and what will set forth in this post, is that the one thousand year reign is not Biblical in its origin.

What is the Biblical Basis for the Thousand Year Reign of Christ?

Perhaps the key verse is Revelation 20:1-3 where Satan is bound for one thousand years. Proponents take this passage to be very literal in spite of strong indications to the contrary.

For example, several components of the context of Revelation 20:1-3 cry out for a figurative understanding. In verse 1, we read of a key and a chain. I know of no one who argues that these items are literal. Instead, they are correctly understood as being figures of speech used to help simple men to understand that Satan would not be allowed to run uncontrolled over God’s people. The abyss is also accepted as figurative as no one holds that it is a literal geographic location. There is also the problem of how a spirit, Satan, could be bound by a physical lock and chain in a literal abyss. Clearly, this proof text of the premillenialists fails miserably to support the idea.

The thousand year reign is better understood as a figurative period of time, very long but nevertheless measured. It is during this period of time that Satan is restrained but not destroyed for the Bible says he will be loosed near the end of the time period (Revelation 20:7). Satan’s destruction comes fully in verses 9 & 10 when we read of his eternal punishment. This ill-defined period of time is best understood as the “last days” which we find ourselves in now. The writer of Hebrews so confirms in Hebrews 1:2.

In a future posting we will discuss whether Jesus will ever again set foot upon the earth. But until then, we hope you will consider these writings and offer us your comments.

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{ 10 comments }

Kent July 2, 2009 at 9:16 am

It could happen that Satan is bound and chained by the angel of God because God Almighty can do anything and he can spiritually keep Satan from deceiving the nations for a thousand years if he wants to.

However, I don’t see where the people who say that all of the believers are going to rule with Christ in this thousand years get this idea as Revelation 20:4 says, “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

So if anybody does reign with Christ for a thousand years, it will be those killed for the sake of Christ during the tribulation not all of the Christians.

Interesting that a lot of people are saying the end of the world is coming any minute now, that all of the things that lead up to events such as the Battle of Gog and Magog have taken place.

But if this is chronological, and this event is a literal event that is going to take place in the end times, then Satan will have to be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years prior to this battle taken place (Rev. 20:7).

So although we are towards the end of the ages as the Jews are back in Isreal, we are not at the end yet because the thousand years spoken about in Rev 20 has not yet occured.

I honestly don’t worry about things like this as all I really know is that Jesus said that we know not when he will come and it his domain not mine and he will come when he wants to not when we think he will.

Bryant Evans July 2, 2009 at 7:06 pm

We obviously disagree Kent. The 1,000 years is figurative. It must be because the entire context is figurative. We can’t pick and choose oen things to be literal while the rest are symbolic.
The 1,000 years is figurative of the church age of which we are in today. I do agree with your last paragraph however.

Kent July 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I really don’t know if it is figurative or not. I was just saying that God could bound Satan for a thousand years if he wanted to.

But if it is describing the Church age that we are in now, then wouldn’t Satan be restrained for this period and I see no evidence of this as he is still very much doing his evil deeds and if it is figurative, what does Satan being restrained mean?

Does it mean the Church is putting a wedge in his activities during the Church age?

So you may be right that it is figurative and that is what my church that I attend teaches that it is not a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth.

But it is kind of ironic that some of the people who say there is going to be a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth say the end time events are happening now or are going to happen any minute now when if the thousand years is a literal thousand years, that would mean that events like the battle of Gog and Magog will not happen until after this thousand year period so if it follows that we are not at the end of the ages now if it is literal.

I am fifty years old and when I was younger a lot of the non denominational churches back in the 1970’s were even stronger on their talk about Jesus coming at any minute than they are now, if that is possible.

My feeling is that we are not yet at the end of times but like I said, all in all I don’t concern myself too seriously with when the end will come as none of us we really know when it will happen and I am occupying until he does come.

I am a Lutheran and I have friends that attend a non denominational chuch who are surprised that people have other views on these end of the world subjects.

What really gets them shaking their heads is when I say that I think we may not be at the end of the ages but they do agree with me that none of really know, that only God knows for sure when things will happen.

Bryant Evans July 3, 2009 at 6:37 am

Thanks for your comments. I think we generally agree here. I certainly believe that God can do anything he wants to do so long as he remains consistent within himself. Certainly we know that it is impossible for God to lie. The reason being that he would then be inconsistent with his own holiness.

I would say that the restrictions upon Satan are quite significant. Consider what we know of Satan from the Old Testament and from the period before the crucifixion. He was able to boldly stand before God and accuse the saints falsely and he was able to possess people for his own purposes against his will. It does not seem that such happens today.

That is not to say that Satan is inactive. A man imprisoned can still cause much pain and heartache while behind bars. Satan’s influence is broad and mighty today. But it seems that now he is restricted to what he can accomplish. He must influence others to do his will. To use your language here, I do hope that the church is putting a wedge in his activities. I doubt we are doing enough however.

The early church had a strong sense of Jesus’ return. His return was felt to be imminent. I think that gives strength to the daily christian life. But of course we do not know when he is coming. So far as I see it there are no prophecies yet to be fulfilled that impede his return. Only those left are associated with the return itself.

Those who today see “signs” of his return are a curious lot. While being told no one knows when he returns they still seek to try and pin it down. Oddly enough, people fro 2,000 years have thought they saw the signs of his “signless” return.

Kent July 3, 2009 at 7:27 am

Bryant, interesting topic. I found this site when I put a search in for the thousand year reign.

I tend to think that you and my Lutheran church, who also believes the thousand years is not a literal time period of a reign of Christ on Earth, are probably right.

I asked my pastor about this once but I don’t remember him saying it represented the church age just that it wasn’t a literal reign on Earth. I will have to ask him again.

But I do find it ironic that my friends who really are convinced Jesus is coming any minute now and who also believe they will reign with Christ for a thousand years here on Earth can’t see that if the thousand years is literal, then events like Gog and Magog cannot occur until after the thousand year reign so this end times event could not happen yet as Satan hasn’t been bound for the thousand years.

Because Rev. 20:7-9 says, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”

So isn’t there a contradiction to say that all of the things foretold by Ezekiel are going to happen very soon if the literal thousand years, if it in fact it is literal, hasn’t happened yet?

Well, you have given me more things to tell my friends that will have them shaking their heads even more!

Bryant Evans July 3, 2009 at 8:02 am

You are hitting on one of the great controversies among those who believe in some form of millennial reign of Jesus – which by the way, I do not. Some hold that Jesus comes before the millennium (pre-millennial) and others think there is a 1,000 year period of peace and joy with Jesus coming at the end (post-millennial). The two do not mix and they frequently argue about their interpretations. But I think your assessment of the weaknesses of their positions is correct.

Ezekiel is often used by those seeking to identify some signs. Ezekiel is written in the same style or genre as Revelation (apocalyptic literature) but it does not generally refer to end-times or eschatalogical events. Instead Ezekiel must be understood in the context of its time. It is a prophecy from God detailing events that would happen to Israel. Those events occurred as prophesied. Any attempt to force Ezekiel passages into a present day context is poor scholarship.

Paul Ambrose August 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I would like to tudy more and would like to teach others as i am working in Saudi Arabia.
Many christian here does not know these truth.
Kindly help me to learn.

mike August 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm

but and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming,The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour he is not aware of.And shall cut him assunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites-matthew 24
The lord comes back with his armies and he defeats the false prophet and beast. satan is restrained to were he cannot decieve anymore to the thousand years are fullfilled, he can not decieve at all not even a little during this time, it says not until thousand years are fulfilled

b jay April 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm

but, beloved , be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2nd peter 3-8 plain and easy !!!

Bryant Evans April 21, 2011 at 7:30 am

Thanks for visiting; I really appreciate your comment.

Are you suggesting we take that verse literally? I don’t think so. The context clearly seems to suggest otherwise with the idea that God works in his own time and on his schedule – not ours. We have written on the subject of a day equals a thousand years before. You might find it helpful.

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