If Jesus truly meant to say the very last day, how else could He have said it? We have to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt when it comes to His words. He could have added the words “of the age” but clearly did not. No, the last day means the very last day as Jesus said.
What about the Millennium?
If the resurrection, which includes all the saved and unsaved, happens on the last day, then what happened to the millennium? We will examine that topic in the next chapter.
The 1,000 Year Reign
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. 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. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4-6)
This passage makes it clear that there is definitely a millennial reign. The question is how literal or symbolic are we to understand this passage? Also, where does it take place?
First, the book of Revelation is the most highly symbolic book in the entire Bible. We just can’t take everything literally. Here is an example:
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:1-4)
This passage is a description of the beast or Antichrist. Does he really come out of the sea with seven heads and ten horns? No, this is symbolic language that has a deeper meaning. Much of what is written in Revelation is symbolic language. The difficulty is trying to discern what to take literally and what to take symbolically.
Second, this 1,000 year reign is only mentioned in this one verse in all of the Scriptures in the most symbolic book in the Bible. This verse does not say this reign is on Earth.
Third, can we glean something about this time frame from another book in the Bible that is not a symbolic passage?
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
In these verses Jesus is saying that the coming kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. One will not be able to observe it with the eyes. The reason is because this kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that is within us. As Christians we are presently in His kingdom, serving Him and spreading His gospel around the world, adding others to His kingdom.
Three Millennial Views
This view maintains that Jesus Christ one day will return to the Earth with all believers, those who were resurrected from the dead or raptured while alive. Therefore all believers will have their glorified bodies. Jesus will set up a literal 1,000 year reign on Earth and will rule from Jerusalem.
During these 1,000, years Satan will be bound or limited in his ability to deceive the nations. After the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed and will gather the nations to do battle against the beloved city Jerusalem. God will crush this rebellion and cast Satan into the lake of fire. Most believe that there are two different judgments. The Judgment Seat of Christ for believers at the first resurrection and 1,000 years later for the unsaved at the Great White Throne Judgment. Some hold that those people living during the millennium will also be at the Great White Throne Judgment to be judged.
This view maintains that Satan was bound during Christ’s earthly ministry by the spreading of the Word of God, His casting out demons, His victory over sin by His crucifixion and His resurrection. This binding limits Satan’s power to deceive the nations. The millennial reign and kingdom started during Christ’s earthly ministry and is successfully progressing to the very end of the world when most people will be Christians. The 1,000 years is a symbolic number for a very long period of time. (Others believe the binding of Satan and millennial reign will take place at some future time when the successful preaching of the gospel will diminish Satan’s ability to be effective. The 1,000 years may be literal.) There will be an uprising after Satan is loosed from his bounds but it will be short lived and put down immediately by the returning Christ in power and glory on the last day. There will be a last day general resurrection and general judgment of all mankind.
This view is improperly named. The a-millennial view does maintain that there will be a millennium. In some respects it is very similar to the post-millennial view. The millennium and Satan’s binding started during Christ’s earthly ministry for reasons mentioned in the previous view. Some hold that this reign of believers is taking place in heaven right now with Christ. Others hold that it is a spiritual reign within our hearts as we live and serve Jesus daily. The 1,000 years is symbolic of a very long time period. This view sees sin and evil progressing to the end until Jesus Christ returns on the last day and defeats Satan, who has been loosed, and all evil. There will be a last day general resurrection and general judgment of all mankind.
A Verse by Verse Examination of the Millennium
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Who is this angel? Perhaps it is Michael who is considered the mightiest of all angels. Some think this angel may actually be referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. This appears to be symbolic language with the words key, a great chain, and a bottomless pit.
2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
Satan is often referred to in Revelation as a dragon and serpent. This mighty angel binds Satan for a thousand years. Is this a literal 1,000 years or rather symbolic language of a very long period of time?
3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
This binding is more of a limitation rather than a complete restriction from all activities. Satan is limited in his power to deceive the nations. He still has power to deceive individuals.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.
John sees thrones and people sitting on them. Judgment was committed to them. Where are these thrones? John mentioned earlier in Revelation that he saw thrones in Heaven.
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. (Rev. 4:2-4)
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.
Notice that John said that he saw the souls of martyred saints or believers. These people had been murdered for their faith in Jesus. Souls are separate from their bodies. It appears that these martyred saints are in heaven living in their spirit form before they have received their resurrected, glorified bodies which will take place on the last day when they return to Earth with Christ at the resurrection. They are reigning in heaven with Jesus Christ, sitting on thrones, and their reign is for a very long time symbolized by 1,000 years. This verse does not say they reign on Earth in a temporal way.
5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.
This verse confirms that we have been talking about dead people whose souls are in heaven on thrones reigning with Christ. Who are the rest of the dead? They must be the dead unsaved who will be resurrected on the last day and thus will live again to face their judgment before Christ.
This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.
If there is a first resurrection a second resurrection is implied. When is the first resurrection? Only the saved take part in this first resurrection for they will be blessed and holy. This first resurrection takes place at the moment we become saved. It is a spiritual resurrection when we pass from spiritual death to spiritual life.
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25)
Notice next that God made us, who were dead spiritually in trespasses and sins, alive spiritually and raised us up together to sit in heavenly places in Christ.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:4-9)
Everyone who becomes saved takes part in the first resurrection at the moment of conversion. This is the spiritual new birth, being “born of the Spirit” or being “born again.”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
“…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,…” (Titus 3:5)
The second resurrection is the physical resurrection that takes place on the last day when unbelievers and believers are resurrected from their graves to receive their eternal bodies and unite with their spirits. Those who are alive will also receive their eternal bodies at that time. All this will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when Jesus Christ returns in all His power and glory.
Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
If there is a second death there must be a first death. The first death is our physical death when we breathe our last breath. The second death is eternal damnation in the lake of fire. The second death has no power or dominion over believers in Jesus Christ because they have taken part in the first resurrection which is salvation or the new birth. They will reign with Christ a thousand years in heaven until they return with Him at the second resurrection or rapture on the last day.
Won’t Jesus’ Apostles Sit on Twelve Thrones During the Millennium?
Some would say that the following verses in the book of Matthew prove the pre-millennial view:
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt. 19:27-28)
Verse 28 is not referring to a millennial reign on Earth for several reasons. One, the regeneration that is mentioned is the New Heaven, New Earth, and the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21-22. After the Heavens and Earth are destroyed by fire (chapter 7), God brings about a regeneration or new birth in the eternal state. The New Jerusalem is most likely where the Apostles will sit on their thrones.
14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev. 21:14)
Two, the kingdom as we have already mentioned, does not come with observation for it is within us spiritually. (Luke 17:20-21) Three, Jesus will be sitting on the throne of His glory when His apostles sit on their thrones. This will happen only after He has made all things new in the regeneration.
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Rev. 21:5-6)
There is coming a day of judgment when all mankind will have to stand before the great Judge and give an account of their lives to Him. Mankind is responsible to God to live according to His Word. Just as a criminal must stand before a judge in a court of law, we too as sinners must do the same in front of God on judgment day. No one can escape this judgment. This coming judgment should motivate us to live as godly as possible for we will have to give an account for every word, deed, and thought we have committed.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (Rev. 20:11-13)
Who is the Judge?
It is clear from Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, is the One who sits on this throne to be the great Judge of all mankind.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:10-12)
26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (John 5:26-27)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:… “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:…” (Matt. 25: 31-34, 41)
Why does the Face of Heaven and Earth Flee This Judgment?
The unsaved will be terrified at the final judgment. They will know they were sinners in life. They will know that they did not accept God’s gift of forgiveness by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. They will mourn the Lord’s coming on the last day knowing the time has come for them to be judged by the Son for their sinful deeds