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THE ONE THOUSAND YEARS

 

 

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. Revelation 20:1–3

 

 

The bottomless pit in this vision of is not a new and separate vision; this bottomless pit is also found in chapter nine where we heard the sound of the fifth trumpet. A bottomless pit is a deep and obscure place, the depth of which is unknown.

In the context of the fifth trumpet, the bottomless pit describes the error that came out of the Protestant Reformation. Even though the Reformation churches taught the gospel of salvation from sin through faith, instead of receiving the keys to the kingdom of God they were given the key to the bottomless pit. Instead of building the new churches on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles they chose to take the state, the national government of their various countries, for their foundations. Unintentionally, they built their churches on a deep and obscure place the depth of which is unknown: a bottomless pit. Smoke came out of the bottomless pit which we learned is the creeds that were devised to document the various doctrinal positions of the churches.

The battle we just studied in chapter 19 ended with the beast and the false prophet being cast into the lake of fire. The appearance of the bottomless pit in chapter twenty shows us that in the end-time revival the forces of false religion, whether pagan or apostate Christian, will in fact be defeated. Defeated in the context of this vision means that they will be exposed for what they are—there is no life-changing grace from God and no redemption found in any of them. To those who are genuinely following Christ in this end-time revival, the false teachings will have no impact or influence in their lives because they see the truth of God.

In chapter twenty we saw an angel coming down from heaven to arrest the dragon. This angel is a ministry within the end-time revival that is sent by God and equipped with two weapons which are the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. They key and the chain represent the word of God and the Holy Spirit. These alone are the weapons that can expose and destroy the various deceptions that have battled the church throughout the church age.

The dragon is the spirit of false religion as we learned in chapter twelve. While the dragon is the religious garment of this enemy, his real identity is revealed to us by this angel. In reality he is the serpent of old, also known as the Devil and Satan. This suggests to us that all false religion is traceable to the Garden of Eden. The serpent used God’s words to plant error in the minds of Adam and Eve. His error was in one little word: NOT, which was intended to nullify the word of God and validate Satan’s errors. God’s law told them in Genesis 2:17, “You shall surely die.” The serpent told them in Genesis 3:4, “You will not surely die.” Just one little three-letter word made a tragic difference. All ideologies and religions that reject the creator God evolved in human history from the serpent’s lie. The lie is that you will not die because you have the right to make your own religion and way to any god you can imagine.

This angel is empowered by God to expose the origin of all false religions resulting from the lie told in the Garden of Eden. Man is not the final authority in his own life; he must give account to God. God always has revealed His will and requirements to mankind throughout history. God made atonement for sin through His own Son on the cross of Calvary so that any person who repents and places his faith in Jesus can be forgiven and cleansed from his sin and brought into a right relationship with God. Furthermore, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the new birth, people can live a holy life as required by God.

Through the use of the word and the Spirit, this angel binds the dragon, hereafter called Satan, for one thousand years. Most teachings on the book of Revelation see this one thousand years as a literal period of time lasting for one thousand years. Some see it as a millennial reign of Christ on earth; some see it as the period of time from the rise of Roman Catholicism to the Protestant Reformation; and some have other ideas about the one thousand years.

The common teaching among millennialists is that the one thousand years is the time when Christ and the redeemed will reign on the earth over unregenerate Jews and Gentiles. Philip Mauro observes that the context of the “millennial passage” says absolutely nothing regarding this assertion.

 

Finally, there is not a word or hint to warrant the idea that the thousand years were to be a period during which Jesus Christ would reign in bodily presence over the world and with Him the people of God in their resurrection bodies.

Surely if the current millennial doctrines were right as to their essential features there would be something to support them in the millennium passage itself; and conversely, since they find not a word of support therein, we are bound to reject them as unscriptural, unless other Scriptures afford clear proof that Christ and His resurrected people will reign during the thousand years over the earth peopled with unregenerate Jews and Gentiles, the Jews being restored to their ancient territory and invested with world supremacy.[1]

 

However, as we encountered time-symbols before in the Revelation, we learned that a time-symbol represents something other than itself—in other words, time-symbols represent something other than time as defined by the calendar. If we literalize the one thousand years of the Revelation we must also literalize all other symbols contained in the vision. That would mean the glorified Christ as seen in Chapter 1 stood in the midst of a physical lampstand, wears a long garment with a golden band around His chest, has white hair, fire for eyes, brass feet, sounds like a lot of water, and has a sword coming out of His mouth. It should be obvious that the literal meaning is totally ridiculous. It should be obvious that the vision gives us a symbolic depiction of the glorified Christ and that the articles mentioned represent certain aspects and qualities of the glorified Christ.

To literalize one thing in the visions means all the other things in the vision must also be literal; for example, a literal woman in chapter twelve that wears the sun and stands on the moon. Also, there must be a literal red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. Et cetera. However, most interpretations of the Revelation see some things as symbolic and some things as literal. Pray tell, who is the authority that determines which is which and where is that authority recorded? A rational mind must comprehend that these pictures are all symbolic and not literal—they represent events and people in history; they cannot be literal. What does the one thousand years in chapter twenty represent? As with other symbols, we can find some kind of a clue by searching the Scriptures.

In searching the Scriptures we find three references to the number one thousand in reference to days or years.

The first occurrence is in Psalm 84:10–11,

 

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

 

The one thousand days here represents the blessedness of those that leave sin to walk uprightly with God. One day in His courts is better than a thousand days; how so? And what one day are we talking about? 2 Corinthians 6:2 answers that question for us, “For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” With this understanding we could make Psalm 84 read, “For the day of salvation is better than a thousand other days.” From this we learn that Christ’s reconciling people to God through the atonement frees them from the power of self-indulging sin and false religion that exploits sin. Salvation from sin shields them from all the error Satan can throw at Christ’s church.

The second occurrence of one thousand relates to a thousand years in Psalm 90:4,

 

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.

 

Here we see the frailty of man and his religions compared to a real relationship with God. Is the application of this verse related to literal time or is it really spiritual? The context says it is spiritual in verses 8–9, “You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.” God is gracious to forgive our sin and cleanse it from our lives so that we can truly be justified in His sight. In this sense, forgiveness is like yesterday when it is past—it is forgotten—and the enormity of our sins, even if it is like a thousand years, no longer exists in the mind of God. In verses 16–17, the Psalm closes showing the blessedness of those thus justified, “Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Salvation from sin is a spiritual and moral work of God in the human nature that transforms it from moral depravity into the holiness of God. This is not people trying to act religious; it is God making people genuinely holy as He is holy.

The third occurrence of a thousand is found in 2 Peter 3:8,

 

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

 

Here is seen the longsuffering of God; His patience with the human race. Why is God so patient with people? The next verse tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Life by itself gives no one a guarantee of redemption but in spite of this people are prone to reject or neglect God’s offer of salvation. God loves people so much that He often intervenes in their lives to save them from tragedy or in some other way to let them know He cares for them. Anyone who is saved from sin is grateful for the longsuffering of God because without His patience we all surely would be lost.

The one thousand years in chapter twenty is another representation of the end-time revival. The one thousand years represents the battle of God’s truth as upheld by Christ’s church against all the religious error ever invented.

A literal one thousand years cannot be the answer because we see that the word of God gives us a realistic perspective that relates the one-thousand-year symbol to God’s work of salvation. The one thousand symbol shows us: The blessedness of those that leave sin to walk uprightly with God (Psalm 84); salvation from sin is a spiritual and moral work in the human nature that transforms it from moral depravity to the holiness of God (Psalm 90); and, the longsuffering of God in His patience with the human race (2 Peter 3:8).

Let’s read some comments concerning the interpretation of this one thousand years.

The Beacon Bible Commentary says of the one-thousand years:

 

Amillennialists reject the idea of any literal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years. A typical example of this last view is found in Swete: “A thousand years, i.e. a long period of time, a great epoch in human history.” Lenski puts it a bit more precisely: “These 1,000 years thus extend from the incarnation and the enthronement of the Son (12:5) to Satan’s final plunge into hell (20:20), which is the entire New Testament period.” Proponents of this view emphasize the idea that all numbers in Revelation should be taken as symbolical rather than literal.

 

Philip Mauro in his book, Of Things Which Soon Must Come To Pass, writes:

 

As regards the period here given as “a thousand years,” we should seek the spiritual and symbolical meaning of the term. What chiefly impresses me is that it conveys the idea of fullness and completeness.[2]

 

F. G. Smith, the noted Church of God writer on the book of Revelation, was also skeptical about a literal one-thousand years as he wrote in his book The Revelation Explained:

 

We cannot apply this period specified as literally one thousand years without varying from the other principles of time prophecy in the Revelation, for they are all symbolic. . . . Therefore to be consistent we shall have to apply it as an indefinite length of time.[3]

 

In line with these comments we can understand that the one thousand years represents an aspect of the end-time revival. It does not mean that this revival will last for one thousand years. The one thousand year symbol represents more than an indefinite length of time; it is the contest of Christ’s church against the powers of Satan that results in the fullness and completeness of God’s work in human history. It will last until Christ returns.

While not aware of an end-time revival thousands of years in his future, Paul wrote of its conclusion in 1 Corinthians 15:23–26,

 

But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

 

Jesus taught the same in John 5:28–26,

 

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

 

The one thousand years reveals three prominent characteristics of this revival as seen in the antitypes. It is a time of blessedness for those who are reconciled with Christ and shielded from the errors of false religion (Psalm 84:10–11). It is a time where the frailty of man and his religion is acknowledged and contrasted against true justification by faith (Psalm 90:4). And it is a time when God’s people are grateful for the longsuffering and patience of God (2 Peter 3:8). Could we be living in such a time? Could we be living in a time in which through the word and Spirit of God people are drawn to the church as Jesus built it—a church as in the New Testament that is not characterized by denominations and movements, but is present locally as we find in the book of Acts?

The ministry with the word and Spirit of God binds Satan and casts him into the bottomless pit during the end-time revival. Can this mean the Satan cannot do his evil work during the end-time revival? Are God’s people given liberty and uncontested ability to preach the gospel without Satan’s interference? To answer these questions we must remember what the bottomless pit is.

The bottomless pit first appears under the Fifth Trumpet in chapter nine. This pit was opened by a fallen ministry, which released smoke and strange looking locust out of the pit. Our study showed this bottomless pit to represent the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a moving of God that restored much of the truth of the gospel to the church that had been darkened by apostasy. However, among the churches that came into being during the Reformation there was a universal lack of practical unity that divided believers and undermined the effect of the gospel in the lives of most people. In fact, separate creeds and organizational structures were put in place to effectively ensure the lack of unity among the churches.

Satan being bound in the bottomless pit is the work of the angel having the key to the bottomless pit and the great chain. The preaching of this ministry exposes all false religion, pagan and professed Christian, for what it is—nothing more than a bottomless pit; religion without biblical foundation that supports nothing having to do with the true God. As long as the ministry preaches the word of God without compromise and backed by the Holy Spirit, the false religions of Satan are silenced and rendered ineffective for those among the human race that truly want to find God and live for Him. Wherever people may be on earth during the end-time revival, individuals and groups of people will be able to respond to the truth of God’s word and the salvation He offers them. How will the truth reach them in this revival? Perhaps through missionaries; perhaps through evangelists; perhaps through the Internet; and perhaps by direct leading of the Holy Spirit one-on-one. No new denomination, church, or movement will evolve out of this revival. Small churches may see some growth; home churches may come into being; and isolated saints may take a stand on their own wherever they live.

However long the end-time revival may last, it will come an end just before the return of Christ to call the end to time. Satan will be released from the pit for a little while. This suggests a brief time of apostasy just before Jesus returns. And it will be true that God’s people will face persecution during this revival just as they have always faced persecution during times of God’s moving in human history.



[1] Mauro, Philip;  Of The Things Which Soon Must Come To Pass;  Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, MI;  1933;  pg. 590.

[2] Mauro, Philip;  Of Things Which Soon Must Come To Pass;  Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI;  1933;  pg. 520.

[3] Smith, F. G.;  The Revelation Explained;  Warner Press: Anderson, IN;  1946;  pg. 282.