The Millennial Kingdom: A Literal Thousand Years
By Nathan Jones
Why do Christians disregard the literal thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ?
(Note: This series of questions about Jesus Christ’s coming Millennial Kingdom were sent in to Lamb & Lion Ministries and answered by Dr. David Reagan, Nathan Jones, and Tim Moore on our television program Christ in Prophecy.)
Tim Moore: Often times too many Christians dismiss the entire book of Revelation. Or, they believe we can’t look at the book of Revelation from a literal interpretation. They believe the book’s interpretation has to be spiritualized and so they come up with fanciful interpretations about how this or that doesn’t mean what it says, especially when the Lord talks about returning and reigning over the earth for a thousand years.
Nathan Jones: Exactly, it depends on how one interprets the Bible. You can either spiritualize it, like many people do, especially with the book of Revelation. They look at Revelation 20 and spiritualize the six times it reads “a thousand years.” The text states that Jesus’ kingdom will last “a thousand years” before moving on into the Eternal State. That’s not just one reference to “a thousand years,” but six times!
One could claim from spiritualizing the Bible that for Jesus a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. But, remember the text uses the word “like,” making a general comparison, and so that’s not a specific measurement. They then jump to Revelation 20 where they spiritualize the six references to “a thousand years” and claim that doesn’t really mean an actual thousand years.
I prefer to take the Bible literally and live by the Golden Rule of Interpretation: If the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense, lest you end up with nonsense. Revelation 20 says “a thousand years,” and that’s what the Bible says, not just once but six times, so I am going to interpret the Bible literally.
Dr. Reagan: All the First Coming prophecies meant exactly what they said. Therefore, that should be a guideline for interpreting all of the Second Coming prophecies as well.
Nathan Jones: There are 109 distinct prophecies about the First Coming, and all of these prophecies came true, and literally. Why then would we wish to spiritualize the nearly 500 prophecies concerning the Second Coming? Doing so just doesn’t make any sense.
Dr. Reagan: I grew up in an Amillennial church and we were taught that the Bible means exactly what it says from the beginning to the end, unless it is talking about the Second Coming, as that subject never means what it says.
How do Amillennialists justify such a sharp shift in interpretation? Well, I was reading a book once where the author claimed: “I can prove to you that the thousand years in Revelation 20 does not actually mean a thousand years. Over in the Psalms, there is a psalm that says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and certainly, there are more than a thousand hills. So, that reference has to be symbolic, and so, therefore, the thousand years has to be symbolic as well.”
Tim Moore: You certainly end up with absolute nonsense when you start applying poetic language from the Psalms to a very clear narrative description of the reign of Jesus for a thousand years.
Dr. Reagan: The meaning of words is always determined by context.
Nathan Jones: Plus, the Apostle John doesn’t use the words “like” or “as” in Revelation 20. An example reads, “He bound Satan for a thousand years.” Not “like a thousand years,” or “sort of a thousand years.” And, again the passage reads, “He shall not deceive the nations no more until the thousand years were finished.” This reference to a thousand years is where we get the term millennium, for millennium means “one thousand.”
In the second part of our series answering questions about the Millennial Kingdom, we’ll explore if we’re actually living in that kingdom right now.