Millennium: Different Explanations

The word “millenium” (Latin: mille, “thousand” and annus, “year”) or “one thousand years” refers to a period at the end-time with God’s kingdom existing on earth. The word occurs only 6 times in the Bible, all in Rev 20:2-7.

There are 3 different ways in explanation how the millennium will be fulfilled.

Amillennialism (no future millennium)

·         Rev 20:1-10 describes the present church age, in which Satan’s influence over the nations has been greatly reduced. Those who are said to be reigning with Christ in the millennium are Christians who have died in the past and they are already reigning with Christ in heaven.

·         Biblical support: (?? = objections)

[1]  Rev 20 refers to the present breaking of Satan’s power (Mt 12:28-29; Lk 10:18); it occurs in heaven, so the millennium is not an early reign.

[2]  The Bible teaches only one resurrection (Jn 5:28-29; Ac 24:15; Dan 12:2). [Note that amillennialists explain the “first resurrection” has a spiritual fulfilment (1Pe 2:5-9).]

[3]  It is difficult to imagine how glorified believers and sinners can live on earth together.

[4]  If Christ comes in glory to reign on the earth, then how could people still persist in sin?

[5]  There is no convincing purpose for a millennium.

Postmillennialism (Christ comes after the millennium)

·         The progress of the gospel and the growth of the church will gradually increase, so that a larger and larger proportion of the world’s population will be Christians. There will be significant Christian influences on society, and a millennial age of peace and righteousness will then occur on the earth.

·         Biblical support: (?? = objections)

[1]  Since Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18-20), we would expect that it would transpire without hindrance and eventually triumph in the whole world.

[2]  Parables of the gradual growth of the kingdom indicate that it eventually will fill the earth with its influence. (Mt 13:31-33)

[3]  The world is becoming more Christian as the church is growing and spreading throughout the world, and even when it is persecuted and oppressed it grows remarkably by the power of God.

·         The main problem of this view is that world events seem to progress in the opposite direction of greater Christian influence. The world is becoming more evil with the decline of morality.

Premillennialism (Christ comes before the millennium)

·         After the tribulation, Christ will return to earth to establish a millennial kingdom. The resurrected believers will reign with Christ on earth for 1000 years. There will also be non-believers who will live their normal lives. Jesus will reign in perfect righteousness and there will be peace on earth.

·         Israelites will be converted as a whole (Ro 11:25-27), but a minority may still not believe.

·         Biblical support: This is based on the literal interpretation of the Bible. In general, we expect the Bible to be read and understood by all believers, not just the theologians.

·         There are also 2 big questions if the millennium is interpreted literally:

[1] What is the purpose of this temporary stage before the end of time?

[2] Shouldn’t Christians avoid establishing doctrines based on only one passage in the Bible? [a general rule in theology: no doctrine can be established by single occurrenece of a teaching in the whole Bible (called hopoxlegomena), for example, baptism of the dead (1Co 15:29).]

Millennium: Purpose

What is the purpose of millennium?

[1] There is tangible and convincing proof of the victory of righteousness over evil even on earth.

[2] The millennium shows the outworking of God’s good purposes in the structures of society.

[3] It proves that human nature is corrupted (not due to evil society or bad environment) so that salvation by the grace of God is necessary.

[4] It is a special reward for martyrs (resurrection in Rev 20:4 limited to the martyrs only).

Is it true that only one passage in the Bible talks about the millennium?

[1] OT passages (Isa 65:19-25; 11:2-16; Ps 72:8-14; Zec 14:6-19) speak of a future period far greater than the present age but still falls short of the perfect eternal state.

[2] NT passages suggest a future millennium (Rev 2:26-27; 1Co 15:23-25).

[3] Bible passages describe believers’ reign with Christ on earth (Lk 19:17,19; 1Co 6:3; Rev 3:21).

Last Judgment

The last judgment (day of judgment) is a major theme in many different books in the Bible:

·         Mt 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36; 25:31-46 (and similar passages in other gospels)

·         Ac 17:30-31; Ro 2:5; 1Co 4:5; Heb 6:2; 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6; Rev 20:11-15

How many judgments will occur?

Dispensationalists believe there will be 3 judgments: [1] judgment of the nations (Mt 25:31-46) to determine who enters the millennium, [2] judgment of believers’ works (2Co 5:10), [3] Great White Throne judgment for non-believers (Rev 20:11-15)

Many premillennialists believe only the last 2 judgments, each happenning after a resurrection.

It is probable that there will only be one judgment for all at the Great White Throne judgment.

What are the characteristics of the final judgment?

[1] Jesus will be the judge (2Ti 4:1; Ac 10:42; 17:31; Mt 25:31-33; Jn 5:26-27).

[2] Non-believers will be judged (Rev 20:12; Ro 2:5-7). There are degrees of punishment (Lk 12:47-48; 20:47). Every wrong deed will be judged (Mt 12:36; Ecc 12:14; Ro 2:16; Lk 12:2-3).

[3] Believers will be judged (Ro 14:10,12; 2Co 5:10; Ro 2:6-11), but not one of condemnation (Ro 8:1; Rev 11:18). It is a judgment to bestow various degrees of reward (1Co 3:12-15; 2Co 5:10)

[4] Angels (perhaps only the rebellious ones) will be judged (2Pe 2:4; Jude 6; 1Co 6:3).

[5] Believers will help in the work of judgment (1Co 6:2-3; Rev 20:4).


        The knowledge of final judgment in our life can produce many beneficial effects: [1] It satisfies our inward sense of a need for justice in the world (Col 3:25). [2] It enables us to forgive others freely (Ro 12:19; 1Pe 2:22-23). [3] It provides a motive for righteous living (Mt 6:20). [4] It provides a great motive for evangelism (Eze 33:11; 2Pe 3:9).