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)

·         held by some famous theologians, such as Augustine, John Calvin, B.B. Warfield

·         Explanation:

o       Rev 20:1-10 describes the present church age, between the resurrection of Jesus and His second coming. Because the power of sin has been limited by Jesus’ sacrifice, this is an 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.

o       The present church age will continue until Jesus’ Second Coming. When Christ returns, there will be a resurrection of both believers and unbelievers. Believers still living will receive glorified indestructible bodies. Judgment will then occur. Afterwards, new heavens and new earth will begin.

·         Biblical support: (?? = objections)

[1]  There is only one passage in the whole Bible about the millennium and that passage refers to the present breaking of Satan’s power (Mt 12:28-29; Lk 10:18). Also the scene of Rev 20:4 occurs in heaven, so the millennium is not an early reign.

?? There are hints of a future earthly millennium in other books (see below under premillennialism).

[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; it refers to the fact that we are being raised with Christ now, not the resurrection of the body, as the Bible describes Christians as being “kings and priests” now (1Pe 2:5-9; Rev 1:6; 5:10).]

?? There are other passages about 2 resurrections (Rev 20:5-6; 1Th 4:16 talks only about resurrection of believers).

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

?? Such a situation already happened to Jesus after His resurrection.

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

?? It is because of the rebellious nature of sinful people. A good example is Judas who followed Jesus for 3 years.

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


Postmillennialism (Christ comes after the millennium)

·         held by many theologians in the Middle Ages

·         Explanation:

o       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. As a result, there will be significant Christian influences on society, and a millennial age of peace and righteousness will then occur on the earth.

o       At the end of this period, Christ will return to earth. There will be a resurrection of both believers and unbelievers. Believers still living will receive glorified indestructible bodies. Judgment will then occur. Afterwards, new heavens and new earth will begin.

·         Biblical support: (?? = objections)

[1]  Since Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, and since he promises to be with us in the fulfilment of the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20), we would expect that it would transpire without hindrance and eventually triumph in the whole world.

?? Christ may not use the full extent of His authority to bring about the numerical growth of the church and a complete triumph.

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

?? The parables illustrate something very small will grow to something very large, but they do not tell us the extent.

[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, even among Christians.

?? There are passages indicating only “few” in contrast to “many” will be saved (Mt 7:13-14; Lk 18:8).

?? Before Christ’s return, there will be rebellion and the man of lawlessness (2Th 2:3-4; 2Ti 3:1-5).

?? The Great Tribulation (Mt 24:21-30) indicates the presenc of great evil on earth at end-time. [Postmillennialists explain this passage as symbolic.]


Premillennialism (Christ comes before the millennium)

·         held by many Church Fathers in early church and by most conservative theologians in the last two centuries.

·         Explanation:

o       The present church will continue until a time of great tribulation and sufferings comes on the earth. After the tribulation, Christ will return to earth to establish a millennial kingdom during which Satan will be imprisoned so that he will have no influence on the earth.

o       The resurrected believers will reign with Christ on earth for one thousand years. Many of the non-believers still on earth will turn to Christ and be saved. 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.

o       Israelites will be converted as a whole (Ro 11:25-27), but possibly a minority may still not believe. Jesus possibly reigns from Israel.

o       At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be loosen and will join forces with many non-believers to battle against Christ. They will be decisively defeated. There will be resurrection of all non-believers. Judgment will occur. Afterwards, new heavens and new earth will begin.

·         Biblical support: (?? = objections)

o       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.

?? The teaching in Revelation is frequently symbolic so that literal interpretation may not be accurate.

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

[1] Why did God include the millennium in His plan? What is the purpose of this temporary stage before the end of time?

[2] If the millennium is described in only one passage in the Bible, shouldn’t Christians avoid establishing doctrines based on this passage? [There is a generally accepted rule in theology that 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] The usual answer is that it is the vindication within history of the cause of Christ. With the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, there is tangible and convincing proof of the victory of righteousness over evil.

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

[3] The existence of the millennium shows that human rebellious nature is not due to evil society or bad environment. It proves that human nature is corrupted (so that salvation by the grace of God is necessary). Even without the influence of Satan for 1000 years, the nations rebel against God once Satan is released after the millennium.

[4] Some interpret Rev 20:4 to mean that the millennial reign with Christ is limited to the martyrs. Then, the millennial rule is a special reward for those who gave up their lives for Christ.


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. The Jews actually speculate on the length of this temporary reign to be ranging from 40 to 7,000 years.

[2] NT passages suggest a future millennium (Rev 2:26-27; 1Co 15:23-25). Biblical exposition by many Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, support the 1000-year reign.

[3] In Rev 20, the binding and imprisonment of Satan imply far greater restriction than anything we have witnessed in the present age and is best explained to be a future age. Bible passages also describe that believers will reign with Christ over the earth (Lk 19:17,19; 1Co 6:3; Rev 3:21).


What should be done if we hold different interpretations?

Most evangelical churches hold the premillennialist position, including the Christian & Missionary Alliance. However, as we have seen above, all 3 interpretations are held by different evangelical theologians and all 3 have some Biblical support. Since how the millennium will be realized is not an essential doctrine, disagreement among Christians on this doctrine is allowed.


Last Judgment

What is the objective of the last judgment?

The last judgment (day of judgment) will certainly occurred as this is a major theme found 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

Objective: The last judgment is an occasion to display the declarative glory of God in a formal act witnessed by the entire creation. It magnifies on the one hand His righteousness and justice, and on the other hand, His grace and mercy.


How many judgments will occur?

Dispensationalists believe there will be 3 judgments:

·         judgment of the nations (Mt 25:31-46) to determine who enters the millennium

·         judgment of believers’ works (2Co 5:10)

·         Great White Throne judgment for non-believers (Rev 20:11-15)

Many premillennialists believe there are 2 judgments, each after a resurrection:

·         The first resuurection is for the believers. They will first be judged by Christ and will receive their crowns.

·         The second resurrection is for non-believers. They will be judged before the great white throne and sent to hell.

It is probable that there will only be one judgment for all. If the Great White Throne judgment involves only non-believers, then there is no need for the Book of Life.


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 (Rev 20:12-13; Lk 12:47-48; 20:47). Every wrong deed will be remembered and taken account of (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; Rev 20:12,15), but not one of condemnation (Ro 8:1; Rev 11:18). It is a judgment to evaluate and bestow various degrees of reward (1Co 3:12-15; 2Co 5:10)

[4] Angels (possibly only the rebellious ones who followed Satan) 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).