Ever wondered what the Millennium mentioned in Revelation 20 is all about?
It refers to the 1000 years between the first and second resurrections—when Christ’s believers will be in Heaven after He returns, and before the final destruction of Satan and the re-creation of the New Earth.
The group of believers who will reign with Jesus at the end of the world are often referred to as the “saints.”
In this post, we will take a look at what the Bible tells us about the Millennium, and how the Millennial period is one of the events in the study of eschatology—as well as its significance in the resolution of the Great Controversy between good and evil:
- What is the Millennium?
- The beginning of the Millennium?
- What happens on earth during the Millennium?
- What happens in Heaven during the Millennium?
- When does the Millennium end?
- Why is the Millennium period necessary, and what should it mean for us today?
There’s a lot to get through, so let’s take it step by step.
WHAT IS THE MILLENNIUM?
The word millennium comes from a Latin word mille, which means “thousand,” and annus, which means “year.”
The Millennium refers to the thousand-year period mentioned in Revelation 20:4 that begins after the Second Coming of Jesus.
It’s also alluded to in other portions of Scripture, as you will see in the next sections.
Along with the Second Coming, many Christians look forward to this time with much anticipation. And rightfully so! It will be the first time period we will get to spend directly in the physical presence of Jesus.
THE BEGINNING OF THE MILLENNIUM
The Millennium begins at the close of earth’s history, when Jesus returns to earth and takes the believers to Heaven (John 5:28-29).
But in order for the believers to be taken to Heaven, several important things must happen:
- The first resurrection
- Translation of living believers
- The believers being given immortal bodies
- The death of all living unbelievers
Let’s tackle each of these, one at a time.
The First Resurrection
First, all those who died believing in Jesus will be resurrected.
Revelation 20:4-5 says that “they came to life” in what is referred to as “the first resurrection.”
This is what Paul meant when he said, “the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NKJV, emphasis added).
They include even those who lived before Jesus came to earth. People like Abraham, David, and all the way back to Adam and Eve.
All of these people are resurrected at this time because they believed God and His Word, and their allegiance was with Him.
God knows the hearts of all. So even in the times before Jesus, those who placed their faith in God were also offered the gift of salvation through Jesus.
We’re also told that some may be saved who didn’t even “know” Jesus. Or those who did but didn’t realize it was Jesus, or had not learned all the details yet but their hearts were open to Jesus. Like the blind man who was healed in John chapter 9.
This will be an incredible moment!
The “Translation” of the Living Believers
After the dead in Christ will be raised up from their graves, the righteous who are still alive at the time of the Second Coming will “be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NKJV).
This means they will not face death but will be transported alive to Heaven with Jesus.
Then the resurrected believers will join them. That is why the verse says we will “be caught up together.”
Believers’ physical bodies will be transformed
We will not go to Heaven with our imperfect bodies as we know them now—bodies that grow old and eventually die.
We will be given eternal bodies, since “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NKJV).
1 Corinthians 15:53 tells us more about this process, assuring us that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.“
This way, God will give “us the victory” over death “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).
When Jesus comes, those who are still alive at the time and those who have just been resurrected will receive these new, imperishable bodies and be rid of our corrupted, “old” bodies.
In fact, even “the second death [will have] no power” over this body (Revelation 20:6, ESV).
And this is the body that we will have throughout eternity. We will still be ourselves, but made perfect!
Only then will eternal life be possible for us.
The death of all living unbelievers
Then there are the unbelievers who will be living at the time of the Second Coming. They’re people who persistently wanted no part of the salvation Jesus offers them. They are truly wicked and have chosen this path.
They’re not people who just didn’t get the opportunity to know Jesus. These people will have had every chance to be saved, but they specifically chose not to follow Him.
Here is what will happen to them:
- Those who will be alive will die and remain dead until the end of the Millennium (Revelation 19:21).
- They’ll die when God strikes “the earth with the rod of His mouth,” and “kill the wicked” by “the breath of His lips” (Isaiah 11:4, ESV). It will be instant.
- Scripture tells us that “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels,” His Glory (Ezekiel 1:27, 28) will be as a “flaming fire” (also see 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
- With this fire, He will inflict His “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, ESV).
- And those who will be dead will “not come to life until the thousand years [are] ended” (Revelation 20:5, ESV).
After the death of all the unrighteous, the saints of all ages will be taken to Heaven.
With all this done, the Millennium will begin!
WHAT HAPPENS ON EARTH DURING THE MILLENNIUM?
But the earth will not be left completely empty.
The Devil and all his evil angels will be left to roam the desolate earth for the whole Millennium.
The earth will be desolate because of all that will happen to it just before and at the Second Coming of Jesus.
Just take a look at the Bible descriptions of these events that will take place then. They’re rather vivid!
“Every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:14, NKJV).
“There were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail” (Revelation 11:19, NKJV).
“And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from Heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent” (Revelation 16:18-21, NKJV).
After all that, will anything have a chance to remain intact on earth’s surface?
And as we saw in the previous section, even the terrified, unbelieving survivors will be “killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth” of Jesus (Revelation 19:21, NKJV).
So as the Millennium begins, the earth will be in a state of chaos, covered with wreckage, strewn with dead bodies.
In this state, the earth is rightly referred to as the “bottomless pit” in Revelation 20:1.
The word “bottomless pit” comes from the Greek word abyssos. Abyssos translate the Hebrew term tehowm, which is used for the word “deep” in Genesis 1:2. This is a word used to describe the surface of the earth before creation when it was “without form” and “void.”
This word is used again in Luke 8:31, when we read of demons begging Jesus to come back from the “abyss.”
We can also look at Revelation 9:1, where abyssos seems to describe a dark prison where demonic forces are confined (also see 2 Peter 2:4).
So it indeed refers to a place the fallen angels were assigned to, and where they’d rather not go back to.
They’d rather possess people on the earth, or even other creatures as they did the pigs in that story.
The Devil Bound for 1000 years
With the earth in this state, the Devil will be forced to make it his home for 1000 years.
God’s word says that “an angel coming down from Heaven…seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20 1-2, ESV).
He is “bound” because he’ll be confined to the earth.
And since there will be no humans alive on earth, he will also have nothing to do. He’ll be idle because his chief occupation has always been to “deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:3, ESV).
So with the evil fallen angels as his only companions, he’ll have a thousand years to wander the broken planet (Luke 8:31).
A thousand years to ponder the results of his futile rebellion against God. And a thousand years of seeing what all his efforts—to deceive men into sin and opposing God’s plan—has come to.
Imagine being restricted to one place. All alone and surrounded by chaos and wicked companions. And having nothing to do but to just think of the results of all your bad choices.
That’s worse than a prison!
And that is exactly what earth will be for Satan throughout the Millennium.
At the end of the Millennium, he’ll “be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:3, ESV).
But we’ll talk about that in a later section.
WHAT HAPPENS IN HEAVEN DURING THE MILLENNIUM?
In Heaven, the righteous “will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6, ESV).
And as part of reigning with Christ, “authority to judge [will be] committed” to them. So they will sit on thrones and judge with Christ (Revelation 20:4, ESV).
Also, when Jesus was about to go back to Heaven after His time on earth, He left you and I a promise. A promise that He would “come again and receive you to [Him]self; that where [He is], there you may be also.”
He also mentioned that in His “Father’s house are many ]mansions” and He was going “to prepare a place for you” (John 14: 2-3, NKJV).
So, this is the time when Jesus will fulfill this promise.
But to have a deeper understanding of all these concepts, we need to take a closer look at what it means to:
- Reign as priests with Christ
- Judge with Him
- Receive the mansions He’ll have prepared for us
Again, let’s unpack them one after the other.
What does it mean to reign with Christ as Priests?
Reigning with Christ as priests means that we will serve God in the Heavenly sanctuary.
From this, we see that there are two distinct areas of responsibility:
- Serve as priests
As we mentioned before, there is a sanctuary in Heaven where the throne of God and of Jesus is (Hebrews 12:2; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 3:21).
Just as priests served in the earthly Sanctuary, the believers in Heaven will also serve and worship God in the Heavenly sanctuary. They “shall be priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6, NKJV).
We’re told that the redeemed will be “before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them” (Revelation 7:15, NKJV).
Jesus promised that the redeemed will sit with Him on His own throne. So apart from having our own thrones, we’ll also sit with Jesus on His!
And that brings us to their other responsibility.
- Reign with Christ
Referring to Jesus, God’s word tells us that “One like the Son of Man” came to the Ancient of Days. And He was given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him” Daniel 7:13, ESV).
And just before His second coming, loud voices will be heard in Heaven saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).
Therefore, during the Millennium, God and Christ will be the rightful sovereign of the whole universe.
And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole Heaven shall be given to “the people of the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:27, ESV).
Then as “co-heirs with Christ,” they will reign over the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:17; ESV).
Thus, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18, ESV).
And Christ will get to fulfill His promise to those who overcome. The promise of giving them “power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26, NKJV).
We can see why Peter refers to the believers as “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). He’s simply affirming their identity based on their dual role in God’s kingdom.
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What does it mean to judge with Christ?
As the saints reign with Christ, they will also be involved in an important phase of His governing—judgment.
Judging the unrighteous who have died, the devil, and the fallen angels.
This is what Paul meant when he said that the saints will judge the world and even angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, ESV).
But this judgment is not meant to decide who is to be saved or lost. That decision will have been made by God before the Second Advent during the investigative judgment.
That’s why only the righteous dead will be resurrected, while the unrighteous won’t. And why the living righteous will be translated, or given eternal bodies, while the living unrighteous won’t.
So this millennial judgment will serve the purpose of answering any questions the righteous may have concerning the wicked who will be lost. Since God wants them to have full confidence in His leadership, He’ll let them go through the records of His dealings with the lost throughout their lives.
He explains how He operates. How he exercises His mercy and justice.
This review will serve three main purposes in the resolution of the Great Controversy between good and evil:
- It will clear any doubt anyone could have about the fairness of God’s ways.
- Everyone will be eternally satisfied with how earnestly and patiently God cared for the lost sinner, even though they stubbornly rejected His love.
- And they will discover why some seemingly good people became ultimately lost, most likely due to secretly cherished sins that led to an eventual rejection of God.
THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM
The end of the Millennium is marked by three events:
- The descent of the New Jerusalem from Heaven
- The second resurrection
- The final destruction of all the sinners, the Devil, and his evil angels.
As usual, let’s look at each of these.
The New Jerusalem Descends from Heaven
As we mentioned, the New Jerusalem will accompany the righteous on their return to earth (Revelation 20:2,10). God Himself and Christ will be with them too (Revelation 21:3,4, 22).
They’ll be coming for two main purposes:
- To end the Great Controversy by executing the judgment reviewed and confirmed by the saints during the Millennium.
- And to purify and remake the earth, then establish God’s eternal kingdom on it.
With this accomplished, “the Lord shall be King over all the earth” in the fullest sense (Zechariah 14.9).
The Second Resurrection
Once the thousand years are over, “the rest of the dead” will be resurrected (Revelation 20:5, NKJV). This is also referred to as “the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29, NKJV).
There is no mention of them receiving different or immortal bodies. So they come alive the same way they were before they died.
And with people living on earth again, the Devil will “be released for a little while” from the inactivity that had imprisoned him (Revelation 20: 3, NKJV).
He’ll lose no time. He’ll immediately go “out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth” (Revelation 20:8, NKJV). He’ll lead them against “the camp of the saints and the beloved city [the New Jerusalem]” (Revelation 20:9, NKJV).
And since they are as many “as the sands of the sea” (Revelation 20:8, NKJV), he will convince them they can easily capture the holy city and take it over.
These will be the same people who stubbornly refused God’s offer to be part of God’s Kingdom through the merits of Christ’s sacrifice.
Now, they’ll be determined to enter it, even if it means war. They’ll not even be thankful that God has just given them life again by resurrecting them.
So God will take action.
The Final Destruction of the Unrighteous, the Devil, and his Angels
The final destruction of the wicked will require two things:
- Pronouncing judgment on them
- Destroying them eternally
First, God will Set up His Great White Throne
And then He’ll take His place as judge before the entire human race—some inside the city (those who have been redeemed), and a lot more outside (those who chose against Christ).
This is the time Christ spoke of when He warned unbelieving Jews that “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28, NKJV).
God will then proceed to carry out the last phase of judgment—the final, executive judgment.
And to do this, He’ll get His record books.
John saw “another book [being] 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 … And if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 15, NKJV).
This will be as God pronounces the dreaded sentence, “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23, NKJV).
But you may ask, “What is the significance of this great white throne judgment?
Especially because the wicked will already be dead? Why do they need to rise up again just to hear their sentence and then be destroyed a second time?
It is so that they themselves—including Satan and his angels—can confirm the justice of God’s judgment. Everyone will have this chance to understand why things turned out this way.
The redeemed will have had an opportunity to examine the justice of God’s treatment of the lost during the Millennium.
Now, this will be the lost are made to understand their “sentence.” When all will “stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” they’ll hear of God’s continued love and mercy in dealing with them (Romans 14:10, NKJV).
At that point, all creatures—unfallen and fallen, saved and lost—will bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11; Isaiah 45:22, 23; Revelation 11:13).
From then on, all doubts and questions concerning God’s justice will be resolved forever.
Those who will be saved will maintain an unshakable faith in Him for eternity. Never again will sin arise and destroy the peace and harmony of the universe.
Second, God destroys Satan, his angels and the unrighteous
Soon after hearing their sentence, “fire [will come] down from God out of Heaven and devoured” them (Revelation 20:9, NKJV), the whole place outside the city will melt. And earth’s surface will become a vast lake of fire.
Then the Devil and all his followers will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10.15, NKJV). This is when they’ll “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9, ESV).
It’s what the word of God calls the “second death,” from which there will never be any rising (Revelation 20: 14; 21:8). It will mark the end of sin, sinners, the Devil, his evil angels, and even death itself.
And the close of the Millennium will mark the beginning of an eternal new Heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).
This new earth will be perfect, where nothing will ever “hurt or destroy in [God’s] holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9, ESV).
THE PURPOSE OF THE MILLENNIUM
So why do things need to happen in just this way?
In a nutshell, here’s why the Millennium is such a vital milestone in the Plan of Salvation and in the Great Controversy between good and evil:
- It provides the opportunity for God’s dealings with the Devil and humanity to be reviewed and verified as loving and just—through both the Millennial and executive judgments.
- Its end brings the final destruction of the Devil, sin, and sinners.
- All this amounts to the vindication of God’s character of love.
- And brings the Great Controversy between good and evil to a close.
The Bible tells us about the types and antitypes that make up the plan of salvation, which includes the Millennium and its significance. Though it is true there are many different views on the Millennium in the Christian world today.
WHAT DOES THE MILLENNIUM MEAN FOR US TODAY?
For us, the Millennium emphasizes the hope of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate promise to “save us to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV). It encourages us that after the time of trouble, after we are saved, we will be shown exactly why everything happened the way it happened.
And the fulfillment of all these promises is centered in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It will be a thousand year period in Heaven with God and our Savior. A time when we’ll reign together with Him in His Kingdom. And the time when we have an insider look at His dealings with mankind throughout the ages.
We’ll have an experience that will give us a deeper understanding of His love and His justice in every circumstance. And then we’ll realize that the hopes we cherish most today will find their ultimate fulfillment.
He makes these promises to us in His word when He tells us:
- We can be saved from sin through Jesus’ sacrifice and atonement.
- He will come again and take us to Heaven.
- We will be with Him forever in eternity.
- We will be reunited with all of our believing friends and family who have died in the faith.
- Someday, we will be restored back to the image of God.
- Sin and the devil will one day fully come to an end.
- The earth will be restored to its original state.
- The character of God will be fully vindicated in the whole universe.
- The controversy that has long raged between Christ and Satan, causing so much pain and havoc will finally be resolved.
- And with peace and harmony restored in the universe, our Saviour and Friend will be the ruler over all!
But best of all, the study of the Millennium and all its entails doesn’t leave us the same, even today. Especially when we think of what leads up to this glorious wrap-up on the Plan of Redemption.
We see God’s patient love toward us. And most significantly, God’s gift to us in His Son Jesus Christ!
We see that without Jesus’ Sacrifice for us, all our hopes would be futile. And without His ministry on our behalf in the Heavenly sanctuary, the Millennium will never happen! So we are led into a deeper appreciation of His central role in our Salvation.
All this is ours when we make the choice to commit to an even closer walk with our Redeemer. To learn how to do this, you can sign up for a Bible study.