THE FORTY YEAR MILLENNIUM
Don K. Preston D. Div.
The millennium is one of the most criitical topics in all of eschatology. It is the core of dispensationalism, but problematic for the amillennialists.
Our purpose is to demonstrate two things: 1.) That the millennium of Revelation 20 began with the ministry / passion / resurrection of Christ, 2.) That the millennium terminated forty years later at the resurrection and termination of the Old Covenant age in AD 70.
THE ELEMENTS OF THE MILLENNIUM
ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THE FORTY YEARS FROM JESUS’ MINISTRY TO AD 70
The axiom that things equal to one another are the same, applies to the millennium. Here is what we mean. Revelation describes the millennium as containing certain elements:
1.) The initial vindication / resurrection of the martyrs with Christ.
2.) The binding of Satan.
3.) The rule of the saints with Christ: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”
4.) The saints as a priesthood.
5.) The loosing of Satan.
6.) The destruction of Satan and the resurrection of “the rest of the dead” at the end of the millennium.
Now, according to Hebrews 11:39-40 the living and the dead would receive their blessings at the same time. Thus, if the martyrs of Revelation received thrones, priesthood and authority, then the living saints received those things at the same time, and this is precisely what we find. Note the harmony with the living during the forty year period.
√ The living were resurrected, awaiting the consummation of the resurrection at the last hour (John 5:24-28; 6:44). Notice Jesus’ “the hour is coming and now is” and “the hour is coming.” John later wrote: “It is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The resurrection scenario of Revelation is not different from John 5. The fact that 1 John says the consummative last hour was upon them proves that the end of the millennium was near.
√ The martyrs sat on thrones and were given authority to judge (Revelation 20:4). The martyrs were told that they would only have to wait a little while before their full victory was achieved, but first, their living brethren had to suffer to fill the measure of suffering (Revelation 6:9-11).
√ The living and the dead had been enthroned with Christ “in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 2:1-6).
√ The living had been given the authority to judge (Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16). In Matthew 19:28 Jesus told the apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This judgment would take place through the message they preached (Matthew 16:19; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15f).
√ The living saints had to experience the suffering already experienced by the martyrs.
√ The living would only have to suffer for a little while (Revelation 6:9-11; 1 Peter 1:4f).
Some falsely claim that Jesus and the saints did not truly reign during the forty year period. In 1 Corinthians 15:24 Paul spoke of Christ’s then current status, “He must reign until his enemies are put under his feet.” Paul uses the present infinitive which means Christ was currently reigning, and would continue to reign until his enemies were put under him. The time of his rule is the time of the putting down of his enemies. If he was not ruling before 70 then he was not putting down his enemies before 70, but, 1 Corinthians 15:24; Colossians 2:14f; Hebrews 10:13, etc. all speak of how Christ had begun to put all enemies under him. He was ruling in the midst of those enemies, awaiting the consummation of his conquering work.
William Bell astutely notes that if Christ did not begin to rule until AD 70 then the putting down of his enemies, and ruling in the midst of his enemies, did not begin until AD 70. Paul said, “He must reign until his enemies are put under him.” His reign and the putting down of his enemies are synchronous events. The Psalmist said: “Rule thou, in the midst of your enemies” (Psalms 110:2). The ruling until the enemies were put under him, and the ruling in the midst of his enemies are parallel statements. Paul makes it indisputably clear that Christ had begun the work of putting his enemies under him: “He has put all things under him, but we do not yet see all things put under him” (1 Corinthians 15:27; cf. Colossians 2:14f).
The time of the end (1 Corinthians 15:24) is when Messiah finalized his triumph over his enemies, not the time when he would begin to put down his enemies. Revelation depicts that final victory, “when the thousand years are finished” (20:7). So, in Revelation, the beginning of the millennium is the beginning of Messiah’s conquering work. The millennium reign is the consolidation of Messiah’s rule. The end of the millennium is when that work was perfected.
√ John says the martyrs were priests who reigned with Christ for the millennium. In this they share an organic unity with Christ.
Zechariah 6:13 foretold that in the Messianic Temple, Messiah would be both priest and king on his throne.
Hebrews 8:1-3 tells us that Jesus was serving as High Priest over the True Tabernacle, as he sat at “the right hand of the throne of majesty”– exactly where the Psalmist said he would rule in the midst of his enemies (Psalms 110:1-2).
In Revelation 20– just as their Lord sat on the throne as king and priest, the saints sat on thrones and served as priests. This was not only true of the dead. The living saints were priests as well (Hebrews 13:15, 1 Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:5).
√ Satan was bound for the millennium. Here too we find common ground with the ministry of Jesus and the forty years.
When Jesus cast a demon out of a man, the disciples marveled. Jesus’ said that this was not possible unless the strong man was being bound (Matthew 12:29). As he sent his disciples out on the “limited commission” they returned incredulous at their success. Jesus told them: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18; cf. Revelation 12).
Note the comparison between 2 Thessalonians 1-2 and Revelation.
We have suffering / martyrdom (2 Thessalonians 1; 2:7f– Revelation 20:1-4). See Revelation 6:9-11; 12:12.
We have the binding of the enemy of God: “You know what is restraining him…” “The one who now restrains him will do so until he is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7); the binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-4).
We have the release of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:8), just as we have the releasing of Satan (Revelation 20).
We have the destruction of the enemy at the end (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 20:10).
Now, Christ’s parousia, in vindication of the suffering Thessalonians, and the destruction of the persecuting enemy, would be in the lifetime of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). The coming of the Lord in judgment of the man of sin is the final vindication of the martyrs in Revelation 20. So…
The destruction of the man of sin is the conquering of Satan at the end of the millennium.
The destruction of the man of sin of 2 Thessalonians 2 is the parousia of 2 Thessalonians 1.
The coming of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 1 was to be in the lifetime of the Thessalonians, when the Lord came to give them relief from the persecution they were then experiencing.
Therefore, the destruction of the man of sin, at the end of the millennium, would occur in the lifetime of the Thessalonians.
Paul said the last enemy, death, would be put down at Christ’s parousia (1 Corinthians 15:19-25).
John said death would be destroyed at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:10f).
Therefore, Christ’s parousia would be at the end of the mill
ennium: Jesus said “Behold, I come quickly!”
Thus, the end of the millennium was near when John wrote.
So, every constituent element that John used to describe the millennium is applied to the period of time from the ministry of Christ until AD 70.These are thematic and temporal parallels. Therefore, the millennium extended from Jesus’ ministry until AD 70.
“WHEN THE 1000 YEARS ARE OVER”
One way of determining whether the forty year period could have been the millennium is to examine what was to happen at the end of the millennium, and to compare that with the language of imminence found in the NT. If the events that Revelation posits at the end of the millennium were coming soon in the rest of the NT, this constitutes prima facie evidence that the end of the millennium was near.
1.) Satan released– 1 Peter 5:8 – “The Devil walks around seeking whom he may devour.”
2.) War with the saints – 1 Peter 1:4f – The Saints had to suffer a little while (cf. Revelation 12:10).
3.) Destruction of Satan – Romans 16:20 – “The God of peace shall crush Satan under your feet shortly.” Simply stated:
The destruction of Satan would be at the end of the millennium.
But, the destruction of Satan was near when Paul wrote Romans.
Therefore, the end of the millennium was near when Paul wrote Romans.
4.) The resurrection– (i.e. “the rest of the dead,” who came to life after the 1000 years, 20:7-12) – Christ was “ready (hetoimos) to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).
5.) Opening of the books / judgment – “There are some standing here that shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:27-28).
6.) Heaven and earth fled, the New Creation– God dwells with man – “These things must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 22:6, 10-12).
THE MILLENNIUM AND ISRAEL’S FESTAL CALENDAR
In Israel’s festal calendar, the New Creation would come at the climax of the last three feast days– Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah, i.e. judgment), Atonement, Harvest / Tabernacles. Tabernacles is when God’s presence would be restored to man through resurrection.
In Revelation 14:1-4 we have the first fruits of the Harvest (cf. John 5:24f) which corresponds to the enthronement of the martyrs in Revelation 20:1-4. They were awaiting the Harvest (Feast of Booths) which would occur at the destruction of Babylon, the city guilty of killing the saints (14:6f)– this is the end of the millennium of 20:10f.
So, in Revelation 20-21, at the end of the millennium resurrection, we hear the victory declaration: “The tabernacle of God is with man!” (Revelation 21:3). Here is the fulfillment of Israel’s festal calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles!
It is commonly argued that the “ceremonial aspects” of Torah ended at the cross, and that Israel ceased to be God’s covenant people at the cross, while OT prophecy remained (to AD 70) or remains valid (futurism). However, nothing was more “ceremonial” or prophetic, than Israel’s covenantal feast days! The fact that Revelation 20-21 depicts the fulfillment of Israel’s last three feast days at the end of the millennium proves that the “ceremonial” aspects of Torah remained valid when John wrote.
Israel’s Feast Days (Thus, Torah itself) would remain valid until what the Feast Days foretold was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18; Colossians 2:14-16; Hebrews 9:6-10).
But, those feast days foreshadowed the resurrection — the hope of Israel — at the end of the millennium.
Therefore, Israel’s Feast Days (Thus, Torah itself) would remain valid until the end of the millennium.
Clearly, the consummation of Israel’s age and the end of Torah, is inseparably tied to the end of the millennium.
The resurrection was the salvation hope of Israel (Isaiah 25:8; Acts 26:6-8; Romans 11:25f).
The resurrection of Revelation 20:10f– at the end of the millennium– was therefore the salvation hope of Israel.
Daniel 12:2-7 posits the resurrection hope of Israel as fulfilled in AD 70.
Therefore, the end of the millennium was in AD 70.
Biblically, there was no resurrection divorced from Israel’s hope. Thus, the resurrection of the “rest of the dead” at the end of the millennium must be interpreted within that framework.
Every element of the millennium was present in the living saints during the 40 years between Jesus’ ministry and AD 70.
The end of the millennium resurrection was the hope of Israel. If that has not happened, Torah remains valid; Israel remains God’s covenant people. Daniel 12 falsifies this idea.
Much more could be said. However, all of the evidence points irrefutably to the fact that the millennium began in the ministry of Christ and extended for the forty years until AD 70.
See my book, Who Is This Babylon, for a much fuller discussion of the millennial issue. That book is available on this website.