Revelation 20 and the Millennial Kingdom

Some Thoughts About Jesus’ Messianic Kingdom as described in Revelation 20. (Edited 2024-06-26)

Please keep in mind that it would be unusual for anyone to actually be completely right about a Bible Prophecy before it was fulfilled. This is just a first attempt to put some of my thoughts about the 1,000 year Messianic Kingdom prophecy into writing. This would be a good time to reread all of Revelation 20-22 if you are not well acquainted with its content.

The Messianic Kingdom follows the return of Jesus. That makes me Pre-Millennial. I am not a Dispensationalist, yet I agree with the Dispensationalists that the modern Israel is extremely important. I am not exactly Historical Pre-Millennial either because I do not believe that the Ante-Nicene Fathers were in full agreement with each other, especially about what happens before the Return of Jesus. I cannot accept that the 70th week of Daniel is still future. So, the Great Tribulation is much longer than 7 years. What happened in AD70 and everything that has happened to the Jews since, including the Holocaust, must not be ignored. The horrific invasion of southern Israel by Hamas and violent Palestinian civilians on October 7, 2023 must also be understood as an event of ‘great tribulation’.  

I am only partially Preterist. I agree with the Preterists that much of Jesus’ prophecies were fulfilled by AD70, but not the verses about His Return. I have not found a term to describe my perspective. I see strengths and fatal flaws in all three of the named eschatological camps. So for now, I guess I am just a Pre-Millennial Hybrid!

A-millennialism and Post Millennialism can be immediately discarded as being established systems of thought that are incompatible with any concept of a literal future Messianic Kingdom on earth. It is my assertion that only a Messianic Age ruled by Jesus Himself present on Earth can fulfill the teachings of both Old and New Testaments.

Here are several terms that need to be included with the study of Revelation 20:

The Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Messianic Kingdom, Millennial Kingdom, New Heavens and New Earth, and the Church Age.  For now, all I want to say is that there are three kinds of Kingdoms led by Jesus. The Spiritual Kingdom of Heaven which was inaugurated at Pentecost, the Messianic Kingdom which is the one being described in Revelation 20, and the Eternal Kingdom of God when Jesus rules the entire Universe.

First things first.

Who is the King of this kingdom? It is Jesus, the one Who died for us, Who made a New Covenant by His death, who victoriously and with absolute authority entered Hell and preached salvation there, and returned to life after having set many dead souls free. Forty days later, after He had said goodbye to His followers, He returned to Heaven and His fantastic supernatural glory was returned to Him. Then He was acknowledged by the highest officials in Heaven to be worthy of all power and authority, and His reign over Heaven began. Jesus first act as King of Heaven was to pour out His Spirit on those humans who had believed in Him. This was Pentecost. The last 2000 years, often called the Church Age, is also sometimes called the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. But it is really Jesus spiritually leading the lives of individual Believers as their King.

Who is being ruled by Jesus now?

From Pentecost until now, the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, the true Christian followers of Jesus, are being ‘led by the Spirit’ of Jesus. I am forced to make a distinction between the individuals in the Body of Christ and the many organizations that identify themselves as a church or as ‘the Church’. The many errors and sins of the various historical and contemporary  ‘Christian’ organizations (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant denominations, and all other variations and cults) do not represent the Kingdom of God very well. So, while the universal church, ‘the Body of Christ’ or the ‘Bride of Christ’ has always existed, it has never coincided with any one kind of Christian organization. The true Church consists of only those true believers who follow Jesus, His teachings, and live by His Spirit. It does not matter if they understand all the finer distinctions of theology, or the ‘Biblical languages’ or the historical issues of the global Christian community. It is not possible for anyone to be correct or complete in the eyes of all Christian organizations. There has never been even one Christian organization that did not have internal conflict and disagreements. So, while I recognize the spiritual aspect of the earthly reign of Jesus, inaugurated at Pentecost, I do not accept that it corresponds to any particular religious organization, denomination or movement. So, as individual followers of Jesus, we can experience the present spiritual Kingdom of God, which as Jesus said, “is among you.”  But the future Messianic Kingdom, the Millennial Reign of Jesus will be very different.

Who will Jesus rule over in the coming Kingdom, the one described in Revelation 20? Contrary to some, when Jesus returns (Rev. 19) He does not kill all unbelievers. He destroys all who accepted the Mark of the Beast. That is a lot of people, but it is not everyone. Psalm 2 tells us that He will “rule with a rod of iron.” That doesn’t sound like a time where only resurrected glorified Christians are alive on the planet. We are told that those who survive in the nations which surround Israel will join in the observance of the new Messianic worship format, including the Feast of Tabernacles. Egypt and Syria are mentioned in this context. I believe that even some Moslems will refuse the Mark of the Beast, and be alive after Jesus has judged the Antichrist/Mahdi and his armies. These will be some of those who will experience the Messianic Kingdom as the Son of David rules from Jerusalem with a rod of iron, but were not Christians when He returned.  

Will all believers be resurrected and live during the Millennial Kingdom as Kings and Priests? No. The Bible seems to be very strict about this. The New Testament, in many places teaches about the various resurrections, of the saints at the Return of Jesus, of the Just and the Unjust at the Great White Throne, and a specific resurrection of the Martyrs of the Beast at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom. The text seems to say that only those who were beheaded for resisting the Mark of the Beast would actually be in this ‘First Resurrection’ that happens when Jesus returns to rule as King. But Paul’s teaching seems to include all dead believers, not just Martyrs. However, Paul hinted that he was not sure that he himself had ‘achieved’ the status of being ‘worthy’ to take part in the Resurrection. (Indirectly, I consider this to be evidence that Paul knew the content of the book of Revelation much earlier than is thought possible.) A surprising possibility is that those resurrected to serve as Kings and Priests with Jesus during the Millennial Kingdom are the only ones who will ever be resurrected to a physical body. Everyone else who is resurrected at the Return of Jesus will instantly go from being mortal flesh and blood to immortal glorified beings. These will be with Jesus forever, spiritually, but will not reign with Him on the earth in physical bodies. Will the physically resurrected martyrs die again (like Lazarus) after living a very long time (like Methuselah)? No one seems to know what it means that “the second death has no power over them”.  If all believers are resurrected directly to glorified immortality, this verse has no meaning. If all dead believers are physically resurrected, but those believers alive at the time of Jesus Return are immediately glorified, then Paul’s statement about his hoping to ‘attain to the resurrection’, but not being certain about it, forces us to think that he was not even sure of his own salvation, which seem ridiculous to me. For many Preterists, Nero was the Beast. So Paul’s beheading by Nero might seem to resolve this issue. But, since Nero never required a Mark of the Beast, how can the Preterists be right?  The corner that I find myself boxed into by this is that Jesus might consider all true Martyrs as worthy of reigning with Him, even if the Beast were not present. Jesus did promise the Disciples that they would sit on thrones in the Kingdom. Another possibility is that Satan, who has been beheading and killing Believers all along is the real Beast. While that may solve this issue, it raises others.

What about technology? Will the Millennial Messianic Kingdom be High Tech or Low Tech? I doubt that this is knowable, but I am leaning toward Low Tech. When I read the Old Testament prophecies about the Messianic Kingdom, the world seems to be more agriculturally oriented. I cannot imagine a future where Artificial Intelligence and The Holy Spirit coexist peacefully. A few X-50 solar flares could take care of that situation for awhile.

Does the Messianic Kingdom last exactly 1,000 years? Some say yes, many say it just means a long time. What matters to me is how it starts, and why and how does it end?

It starts with Jesus’ spectacular return as conquering King, accompanied by His own personal ‘Praetorian Guard’ of thousands of hand-picked Angels. He rescues His faithful suffering ones who have resisted the Beast and not accepted his mark. This is the ‘Harvest at the end of the Age’ that Jesus spoke about, and John recorded in Revelation 14:14-20. Jesus wipes out the forces of evil led by Satan, has Satan imprisoned, and begins to setup the literal earthly Messianic Kingdom. He will rebuild Jerusalem, which will have been devasted by the greatest earthquake in human history (not by the Antichrist), and the earthly symbol of God’s presence on earth, the 3rd Temple. What takes place in this Temple is a mystery. We know that Jesus’ sacrifice was comprehensive and final in its effect, but the expectation, especially in the Messianic passages of the Old Testament, is that some new form of sacrificial system will be established.  It is a mystery because we cannot imagine why Jesus would do this. Since there is an ‘alter’ in heaven, I assume that something like sacrifice in meaning will always be a spiritual reality. But I am not aware of anyone who has a clear understanding of this subject.

Why would the Messianic Kingdom ever end?  And why 1,000 years?  The only hint I see is that this is the exact duration of Satan’s imprisonment. His release corresponds with the end of Jesus’ earthly reign. Why? Where does Jesus go then? Does Jesus stay and rule through to the end of the Satan led Gog and Magog war against the Messianic Nation of Israel? Does the Messianic Kingdom continue after that war? The next thing in the prophecy is the New Heaven and New Earth, what happens to this one? Where is Jesus, His followers and subjects after the defeat of Gog and Magog? How long is this period of time between that war and the New Heavens and the New Earth? Do the New Heavens and New Earth mean a whole new Universe, or it is merely that the land and atmosphere of planet earth get purified and renewed?  It seems that the Sun and Moon continue, and the Earth loses all its oceans. What is that about?  If the New Jerusalem is self-lighted, it can be like day for 24 hours, but not the whole planet.  In outer space, away from planets and moons, it is always day. Is that what we are talking about?

There is no such thing as the ‘end of time’. There is no such thing as the ‘end of days’. These things cannot happen in a physical universe. The Bible refers to several ‘ages’ or ‘eons’  that come to an end, and the one associated with Jesus’ Return and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom is called ‘the age of the Gentiles’. Sometimes Jesus says ‘then comes the end’ when He is talking about the end of the Second Temple. That is a fulfilled prophecy which should be kept separate from the unfulfilled prophecies in Revelation. Some older English translations say: ‘end of the world’. But Jesus’ Return is not the end of the world. You could say it is the end of the world order, the end of the failed experiment of human self-governance, but the planet survives all of the judgments, at least until the New Heavens come. When Peter writes about this, he, like Paul, seems to know the content of the Book of Revelation. But Peter skips to the end. He describes the earth and all its works being destroyed by fire. Even the basic elements of the physical world are dissolved. I think of this as the only way and only time that all the waste of human civilization can be removed from the earth. Imagine a world with no pollution, no garbage mounds, no caves full of nuclear waste. But what a drastic solution! Certainly, no life on earth could survive this! So, when the New Earth is reborn, God will have to start over with everything, plants and animals, and John says that He will do this without oceans. I am struggling to imagine this.

But there is one other thing. What about the rest of the universe? Regardless of whether it continues or is also remade, what is God’s purpose for it? I think the answer to this question might explain the purpose of the Messianic Kingdom.  Before God recreates the Earth and its atmosphere, to whatever extent that is, Satan’s defeat is completed. Satan will never again be a force for evil on earth, in heaven, or anywhere else in the universe. It will finally be safe for beings to exist throughout the universe. I think the Bible, which seems to assume that Humanity represents the first appearance of physical sentient and intelligent life in the universe, also implies that the universe will one day be filled with life, and all of those living physical beings will exist without influence from Satan. They will need and depend upon guidance  and provisions from God. Jesus and His redeemed ‘elect’ will be the ones who bring the knowledge of God to the Universe. The reign of Jesus on earth, with His chosen saints ruling under Him as Priests and Kings is a rehearsal. It is when we learn how to rule a world without Satan’s influence. It is how we learn to bring God’s administration to the entire Universe. This is why we will be Glorified, and given supernatural, immortal spiritual bodies like angels, not just because He loves us, but because He loves His Son, and the whole universe was made for Jesus. This is why ‘all creation is eagerly waiting for the children of God to be revealed (in their glory)’.

Here is how Paul put it:  

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-25 NASB)

I realize that there are other ways of seeing these verses. But I think Paul has the biggest picture possible in mind as he writes this. The way Paul ends this chapter is perfect.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:37-39 NASB)

So I am at least Pro-Millennial!