The religious modern way of interpreting Revelation chapter 20’s depiction of a 1,000 year reign has been titled many times “the Millennial Reign”. This depiction has had a couple forms, but most of these portray this “millennial reign” as an earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ upon the earth, after the “rapture” of the saints and the tribulation.
From Wikipedia: “Pre-tribulation rapture theology originated in the eighteenth century, with the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather, and was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and further in the United States by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century.”
Note: the terms “millennial reign” and “rapture” do not exist within the scriptures. These terms were created by those who teach the earthly kingdom millennial reign. Most people have heard these terms so much they actually assume they are in the Bible, and never check the scriptures for themselves. So I recommend you start reading the scriptures, in their original full context, before you start drawing conclusions about what you should believe.
A thousand year earthly kingdom reign is not unique with only those who would profess to be Christian “millennialists”. Its roots can be found in most religions throughout the world. A key element which exists in most religions is that there will be a time when evil in the earth will be destroyed by the powers of good, followed by a long period of peace in the earth.
The Apocryphal Books consists of eleven or twelve books, depending upon how they are divided, that the Roman Catholic Church added to the Old Testament. They are not part of the true canon of scripture, and therefore are not appropriately part of the Bible. These Apocryphal books are filled with speculations of a time of universal earthly peace, which would be ruled by the people of God. Only in these books do we find the doctrine of a 1,000 year earthly kingdom reign.
But now that we have heard everyone else’s opinion, let’s take time to hear what Jesus plainly said about this subject:
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” ~ John 18:36-37
Do you hear Jesus voice today? His kingdom is not of this world. It never has been, and never will be.
The hope of the Jews was wrapped up in an earthly kingdom. They did not understand the spiritual kingdom that Jesus died for. Jesus’ death brought salvation to our souls: forgiveness and deliverance from all sin! This is the Kingdom of God within!
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” ~ Luke 17:20-21
But this “thinking” of an earthly kingdom also influenced the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, until the day of Pentecost when they experienced the Kingdom within, with the power of the Holy Spirit! Prior to the day off Pentecost, they (like many millennial kingdom believers are today) were concerned with a future time of an earthly kingdom. Jesus told them to not be concerned with that. Earthly kingdoms come and go according as God wills. But the Apostles and disciples of the Lord would receive power in the non-earthly kingdom: the kingdom of God!
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:6-8
Then after the day of Pentecost, the Apostles and disciples of the Lord went everywhere preaching the kingdom of God, just as Jesus had already been doing. Jesus refocused their attention to go out from Jerusalem to build the spiritual kingdom in the rest of the world, and to not focus on the earthly kingdom of Israel.
“And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” ~ Acts 28:30-31
Many times Jesus had already taught that the kingdom of God was “now”, and you need to fully repent of sin to get into it.
“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:14-15
The kingdom of God existed then, because it is a spiritual kingdom that lasts forever. That is why he said “the time is fulfilled.” Christ was already reigning as King in the hearts of those who loved him.
“And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him” ~ Luke 8:1
The only kingdom Jesus was concerned with was the one that belongs to him. His power over Satan he attributed to his kingdom power that he had right then, at that same time.
“But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” ~ Luke 11:17-20
Jesus kingdom was already in existence because devils were being cast out of the hearts of people, and these same people were already getting saved into it.
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” ~ Luke 16:16
The Kingdom of God is a spiritual one, not an earthly one. That is why Jesus specifically taught us not to be concerned about seeking things down here. Consequently, he exhorted everyone to be concerned about what was in their heart, rather than about what they could obtain on earth.
“And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ~ Luke 12:29-34
So what do the scriptures teach that the kingdom of God is like?
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” ~ Romans 14:17
Again, it is a spiritual kingdom, therefore it is made up of spiritual things like: righteousness, peace, joy, and the Holy Spirit. It is a kingdom whose power and authority transforms the lives of the kingdom children, taking the power of sin and Satan out of their hearts.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” ~ Colossians 1:12-13
Jesus further compared the kingdom to spiritual things: like faith as a small mustard seed that can grow very big in the heart of the individual. Also like leaven that starts out small, but eventually leavens the whole. These are spiritual things that take place in the hearts of people who love the Lord.
“Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” ~ Luke 13:18-21
To further emphasize the spirituality of the kingdom of God, Jesus plainly told Nicodemus that he had no way of comprehending or seeing the kingdom, unless he was spiritually born from above. You need a spiritual birth to enter a spiritual kingdom!
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” ~ John 3:3-7
In the final day, Jesus will deliver up the already existing kingdom to God the Father. God the Father does not want earthly things like an earthly kingdom. He wants the hearts of people to love and honor his Son who died for them.
“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:24
All earthly rule, authority, and power will be cast into the lake of fire.
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” ~ Revelation 20:15
Like as is shown in Revelation the 20th chapter, it is through tribulation and trials that we enter into the kingdom. And in this tribulation time is where the spiritual kingdom of God especially exists in Earth.
- “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 14:22
- “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” ~ Revelation 1:9
- “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” ~ Revelation 12:10-11
Modern notions of a millennial reign reference 18 scriptures that talk about the kingdom. But there are over 100 that talk about kingdom, and only one (in Revelation the 20th chapter) talks about a 1,000 year reign. And the 1,000 year reign is spoken of as a time of Christians being persecuted and losing their lives for Christ. Although they are suffering, Revelation describes them as “reigning with Christ” because they are faithful and true to Christ.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” ~ Revelation 20:4
This is showing a time in history where Satan would use the power of fake “beast-like” Christianity to destroy true Christians. In Revelation chapter 20 Jesus is setting the record straight. He is showing that the fake church, during the thousand years of the middle ages (the dark ages) used the covering of “the church” to persecute true Christians. But Jesus was reigning as King within the hearts of these persecuted Christians. So Jesus’ kingdom still prevailed during this thousand years.
Paul in the Spirit prophesied of this type of persecution, and also explained that the true and faithful Christians are always the victors, even though they may lose their life for the gospel.
“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:34-39
Satan was not able to use fake Christianity successfully against true Christians. So during the 1,000 year reign of the persecuted Christians, Christ was still “King of kings and Lord of lords” in their hearts. (Revelation 19:16).
Are you able to see the kingdom of God today? Or are you also blinded by a notion of still waiting for an earthly kingdom. Remember “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Is love for Christ and his commandments your treasure, or is your heart still longing for earthly things?