Revelation 20: the 1000 years was actually only 40 years!

Yes, that was a teaser title. If you haven’t considered me crazy and stopped reading, then I will try to show why I believe the title is actually true. The majority of evangelicals believe that Jesus will return some day, set up an earthly kingdom, and reign on earth for 1000 years based on Revelation 20. I believe the 1000 years in Revelation was only a 40 year period that happened between 30-70 AD. BTW, there have been scholars who took that position, but I’m sure I am in the minority! Hear me out.

Before we begin, I encourage you to go to this site: Read the many passages where the number 1,000 is obviously symbolic of a long period or a great number, but not literal. Yes, it is also used as a literal number. So the context must determine in the 1000 year reign in Revelation 20 is symbolic or literal. The book of Revelation is filled with symbolic numbers and figures, so why would we be surprised if the 1000 year reign is symbolic, not literal? And that is what I hope to show.

First, what does it say? Satan will be bound for 1000 years, and after that 1000 years he would be released for a short time. Revelation 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain [a]in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Now, if we can determine what happens after he is released, that will help us determine what the 1000 years are. Revelation 20 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the [c]seashore. And they came up on the [d]broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the [e]saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and [f]brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released, Gog and Magog surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Now, most would say this is the battle of Armageddon and that battle is still in our future. Here is where my view of what the book of Revelation is about comes to play. Please read my blog articles 1) Revelations was written before 70 AD, and 2) The keys to understanding Revelation. Condensed version: Rev 17 tells us the book was written during the reign of the 6th emperor of Rome, Nero (54-68 AD), and thus before 70 AD. This, and other, internal evidence far outweighs the statement of Irenaeus in 180 AD upon which many date the writing of the book to be 96 AD. The harlot woman is Jerusalem, but is also the great city, Babylon, which is destroyed (11:6; 17:18), burned with fire, by the sea beast, Rome (13:1-3; 17:16). Babylon is not Rome, as many think. The theme of the book is “the avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints” (18:20,24; 19:2). Jerusalem had persecuted and killed the prophets God sent them during their entire history, and they would kill apostles (Acts 12), and the Jewish Christians (as Paul did, Acts 9,22; 1 Thessalonians 2:12-14). This matches exactly what Jesus predicted in Matthew 23:29-39). He then foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that would happen within the generation of those he was speaking to (Matthew 24:34). The book of Revelation is the detailed fulfillment of what Jesus predicted in Matthew 23, 24: the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. After all, John opens and closes the book saying that the things that were going to happen were to “shortly come to pass” , “soon”, “near” (1:1-3; 22:6), and “don’t seal up the words” (22:10). I know many say those words can be “soon in God’s time”, which could be thousands of years, but it is obvious that the words apply to the time frame of those he is writing to. Otherwise, it would be like someone telling us that America is going to fall soon, and it doesn’t happen. We would call them a false prophet. Also, all the internal evidence points to a date of writing before 70 AD, and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD fits exactly what John predicted would happen soon after the time of writing. Case closed.

I needed to say all that before further discussion of the 1000 years. The key is 20:9. This army of Gog and Magog, gathered by Satan, surround the “beloved city” at the end of the 1000 years. If the book is about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this has to be the final siege of the city in 70 AD (it lasted 5 months to be precise) before destroying the city and the temple. Gog and Magog would be the Romans. Why Gog and Magog? Ezekiel predicted this in Ezekiel 38, 39. He predicts an army, Gog and Magog, will attack Israel and Jerusalem. He says that army had already been predicted to do this by other prophets before him. Ezekiel 38: 17 17 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them?” Indeed, if this is Rome attacking Jerusalem in 70 AD, then indeed other prophets had predicted that (Joel 3; Zechariah 14; Isaiah 65,66; Deuteronomy 32; Daniel 7, 8,9,12). He also says this will happen in their “latter years” (38:8). That phrase “latter years” of Israel always refers to the “last days” of Israel, that last period from 30-70 AD. He also says this will happen during the time in which He will pour out His Spirit on the remnant: Ezekiel 39 29 I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God.” That OT prediction, just as in Joel 2 and other places, always refers to the miraculous outpouring of the Spirit during the period from 30-70 AD (Acts 2:16-21 where Peter says that period is the fulfillment of Joel 2).

So Ezekiel 38, 39 was actually predicting Rome attacking Jerusalem and Israel, and Rev 20:9 is the fulfillment of that prediction when Rome surrounded the “beloved city” in 70 AD and destroyed it. Surely, everyone would agree that the “beloved city” is Jerusalem. I did read one commentary that said the beloved city was the church, i.e. the “new Jerusalem”, but the new Jerusalem doesn’t come down out of heaven until Revelation 21, so it can’t be the new Jerusalem yet. So the end of the 1000 years is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The beginning of the 1000 years is when Satan was bound. When was that? I believe that was 30 AD. But wasn’t he free from 30-70 AD? Yes, but the binding of Satan for 1000 years in Rev 20 was a specific, limited, binding, i.e. he was not allowed to destroy the temple until the end of the 1000 years. My conclusion: the 1000 years is actually the 40 years period from 30-70 AD.

So the number 1000 is used in a figurative sense. But I thought we were supposed to take everything literal in the Bible. Not so. Much of the Bible language is figurative, like when we say “it is raining cats and dogs” (really?). Revelation is full of figurative numbers: the 666 mark of the beast, the 144,000 (exactly 12,000 of every tribe of Israel), the 24 elders, the number 7 (lamps, trumpets, etc.). God said “the cattle of a thousand hills is mine” (Psalm 50:10). Did He not own the cattle on the rest of the hills? The number 1000 there is obviously figurative. The number 10 is viewed as the perfect number, made up of 4 (the number of the physical creation, as in the 4 directions, 4 corners of the earth), and 6 (the number of man, as used probably in 666). As such, 10 signifies testimony, law, responsibility and the completeness of order. There were 10 commandments, the Day of Atonement was on the 10th day of the 7th month, the sea beast in Rev 13, 17 had 10 horns, etc. 1000 is 10 X 10 X 10, the number 10 magnified to the 3rd power! So why would that 40 year period from 30-70 AD be represented figuratively by the number 1000? Maybe because that 40 year period is the final, perfect, complete wrap up of God’s eternal plan. Rev 10:7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He [b]preached to His servants the prophets.” After Satan is released and deceives Rome into attacking Jerusalem, he is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. Rev 20 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and [f]brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Satan thinks he is binging a final end to the worship of the one true God by getting Rome to destroy the temple and holy city, but He is playing right into God’s hand! Rev 17:17 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His [i]purpose [j]by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.” Satan was doing God’s plan in destroying the temple and didn’t even realize it. Once God was finished using him to do that, God cast Satan into the fire, along with the sea beast Rome, and the false prophet (the earth beast of Rev 13). This is not some physical destruction of Rome in 70 AD. Jesus had said to Pilate in John 18:36 “My kingdom [k]is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [l]of this realm.” God’s eternal kingdom of Daniel 2:44, Mark 1:15;9:1 is a spiritual kingdom, the church over which He and Jesus reign forever. His plan was never for the church kingdom to physically destroy kingdoms on earth, like Rome. But in 70 AD, there was a complete finality to God’s redemptive plan. How so? All the prophecies of the OT were fulfilled. Luke 21:22 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.: The last enemy, death, was conquered (1 Corinthians 15:26). 1 Corinthians 15 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” The law had to be completely removed to take away the power of sin to kill spiritually. After 70 AD, the temple has never been rebuilt, the priesthood cannot be restored or practice because the Romans destroyed the genealogical tables, animal sacrifices cannot be offered in the temple any longer, etc. God Himself took away the law. Hebrews 9:The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the [i]outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. This is why Hebrews 8 :13 said, “But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is [j]ready to disappear”, speaking of the removal of the law in 70 AD just a few years after Hebrews was written. 70 AD was the removal of the “old heavens and earth” (another blog for that one!) and replacing it with the “new heavens and earth” (i.e. the new Messianic order of things of the “age to come”). It was the removal of the old Jerusalem, replacing it with the new Jerusalem, ie. the church. Revelation 21:1-2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” Remember, John had said all these things in Revelation were to happen soon, shortly, the time is near, don’t seal up the words, etc. That must include ch 20-22 also or he is a false prophet. Many want to make ch 20-22 to still be in out future, unfulfilled predictions, but that contradicts what John said about the time for them to be fulfilled.

So, at least after reading this article, I hope you don’t think I am completely crazy. Some things only seem crazy because they contradict the traditional way they have been taught for centuries. The 1000 year reign on earth as a future event has been taught so long and so vehemently that, like the theory of evolution, it is just accepted as fact. The very idea of any reign of Jesus over a physical kingdom on earth contradicts John 18:36 “my kingdom is not of this world” and Mark 9:1 (his kingdom would be established before some whom he was speaking to would die). Those expecting Jesus to establish a physical kingdom some day and reign over it (for 1000 years or however long) are making the same mistake the Jews made, i.e. looking for a physical kingdom, the physical restoration of Israel, that caused them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. Of course, those advocating the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth in a physical kingdom aren’t rejecting Jesus as the Jews did, but their teaching will diminish the glory of the church kingdom and can cause believers to be distracted from simple faith. Look how many believers are caught up in what is going on in Israel because they expect Israel to be involved in some “last days” coming of Jesus to set up his kingdom. Some even tell us to send money to Israel. Jesus was very clear in Matthew 21 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (i.e. the Jews) and given to a [m]people, producing the fruit of it.” Israel continued as a people, but no longer the people of God in any special way, no longer a part of His plans to redeem man in any way. He took the kingdom from them and gave it to the church, made up of Jew and Gentile believers in Jesus. He loves Israel, just like He loves all nations, but their hope is in becoming Christians and members of the church.


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