The amillennialists eschew the literal 1000 years of the millennium and teach that it is a figure for a definite but unspecified length of time during which Christ reigns supreme in the church (See Hailey, Revelation, p391, 1979; Wallace, Revelation, p403, 1966; and Ogden, Avenging the Apostles and Prophets, p356, 1991), but the actual text of the Bible does not allow the millennium to be swept aside so easily. Wallace’s “it is figurative” explanation of the millennium does not permit the millennium to end as the scriptures requires. The text says,
Rev 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
If the millennium is the reign of Christ in the church, by this theory the millennium cannot end before the Second Coming and therefore does not allow for the end of the millennium before Satan’s little season as the scriptures require (Rev 20:3). The scriptures teach that the church will abide until the Second Coming, so if the millennium is Christ ruling in the church, the millennium cannot ened before He returns. There will be Christians living when Jesus comes for Paul says,
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Clearly some Christians will remain when Jesus comes (see also Lk 17:34-36, Mt 24:40-41, I Cor 15:51-52, Mt 16:18). Since there will still be Christians left when Jesus returns, then there can be no end of Christianity before He returns, and the idea that Jesus ruling in the church is the millennium is wrong, because there will never be a complete cessation of the church on earth and no end to the millennial reign as the scripture clearly requires.
As we saw in a previous article, the unanimous voice of the church fathers of the first two centuries is that there will be a millennium following the 6000 years of the present earth. The list of church fathers that wrote in support of a thousand year reign of Christ after the present age includes Barnabus, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Melito, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian ranging from AD 70 to about 192. Not one father from the first two centuries, the very earliest days of Christianity, disagreed with the idea of a thousand year reign of Christ on the 7th day (George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, Vol 1, Funk and Wagnalls, NY, p451, 1884). However, before anyone gets too upset with this statement, let me add that the view of the millennium held by these ancient saints is substantially different from the millennial views held by the dispensationalists. The first century saints held that Christ would rule for 1000 years at the end of which his reign would continue uninterruped into what they called “the eighth day”. You can see the change in character of things from the seventh day (seventh millennium) to the eighth day in this:
II Enoch 33:1 says, “And I appointed the eighth day also, that the eighth day should be the first-created after my work, and that the first seven revolve in the form of the seventh thousand, and that at the beginning of the eighth thousand there should be a time of not-counting, endless, with neither years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours.”
The first century Christian, Barnabas, also concurs with the notion that the 6000 years of the present order are to be followed by a millennial Sabbath after which there will be an 8th day:
Barnabas 15:8 Finally He saith to them; Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with. Ye see what is His meaning; it is not your present Sabbaths that are acceptable [unto Me], but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.
Barnabas 15:9 Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.
As you can see from the above readings, neither of these authors supported the idea of a 1000 year rule followed by the end of Christ’s rule, rebellion, war, suffering and death. Later authors appear to have merged the description of John’s millennium in Rev 20 with the earlier fathers’ support of the 7th day millennial rule of Christ, but the 7th day Sabbath millennium and the millennium of Rev 20 cannot be the same. The millennium supported by the early fathers is to come after Jesus returns to earth (the 7th day). The millennium in Rev 20 must end BEFORE Christ’s return. The Rev 20 millennium must end before the end of the present world for the following reasons:
1) There are dead saints in heaven now with Christ (see Rev 20:4 in KJV and ASV, cp Php 1:23-24, II Cor 5:8-9), but there can be no dead saints after Jesus returns (I Thes 4:16).
2) Jesus cannot return at all until all of His enemies are destroyed (Acts 3:21, 2:34-35). The last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Cor 15:26). Therefore, Jesus cannot return until the resurrection of all His saints and the termination of death (Rev 21:4, I Cor 15:51-52). There can obviously never be any more death after death is destroyed, and if death is terminated, there can not be a battle wherein millions more perish at the end of the millennium.
3) When Jesus returns, He will sit on the throne of HIS glory (Mt 25:31, Rev 22:3-5). His throne is David’s throne (Lk 1:32). When Jesus sits on David’s throne, His rule can have no end (Lk 1:33).
4) The souls of some saints are in heaven as a result of being killed by the Beast (Rev 20:4). However, when Jesus returns at the end of the world (Rev 19:11-21), He casts the Beast into the Lake of Fire from which he will never emerge (Rev 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10).
5) Christ fights the nations gathered from all the earth and led by Satan (Rev 20:9) when He returns to the earth (Rev 19:19-20), but Satan gathers these armies before Christ’s Second Coming (Rev 16:13-16) and fights Christ at the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 20:9, 16:14-16). The defeat of Satan is shown in Rev 20:9 at Christ’s return AFTER the end of the millennium.
The millennium of Rev 20 CANNOT transpire after the return of Christ, and it therefore cannot be the millennium of the 7th day. The millennium of Rev 20:4 I believe is typical of the millennium of the 7th day. I believe it is typical because the only ones alive during the reign of Christ in Rev 20 are the 144,000 of Israel (Rev 7:3-8) risen with Christ on resurrection day (Mt 27:52-53), and Israel serves as shadows and types of things to come (Col 2:17, Heb 8:5). The firstfruits of the dead (the 144,000 risen Jews–Rev 7:3-8, 14:4) that reigned with Christ serve as a type of the millennial reign of Christ during the Sabbath millennium. However, the 7th day Sabbath millennium antitype is superior to the type of the 1000 year reign in Rev 20, because when that 7th millennium ends, Christ’s rule continues uninterrupted into eternity (Lk 1:33).
The change from the 7th to the 8th day rule is a change of age because the way of counting time changes (see II En 33:1 above), hence there are two or more ages in the world to come, and the plurality of ages is supported by Paul’s claim that there are “ages” (plural) in the world to come (Eph 2:7).