I think I’ve been fair in my exegesis of Revelation so far. I’ve not gone into every nook and cranny, but I have been trying to find the right interpretive keys for the book as a whole. I’ve tried hard to let the book itself determine what those interpretive keys are, without coming to the text with a pre-determined bias.
On that basis, the appearance of this 1,000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20 is somewhat out of the blue.
To begin with, it reads sequentially. Babylon has fallen; the beast and false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire. Then we read of Satan being locked in the Abyss for 1,000 years. During that 1,000 years souls live and reign with Jesus. At the end of 1,000 years Satan is also thrown into the lake of fire. Then we read of the general resurrection of the dead and judgement before the great white throne of God.
But there are questions.
I’m not saying that the above summary is wrong. But I do think the questions are valid.
So I decided to dig some more. The key question is whether the events of chapter 20 denote sequential action or are another of John’s chronologically-shifted visions. All commentators agree that John’s Revelation is not wholly chronological, but is that a valid question at this point?
John doesn’t say, “Then I saw”; he says “And I saw” – that’s not conclusive either way, but does permit us to at least question the chronology. John has rewound the clock a few times: the seals, trumpets and bowls all seem to cover the totality of time between Jesus’ first and second coming. He also rewound in his portrayal of the woman in chapter 12, and how Satan pursues the church. If we consider the 1,000 years in the same way then we’d have the binding of Satan at Jesus’ first coming and his release at Jesus’ return. That “fits” in the sense that Jesus’ work at the cross certainly bound Satan and opened up salvation to the nations, and the idea of final battle is easy to see in the Bible. In short, it puts Jesus’ return as a decisive, one-off activity which destroys evil once for all and ushers in the new eternal reality in one go. It removes the need for an awkward post-return reign for which there is little specific evidence. (Wayne Grudem would disagree – he gives lots of evidence in his Systematic Theology but it just doesn’t seem to join up well to me!)
If this is a better way to read these verses, then the souls reigning with Jesus would be reigning with him right now. Paul does say something like that in Ephesians 2, and it would surely fit with our interpretive key of how this book is of relevant to Christians in every time, from the first 7 to read it until now.
But here too there are questions.
From these observations I end up at an amillennial position, but it’s more of a persuasion than a solid conviction. The most significant thing I can say about it is that I haven’t had to face the question until I reached chapter 19, and I think that may be the most significant observation of all.