By Nathan Jones
Q) Is there a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ?
To answer this tough Bible question, Dr. David Reagan and I on a Christ in Prophecy television episode interviewed Dr. Ron Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is the founder and director of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries. With nearly 50 books penned and decades of public teaching, he is an expert on the Bible. As a former "Bible Answer Man," he specializes in easy to understand answers to the really tough questions about the Bible and the defense of the Scriptures.
People are always trying to prove that Revelation 20 does not mean what it says when it says that Jesus is coming back to reign for a thousand years. What they'll do is go over and pick up Psalm 50:10 that says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. They'll figure that since there are so many more cattle than are just on a thousand hills that exist which God owns, that therefore the word "thousand" must always be symbolic and never literal.
People also often approach the book of Revelation with what we in the theological world call "pre-understandings." People approach the text with a pre-understanding of the theological system that governs the way they interpret those verses. All of us have some kind of a system of theology, but what I'm saying is that the system of theology must be subject to the Bible. It should always be tested against the Bible. If you come across a real clear scripture like Revelation 20 that contradicts your theological system, then guess what, you need to rewrite your theological system.
I think that the kingship of Christ was prophesied back in the original covenant. You look at the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7, prophesied about a king who would rule forever and who would sit on the throne of David. We're not talking about some sort of spiritual thing up in a twilight zone of Heaven. No, we're talking about a real throne on a real earth. And so, if you interpret Scripture in a literal fashion, you're going to come out believing in a literal one thousand year period.
To give an English illustration, if you were to use the word "trunk" that can refer to the front of an elephant, the rear end of a man, the back of a car, or it can refer to a suitcase. Just depending upon the context a word can mean a whole lot of different things.
One of the big mistakes that first year seminary students make is assuming that because a word is used one way in one context is has to mean the same thing in every other verse, and that's a mistake.
When the plain sense makes good sense why seek any other sense? That's one of the things that I base my entire interpretive methodology on. And yet, today we've got all kinds of people reading all kinds of things into the Bible. If people would just let the Bible speak for itself.
Who created human language? It was God. God created linguistic symbols called words by which He communicates with man through revelation. And, in most cases, God communicates in a normal, everyday means. Now, it is true that there are some verses that are poetic like in the Psalms and so forth, but most of the time when God is communicating it is in statements of fact. So, when the plain sense makes good sense, why seek any other sense?
One of the reasons that people spiritualize so much is because they become God when they do so, because they can make the Scriptures mean anything they want them to mean. The cults are experts at that. They'll take a verse and they'll make it say something entirely foreign to the original context. And, frankly, we've got a crisis in the church today because many Christians don't know the Bible very well. That's all the more reason for people to get back to the Bible.
So, remember, when you're reading Scripture verses follow that rule — "when the plain sense makes good sense don't seek any other sense."
Have you read how many times in Revelation 20 that "thousand" is written?
In verse 2, Satan is bound for "a thousand years." In verse 3, Satan is kept from deceiving the nations for "the thousand years."
In verse 4, those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark are resurrected to reign with Christ "a thousand years." The rest of the dead, those who remained in rebellion against God, they are resurrected after "the thousand years" are up, so says verse 5. Besides reigning, those from the First Resurrection will also be priests of God for "a thousand years," as verse 6 states.
Verse 7 tells us that Satan's captivity lasts only "the thousand years," then he goes out to deceive the nations one last time.
Six distinct times the term "thousand years" is used to denote the length of time that Satan will be bound, how long Christ's physical kingdom on Earth will last, that the resurrected Saints will rule and reign, and how long until the final world battle commences, followed by the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20 clearly isn't talking generally about time, but specifically about how long these things will occur. We can know for sure that they will last one thousand actual years.