What is the meaning of the 1000 years of Revelation 20?
Revelation 20 states that Satan will be defeated and locked up for 1000 years and then released for a short time. Did the 1000 years already happen or are we still waiting for it?
I have taught a class on Revelation in which I address the question of the 1000 years in some detail. I am copying and pasting notes on Revelation 20. I hope this will be a sufficient answer to your question.
In short, I believe that the most reasonable interpretation of the 1000 years is that we are in the 1000 years now, as the end days have already begun. I am not a premillenialist (Jesus comes back to dwell in Jerusalem to begin a 1000 year reign) or a postmillenialist (a 1000 year victorious period for God’s people before Jesus comes back). Let me know if this answer is not sufficient.
Revelation 20:1-10. Satan/The Serpent in judged.
Rev 20 What is the thousand year reign?
Well, what is it not?
- No mention of the second coming of Christ.
- No mention of Jesus being on the earth.
- No mention of a bodily resurrection.
- No mention of a rapture.
- No mention of people living in modern times—only mention of those in the early church who are persecuted (“beheaded because of their testimony”). Paul, for example.
Is there room for a literal 1000 year physical reign of Jesus on a physical throne in Jerusalem here? A reestablishment of Jewish sacrifices and the building of a temple? Of an actual person known as the Antichrist and another as the False Prophet? Is it even remotely suggested? No!
This undercuts the entire premillennial doctrine, with its 1000 year reign of Jesus on the earth, in Jerusalem, and its pre-rapture and Tribulation, none of which are even suggested in Revelation 20.
What the 1000 year reign is:
It is a period during which the power of Satan to attack God’s people is significantly reduced which will last for an unknown but relatively long period of time, which began at a time near when John wrote Revelation.
Rev 20:1 Satan is bound for a complete and long period of time (1000 years). In what sense was Satan bound? In the sense that he no longer had the Beast, the Prostitute and the False Prophet working on his side. This is, in fact, historically, exactly what happened after AD 325.
Was he entirely bound? Obviously not! Like a chained dog.
Might demons have less power to possess people? Maybe.
How long chained? For 1000 years (a long time). Longer than he persecuted the church! Jude 6 a parallel passage.
- 3 After that he will be set free for a short time. What does that mean? See v. 7-10.
- 4 Martyrs killed by Domitian (and others?)given authority to judge (because they had most at stake in retribution of God’s enemies). Martyred because they did not make sacrifice to the beast.
Q: Has there been a “first resurrection.”/Is this literal? (v. 5). Maybe. If so, the rest of us will be resurrected (soon) after the end of the 1000 years (v. 6).
Is Rev 11:11 a literal resurrection? Probably not, so is Rev 20:4 a literal resurrection? Maybe not. So this “resurrection” may be symbolic. It may be that their cause is resurrected, while the cause of the pagan world/opponent to the church would remain dormant for “1000 years” For what it is worth, this is, in essence, what happened historically after AD 325. Note that Ezek 37:1-13 (the Valley of Dry Bones) is symbolic of a national revival, which supports this interpretation. Ezek 37:12 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. They you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.”
The “second resurrection” (implied) is the one when both good and evil will rise and be judged (Daniel 12:2f)
The point: Satan is bound and the martyrs are free! The earthly kings are in the lake of fire and the martyrs are reigning on thrones. This is the reality behind the scenes. The saints are on thrones, judging their persecutors. Daniel 7 “The Saints will possess the kingdom forever and ever. The martyrs are no longer crying or vengeance: they are on thrones.
20:6 Blessed are those who have a part in the “first resurrection” as the second death (see v. 14) has no power over them.
Q: When does the fast-forward to end-times happen? At 20:7 or at 20:11? I think it may well be at 20:7.
20:7-10 If so, then at the very end of time, when Christianity has spread over the whole earth, a second major persecution will break out against the Church. He will gather Gog and Magog (the people (Gog) and nations (Magog) in the world committed to Satan) and fight against the church. (v. 9). (See Ezek 38,38 where Gog and Magog are probably Antiochus Epiphanes and his empire)
But, as a result, Satan, like the Beast, the Great Prostitute, and the False Prophet, will be defeated, judged and sent to hell. A final judgment (day and night forever and ever).