Adolf Hitler dreamed of a German empire – the Third Reich – that would last a thousand years. Before him were the French revolutionists, who envisioned a thousand-year Age of Reason. Before that, the Fifth Monarchy Men of England expected Christ and His saints to reign on earth for thousand years – and they were ready to make that happen through violent means if necessary.
Ever since the book of Revelation was written, the thousand-year-long binding of Satan and the millennial reign of the saints has attracted an embarrassing variety of interpretations and applications. Some early church “fathers” expected a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Others opposed that view, claiming that it put a time limit on Christ’s reign.
Augustine of Hippo (d. 430 AD) popularized the idea that the prophecy referred to the Church (Roman Catholic) and that the thousand-year period was symbolic rather literal. The Protestant Reformers, of course, would disagree, since many of them viewed the Roman Catholic hierarchy – the pope in particular – as the antichrist.
By the time of the Advent Movement in the 19th century the predominant view among conservative Protestants was
According to this interpretation of Revelation 20, there would be a thousand years of peace on earth prior to the second advent.
That’s what William Miller and the early Adventists were up against when they preached an imminent return of Christ and the end of the world. Imagine the passionate opposition they faced. It was a case of utopian dreams against visions of catastrophic cataclysm.
Postmillennialists are still waiting for that thousand years of peace to begin. Their hopes will end up like those of Hitler, the French Revolutionists, and the Fifth Monarchy Men. All views of the Millennium that feed on the ambitions of men, be they tyrants or preachers or popes, will prove faulty.
If we get back to the words of scripture and understand their plainest, most natural meaning, we find that the Millennium follows the second coming of Christ and the “first” resurrection. (See 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). Satan is bound for a thousand years on a planet devoid of human life. (See Revelation 20:5).
At the end of the thousand years the rest of the dead are raised, and thus Satan is released to continue his war against God. He, together with the armies of the damned, are ultimately annihilated by God’s consuming fire. (See Revelation 20:7-9)
These events do not usher in a thousand years of peace in this world but an eternity of peace in the world to come. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1).