Satan Evicted: Millennialism: Symbolic or Literal

Millennialism: Symbolic or Literal

Does the “thousand years” in Revelation, Chapter 20, literally mean a “thousand years” or about a “thousand years” or a “very, very long time?” I found this question to be much more controversial than I originally imaged. Amillennialists and premillennialists are attacking and defending as if their entire belief construct depends on this single issue alone.

Two or Three Witnesses

Amillennialism contends that this thousand year period can only be found in Revelation, Chapter 20, implying that the premillennialists’ concept of a literal thousand year reign fails the two or three witness test.

Premillennialism contends that the reference can be found six times in Revelation, Chapter 20, and, therefore, satisfies the two or three witness test. Some will also apply the theory of progressive revelation to address this issue.

In other words it is very important to understand that God revealed Himself progressively, and not all at once. This may seem fairly obvious by looking at the diverse authorship of the books of the Bible, and the many years that God's truth took to be written down, but the understanding of progressive revelation is important in relation to prophecy. The fact that the Millennial Kingdom is to be 1000 years isn't revealed until the 3rd to the last chapter of the Bible. That doesn't make it any less true.1

In my opinion, both sides have a valid point. It is hard to ignore something that is written six times within the Bible, but since the occurrences are in such close proximity, additional verification would seem appropriate.

Numbers as Symbols

Amillennialism contends that since the Book of Revelation is a book of symbols, and numbers, therefore, must also be symbolized. Several contend that one-thousand is ten to the third power and indicates fullness, totality, or completeness. Some also contend that the symbolic numbers help to illustrate that the sections run parallel.

Premillennialism contends that if a scripture make sense on a literal level, then we should accept its literal meaning. They contend that since a simple reading of the term “thousand years” makes since, then that’s they was it should be interpreted.

Premillennialism also contends that whenever the word “year” occurs with a numerical adjective (e.g. forty years) in scripture, it always refers to a regular calendar year. The non-literal view makes Revelation 20 to be the exception. The burden of proof is upon them to show otherwise.2

Amillennialism errs because the entire Bible is a book of figurative language and the Book of Revelation is not unique in that respect. Using sound interpretation guidelines, we must look at the context of the figure being used and then, and only then, determine if its use is figurative.

Premillennialism errs because they are inconsistent in their application. The “Seventh Week of Daniel” is applied frequently in premillennialism apocalyptic literature and indicates that they readily view biblical numbers as symbolic.

The thousand years may well be literal, but it may also be symbolic… Without additional clarification, it is impossible to determine how that number should be interpreted.

The Final Judgment in Relationship to the Second Coming

Amillennialism contend that the New Testament teaches only one return of Christ and that all future judgment occurs at that second coming. It would, therefore, be implausible for the White Throne judgment to take place a thousand years after the second coming.3

Premillennialists contend that this view is in error because they fail to consider the Rapture.4

This issue will be examined in detail within a dedicated section of this study.

Conclusion

Amillennialism sees the Church Age as the last chapter of God’s plan. Christ’s return, in their view, is the final act and mortals cannot possible live on earth after Christ’s return – What would be the basis of their salvation? Amillennialism contends that both the Old and New Testament point to Jesus Christ and all salvation is rooted in either looking forward or backwards towards the cross. There simply isn’t any room within their theological construct for a new covenant.

Many supporters of premillennialism also support dispensationalism – series of chronologically successive "dispensations" or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants.5 There is little discussion concerning what “covenant” will be in effect during the thousand year earthly reign of Christ, but the possibility of a new covenant for those mortals surviving the great tribulation doesn’t disrupt the premillennialism theological construct.

The “literal” or “symbolic” meaning of the thousand years has been given greater importance than it deserves. Premillennialism tends to use it as “proof” that amillennialism is a flawed construct, and amillennialism defends their view accordingly. Ultimately, the exact length of a “thousand years” has little significant impact on God’s overall plan.


1 “Progressive Revelation,” Mark Esposito, Ed. Endtimes.org. NDA. Retrieved:  <http://www.endtimes.org/progressive.html> Oct. 2, 2011.

2 Robert Gromacki, Cedarville University, “Revelation 20: A Premillennial Analysis,” Pre-trib research Center, page 6, NDA, <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Gromacki-Revelation20APremille.pdf> Oct 1, 2011.

3 from Robert Gromacki, Cedarville University, “Revelation 20: A Premillennial Analysis,” Pre-trib research Center, page 6, NDA, <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Gromacki-Revelation20APremille.pdf> Oct 1, 2011.

4 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

5 “Dispensationalism,” Wikipedia, Oct. 31, 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispensationalism> Nov. 3, 2011


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