Monday, November 29, 2021

Apocalyptic? #37: Then Came the Millennium!

Are John’s 1000 Years Literal?

Yes, John’s thousand years are to be understood literally.  This point is the very reason we attempt to determine the “genre” of Revelation.  As I mentioned in Apocalyptic?  #9:  Revelation 1:1-3 Commentary: “The literary genre in which Revelation is placed most frequently is the literary genre ‘apocalyptic.’  . . . The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis from which derive the English terms:  Apocalypse and Apocalyptic.”  What does it mean to identify a certain work as being of any given genre?  For Burke, genre classifications would receive consideration in a discussion of "form"--specifically, "conventional form" (CS 126ff.).  Furthermore, Burke defines “form” as the “arousing and fulfilling of expectation.”  Since, prior to Revelation, the book of Daniel is the primary exemplar of the apocalyptic genre, John's use of the apocalyptic genre has “aroused” in John and his audience an “expectation” that John’s apocalypse should be interpreted in the same manner as Daniel is interpreted.  If Daniel’s 70 Weeks of Years are literal (and Jesus seems to interpret them as literal), and Jesus’ “this generation” timeframe for the Fall of Jerusalem and the coming “abomination of desolation” is literal (and Josephus confirms that it is), then John’s 1000 years are literal. G. B. Caird writes:  "We return therefore to the question raised by the very first sentence of the Revelation.  What did John think was 'bound to happen soon'?  Certainly not the End, which was at least a millennium away [from 69 A.D., when he wrote Revelation]."  Caird, along with other Revelation scholars, definitely understood the millennium in Revelation to be a literal thousand years.  Christian scholars are not the only ones who believe a literal thousand year kingdom was predicted.  I was surprised when I learned from my (non-Christian) Jewish major professor at Indiana University, Henry A. Fischel that the rabbinic Jews of the first century A.D. were very much interested in how long the messianic kingdom (a.k.a., the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven) would last, in which the Jewish messiah would reign over the world, just as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome had reigned.  Without me raising the question, he stated that it was commonly expected to last for one thousand years. Rabbi Eli`ezer ben Hyrkanus (c. 90 A.D.), for example, taught that it would last 1000 years, based on Psalm 90:15.

As I discussed in Apocalyptic? #4 (published way back in April of last year):

At about the time John wrote the Book of Revelation, a respected school of Rabbinic (Jewish) thought, the school of Elias, was teaching a peculiar interpretation of history that attempted to sum up all of human history--past, present, and future.  The German scholar, Paul Billerbeck, observes that, according to the school of Elias, humankind would exist on earth for a total of six thousand years.  Two thousand years would be spent without the Law; two thousand years with the Law; and two thousand years would be spent under the rule of the Messiah.


But, John, in Revelation does not write “two thousand years;” he writes “one thousand years.”  In my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, page 25, I write:


Billerbeck acknowledges that John may be aware of Yehoschua's interpretation of history.  Yet, John does not explicitly paint himself into a corner regarding time frames, as do Yehoschua and the school of Elias.  John does indicate that there would be at least one "thousand years" period.  During these thousand years, "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan," would be "bound" and thrown "into the Abyss . . . to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended" (Revelation 20:2-3).  Following these "thousand years," however, John does not appear to promise an immediate end to human history.  Instead, "After that, [the dragon] must be set free for a short time" (Revelation 20:3).  John predicts:  "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth [or 'land']" (Revelation 20:7-8).  An indeterminate amount of time follows the "thousand years" of the book of Revelation.  John's Revelation does not preclude the claim of Yehoschua and it is at least possible that John's vision partially corroborates the view of Yehoschua and/or the school of Elias.


Freedom from World Empires Marks the Millennium


As I commented in Apocalyptic?  #21:  Thy Kingdom Came! (Rev. 6-20):

My . . . blogpost . . . Angels & Demons 20: Jacob’s Ladder, with the Guardian Angels of Each Nation—Rising and Falling . . . can be easily accessed by clicking on the link under “Popular Posts” to the right of this post. [There], I provide an account of the rabbinic teaching concerning the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  To summarize, the rabbis taught that each nation (Rome, Greece, Media/Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, etc.) has a national guardian angel, just as Israel has Michael . . .  Using Jacob’s Ladder . . . these . . .  angels took turns climbing the ladder to rule the world.  However, each national guardian also experienced a descent down the ladder, as their specific nation lost power . . .  (also to be found in my book Angels and Demons:  The Personification of Communication, page 130):

. . .  With the Roman Empire effectively “Christianized” . . . shortly after 300 A.D., this tiny sect, led by a Jewish teacher (Jesus) . . . was finally catapulted to a position of international repute.  It was not until the Renaissance of a thousand years later that Greco-Roman literature would begin to rebound from a situation in which Judeo-Christian literature and thought dominated much of the world.  . . .   Two thousand years after the great Roman Empire . . . The God of Abraham is the King of the World!  . . .


The Whole World Worshipping the God of Abraham Marks the Millennium


For the thousand years prior to the Renaissance--as my professor of Ancient Greek Poetry at Indiana University, Willis Barnstone (nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry), first brought to my attention—Christian literature dominated the world and secular literature was progressively destroyed “FOR A THOUSAND YEARS.”

Psalm 22:7, 86:9, and Isaiah 66:23, predict that all nations of earth will bow down/worship God.  Daniel 7:27 (NKJV) says:

Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

Micah 4:1 (NKJV) says:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.

Isaiah 2:2-3 (NKJV) says:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

God is NOT JUST ruling in Heaven.  He and Jesus are ALSO RULING ON EARTH!  Instead of leaving the world’s stage, a reconstituted church has literally taken over the world.


Growth of the Church in Numbers.


Estimated Christians

First century


Second century


Third century


Fourth century


Fifth century


Sixth century


Seventh century


Eighth century


Ninth century


Tenth century


Eleventh century


Twelfth century


Thirteenth century


Fourteenth century


Fifteenth century


Sixteenth century


Seventeenth century


Eighteenth century


How many Christians are there in the world, today?  Sourcing 

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, there were 2.3 billion Christians of all ages living in the world. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, reported that the number of Christians in the world edged past 2.5 billion in 2019.

However, the Old Testament passages cited above (Psalm 22:7, 86:9, Isaiah 2:2-3, 66:23, Daniel 7:27, and Micah 4:1) only specify that the God of Abraham will be worshiped by the nations, not just Christians.  This can include those worshipers of the God of Abraham who are called Muslims.  Wikipedia cites “a study in 2020 [claiming that] Islam has 1.9 billion adherents.”  This number of God worshipers, obviously, also includes those worshipers of the God of Abraham who are called Jews.  Wikipedia states: “As of 2019, the world's "core" Jewish population (those identifying as Jews above all else) was estimated at 14.7 million, or 0.2% of the 7.89 billion worldwide population.”  Adding together, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who all worship the God of Abraham, nearly 4.5 billion of the total world population of 7.89 billion today worship the God of Abraham.  That is the majority (56%) of the world’s population—those who worship the God of Abraham.  The end of the millennium will not spell an end to Christ’s Kingdom, either.  As Daniel 7:27 (NKJV) says: His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.”  Revelation repeats this point: 


“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15 NKJV).


God’s “servants shall . . . reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).  


The Release of the Dragon Marks the End of the Millennium


The only thing that John predicts will happen at the end of the thousand years is that the dragon will “be set free [from his chains and imprisonment in the Abyss] for a short time.” Therefore, when the atheist John Thomas Didymus gloats that Revelation prophecy failed in 1000 A.D., he simply does not realize the role 1000 A.D. played in the fulfillment of Revelation’s prophecies.  But that is the subject of my next blogpost.

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