You may be surprised, but a discussion on the millennium is actually very Christmassy. Each year during the month of December millions of people sing “Joy to the Word” by Isaac Watts. However, few people realize that “Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98, which is about Christ’s second coming, not his first. The last verse of Psalm 98 is “for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
As it relates to the millennium (Latin for 1000 years), the main question is, when Christ comes to judge the earth will he first rule for a literal 1000 years and then judge the peoples or will he judge after the completion of the Church age (point of time that we are now in)?
The reason there is a debate is based solely on Revelation 20:4-6, the text cited above. This is the only place we see this topic of 1,000 years of reigning in the Bible. In this section it talks about Christ coming and reigning with his people for 1000 years, and that this is what is called “the first resurrection.” The consequence of the first resurrection is that the second death has no power. Clear as mud? There are several views regarding the millennium: Preterist, Ammilennial, Post-Millennial, Historic Pre-Millennial, Dispensational Pre-Millennial.
Preterist – Holds that all of Bible prophecy has already occurred, including the book of Revelation. Therefore the millennium has already occurred between 70 A.D. (the destruction of the Temple) and 1071 A.D. (the Turks conquered Palestine and incited the Crusades).
Amillennial – Holds that there is no literal millennium; that the use of 1,000 years in Rev. is symbolic for the Church age (point of time that we are in now). This is based upon the fact that Revelation is a genre of apocalyptic writing that uses symbols and numbers to tell the story. (i.e. Dragon = Satan; Bride = Church; Lamb = Jesus; Seven = complete or perfect.) That the first resurrection takes place at conversion, which results in the second death (Hell) having no power. The second resurrection is the bodily resurrection. (This is my personal view.)
Post-Millennial – Similar to Amillennial. Holds that the millennium is an era of a “golden age” of the Church, whereby Christ rules from Heaven and there will be unprecedented peace and prosperity. Most likely we are not, but maybe, we are in this era.
Historic Pre-Millennial – Holds that Revelation is to be interpreted literally unless obvious or so stated. Believes that Christ will rapture the church, both living and the dead, followed by a great tribulation. Christ will then come and reign in a physical form and will rule from Jerusalem as a physical King. After 1,000 years of physical ruling, there will be a physical war with Satan which Christ will win and then comes Judgment Day.
Dispensational Pre-Millennial – Very similar to Historic Pre-Millennial, except that it holds a dispensational viewpoint, meaning that it gives Israel a special emphasis and treats Israel different than the Church. Therefore, during the physical millennial reign of Jesus, the Jews will have a distinct and separate role to play different than the Church.
Which is right? We shall see…(but probably Amillennial – ;).