The teaching that Jesus will reign upon the earth for 1000 years is part of the Premillennial doctrine common to many denominational churches in today’s religious world. The teaching relies in large part on Revelation 20:1-7, which speaks of the devil being bound for 1,000 years, and the faithful of God living and reigning with Christ for the same period of time.
On the surface, one might wonder at the person who says there is not a literal 1,000 year reign. After all, the 1,000 year period is mentioned no less than six times in the first seven verses of Revelation 20. I don’t contend that there is not a 1,000 year reign—the text is clear that there is. There are two things that I call into question:
- that the 1,000 years should be understood as a literal timeframe, and
- that the Christ will reign physically on the earth.
The book of Revelation begins in this way:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John…
John tells us that the content of the Revelation is “signified.” We find a variety of colours, numbers, measurements, and other visual elements in the book. These images are not meant to be applied literally, they are figures, symbols, and signs. To apply a literal interpretation often results in nonsense or doctrines that are contrary to the rest of the Bible. The teaching that Jesus will reign on the earth for a literal 1000 years is contrary to the rest of Scripture.
Thy Kingdom Come
Those who affirm a literal 1000 year reign of Christ believe His kingdom is still in the future. What does the Bible say?
Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power. (Mark 9:1)
Jesus told His contemporaries that His kingdom would begin in their generation. This precludes a literal 1,000 year reign.
In Acts 2:30-36, Peter says Jesus now sits on his throne. This fulfills a messianic psalm which reads:
The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of enemies.
Again, this reveals the kingdom began in the 1st century, and also reveals it to be a spiritual kingdom. Jesus reigns from heaven, not upon the earth. The Lord told Pilate His kingdom wasn’t of this world (John 18:36).
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… (Colossians 1:13)
We cannot be brought into the kingdom that doesn’t yet exist. He speaks in the present tense of the kingdom.
Returning To Earth?
Since the kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), it would seem odd for Jesus to come back to the earth to rule over it. And yet that is the contention of those who take the premillennial position. What does the Bible say? Will He set foot on the earth again?
The apostles watched as Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds (Acts 1:9). Two angels told them:
This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
Several texts speak of Him coming on the clouds (Psalm 68:4; 104:3; Jeremiah 4:13; Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Revelation 1:7). Notice 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
…the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Jesus will not set foot on the earth. He will come and take us to be with Him in heaven (John 14:2-3). This earth will be destroyed at that time (2 Peter 3).