One Thousand Years!
A study of numbers as used in the Bible is indeed an interesting study. There is no lack of people who have written on Bible numerology as it has been called by some.
One does not have to listen to many teachers of Bible prophecy or read a few pages in one of the many books available on the subject before coming across the topic of what is known by many Christians as the millennium (a word which nowhere appears in the Bible) or 1,000 years. The primary source of this topic is found in the book of Revelation, Chapter 20, where the words “a thousand years” appears six times. In this Learning Activity we will be looking at the Bible use of this expression, “a thousand years.”
Whenever we attempt to understand a grammatical expression in the Scriptures it is oftentimes helpful to look at its previous uses in the Bible. We shall begin our research by searching for other biblical uses of the number 1,000.
1. Leviticus 26:8
In the verse above, it is stated by God that if the Israelites “walked in my [God’s] statutes, and keep my [God’s] commandments, and do them” that 100 Israelites would be able to cause ten thousand enemies to flight! This, in its literal sense, is stating that one Israelite would be able to frighten away or beat up on one hundred enemies!
2. Deuteronomy 1:11
3. If you read the verse above in its context of verse ten preceding, what had God promised insofar as His multiplying the number of Israelites?
4. Deuteronomy 7:9
5. In your words, what does the verse above say?
6. Deuteronomy 32:30
7. In the verse above, how many could one person “put to flight?”
8. Job 9:3
9. What is the point of the verse above?
10. Psalms 50:10
11. If there are more than 1,000 hills in the world, do you think that God owns any of the cattle that might be on the hills that number more than 1,000?
12. Psalms 84:10
13. What is the point of the verse above?
14. Psalms 90:4
15. In the verse above, do you think the reference to “a thousand years” should be taken as literal?
16. Psalms 91:7
17. Song of Solomon 4:4
18. In the verse above, do you think the verse is actually meant to be taken literally where “a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men” will be hung around “thy neck?”
19. Isaiah 7:23
20. Isaiah 60:22
21. Daniel 7:10
22. 1 Corinthians 4:15
23. In the verse above, do you think that each Christian literally has “ten thousand instructors?”
In the Scriptures there is language used which is either literal or figurative. Literal language must be taken as expressing its meaning word for word in its conventional sense avoiding any exaggeration, metaphor or embellishment. The words say what they mean and mean what they literally say.
On the other hand there is language in the Bible that is meant to be taken figuratively. This language is based upon the use of figures of speech and should not be taken literally. When a statement appears to be contrary to our experience or to a known fact or revealed truth, or seems to be at variance with the general teaching of the Scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that figurative language is being used.
24. Based upon the above definitions of “literal language” and “figurative language,” how would you classify all of the previous uses of the number 1,000 and its multiples in this Learning Activity?
At the beginning of this Learning Activity we stated that in the book of Revelation there is language that many Christians have taken to indicate that Jesus Christ will one day return to earth and set up a millennial (1,000 year) kingdom and rulership. We need now to look at these scriptures.
25. Revelation 20:2
We have studied the topic of Satan in Learning Activity #38 and found that he is no longer a player in the present grand scheme of things. We will shortly deal with Satan being bound for a thousand years as found in this verse.
26. Revelation 20:3
In this verse we see that Satan was to be released from being bound for a “little season” after his thousand years of being bound was fulfilled.
27. Revelation 20:4
Here we see people (souls) who were faithful to God under difficult circumstances “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Do you think that at the end of 1,000 years they will no longer live and reign with Christ?
28. Revelation 20:5
In this verse, the Scripture defines the “first resurrection” as taking place at the completion of the thousand years.
29. Revelation 20:6
Here we are told that those who participate in the first resurrection reign with Christ a thousand years.
30. Revelation 20:7
Now we see Satan being released out of his prison at the end of the one thousand years.
The question we must ask ourselves is, How are we to interpret and understand the meaning of the use of “a thousand years” in the Revelation Chapter 20 verses listed above?
There is a principle of interpreting Scripture that states if we are to understand the meaning of certain words or phrases in the Bible we should look at how that word/phrase is being used in other parts of the Scriptures. If we apply the meaning of one thousand years and its multiples in the scriptures we investigated in #1 through #24 above we would have to conclude that the expressions in Revelation 20 must be figurative and not be taken literally.
We have therefore concluded that the use of “one thousand” is meant to be taken in a figurative manner and is being used to describe fullness, divine completeness, maturity or full stature of something and is not to be understood as a literal 1,000 year period of time.
One final scripture that uses the phrase “a thousand years” should also be included in this Learning Activity.
31. 2 Peter 3:8
The meaning of this verse has been the topic of many a discussion in the church. However, its meaning is to be found in the verse that follows it. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Keep in mind that in verse four of that same chapter the scoffers had said, “…Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of all creation.” This establishes the context of the “troublesome verse.” The context is the promise of Christ’s expected first century coming! Peter, in effect, is saying that to question the validity of what the early church was saying about the expected second coming was ridiculous! It is meant to say that when it comes to fulfilling God’s promise of Christ’s first century Parousia you may be sure of its coming about on schedule! Noone would scoff at a prophecy that was a thousand or more years away. They would only scoff at a second coming that was being taught to be at hand, and which some, believed had not taken place as expected. This was the subject of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. The Parousia (coming, presence) of Christ did take place as prophesied circa AD 70, right on schedule.
Click on Self-Check to check your answers.