Pentellectualism, An Insider’s Look At Pentecost, Part 4: The Millennium
The fourth pillar in Pentecostal theology is the Millennium. This is the teaching that after Christ vanquishes the Anti-Christ in the Battle of Armageddon, He will establish His earthly rule from Jerusalem for one thousand years (“the millennium”). A form of this teaching arose for a period during the second century known as Chiliasm. It was rebutted rather swiftly but regained prominence when it was incorporated into Dispensationalism when it was devised in the early 1800s. But it’s now time to think through the ramifications of this teaching.
The teaching of the Millennium is based on Biblical references to God’s Kingdom as referred to by Christ and alluded to by the Old Covenant prophets, and a reference in Revelation 20. Since most Pentecostals believe that Christ will return prior to this literal 1,000 year reign on earth, this teaching is commonly referred to as Pre-Millennialism. But many ordinary Pentecostals who have tried to map the timeline of the Millennium based on the details of Revelation 20 have admitted that it is hard to make it coherent. Afterall, how many resurrections will there be? Will these resurrections be staggered by 1,000 years? Why will Christ have to reign from a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and if this is an essential part of the Millennium, why is this seemingly essential detail omitted from Revelation 20?
A better way to regard the use of “a thousand years” in Revelation 20:1-4 is to see it in the same way as used throughout the rest of Scripture. Numbers often convey a symbolic message in the Bible. The Book of Revelation in particular uses numbers symbolically. It is difficult to read the Book of Revelation and miss its clearly symbolic use of the number 7. In the Old Testament, “a thousand” was often a symbolic way of saying, a number so large it’s not meant to be counted. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills…better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere…His faithfulness to a thousand generations.
In this light, Revelation 20 is best understood as beginning with the close of the Old Covenant (marked by the destruction of the Temple and a bringing to an end of the Old Covenant sacrificial system) and Christ’s reign being extended throughout the earth via the preaching of the Gospel which is able to overcome the Devil and seal his doom. All those who receive Christ are raised to eternal life (the first resurrection) and have the privilege of sharing in the proclamation and spread of Christ’s reign through the preaching of the Gospel. At a divinely appointed time at the end of this age, God will allow the Devil to one last onslaught of persecution against the Church (“the camp of the saints”) only to be eternally vanquished by the returning Christ (“fire fell from the sky”) which will mark the time of final judgment- Judgment Day – when all the dead will be resurrected (the second resurrection).
I have written more extensively about this on my eschatology website.