A detailed review of the “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6)

POST OVERVIEW. A refresher on the “thousand years” from Revelation 20:1-6, reviewing what the Scripture says and how to interpret and understand this difficult passage.

I have written before at length about the end times, both on numerous posts on this site and in my book, “The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times,” but lately I have felt that it might be beneficial to give some refreshers on the key concepts.


The “thousand years” is admittedly a difficult topic but it is also an important one. Misinterpreting the meaning of the “thousand years” can lead the student of the end times away from biblical teaching about the end of the age and about the return of Jesus and into confusing man-made concepts and ideas. As seekers of biblical truth, we must cling to the Scriptures until they reveal their truth to us and must resist the temptation to simply adopt a popular view or to be influenced by a persuasive teacher.

When studying these questions about the “thousand years,” we should turn to Rev. 20:1-6 and observe what the Bible asserts, that Satan (the dragon) is bound in the abyss for “a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2, 3). This is plain from this passage of Scripture and we know that the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), so first we conclude that Satan is bound for the thousand years. Next, Rev. 20:4 says that “the souls of those who had been beheaded and of those who had not worshiped the beast came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Rev. 20:6 adds that these will reign with Christ for a thousand years. So, with this basic interpretation of these verses on the thousand years, we see that, during the thousand years, while Satan (the dragon) is bound in the abyss, the souls of the saints are reigning with Christ in heaven. So far, so good.

But we must go deeper than this if we are going to draw any real meaning from this passage. We must seek to answer two obvious questions:

  1. What is the nature of the “thousand years?” That is, is it a literal period of time or is it a figurative expression?
  2. When does the “thousand years” occur?

Only after answering these two questions can we begin to fully understand the meaning of the “thousand years.” Here I will try to (briefly) describe my view. (By the way, I published a book in October 2021 called “The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.” That book expresses most of my thoughts on these things in more detail. It is available on Amazon.)

  1. The “thousand years” is not a literal time period but is simply an expression for a long period of time. Numbers in Revelation, especially numbers like 3, 7, 12, and 1000, often have figurative significance. The number “thousand” in Revelation is usually figurative and simply means a really big number. That means that “thousand years” does not mean 365,000 days. It just means a really long time.
  2. The “thousand years” must begin at least a thousand years before the resurrection of the saints (1 Thess. 4:14-17; 1 Cor. 15:23, 51-54), because we know that the resurrection of the saints will be on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). Directly related to this is the fact that Jesus’ coming occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the saints (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 John 3:2). Thus, the “thousand years” must begin long BEFORE the resurrection of the saints and the return of Jesus because the “thousand years” cannot occur after the last day.
  3. (From 2) The binding of Satan in the abyss, which is the event that begins the thousand years (Rev. 20:2, 3), occurs at least a thousand years before the coming of Jesus and the Resurrection.
  4. The “angel” (Rev. 20:1) who binds the dragon (Satan) in the abyss is the risen Lord Jesus, for only the Son of God has the power and authority to throw Satan around like a rag doll.
  5. In Rev. 20:4, John sees “thrones.” In Revelation, thrones are always in heaven, so “the souls of those who had been beheaded . . .” are in heaven. Also in Rev. 20:4, John explicitly sees “souls” in heaven with Christ,” not glorified saints. Thus, we know the “thousand years” occurs before the resurrection, because “souls” only exist until the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-54).
  6. In Psalm 110:1, the conversation between the LORD (Father) and the Lord (Son) took place when Jesus returned to heaven after His victorious death and resurrection. After that, the Lord (Jesus) has been seated at the LORD’s (Father’s) right hand until His judgment of His enemies.
  7. The beginning of the “thousand years” occurs during the ascension of Jesus, between Acts 1:9 and Revelation 5:6. Jesus (“the angel” in Rev. 20:1) binds Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:2, 3) and then arrives in heaven (Rev. 5:6) where He begins His reign with the souls of the faithful saints.
  8. In a “simplified” timeline of the events of the last days, Jesus ascends (Acts 1:9), binds Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:2, 3), thus beginning the “thousand years,” and takes His seat at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1). The victorious Lamb (Rev. 5:6) sends out (Rev. 6:2) the commissioned (Matt. 28:19-20) church to proclaim the gospel to the nations for the “thousand years.” At the end of the “thousand years,” Satan is released from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7) and his release begins the 42 months. Satan makes war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-8) but he is defeated and thrown to earth (Rev. 12:9, etc.). The events of the 42 months include the persecution of the church (Rev. 6:9-11; 11:3-10, esp. 7; 13:7, 10, 15), the final “trumpet” warnings to the unrighteous to repent (Rev. 8:6-9:21), the rise of the beast (Rev. 13:1-10) and the false prophet (“another beast,” Rev. 13:11-17), the increase of lawlessness (Matt. 24:12), the apostasy of the visible church (2 Thess. 2:3), and the gathering of the kings of the earth and the forces of wickedness against the faithful church to attempt the annihilation of the church (Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19; 20:8-9). On the last day, the faithful church is rescued by resurrection (Rev. 11:11-12) and rises to meet the descending Lord Jesus (1 Thess. 4:15-17; Rev. 19:11-16). The Lord brings wrath and judgment on the unrighteous and slays them all (Rev. 19:20, 21). The final event is the great white throne where the unrighteous are condemned into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 4/16/2023                   #641