The Thousand Years
Issue No. 218
Revelation 20 speaks of a thousand-year period following the first resurrection. There are many who have taught that the first resurrection is simply being justified by faith (transferred from death to life) and that the thousand years is not a literal time period.
As you know from many of my other writings, I believe that the thousand years is a literal time period. I do believe, of course, that being justified by faith transfers us from death to life on a spiritual plane. But that is not how the Bible uses the term resurrection.
The Resurrection Debate
The idea of resurrection was a well-debated topic in Paul’s day among the rabbis. In fact, it was one of the main disputes between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The first time that this word “resurrection” occurs is in Matt. 22:23,
23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Him and questioned Him.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, the high priest (who as a Sadducee) did not appreciate Jesus destroying his theological position. Matt. 28:11-15 says,
11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say his disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble. 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
Most of the Jewish people themselves would have welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, if their leaders had not spread this lie. But they had too much confidence in their leaders and did not believe them capable of lying. We have the same problem today in the Church. When the leaders reject the word of the Kingdom and of Tabernacles, the people’s hearts usually are turned against the word.
The Apostle Paul used this dispute about resurrection in his defense, saying in Acts 23:6,
6 Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead. 7 And as he said this, there arose a dissention between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Paul had been a Pharisee, so he had studied this issue thoroughly in his early years under his tutor, Gamaliel. It is not likely that Paul would have changed his definition of resurrection without giving us some dissertation on the subject. After all, this was a “hot” topic of the day. Yet here we see Paul identifying with the Pharisees on this topic of resurrection.
The Sadducees were the “liberals” of the day. They had adopted the popular Greek notion that men are immortal and that when they die, they simply go to heaven. There is, therefore, no need for a resurrection of the dead.
The Pharisees, however, argued against this from such passages as Job 19:26,
26 Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.
Likewise, Daniel 12:2 says,
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust will awake, these to everlasting [olam, “age-during”] life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting [olam, “age-during”] contempt.
Young’s Literal Translation reads “age-during” to show that this Hebrew word olam does not really mean unending or infinite time. It means an indefinite period of time that is not specified.
Ultimately, Jesus’ resurrection proves not only the fact of resurrection, but also the meaning of the term itself. Paul gives us a lengthy discussion of resurrection in 1 Cor. 15, in which he bases our hope of resurrection upon the fact that Jesus Himself rose from the dead.
Hymenaeus and Philetus
If the term is to be understood as our justification, then there would have been no dispute about whether or not the resurrection promised to us has already occurred. Yet Paul speaks of two men who had strayed from the truth by teaching that the resurrection was past. 2 Tim. 2:17, 18,
17 And their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.
Paul may have been referencing the passage in Matt. 27:51-53, where some saints may have been raised from the dead. But certainly, Paul’s statement would apply equally to those teaching that we were raised from the dead in the past when we were justified by faith.
Paul obviously believed in a bodily resurrection, though he did not know precisely what type of body that would be (1 Cor. 15:35). The only real example we have is that of Jesus’ post-resurrection body. It had “flesh and bones” (Luke 23:39) and was not a spirit during the manifestation. Of course, as soon has He disappeared, He divested Himself of the flesh-and-bone body and became a spirit.
Thus, the type of body in the resurrection is not limited by the kind of flesh that we have in these mortal bodies. So I believe that the first resurrection is future, as Paul indicates, and that it therefore cannot refer to justification at the present time—although one’s justification certainly gives a person the promise and hope of resurrection.
The Thousand Years
Rev. 20 uses the term chilia (“thousand”) six times. It is often argued that the term is plural, and therefore it refers to “thousands” of years, not merely one thousand. But this argument is not valid linguistically.
While it is true that the word is technically plural, this is not how the term is actually used in Greek. It is a plural that can only be properly translated in the singular to make any sense. For example, in 2 Peter 3:8 we read,
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand [chilia] years, and a thousand [chilia] years as one day.
Here “one day” is as a chilia. The normal understanding of this parallel is that ONE day = ONE thousand years.
Let us look at other examples of how chilia is used in the New Testament. Rev. 11:3 says,
3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for a thousand [chilia] two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
Though chilia is technically plural, there is no way to accurately translate it in the plural here. One cannot say that the two witnesses prophesy for THOUSANDS two hundred and sixty days. The same is true for Rev. 12:6, where the woman flees into the wilderness for a thousand [chilia] two hundred and sixty days.
Chilia is an adjective, and grammar requires that it agree in number with the noun (years) that it qualifies. This is the only way the Greek connects adjectives to their nouns. Thus, because “years” is plural, so also must we use the plural, chilia, in order to make the words agree.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek use plurals differently than we do in English. For example, Jacob wrestled with the angel at a place which he called Peniel. This word comes from panah-el. Panah is the singular of paniym, but panah never appears once in the Bible.
The word means “face” or “presence.” The fact that the word is plural may originally have something do with the fact that we have two faces, one on each side of our noses; but the fact that it has to do with one’s PRESENCE makes the plural untranslatable. The plural word is used to convey a singular concept.
My conclusion, then, is that Revelation 20 is about a thousand-year period, and that we should not disagree with the scholars without good reason based upon solid evidence that at least a few scholars can set forth.
The History of Millennial Teaching
My area of research is in history, rather than language. When we look at the history of philosophy and thought, I know that the idea of a Sabbath Millennium is a very old and well-known idea. For instance, in the Epistle of Barnabas, dated around 115 A.D., we read in chapter 13,
3 And even in the beginning of the creation he makes mention of the Sabbath. And God made in six days the works of his hands; and he finished them on the seventh day, and he rested the seventh day, and sanctified it. 4 Consider, my children, what that signifies, he finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. 5 For with him one day is as a thousand years; as himself testifies, saying, Behold, this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things are accomplished. 6 . . . then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day.
This letter is written in Greek and was cited by many of the early Church fathers. I do not propose to enter into the debate of its canonicity or the date of its authorship. I use it as an early example of the fact that chilia is used as a singular “thousand,” as well as an example of the early belief that there would be a Sabbath Millennium in which “all things are accomplished.”
If the author (called “pseudo-Barnabas” by scholars) wrote this around 115 A.D., then he was almost certainly a contemporary of John himself, who died around 100 A.D. The book of Revelation was not even written until 96 A.D. It is not likely that the author would have disagreed with John’s own interpretation of the book of Revelation.
Greek and Hebrew Mindsets
The Millennial teaching came out of Hebrew thought patterns, based upon the historicity of the Old Testament. For this reason, the Epistle of Barnabas was attacked later by those who preferred the Greek (Alexandrian) method of biblical interpretation. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. X (1911 ed.), under “Millennium,” says,
“The most powerful adversary of millenarianism was Origen of Alexandria. In view of the Neo-Platonism on which his doctrines were founded and of his spiritual-allegorical method of explaining the Holy Scriptures, he could not side with the millenarians. He combated them expressly, and, owing to the great influence which his writings exerted on ecclesiastical theology especially in Oriental countries, millenarianism gradually disappeared from the ideas of Oriental Christians.”
“St. Augustine finally held to the conviction that there will be no millennium. . . In the same book [De Civitate Dei] he gives us an allegorical explanation of Chap. 20 of the Apocalypse. The first resurrection, of which this chapter treats, he tells us, refers to the spiritual rebirth in baptism; the Sabbath of one thousand years, after the six thousand years of history, is the whole of eternal life; or, in other words, the number one thousand is intended to express perfection, and the last space of one thousand years must be understood as referring to the end of the world. . .
“This explanation of the illustrious Doctor was adoped by succeeding Western theologians, and millenarianism in its earlier shape no longer received support.
“The Protestantism of the sixteenth century ushered in a new epoch of millenarian doctrines. Protestant fanatics of the earlier years, particularly the Anabaptists, believed in a new, golden age under the scepter of Christ, after the overthrow of the papacy and secular empires.”
Thus, we see that the spiritual-allegorical interpretation of Scripture, coming from Alexandria, was popularized by Origen. He often tortured the Old Testament to speak allegorically. The Alexandrian view had little use for history as viewed by the Hebrews.
Greek thought was based upon their mythological view of religion. Their religion was based largely upon myths, which were stories that were allegories, rather than history. Thus, when trying to convert Greeks to Christianity, some teachers adapted the Greek mindset in order to make it more palatable to them.
But historically speaking, John was a Hebrew, and he had a Hebrew mindset. The Hebrews used allegories and parables, but the truth of Scripture was rooted in history. Adam and Eve were real people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were real, and their stories are not mere allegories.
In fact, their stories are historical allegories. Their histories had prophetic meaning. Abraham really did have two wives: Hagar and Sarah. They were allegories of the Old and New Covenants, as Paul says in Gal. 4:22-31, but they really did live as historical characters on earth.
The primary difference between the Greek and Hebrew views is that the Greeks saw no need for any of the biblical stories to be rooted in history, as long as the stories had an allegorical meaning. The Hebrew view saw all things rooted in history, but also saw that history has meaning and often sets patterns for future prophetic fulfillment.
It is ironic that the Roman Church repudiated Origen of Alexandria in the year 400 A.D. for his teachings on universal reconciliation, but they adopted his method of interpreting Scripture. This was how the teaching of the Sabbath Millennium was lost. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the Hebrew view was revived by Protestants in the sixteenth century. But even so, some non-Catholics have continued to reject the idea of a Millennium.
In my view, we ought to adopt a Hebrew mindset and discard the Greek one.
The Tabernacles Age
I believe that the Tabernacles Age is a literal period of one thousand years. I see it not only as a great Sabbath Day of a thousand years, but also as the climax of three great Ages. The Passover Age began with Israel coming out of Egypt on Passover, and ended with the Passover when Jesus died on the Cross.
After an interim of seven weeks (from the crucifixion), the Pentecost Age began in Acts 2 with the coming of the Holy Spirit. It ended 40 Jubilees later on May 30, 1993.
The biblical pattern of the Pentecost Age were set by King Saul, who was crowned on the day of wheat harvest (i.e., Pentecost) in 1 Sam. 12:17. When he died 40 years later, there was a transitional period from Saul to David. So also is it with us today. There is a transitional period from Pentecost to the Tabernacles Age.
It is pictured in the Tabernacle of Moses. The outer court is the place of sacrifice and represents the Passover Age, as well as the Passover experience. The Holy Place, wherein is the Candlestick (the Seven Churches of Rev. 2, 3), represents the Pentecost Age as well as the Pentecostal experience. Finally, the Most Holy Place represents the Tabernacles Age, as well as the Tabernacles experience.
The Tabernacle of Moses was 30 cubits long, 10 cubits wide, and 10 cubits high. The Holy Place (Pentecost) was 20 x 10 x 10, or 2,000 cubits3. The Most Holy Place (Tabernacles) was 10 x 10 x 10 cubits3.
I believe that these numbers represent years. The Pentecost Age is 2,000 years, while the Tabernacles Age is 1,000 years in length.
This is witnessed by the prophetic history in Joshua 3:2-4, which speaks of Israel crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land under Joshua (Yeshua-Jesus).
3 And they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”
Jesus Christ is pictured as the Ark of the Covenant, for He was the embodiment of the glory of God. He went first in order to show us the way into the Holiest (Heb. 9:8). Then the rest of the congregation (Church) follow Him about 2,000 cubits later, led by Joshua the Ephraimite. This signifies 2,000 years of Church history.
This is a good example of how history is allegorical, that is, it has spiritual or prophetic meaning. Such a view respects history, which is truth in its simplest form.
Joshua the Ephraimite
The story of Joshua is the story of Jesus, because Joshua (Yeshua) is His Hebrew name. It tells us how He leads us into the Promised Land. It is not the old land of Palestine, for that was the inheritance under the Old Covenant, which was broken and became obsolete (Heb. 8:13). We are inheriting a New Land (the glorified body), which is the true inheritance lost when Adam sinned. It is a better promise (Heb. 8:6).
The problem is that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Ephraim. And so, in that regard, He was more like Caleb than Joshua. Caleb was from Judah. Their tribal heritages are listed in Num. 13:6 and 8.
Thus, there yet remains the fulfillment of Joshua the Ephraimite.
When Jesus came the first time of the tribe of Judah, He came to be the Ark of the Covenant that would lead us to the Promised Land 2,000 years later. But there are two comings of Christ (Heb. 9:28). Thus, the second coming of Christ is when He comes as Joshua the Ephraimite, of the House of Joseph, the birthright holder (1 Chron. 5:1, 2).
This is why He is pictured in Rev. 19:13 as having “a robe dipped in blood.” Joseph was the only person in the Bible to have his robe dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31). This identifies Jesus in a new role, no longer as the Sacrifice for sin, but as the inheritor of the birthright.
Because of the limitations of the flesh, Jesus could not be born of both Judah and Joseph (Ephraim) at the same time. But Micah 6:2 had prophesied the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah. And so this is where the Magi found him (Matt. 2:6) three months after His birth.
After completing His work as Prince of the Tribe of Judah, He ascended for a season in order await the proper timing to return to fulfill the work of Ephraim’s Prince. Under this tribal banner, Jesus is Joshua the Ephraimite. In this coming, He can fulfill the prophecy of Joshua who led Israel into the Promised Land.
I believe also that this is why Micah’s prophecy gives the Messiah’s birth as Bethlehem Ephrata. Ephrata is singular for Ephraim. Thus, Micah gives us prophetic clues in both the first and second comings of Christ. Ephrata means “fruitful,” and speaks of the birthright, the “fruitful-ness mandate” of Gen. 1:28 bringing many sons into glory.