Countdown to the End of the World and Beyond: Will There Be Life on Earth During the 1000 Years
by Steve Sterling 11/27/2011 / Prophecy
The prophetic countdown of end-time events in the book of Revelation represents a narrative sequence leading up to the grand consummation at the end of the Millennium in Revelation 20. Revelation 20 provides information as to how the great controversy between Christ and Satan will finally be settled, and what it will mean for the future of planet earth.
During this 1000-year period there will only be two classes of people: those who accepted salvation and are saved in God's kingdom, and those who have rejected the message of mercy and are lost. While the former awaits the fulfillment of the promise of eternal inheritance of a restored earth, the latter awaits eternal punishment for their sinful life on earth.
From my examination of the different views on this 20th chapter of Revelation, it seems to rank highly among the chapters that are most misunderstood. The main point of disagreement seems to be centered around whether or not people will be living upon the earth during the 1000 years. I was quite surprised at the level of support for the biblical position of a populated earth during this time.
The view that I am most familiar with is the idea that Christ at His coming will not take His people to heaven but will begin His millennial reign on earth. It is further deduced that the purpose of this earthly reign is to evangelize people who died without hearing about Christ. For this reason, Satan will be bound so as to give those people a chance to make up their minds either to be saved or to remain in a lost condition.
Not only do I take a different view but I believe that what the Bible teaches concerning the millennium is quite clear cut as to place it beyond controversy. For us to get the full picture of what the narrative development of Revelation 20 is portraying you need to go back to the previous chapter. Revelation 19 provides an important context in which we can understand what the following chapter is saying.
This particular chapter is a part of a line of prophecy that flows seamlessly into chapter 20. And, by the way, chapter headings and verse divisions are not inspired, therefore, we should not rely on them entirely as a guide as to where one theme stops and where the other begins. Let us do a quick summary of what Revelation 19 teaches:
Christ returns with His holy angels to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords
The beast and the kings of the earth were gathered against Him
An angel was seen calling the fowls of the air to feast on the flesh of all sinners who will be killed
The beast was taken (captured) and subsequently cast into a lake of fire along with the false prophet
The remnant (rest) of the people were slain with the sword (word) of Christ's mouth and the fowls of the air were filled with their flesh
What is clear from this summary is that all the sinners will die when Christ returns. In describing the manner of their demise the apostle Paul thus declared:
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." 2Thess. 1:7-9 (KJV)
When we follow the narrative development of the vision into the following chapter (Rev. 20), it will be made easy for us to understand what situation on earth will be like after the Second Coming. Chapter 20 started out by saying that Satan was bound with a great chain. He was to be held in prison throughout the same 1000-year period. However, from what we are taught in the previous chapter it cannot be denied that no living sinner will be upon the earth during that period. But what about the righteous? Will they be reigning with Christ upon the earth?
Whenever we are confronted with questions like these, our best course of action is to compare corresponding scripture references. When I think of a text that can be considered as parallel to John's account in Revelation 20, a pertinent passage in the book of Jeremiah comes to mind. The prophet Jeremiah actually had a vision of the condition of the earth after the Christ's return. Here is how he describes it:
"I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger." Jer. 4:23-26 (KJV)
What is quite clear from the prophet's vision is that after the earth is reduced to ruins as a consequence of the Lord fierce anger, HE SAW NO MAN. This is a plain enough description and does not validate the idea of an earthly millennial reign. We are, therefore, left to conclude that Satan will be confined to planet earth as his prison. It will become his place of imprisonment in the sense that he is forced to dwell in the midst of a chaotic situation where there is no light to see, no one to tempt, and nothing to do.
The chain with which he will be held is to be treated as a symbol of the circumstances in which he will be placed. This position is thus indicated in the epistle of Peter:
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" 2Pet. 2:4 (KJV)
Therefore, Satan will be cast into utter darkness and complete chaos resembling what existed before God created the earth. He will share the same prison cell with all the dead who will be "gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited." Isa. 24:22. According to John, after he saw the triumph of the resurrected saints who were persecuted and killed for the word of God, he then made the following remarks:
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." Rev. 20:5, 6 (KJV)
The rest of the dead are referring to sinners who will come forth in the second resurrection. What the prophet John saw is the first resurrection, which includes those who died in Christ. Being candidates of the first resurrection, they will not partake of the second death. It is on account of the second resurrection that Satan is released from his prison. He will now have people to tempt and things will be kind of back to where they were before the 1000 years. But at the end of his millennial incarceration, a death sentence will be executed on him and all his followers as the final payment of the wages of sin.