Bible Question:

I notice that you make reference to Daniel and his prophecy of the “70 weeks of Daniel” and the supposed rapture of the church. I have tried for many years to see the rapture in the book of Revelation and the scripture that Jesus is coming back to earth and will reign for 1000 years. I cannot find scriptural proof of either the rapture or for Jesus returning to earth to set up His kingdom. I have written about the “70 weeks of Daniel” and have published my opposition to 1000 year reign on earth. When Jesus comes the second time, it is to bring an end to this world as we know it and to usher in a period of judgment, and then heaven or hell. I cannot find where Jesus will ever again set foot on this earth to reign. When He comes all the dead will be raised not just the faithful dead. All will stand for judgment and receive their rewards - heaven or hell. I would like your comments.

Bible Answer:

We understand some do not believe that Jesus will reign on earth. To establish the foundation for our answer, may we encourage you to first read several studies before you read the response below. The first study will provide a better understanding of the future earthly 1,000 year kingdom. The study is entitled, “Which Kingdom?” The second study is about the rapture and it is entitled “The Church is Missing.” The first study is the most important of the two for your question.

Revelation Is Filled With Numbers

Next we want to discover what the book of Revelation says about the 1,000 year kingdom. The most significant passage in Revelation related to the future millennial kingdom is found in Revelation 20:1-4.

And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  Revelation 20:1-4 (NASB)

Here we read that Satan will be bound in an abyss for 1,000 years. Now the question we need to ask is, “Are the 1,000 years real years or are they symbolic?” The answer is actually found in the book of Revelation itself. For example, the book is full of numbers. It has referred to 7 churches, 7 angels, 7 lampstands, 7 stars (Revelation 1), 4 creatures before the throne, 24 elders (Revelation 4), 144,000 witnesses (12,000 from each tribe in Revelation 7), 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls, and a 200,000 man army (Revelation 9). During the 7 seals we read about 1/3 of the sea, 1/3 of the ships, 1/3 of the waters, and 1/3 of the sun and moon and stars being struck (Revelation 8:7-13). In Revelation 11 we read about 2 witnesses, 3.5 days, and 42 months, and 1,260 days.

Revelation 12 refers to “times, time, and half a time,” as well as 7 horns, 10 horns, 7 crowns, 1/3 of the stars, and 1,260 days. When we come to Revelation 13, we find 42 months and the number 666. When we arrive at Revelation 16, we read about 7 bowls. They are listed in consecutive and chronological order. Revelation 17 describes 10 horns, 7 heads, 10 horns, and an eighth king. Revelation refers to a second time and 24 elders. Revelation 20 refers to 1,000 years, a first resurrection and a second death. Revelation 21 refers to 3 gates, 12 foundation stones, fifteen hundred miles, 72 yards and 12 different stones.  There are many numbers in the book and the vast majority of scholars accept those numbers for what they are. They accept the numbers literally. If they are only symbolic, why are there so many numbers? If they are only symbols, then the numbers are unnecessary.

The Kingdom Is Literally 1,000 Years

When we come to Revelation 20:1-4, should we reject the number 1,000 years and now make an exception and say that this number does not mean one thousand? Should we say that it does not refer to 1,000 years? The answer is no! The 1,000 years are literal just like the other numbers. If we interpret the numbers symbolically, we have confusion. With a symbolic approach, everything is uncertain. Then one can make the numbers mean whatever they want them to mean. Then one’s creativity determines the meaning and there might really be 101 trumpets or only one seal.

Notice that Revelation 20:4 tells us “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”[1]  Shall we reject the number 1,000 and say that it is symbolic? If it is symbolic, how much of Revelation shall we say is symbolic? If we do that, then the meaning of Revelation is open to anyone’s imagination. Among those who take that position, there are many different meanings, and they significantly disagree with each other. But if we accept all of these numbers literally, then the book is much easier to understand and why would the Holy Spirit use numbers if they were meaningless? The correct answer is that the kingdom is real, and it lasts for 1,000 years. Every Christian returns to life before the kingdom starts, and those who are not Christians do not return to life until after the universe is destroyed.

Conclusion:

Why reject a literal understanding of Revelation? If we understand it literally, we have a wonderful understanding of our coming future. The book of Daniel is probably the greatest support for a literal understanding of this book. Daniel was very literal. It predicted the rise and fall of four kingdoms and the predictions came literally true (see the series of studies in Daniel 2 and 7). Revelation refers back to those predictions in Daniel using even the same symbols (Revelation 13 and 17). This implies that Revelation accepts the literal truth of Daniel. Revelation builds on the book of Daniel. Revelation continues the prophecy. How can we test the truth of the prophet if it is filled with symbolic interpretations? These are great questions to struggle with. The rapture is coming and God’s glorious earthly, 1,000 year kingdom follows. Jesus will reign on earth for 1,000 years and then the eternal kingdom follows (Revelation 21-22). Come quickly Lord Jesus!

 

References:

1. Notice that the they in verse 4 are Christians. See the studies titled, “The Millennial Kingdom” and “Preparing For The Kingdom.”

Reference Links:

Prophecy of The Future
Studies in Revelation
Which Kingdom?
The Church is Missing
What do most reformed theologians teach about the future?