Adapted from a larger work: They Shall Reign

By William L. Vincent

© 2018 All Rights Reserved

It is important at this point that we discuss the Full Preterist approach to the Thousand Years of Revelation 20. Research and investigation have produced only two such approaches that have any validity or that make any real attempt to deal with the subject. The first one will receive very little of our time, and the reason for this will be forthcoming. This theory is that the Thousand Years begins with the reign of David and continues on until 70AD. While this approach remains consistent to literalism, it has absolutely no other merit and seems absurd and contrived when we look at the actual prophecy. Another reason for our lack of focus on this approach is that it is an extreme minority position. The second approach will receive the bulk of our attention. This is that the Thousand Year reign of Christ is the small segment of 40 years between the crucifixion and the fall of Jerusalem[1]. In all honesty, and with great effort not to be condescending, merely stating this position matter of fact seems to be enough to demonstrate its absurdity.

The defense of such a clearly contrived position originates from the same argument that Preterist-amillennialism appeals to. This being that the number one thousand is symbolic and not a literal number of years. The issue here, however, is not in the use of symbols, but rather how they are used. We do not need to create a symbol to represent something smaller, or more easily grasped, than the symbol. A symbol, by nature, quantifies something more profound than the mere symbol. Yet FPs would have us believe that the phrase “they shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years” in reality means “they lived and reigned with Christ for 40 years.”

            The fact that the FP approach to the Thousand Years is uncompelling is certainly not the lone argument against it. The Preterist hermeneutic and exegesis provides the needed evidence to sit it aside. Essentially what we need to establish is when the Thousand Years begins. In regards to both the Olivet Prophecy and the Revelation, Preterists would assert that it was future, but eminent, to the audience who received them. In particular, they would assert that the primary historical event being predicted is the fall of Jerusalem. This being the case, it seems logical to posit that the events described in Revelation 20 must initiate at, or be in relation to, the fall of Jerusalem. This seems particularly compelling when we consider that the Revelation builds to the judgment of the Great Whore, whom Preterist contend was Jerusalem. If the Thousand Years is initiated in relation to the judgment of Jerusalem, then this means that the events described in the Olivet Prophecy are, in fact, describing the initiation of the Thousand Years, not its end.

It must be noted here that if the fall of Jerusalem relates to the beginning of the Thousand Years, then this necessarily falsifies the Full Preterist claim that all prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD. For at the least we would have prophecy ongoing for a thousand years after the fall of Jerusalem. Thus, if FP is correct in the timing of Revelations, then it is necessarily incorrect in its meaning.

            At this point it will be helpful to look at the Thousand Years, thus Rev 20, exegetically. What we would like to do is to look at the actual content of the prophecy, and determine whether or not it corresponds to the FP assertion (1000yrs = 40yrs), or to the Preterist-amillennialist assertion.

Students of St John’s Revelation know that it is a collection of interrelated visions. While these visions do not follow a chronological sequence, they do tend to progress and build to a climax. Here we will agree with the Preterist position that this climax is the fall of Jerusalem, which the prophecy describes as the Great Whore. At this point we will not spend a great deal of time proving that proposition, as there are numerous works that make that case. We will take for granted, for discussion sake, that the city guilty of the blood of the prophets and Christ is indeed Jerusalem.

The 17th chapter of the Revelation begins a particular vision sequence that builds to the introduction of the Thousand Years, which is related in the 20th chapter. This segment begins with the prophet being invited by an angel to come and see “the verdict upon the Great Whore who sits on many waters”. The pronouncement of sentence continues on until verse 11 of Chapter 18 where there is a transition and the “heavens are opened” and we are shown Christ making war with the gentiles and their kings. We are also told that the beast and kings of the gentiles will make war with the Lamb until He brings them under an iron rule. This segment is distinguished from the previous section in that, while the Great Whore is receiving sentence in the first segment, now Christ and those with Him, focus on brining the beast, gentiles and kings under subjection. It is also important to note the change in tense. While the Great Whore has been judged, the beast and kings of the gentiles (all who make war with Christ) will be judged in the same way as the Great Whore. What we see then is that the judgment of the Great Whore becomes the opening volley in Christ’s war with all of His enemies. We are assured that the fate of the Great Whore will be that of all enemies of the Lamb. Further, just as those who suffered at the persecution of the Great Whore were rewarded for their faithfulness, those who campaign with Christ will also be rewarded.

This leads us into the 20th chapter where an angel descends and binds the adversary who has been “deceiving the gentiles.” The previous segment has told us precisely who was working to deceive the gentiles, and now this power is bound with a great chain. We cannot help but think here of St Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 “he took captives, and bestowed gifts upon men.” This, in fact, is just what Rev 20 describes, the Serpent is taken captive – bound, and those who had suffered were rewarded. In fact, it says here that the martyrs were “given judgment”. This is important because early in the Revelation the martyrs had not yet received judgment and were told to wait until the rest of the brothers had spilled martyrs blood (6:9-11). Yet here they are given judgment. If the climax of this prophecy is the judgment of the Great Whore, we open with judgment being asked for, and here it has been given, then this must mean that the beginning of the thousand years corresponds to the fall of Jerusalem. It is also important to note that those given judgment were the faithful martyrs, those whom early chapters described as coming through great tribulation. These faithful martyrs are given thrones and reign with Christ. They are also exempt from the power of the “second death”, which is described as not having one’s name written in the book of life. The “rest of the dead” do not come to life until the Thousand Years are finished. So, we have those who were martyred for Christ given judgment over the Great Whore, life with Christ and freedom from the second death. Finally, we are told that the culmination of the Thousand Years will result in a final war, and that Christ will rain down fire on His enemies and cast death and the grave into the lake of fire.

There are a couple of terms used in this chapter that are worthy of our consideration. Those would be the terms “first resurrection” and “second death.” Particularly we are told “blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection, over such a one the second death has no power.” This must certainly be speaking of those who have, and will, receive new life in Christ through the Gospel. The Apostolic gospel certainly proclaims that those who are in Christ have participated mystically in the resurrection. They are said to have “risen with Christ” and to be “walking in the newness of life.” The entire rite of Christian initiation, in fact, follows the path of Christ’s own death, burial and resurrection. The one who converts to the Christian way is buried with Christ in baptism, are rises with Him in faith. He participates in the first resurrection, and because of this the second death “has no power over him.”

What we suggest here is similar to the FP proposition of resurrection. In fact, within the context of the Thousand Year reign of Christ, the FP notions of spiritual/mystical resurrection is quite solid. The Church as a whole has risen with Christ and is seated with Him in the “heavenly realms.” But we must keep in mind what John’s vision teaches us. This is the first resurrection. If there is a first, then there must be a second. Who does the first resurrection pertain to? It pertains to those in Christ, those who are free from the condemnation of the second death. Yet we read that “the rest of the dead do not raise until the thousand years are finished.” Just as sure as there is a first resurrection, there will be a final resurrection for all the dead, small and great.

At the conclusion of the Thousand Years we read of a final battle, a grand finale. The Adversary who was bound in the opening of this vision is loosed for a season. Being loosed he then goes forth to gather the nations in attacking the city of the Living God – the camp of the Saints. While history has taught us that speculation in such matters can lead to flights of fantasy, we should be able to extrapolate some things from this vision. As we have said, this is the final battle. The last showdown between God and His enemies. In the description we see a mingling of imagery. The gathering in rebellion of Babel and the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah and the perennial enemies of God; Gog and Magog. They traverse the circle of the earth and come to lay siege to the holy beloved city. They are instantly answered with fire out of heaven. We cannot here help but be reminded of the utter destruction of Sodom. Does this describe one event at the end of the ages, or the war that takes place through the ages? Is this a particular manifestation of the spirit of antichrist, or is this the spirit itself taking on its many forms? One thing seems certain, the wars of the Lamb come to a final and swift end.

I would contend at this point that what is being described here is what St Paul calls the “last trump” in 1 Corinthians 15. He teaches us that “we shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed … at the last trump…for the dead will be raised and we will be changed.” Now remember that the “rest of the dead” will not raise until the thousand years have elapsed. This would place the “last trump” at the conclusion of the Thousand Years. Here the phrase “last trump” has a military connotation. It is the last routing of the enemy, weakened and awaiting defeat. I believe this also correlates to the prophecy of Enoch that we find quoted in Jude’s epistle. “Behold the Lord comes amid myriads of His saints. To execute justice upon all and to put every soul to shame for all their works of impiety, which they have committed impiously, and for all the harsh things that impious sinners have spoken against him.” This certainly reminds us of the Logos of God in the Revelation, riding forth in war against the nations and executing judgment upon is enemies. It also brings to mind Paul’s terminology in 1 Cor 15 “He must reign until all His enemies are destroyed…the last enemy is death.” In John 17 Christ prays that, in His ascension, His followers be “with Him to behold His glory.” In Revelation 20 we see them being given this very glory. Then we read that they return with Him to affect His final victory.

What we see then is that the Thousand Years must begin in correlation to the fall of Jerusalem, seeing that at its beginning sentence is given in favor of the saints and martyrs; which for Preterists must be the fall of Jerusalem. Further we see that the saints, who are given thrones, continue with Christ until all His enemies are destroyed. We see that while Jerusalem has been judged, that Christ will go on to conquer those who make war with Him and His Church. Thus, making the fall of Jerusalem the first victory of Christ the Logos over those who hate Him and giving us hope that all of His enemies will also be destroyed. This has been our hope in every age. Whether we were ravaged by the Roman beast, sieged by Muslim invasions, oppressed by Atheist regimes or insidiously encroached upon by modernism and materialism, we have known in every age that all these enemies must fall. We know that He sits at the right hand of the Father until His enemies are made His footstool. We know that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. In the words of one old song “kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there is something about that name.” And I saw heaven opened, and look: a white horse, and the one siting on it called Faithful and True, and he judges and wages war in justice…his name is called the Logos of God…and the armies who were in heaven followed him on white horses…and from his mouth comes forth a sharp sword, so that with it he might strike the gentiles; and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron.” Amen.

[1] While there are several variations of this concept, the variations are inconsequential to the argument against them.