The Thousand Year Reign Of Christ


The 20th chapter of Revelation is considered the most difficult chapter of the book of Revelation if not the entire Bible.  Dispensationalists freely employ this difficult chapter to prove that Christ will reign on earth for a literal thousand years.  Verse four specifically is the passage that is so heavily relied on to prove their theory.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4

A close reading of this passage nowhere states any of the basic tenants of the Dispensational doctrine.

It does not mention the second coming of Christ with a rapture.

It does not mention a bodily resurrection.

It does not mention a thousand-year reign on earth.

It does not mention the throne of David.

It does not mention the city of Jerusalem.

It does not mention or say anything about those raptured reigning with Christ.

It does not mention the rapture anywhere.

It does not say that fleshly Israel will return to Palestine.

It does not say the raptured (faithful Christians) will be placed in positions of rulers.

Now notice what the text does say.

It does say ‘they’ lived and reigned, not we, the raptured, will live and reign.

It says they ‘lived’ and ‘reigned’ with Christ, not shall live and reign, future tense.

It says they lived and reigned ‘with Christ’, not that Christ reigned.

It says ‘souls’ reigned with Christ, not resurrected physical bodies.

It says it was the souls that were ‘beheaded’ that reigned with Christ.


There is no way one can take Revelation 20:4 and make it teach the dispensational doctrine. A careful reading will show that it does not even hint such a theory. Men have no right to tamper with God’s word implying things it does not teach.

Literal Or Figurative?

Dispensationalists make a fatal mistake by making the book of Revelation literal. This is especially true of the 20th chapter. But are they willing to accept all of the passage as literal? Reading it as literal presents some very awkward problems.

Do they accept a literal angel coming down with a literal key and literal chain? Revelation 20:1. Do such material things exist in heaven?

This was for the purpose of literally binding a literal dragon? Revelation 20:2.

This literal dragon’s body literally filled the whole earth and his literal tail reached to the literal heavens and literally plucked the literal stars of the heavens out of their literal orbits millions of miles away! Are they willing to accept this position?

The literal dragon, which filled the whole literal earth, was to be put in a literal pit, tail, and all. If his body filled the earth where could a pit be dug on earth large enough to accommodate his literal body?

If the thousand years is literal, then the beheading is literal and only those who have been literally beheaded will get into the millennium, Revelation 20:4.

If the reigning ends with the thousand years, the living ends also, for John says they ‘lived and reigned’ a thousand years with Christ. If we accept the dispensationalist view the inescapable conclusion is that when the millennium ends everyone dies.

We can see that if the 20th chapter is taken as literal, we get into all kinds of problems. Any literal conclusions force us into positions that are ridiculous. The ‘thousand years’ is but one symbol in this chapter.

Note the use of ‘1000 years’ in the following passages, Exodus 20:6 / Deuteronomy 7:9 / Psalm 50:10. The 1000 years are figurative, they speak of perfection.

Satan was perfectly bound up for 1000 years, Revelation 20:2, meaning he was completely defeated. Jesus reigned for 1000 years, Revelation 20:4, meaning that Jesus was completely triumphant over Satan.

A proper understanding of the chapter as well as the other chapters begins by recognizing that all of John’s visions are described in highly figurative, apocalyptic, language.

Also, to understand this chapter we must keep in mind it is a sequel to Revelation 19. Revelation 20 is the climax to the last scenes of Revelation 19.

The dragon, Revelation 20:2, that is, Satan, the instigator of all opposition to Christ and His church, is about to be cast into the abyss, the bottomless pit, thus the final and complete defeat of Satan. We must consider ‘a thousand years’ as symbolic just as we consider most all the other numbers to be symbolic.

Does this passage, especially Revelation 20:4-6, teach the establishment of an earthly kingdom and a thousand-year reign of Christ with the saints?

Notice first that the thousand years of this passage corresponds with the thousand years that Satan is bound in the bottomless pit of Revelation 20:2-3.

The number 1000 symbolises completeness or fullness and refers to the complete period of time Satan is bound. However long that is, Christ’s reign is the same period of time. But who reigns with Christ? Revelation 20:4.

These martyrs lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Neither the return of Christ to the earth, the establishment of an earthly kingdom or His reign on earth with His disciples for a literal thousand years is in this verse.

The number 1000 symbolizes completeness thus the complete defeat of Satan and his foes, the complete victory of Christ and His Cause over persecution and oppression. Look at what the Hebrew writer wrote.

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood.  He also Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil.” Hebrews 2:14

Through the death of Christ every persecuted Christian gained victory. If they would remain faithful till death, they would gain victory.

While the symbols of this chapter apply primarily to the early Christians and their persecutions it has a general application to all today that are faithful to him.

In this last and great dispensation Christ is on the throne of His kingdom, Hebrews 1:8. Christians who overcome ‘sit with Him in His throne’, NOW in complete victory over the devil.

Every Christian today is a citizen of the kingdom of Christ for that kingdom is now in existence. We do not have to wait for a future time.  It was established on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ.

This kingdom is not an earthly temporal kingdom manifesting political, military and carnal characteristics but it is entirely spiritual.

Those in Palestine who heard Jesus preach had great difficulty in understanding the nature of His kingdom because they were looking for a kingdom, which would have its capital in Jerusalem.

Jesus told the woman at the well that Jerusalem would not be the central place of worship, John 4:21, yet, dispensationalists like the Jews in Christ’s time want to put it there in a visible way. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world.

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or, ‘See there!’ For, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Thus, the kingdom would not have a visible earthly manifestation. While this 20th chapter of Revelation is difficult, yet it certainly does not teach any of the doctrines of dispensationalist.