Understanding and interpreting the book of Revelation has been one of the most difficult tasks for Bible teachers and pastors of all times. The book is filled with highly symbolic language and visions that simply are difficult to grasp. Faithful men and women of God have come up with different ways to interpret it. Many change their minds about various things as they study it more deeply and as they learn from others. There is much we can learn from each other and we should listen carefully and find things of value held by others, including those who differ from us on these things.
These are things Christians SHOULD NOT divide over. It is perfectly ok to disagree and Christians must disagree on these matters peacefully remaining in perfect unity. At the end of the day it is likely that all of us will get some things wrong in our eschatology. So let’s all take ourselves and our own view a bit less seriously and embrace humility above all.
Having said all of that, Christians should not neglect to study all of God’s word diligently, including the Book of Revelation. So here is a bit of help that might aid your study. There are four primary ways Christians have viewed Revelation. These four views are based on different ways of viewing the tribulation found in Revelation 6-18 and the millennial reign of Christ in Revelation 20:1-6.
Here are the four different views of the millennium held throughout church history:
1. Postmillennial View
The events of the great tribulation all took place during the first century in the Roman persecution of the church. The millennial reign of Christ is not a literal 1,000 years but rather a figurative, long period of time, likely to begin soon or possibly happening now. Satan is bound through the advancement of the church teaching God’s word. This brings about the widespread preaching of the gospel. The world will become more and more Christianized resulting in a golden age of global peace and righteousness. This golden age on earth will be Christ’s millennial reign. After this Christ will return and the final judgment will take place.
2. Amillennial View
The millennial reign of Christ is happening now. It is not a literal 1,000 year period but a figurative, long period of time. Christ now reigns not on earth but in heaven along with the saints who have already died. Satan was bound and chained at Christ’s crucifixion and is no longer able to deceive the nations and keep them from responding to the gospel. At the end of this period Satan will be freed and will deceive the nations leading to increased persecution. But this rebellion will be ended quickly with the return of Christ, rapture of the church, and the final judgment.
3. Pretribulation Premillennial View
This present age will continue until the church is raptured just before the seven years of tribulation begins. After the tribulation, Christ will return and have a literal reign over the entire earth from Jerusalem for 1,000 years. Satan will be bound at the beginning of this time resulting in global peace. After this Satan will then be loosed and defeated once for all at the battle of Armageddon. Then will come the final judgment.
4. Historic Premillennial View
This present age will continue leading up to the seven years of tribulation occurs. Christians will live through the tribulation and afterward will be raptured or removed from earth. At that time Christ will return and reign over the entire earth from the city of Jerusalem. Satan will be bound at the beginning of this literal 1,000 year period resulting in global peace. Afterward Satan will be loosed and defeated once for all at the battle of Armageddon. Then will come the final judgment.
There are similarities between the postmillennial and amillennial views just as there are similarities between the two premillennial views. So where should one begin in order to discern their own view of these things? You might start by answering these questions:
1. Read Revelation 6-18. How do you think the tribulation should be interpreted? Did all these things happen in the first century. Have they been ongoing events happening throughout the centuries following the resurrection? Or are these events that are yet to take place at some time in the future? If you view them as having taken place in the first century you may be a postmillennialist. If you view them as having been taking place throughout the centuries you may be an amillennialist. If you view them as yet to take place at some time in the future you may be a premillennialist.
2. Read Revelation 20:1-3. What does it mean for Satan to be “bound” and thrown into the pit “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer”? Postmillennialists and Amillennialists view this as having happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. According to this view Satan is currently bound and unable to deceive the nations. Premillennialists view this as something that will happen at a time in the future. Satan now still deceives the nations but after the tribulation will be bound for 1,000 years. If you view the binding of Satan as something that has already happened then you may be a Postmillennialist or an amillennialist. If you view this as something that has yet to happen then you may be a Premillennialist.
3. Read Revelation 20:4-6. What is the nature of the “first resurrection” which occurs at the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ? Postmillennialists and Amillennialists interpret this not as a bodily resurrection but as a spiritual resurrection. By spiritual resurrection they mean the souls of these people are saved and made new. It is the resurrection of being saved and not a resurrection of the body. Premillennialists interpret this to be a bodily resurrection where believers who have died are raised from the dead and are given glorified bodies. In those resurrected bodies they reign with Christ over the world for 1,000 years. If you view this as a spiritual resurrection, not bodily, then you may be a Postmillennialist or an amillennialist. If you view this as a bodily resurrection then you may be a Premillennialist.
After doing all of this it is still ok if you still don’t know what to think or if you change your view later on. Regardless of which view you end up with remember to use this information to do what God instructs in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” We should never tear one another down with belittling insinuations that someone has gotten it all wrong. Rather, keep the focus on the fact that Jesus is in control and will bring an end to Satan’s work on the earth and in our lives. Jesus is our perfect Savior and will rescue believers and give us the inheritance of the eternal kingdom where we will enjoy Him forever. That, my friend, is encouraging!