Is the millennium literal or figurative?
Revelation 20:1-7 speaks of a future, 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth known as the millennial kingdom. Will this millennial period be a literal 1,000-year period or is it a figurative, symbolic way to speak of Christ's future reign?
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Those who argue for a figurative interpretation of the 1,000 reign of Jesus on earth often refer to 2 Peter 3:8 that reads, "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." While this verse could possibly be used in reference to the future millennial kingdom, this passage is used in the context of God's patience in order to allow more people to turn to Christ.
In contrast, those who interpret the millennial kingdom as a literal 1,000-year period do so based on numerous lines of evidence. Most importantly, Revelation 20:1-7, the passage that most clearly speaks of the millennial kingdom, specifically notes a 1,000-year period four different times. The emphasis appears to be on the exact time of the millennial kingdom rather than a figurative interpretation.
In addition, the Bible mentions in many other places that the Messiah will rule as king in Jerusalem on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33). This reign will take place as a fulfillment of God's covenant to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), to Israel as a nation (Deuteronomy 20:1-10), and to David (2 Samuel 7:10-13).
Other Old Testament prophets further speak of a time when the Messiah will reign for a long period of time from Jerusalem. The millennial kingdom will be marked by an ideal environment of peace (Micah 4:2-4), joy (Isaiah 61:7), prosperity (Amos 9:13-15), and comfort (Isaiah 40:1-2). Jerusalem will serve as the leading center of the world (Zechariah 8:3).
These prophecies regarding the future Messiah's reign all require a period of time in order to find a literal fulfillment. The only alternatives would be to dismiss the many specific prophecies regarding the Messiah's future reign or to accept an allegorical interpretation of numerous passages that appear to be presented as literal predictions. Based on these options, the most likely scenario is that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus Christ will reign from David's throne in Jerusalem.
At the end of this time, a final rebellion and judgment are predicted (Revelation 20:7-15). A new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem will be created where the Lord will dwell with His people forever (Revelation 21-22). The creation that began in the Garden of Eden will end in the City of God where the Lord's people will dwell in community with their Creator forever.
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