“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
As we have seen many, many times, the book of Revelation is rich in symbolism. Every major teaching found in Revelation is given to us through the use of symbolic imagery. The thousand years is no exception to this…
What is the symbolism of this period of time described as “a 1000 years”?
In the Bible, the most common usages of the number 1000 is to represent a complete group (“all” of something). Here are a few examples:
- Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;”
God is faithful to ALL generations (not just the first one thousand generations and then be unfaithful to generation number 1001)
- Job 9:1-3 – “Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.”
Not one man out of all mankind can contend with God (not simply one man out of each group of 1000 men, then with man in group 1001 we find a man who can contend with God)
- Job 33:23 – “If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:”
There is not one man out of all mankind that can present a case for man’s uprightness (If literal, this is saying that you can find a man in a group that exceeds 1000 that can present a case for man’s uprightness )
- Psalms 50:10 – “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”
The Lord owns the cattle upon all the hills (not just the cattle on the first thousand hills, so that when we get to hill 1001 the Lord no longer owns those cattle.)
- Psa 84:10 – “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
A day in God’s court better than all other days (not just better than 1000 days, but 1001 days are better than one day in His courts)
- Psa 105:8 – “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.”
God remembers the promises He has made over all the generations (not just the promises made over a thousand generations but with the coming of generation 1001, He no longer keeps His promises)
- Eccl 6:6 – “Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?”
If man would live all the years he would not see good coming from mankind (not just live 2000 years and then finally see good come from a man)
- Isa 60:22 – “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.”
With God’s power behind him a little one can spawn all the men in the world (the Lord’s power is not limited to allow a small one to give birth to a thousand descendants only)
These verses, along with others, helps us to see that very frequently in the Scriptures the number 1000 is a symbolic representation of the concept of “all”, or “every”. In the above verses, if we take 1000 as a literal number, we cause great harm to the principle that is being presented in each verse. (I tried to illustrate the harm that can be done within the parenthesis.)
This is a truth that should not be overlooked. Along with this, when we remember the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation, it makes us hesitate before we accept the 1000 years of Revelation in a literal sense.
We need to especially notice the usage of the concept of 1000 years in both the Old Testament and the New Testament…. The Lord uses 1000 years to describe ONE COMPLETE TIME PERIOD in His sight…
Psalms 90:4 – “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
2 Peter 3:8 – “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
The 1000 years mentioned in Revelation symbolizes for us that this is one distinct time period recognized by God to judge and reward His saints for their faithful service to Him. It is described elsewhere as “the DAY of judgment” (1 John 4:17, 2 Pet 3:17 etc etc). Although it is a part of a far greater eternity, it is one complete segment with a beginning and an ending. Much like a “day” in one complete part of “a week” or “a month” etc.
In other words, the Lord will not be judging His people throughout all of eternity, nor will they hold special authority over others eternally, but this segment of eternity will come to a definite end with the conclusion of the judgment of the saved followed by the judgment of the lost.
How long will it take for Christ to judge all men? We are not told a specific timeframe. This, along with many other truths, are known only by the Lord and will be revealed to us in eternity. I believe the timeframe could be as short as the blink of an eye or as long as years, centuries or millennia.. it is all a part of the Lord’s discretion on how long He desires for this period of judgment and rewards to last.
May we all be ever-aware of the coming day of God’s judgment. May we always seek to be faithful to Him knowing that we will be rewarded for our faithfulness. May we never forget the great need of the lost who will stand before Him to answer for the sins they have committed.
For an in depth look at these sections of the Revelation: