THE MILLENNIUM OF THE REIGN OF JESUS
The biblical doctrine of Millennialism has been vastly discussed through the centuries since the concept was introduced to Christianity through the book of Revelation 20:1-10.
Many reputable fathers and later theologians have held different interpretations of this millennial reign of Jesus, as the passage calls it (Rv 20:4), some considering it literal (Ireneaus, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Papias)(1); while others took it on a symbolic level (2).
Today there are four main theories of how this Millennium is understood by Christians from all denominations around the world:
1 – Dispensational Pre-Millennialism
Considers that Jesus will return to rapture his Church (Dead and living) prior to the period of the Great Tribulation and will return with his saints to rule for 1000 years over the nations on Earth, before the Great Judgement. They have a literal view on eschatology, and it is primarily held among American modern evangelicals and Pentecostals around the world.
2 – Post-Millennialism
Considers that the rule of Jesus will come for an undefined period (symbolic 1000 years) when gradually Christianity grows in the world until most of the world achieves conversion and a golden era is established on Earth, before the Great Judgement. They have a preterist view regarding the last days and the Antichrist as a thing of the past. They are held by moderate evangelicals, some Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians.
3 – Amillennialism
It has a symbolic view of the event and disregards details of Revelation 20. It has a preterist view of eschatology and the Antichrist and believes the 1000 reign of Jesus as a symbolic reference to the rule of the Christian Church on Earth since Pentecost until the Second Coming.
It is held by Catholics, Orthodox, Coptic, and some Anglicans, Lutherans, and Presbyterians, and also by conservative evangelical groups as well as the Watchtower Society and Seven Day Adventists.
4 – Historic Pre-Millennialism
There is finally the position of the Historic Pre-Millennialist doctrine.
It expects the return of Jesus at the end of the Great Tribulation, and after the glorification of the dead and living Christians (First resurrection and rapture together, simultaneous with the Parousia) (1Th 4:15-17; 1Co 15:51-53), Jesus will proceed to reign on Earth with the redeemed for a 1000 years or an undetermined period of time.
It takes the reference to the beheaded for Jesus and other martyrs of the Great Tribulation (Rv 20:4) as part of the resurrected and not as the only resurrected, who will share together with all other Christians who will then glorified, in governing the nations of the Earth which had not participated in the Antichrist’s battle against Jesus at Armageddon (Rv 20:4 καὶ - ‘and’ as an addition to a total lot)(See also Dn 7:27; Mt 25:31-32; 1Co 6:1-3; 1Th 4:16; 2Th 1:7; 2Ti 2:12; He 9:28; Jd 1:14; Rv 5:10).
After an undetermined period of time, Satan will be let lose again, and will provoke the last battle against Jesus and his saints alongside the discontent not-glorified humans who remained on Earth, who will be defeated and then the Great Judgement will come (Rv 20:7-11).
This doctrine is held by many evangelicals, small number of Anglicans, Presbyterians, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Each theory contains minor variations not included in this post.
The 1000 Reign of Jesus is not a matter of salvation, and regardless of the opinion Christians may have about it, we all must live in constant faithfulness to God in Jesus, in expectation of his glorious return.
(1) Papias, Fragments, Ch6.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:33:3-4.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 80-81.
(2) Origen, On the First Principles 2:11; Against Celsius 2:5.
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 3:28; 7:24-25.
Ephrem the Syrian, On Repentance, 96.
Theodoret of Cyrus, Exposition of Divine Dogmas, 21.