The term, “The Millennium”, comes from the phrase, “a thousand years” used six times in Revelation 20:1-7 below.
20 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 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.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
There are basically three schools of thought on how to interpret this passage of scripture: amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism. The prefixes “a”, “post”, and “pre” refer to the timing of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to the one thousand years.
The amillennialist believe that the one thousand years is not to be taken literally but is a number symbolic of the entire period of time between the first and second advent. They believe the binding of the devil mentioned in Revelation 20:2,3 happened at Calvary.
The postmillennialist believe in a golden age of the Church where the nations are Christianized. For some this golden age is a literal one thousand years; for others in the postmillennial camp the term is to be taken figuratively. Postmillennialist believe that through the evangelistic efforts of the Church that all or most people will become Christians and usher in this one thousand years of peace. Many postmillennialists (though not all) believe that the majority of the book of Revelation took place in the first century of the Church (the preterist interpretation of Revelation). Their optimistic view of the future works better if the disasters described in Revelation have already taken place.
Premillennialists believe that the second advent of Jesus Christ will precede a literal one thousand year period where the Lord will reign on earth with his saints. This time will be a time of peace and justice because the Lord will reign with a rod of iron and Satan will be bound. One last period of testing and rebellion will happen as Satan is released at the end of the millennium. The Lord Jesus will destroy this last rebellion, judge the inhabitants of the earth, destroy the heavens and the earth with fire, and then create a new heavens and new earth. Premillennialism can be divided into two basic camps: classic premillennialism and dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism emphasizes a continuing purpose for the nation of Israel in God’s plans for the future and also a rapture of Christians to heaven before the beginning of a seven year tribulation period which precedes the second advent of Christ. Classic premillennialists believe in a general resurrection of believers into the clouds as Christ is returning at the second advent. Classic premillennialists believe that the rapture described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the second coming of Jesus Christ happen at the same time.
I am a dispensational premillennialist for a few reasons which I will discuss below.
I believe the Bible teaches that God still has a purpose for the nation of Israel. Romans 11:25 teaches that the nation of Israel is partially blinded until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Ezekiel 37 is about the restoration of the nation of Israel. Although many apply this chapter of scripture spiritually to the Church, it obviously applies directly to the physical nation of Israel. The dry bones in the valley are identified in verse 11 as the whole house of Israel. In verse 12, God promises to bring them into the land of Israel. In verse 14, God promises to place them in their own land. Verses 15 – 22 are about the divided kingdom becoming one again. Israel had divided into the Northern and Southern kingdoms after the death of Solomon 400 years earlier. Ezekiel 37 was fulfilled approximately 2500 years after the Lord made the promise on May 15, 1948. Israel became a united nation again on that date. Here are some other places in the scriptures where God promises to restore Israel to their land: Amos 9:11-15, Zephaniah 3:20, Jeremiah 30 – 33, and Psalm 105:7-12.
The structure of the book of Revelation lends itself to a dispensational interpretation of the millennium passages and eschatology in general. (more to come as I update)
The order of the books of the Old Testament lends itself to a dispensational interpretation of eschatology.