When it comes to Bible interpretation, we have a lot in common with most non-Catholics. Yet there are those verses that are defining of our position to the exclusion to any other interpretation that do divide us. One such set of verses is in the Book of Revelation.
Today we are talking about the Millennium, which means 1000 years.
Revelation 20:1-3 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 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.
The controversy is how we interpret those verses, when do they occur and are they literal?
There are two points here that I would like to raise.
#1 what is meant by 1000 years?
#2 When is Satan bound?
#1 what is meant by 1000 years? I think we must first keep in mind that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Next we see the number 1000 used in symbolic ways.
Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
Do we ask the question, “Which thousand hills is that exactly?” No, because God owns all the cattle on all the hills. Here in the Psalm, 1000 just means – a lot. We believe that is means the same thing here in Rev 20:3
#2 When is Satan bound?Obviously Satan is bound at the beginning of the 1000 years, but do other scriptures talk about when this happens – They do:
Matthew 12:28-29 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
Luke 13:16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
John 12:31-33 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.
Here is my reasoning at least. Satan had the power to bind people. Jesus came and loosed those that Satan had bound (Luke 3:16). By the work of Jesus binding the Satan - the strong man (Matt 12:29) - Jesus was showing that this was evidence that the Kingdom of God had in fact come.
Just to reiterate; with the first coming of Christ we see Jesus’ kingdom inaugurated and at the same, Satan is cast out and bound.
There is another topic addressed in Revelation 20 that points us again to a first century fulfillment of the beginning of the 1000 years.
Revelation 20:4-6 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 they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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.
So what is the first resurrection? When does that happen?
Notice first that it says that the saints reign with Christ for 1000. Now listen to St. Paul
Ephesians 2:5-6 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus…
- St. Paul here uses the past tense and links us reigning with Christ with his resurrection.
Here in Rev 20 St. John tells us that those who are a part of the first resurrection are priests, and they reign with Christ for the thousand years.
My question here “when is the first resurrection?”
Scripture suggests that the first resurrection is at our Baptism.
Romans 6:3-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Ephesians 2:1, 5-6 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 5:14 For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."
Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
To pick up a point from earlier. Jesus associates the binding of Satan with the coming of the Kingdom (Luke 3:16, Mat 12:29). Further confirmation that the kingdom was established in Christ’s first coming is as follows:
Mark 1:14-15 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 22:29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
In conclusion, seeing as how the kingdom was established with Jesus’ first coming the next logical question to ask then is- where is it? We believe that the Catholic Church is this Kingdom.