If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read the Prologue to this study, as it provides the framework for understanding the rest of it. Remember that Revelation consists of seven visions which state the same theme of Jesus as Lord.
Sixth Vision: 1,000 Years (Revelation 20)
Many may take issue with this part, but I believe it to be another vision that follows the vision of Jesus’ victory by way of summary. Much has been revealed so far with gripping imagery and symbolism. Rather than an inexplicable intermission period between separate final battles, this vision provides a crucial piece of information. John’s previous vision detailed the Lamb’s response to the various designs of the Dragon which closed with the Lamb’s triumphant victory. He was then taken back to the start once again and shown the pattern of the age. The 1,000 years zooms out from the specific mechanics of Satan’s war and God’s wrath in order to answer a very curious question: Why did the Dragon have to invest his power in a chain of intermediaries instead directly opposing the saints himself? The vision of the 1,000 years provides the answer: the Dragon was bound.
Until the time of Jesus, the Gentile nations did not have the knowledge of God. When Jesus died and rose again, He sent out the apostles with power to bring the Gospel to every nation. Demons fell back against the evangelistic onslaught of the early church. The Dragon was not rendered completely impotent; the nature of his bondage in the abyss is specifically stated as thus: to no longer deceive Gentiles. As a result, nothing could stop the spread of the Gospel—not persecution, not tribulation, not even death itself.
It is recorded in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh, and that for the first time in history, Gentiles were seeking the Messiah whether or not an apostle went to them first—many apostles were sought out by Gentiles, such as Cornelius who sent for Peter in Acts 10.
The 1,000 years of Christ’s reign began when He rose from the dead. 1,000 does not stand for a chronological period, for every time reference in Revelation so far has been subjective to the symbol to which it is tied (the 42 months, the 3 ½ years, the 1,260 days, etc.,). A thousand is instead an expression of God’s abundant provision (such as the saying that “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills”). There is also an extensive debate as to whether or not the word translated “thousand” is singular or plural—thousand or thousands. Understanding the number as hyperbole resolves that debate before it gets started. With that understanding, this vision becomes an obvious retelling of the Dragon’s War on Earth (chapters 13 through 19). It is even possible that “Gog and Magog” are personifications or otherwise representative of the two beasts mentioned in the previous visions.
It is not out of turn, then, to realize that everything that many modern scholars attribute to some future point in time after Christ’s return ought to instead apply to the present Church Age—from Pentecost through the Middle Ages to now and to the end of the age. Those who lost their lives in Christ were resurrected in Him, yet the final resurrection waited until the end of the age.
The New Testament is filled with declarations that He rules over all, that we are seated with Him in heavenly places, and many other examples of divine power (Colossians 1:17-18, 2:15, Ephesians 1:22, 2:6-7). It is a shame that the status quo seems to fall far short of these marvelous promises, but that does not mean that the reign of Christ is anything less than complete. It is not a matter of debate, but a matter of time, which is something that always plays out differently in the physical realm than it does in Heaven. Indeed that has been the entire point of this vision and of the book of Revelation as a whole.
When the Church Age comes to an end, the Dragon will be released from his bondage—namely, he will be enabled to deceive the Gentile nations once again. And, from John’s vision, he apparently will do so with a vengeance. All middle ground will erode into black-and-white polar opposites. When Jesus returns in body to judge the quick and the dead, there will no in-betweens, no ambiguities, no gray areas.
This will not be the Dragon’s second last stand, but merely his final act when the world is ended in the day of the Lord as described in 2 Peter 3. In fact, that passage provides an earthly perspective of the heavenly events John witnesses. View the following passages side by side:
2 Peter 3:8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Revelation 20:7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,
8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.
9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
Peter and John refer to the same thing, just from different perspectives. Peter foresaw from an earthly perspective, whereas John was caught up in the Spirit and was shown from a heavenly perspective. The vision of the thousand year reign of Christ correlates to His present rule as Lord of all which will culminate in Judgment Day, which marks the end of the first resurrection (those made alive in Christ) and the resurrection of the entire human race for summary judgment.
For more on this perspective, see the Amillennialist view armed with the foreknowledge that it is seldom defined accurately or completely by those who disagree with it.