73. A literal 1000 years?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Scripture teaches us that Satan is bound for a thousand years. In this short post I just want to look more closely at that figure and consider whether it is literal or symbolic.

cattle-20527_1280To do that, let’s look at some examples of how the Bible uses it in other places.

For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10).

So are the cattle on the 1001st hill not His? Clearly this is not a literal 1000 hills, it is just a big number – in fact it means all of them.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night (Ps 90:4).

Are a literal thousand years exactly like a day to God in heaven, or is it really saying that heavenly things are eternal whilst earthly things are temporal (and temporary)?

And it is the same with this scripture: He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations (Ps 105:8). If that is literal, you are in trouble if you are part of the 1001st generation! Will the 1001st generation miss out on His covenant blessings? Will His word no longer be operating? That is not what it means at all.

You might think I am deliberately picking references to the number 1000 and 1000 years which are not literal. But I cannot find even one Old Testament reference to a literal 1000 years, nor did Jesus ever teach about it or even mention it. There is nothing in the epistles to indicate that there would be a significant period of a literal 1000 years. We have one short passage in Revelation 20, and people have built up a massive theology around it being a literal 1000 years when there is nothing else in scripture to back it up.

The conclusion has to be that the number 1000 is symbolic. It is made up of 10x10x10, and 10 is the number of fullness. The ‘thousand years’ is the whole of this period we are living in. And when everything is fulfilled, Jesus will return.

Related article from Jonathan Welton: A literal new heaven and new earth A literal new heaven and new earth

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