O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
These last words of Christ in John 19:30 - "It is finished" - have been tossed back and forth on this site before in another post as to their exact import. Traditionally, I too was taught that this was Christ's triumphant announcement from the cross that salvation's work was completed.
There's just one problem with that interpretation, which some of you have also noted. Paul declares most emphatically in I Cor. 15:16-17 that if Christ be not raised, our faith is vain and we are yet in our sins. The legal provisions for our salvation were not wrapped up with Christ's death on the cross. In real-time, they were finished when a bodily-resurrected Christ came near to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14) and did his high-priestly work by offering his own blood sacrifice on our behalf on a heavenly mercy seat in a heavenly temple (Hebrews 9:12). To stop short of this complete process is to ignore the types laid out in the Mosaic law regarding the offering of sacrifices, and consequently renders them meaningless.
Now for the actual intent of this post. I have come to the conclusion that this announcement with Christ's dying breath was intended to tell us that the literal-thousand-year millennium was closing down at that point in time. Christ himself had given his disciples advance warning of this in John 12:31. Speaking of his death which was a mere five days away, he said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." If you go to Revelation 12:9, you can see the actual details of this "casting out". After an angelic conflict between Michael and his angels versus the Dragon/Old Serpent/Devil/Satan (pick your label of choice - they're all there) and his angels, they are cast out of heaven, no longer to have access there, once the shed blood of the Lamb overcomes them (Rev. 12:11). "Now is come salvation", it says, once Christ's power to "take up his life again" had been manifested (Rev. 12:10 and John 10:18). Not before then (i.e. at the crucifixion).
The "judgment of this world" Christ warned of in this John 12:31 verse comes to pass with the Rev. 12:12 judgment of those who inhabit the earth (land of Israel) and the sea (Gentile nations as well). This judgment is defined as the devil (and his angels who were cast out of heaven with him) coming down to the earth for a short time (33 AD - 70 AD) to persecute the church in great wrath (Rev. 12:13), and to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:8) - which is both the inhabiters of the earth and the sea being afflicted.
Jesus gives his disciples another warning on the night of the last supper, reminding them once more that "...the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me." (John 14:30). Again, this refers to the very near post-millennium "coming" of the devil down to the earth for a "little season" (Rev. 20:3) which would last from 33 AD - 70 AD. There is actually a symbolic reason for the darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour at which time Christ died. The "power of darkness" (Luke 22:53) was about to be loosed on the world to wreak havoc.
I realize there are many whose concept of the millennium's time frame is a symbolic term only, and not a literal thousand years. They have proposed, for one example, a 40-year period or less, closing with September 70 AD when the city finally falls. After considering this proposal, I cannot reconcile this idea with how Rev. 20:3,7 presents it. The thousand years are "fulfilled" and "expired" when Satan is loosed out of his prison. This has the strong connotation of an actual time clock, with the exact period of time ticking away until the alarm goes off - not a vague, figurative term which can be loosely applied to any symbolic amount of years whatever. Is there anyone who would like to apply this same symbolic estimate principle to the expiration date on your package of hamburger? Consider this also: if Satan is loosed for a short time after the millennium to incite the nations to battle, how can this happen if the millennium is wrapped up at the final 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem and it's temple?
So, if the claim is made that a literal thousand years is intended, and that it's culmination is announced when Christ declares "It is finished", one would have to back up a thousand years prior to 33 AD to arrive at a terminus a quo. That year would match up with the date which many have connected to Solomon's temple foundation being laid down (968/967 BC). I have seen other dates assigned to this event, but for the moment, follow my pattern of logic here. Please note my emphasis on the word foundation, because scripture puts a particular stress on the day, month, and regnal year for laying the foundation of Solomon's and Zerubbabel's temples. God is using his highlighter pen. He uses these two temples as foreshadowing, leading to the revelation of Christ as the real foundation and cornerstone of his own house. Just after Pentecost, Peter is claiming that Christ has already become that cornerstone (Acts 4:11-12).
Here is how I see scripture dividing up the millennium into the beginning, middle, and ending, in simple terms.
Solomon's temple foundation being laid (968/967 BC) (II Chron. 3:1-2 and I Kings 6:1,37) Solomon, meaning "peaceable", son of David, is a type of Christ, The Son Of David, the Prince of Peace.
Zerubbabel's temple foundation being laid (536 BC) (Habakkuk 3:2 "...revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.") (Ezra 3:8-11) ( Zech. 4:9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall finish it...") Zerubbabel, in the genealogy of David, "chosen servant" of God, is ancestor to both Mary and Joseph.
Christ, the true temple foundation being laid (33 AD) (I Cor. 3:11 "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.") (I Peter 2:6 "...Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.") (Acts 4:11-12)
During this entire 1000 year period, from 968/967 BC - 33 AD, Satan's deception of the nations became limited (Rev. 20:3). If "the entrance of thy words giveth light" (Psalms 119:130), and the prophets of the Old Testament all begin their messages with "The word of the LORD came to the prophet X ", I would say that the ministry of the prophets - both spoken and written - was a major means God used to dispel the darkness of ignorance among the world's nations. Ever hear how far the wisdom of Solomon extended throughout the known world in his time? All kings of the earth were said to have heard his wisdom which God had given him (I Kings 4:34, I Kings 10:24). Ever hear of Mordecai's effect on the Persian empire in it's entirety once Haman's scheme to annihilate the Jews fell flat? A mini revival of sorts. (Esther 8:17, Esther 9:3-4) Remember the decree by Darius after Daniel's deliverance from the lion's den: "Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth...I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom, men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God..." (Dan. 6:25-227). Nebuchadnezzar's very public acknowledgement of his personal humiliation for seven years at the hands of God (when he was given the heart of a beast) is also a testament to God's power for everyone in his empire to see.
All these examples give indication of a broad-spread knowledge of the God of Israel going out through the nations during this period of history. A knowledge of God isn't necessarily the equivalent of a Godly response to this knowledge, but it does mean that ignorance of God is dispelled. The deception of the nations is curtailed by this means. Satan is put on a "chain" so that his deception of the nations is limited until he is allowed his "little season" after 33 AD to practice wholesale deceit in the world - his chief occupation as the "Father of Lies".
So, how does one explain how the martyred souls of Rev. 20:4 manage to "live and reign with Christ the thousand years" under this literal-thousand-year proposal? I would borrow the language of Romans 5:17 for an explanation. "For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Same type of living and reigning as described in Rev. 20:4. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (II Tim. 2:12).
Look at it this way: the millennium was like a drop-in party going on from 968/967 BC to 33 AD. During this thousand years, newly-martyred attendees were continually arriving at the door to join the celebrating souls already there. You don't have to automatically presume that every one of these Rev. 20:4 martyrs are reigning from start to finish during this time - although some coming from King Solomon's temple era would have done so - they just become participants in the thousand-year drop-in party sometime during that bracket of time.
Some of these martyrs toward the last were beheaded (John the Baptist, for example). All of them "loved not their lives to the death" and were willing to surrender their lives for the word of God or for the testimony of Jesus. Read Stephen's words of condemnation to those about to stone him (Acts 7:51-52). "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One." Again, in II Chron. 36:16 - a condemnation of the people of Israel before the exile - "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets..." These slain and persecuted ones lived and reigned with Christ as souls in heaven during the millennium, but did not rise to live again in their resurrected bodies until the first resurrection, which followed the millennium's end at Christ's death.
And the timing of this first resurrection? This, I believe, is the saints-only resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53 in 33 AD; those who were raised as flesh-and-bones bodies and were seen in Jerusalem by many. No unrighteous dead are included in this first resurrection, which is why there is a blanket statement that this "remnant (LOIPOS) of the dead" who have a part in this particular event are "blessed and holy" (Rev. 20:6). I see no unrighteous exceptions being raised here to live again in this first 33 AD resurrection, but I do see it happening a little later on in a second resurrection event in 70 AD of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15, and Daniel 12:2). Both of these first and second events I see including physically transformed bodies arising out of the dust. Yeah, I said it.
How else would Hymenaeus and Philetus get the idea that the resurrection was already past? They were remembering the highly-visible 33 AD event, and they presumed that one was the sum total of all resurrection hopes that would occur. They didn't realize it was only a small sample of another resurrection on an even larger scale that would occur in their near future. As we can expect yet another third one in ours at history's end. Yeah, I said that too.
One phase of the millennium I am certain I have never seen discussed elsewhere is the middle of it. I stumbled onto this as I was poring over dates for the four decrees by the three Persian kings concerning the restoration of the Jerusalem temple and the revival of the people after the Babylonian exile. It needs a separate blog post to do it justice, though, so I'll develop the idea in another post to follow.
Because I think it is not only the middle of the millennium, but the middle of history as well.