The millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ with His saints in heaven between the first and second resurrections. During this time the wicked dead will be judged; the earth will be utterly desolate, without living human inhabitants, but occupied by Satan and his angels. At its close Christ with His saints and the Holy City will descend from heaven to earth. The unrighteous dead will then be resurrected, and with Satan and his angels will surround the city; but fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth. The universe will thus be freed of sin and sinners forever. (Jer. 4:23-26; Ezek. 28:18, 19; Mal. 4:1; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Rev. 20; 21:1-5.) (Rev. 20; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Jer. 4:23-26; Rev. 21:1-5; Mal. 4:1; Eze. 28:18, 19.)
There were no changes in this fundamental, other than the usual rearrangement of Bible texts. When first introduced to the millennium many wonder as to its purpose. Why a resurrection of all the wicked simply to face a second death? Sigve Tonstad, in his dissertation at St. Andrews University in Scotland, notes the odd reality that everything seems settled and the victory of Christ is assured at the Second Coming, yet there is a new resurrection and a new conflict after the millennium. This only makes sense in light of the cosmic conflict articulated in Revelation 12 (and FB8) and hinted at in many other parts of the Bible. There are broader issues in the universe than simply the salvation of humanity or the superior power of God. There are issues in the cosmic conflict of the character of God and the accusations of Satan. These issues require one final confrontation at the end of the millennium, where God’s character is finally vindicated and Satan’s character finally and fully exposed. So in the larger picture of a cosmic conflict, the millennium plays an important role.
The release of Satan at the end of the millennium is a big surprise. After all, he is the ultimate villain of universal history. Confining him (Rev 20:1-3) seems like the intelligent thing to do. Yet at the end of the millennium he is not only released, the text says that he “must be set free.” Why does this happen? Clearly the capture and release of Satan means that he is an extremely important character in the story. In spite of all the suffering and anguish he has caused, it is necessary for him to be released one last time to demonstrate what happens to an individual who nurtures rebellion and sin. After a thousand years to contemplate his deeds, his character is completely exposed by his actions after his release. Repentance and reform are no longer of interest to him, he is bent on destruction of the most magnificent thing any creature has seen, God’s amazing New Jerusalem. But he also contains within his sinful self the seeds of his own destruction (Ezek 28:18).
As noted in this fundamental, Revelation 20 describes the destruction of the wicked as “fire from God” (Rev 20:9). The cosmic conflict is often portrayed in graphic military language (see Rev 19:14-15, for example, see also Rev 12:7-8). Yet under the surface of the military language there is a spiritual reality in play (Rev 12:11-12; 19:11, note also the spiritual context of Armageddon—16:15). So one can read Revelation through two different lenses. The first is the more popular reading which focuses on the surface of the text and seems to portray earthly battles, sometimes even in a Middle Eastern context (Rev 16:12). But a careful re-reading of the book shows a deeper dimension, a cosmic conflict behind all the earthly conflicts, a universal war of words over the respective characters of Christ and Satan. This more detailed reading can reconcile the seeming conflict between the idea that God destroys the wicked and sin’s own tendency to self-destruction. Throughout the Bible, the wrath of God often turns out to be God sadly turning away from those who no longer want Him and allowing them to reap the consequences of their own choices (Ezek 28:18; Hos 11:1-9; Rom 1:24-28). Why would it be any different at the End?
Modern cosmology has certainly changed the size of the universe in our minds. It is infinitely larger than anything the ancients might have had reason to suspect. The ancients did, however, know that the universe was very big. Because of electric lights, we don’t see the sky as clearly as they did, so we miss many things. Modernity has a certain superiority complex that we know infinitely more than the ancients did. That certainly true in some ways, but the opposite is also true in some matters.