In today’s Bible reading, John uses the term “a thousand years” to describe several things. This is the only place in the Bible that mentions “a thousand years” with regards to the End Times.
One of the most important things to do in reading, studying, interpreting, and ultimately applying the Bible is to read it in its context, including its literary genre. We can easily run into problems when we apply one genre to another. For instance, when we read the book of Acts in the history genre, we need to realize that Dr. Luke describes what happened in the early church. Paul, on the other hand, prescribes how things are supposed to be done.
For example, when reading Acts 28:3 and see Paul shaking off a viper that attached to his hand, some people see that as prescriptive. There are churches in backwoods Appalachia that actually round up venomous snakes to handle in their church services in order to prove that they are “spiritual”. Just because Luke describes what Paul did doesn’t mean that Believers are supposed to do the same. Can God protect Believers today from succumbing to snake venom? Absolutely! God can do whatever He wants. He’s God! But usually, we should follow the prescription to not put God to a test. (Deuteronomy 6:16)
Why go into this here? Given the fact that The Revelation is in the apocalyptic genre — which uses figurative language and lots of word pictures — when we read “a thousand years”, we shouldn’t expect to start a stopwatch the moment the thousand years begins and know when it will end. Instead, we should realize that God is outside the confines of time and to Him, there’s no difference between a day and a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8) The point of John’s using the term is to say that this will happen over a long period of time, but this time will end; it isn’t eternity.
We must be careful when reading books and commentaries on Biblical prophecy, especially those whose authors try to explain everything in Daniel and Revelation. Some of what Daniel and John recorded may not have a one-to-one correspondence with what we want it to be.
And realize that not all godly people understand these books the same way. Some godly people believe that most of Revelation has yet to begin. Other godly people believe that the entire book has already been completed. Eschatology (the study of the End Times) is not a primary theological issue so we should extend agree-to-disagree grace to all Believers, regardless of how they understand these things. These books are not in the didactic genre where teachings are spelled out. Read Daniel and Revelation with the thought of apocalyptic genre.
This devotional was originally published December 26, 2019.