file000541949575I suspect this piece will make some people angry but here it is. Recently when we were having dinner with some friends, I was asked as to where I stood concerning the interpretation of the thousand years of Revelation 20:4- 6:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (NIV)

Bible-believing Christians are divided as to how the thousand years in these verses should be interpreted. Are they a literal thousand years when Jesus and some martyrs will be reigning on earth? Are the thousand years symbolic? Those in the know will know how much heat has been expended on these verses.

My answer is that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I am a premillennialist, and see the thousand years as a literal thousand years, with Jesus ruling on this earth before the final judgement. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I am a amillennialist and see the thousand years as symbolic representing the present age, with nothing more to happen before Jesus comes back for the final judgement and to usher in the new heavens and the new earth. On Sundays, I rest from this debate. I am not trying to be facetious, well, ok, maybe a little. I have wrestled with this issue for almost forty years and see the force of both the premillennial and the amillennial positions. I know that there are top notch godly biblical scholars who support both these positions. If I am forced to take a stand I will say I lean towards the premillennial position. But what I am utterly clear about is that Jesus will win in the end.

As I write this piece, I am disappointed that two by-elections in Malaysia were won by the ruling coalition. I am one of those hoping that Malaysia will move away from the politics of race and corruption. As I write this piece, a good friend is fighting cancer, and the family has been told, once again, to be prepared for the worst. As I write this piece I read of a suicide bomb attack in north west Pakistan killing forty-five and injuring a hundred people. As I write this piece I read of 80,000 people fleeing a volcanic eruption in Indonesia, an eruption that has already taken more than a hundred and twenty lives. As I write this piece I read of three airmen working for the World Food Programme, who have been kidnapped in Darfur. Sometimes it is tiring to be on the side of the angels. How do we find the strength to carry on? By remembering that Jesus, and good, win in the end. To quote Bishop Desmond Tutu:

The texture of our universe is one where there is no question at all but that good and laughter and justice will prevail. (Alex Perry, “The Laughing Bishop,”? TIME International Edition, October 11, 2010, 36.)

It is this conviction that enabled Bishop Tutu and many others to walk the long journey that led to the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.

On Sept. 25, 1977, 16 years before apartheid’s end, Desmond Tutu stood before a crowd of 15,000 at the funeral of murdered black consciousness leader Steve Biko in King William’s Town, South Africa, and declared that white rule was finished. “The powers of injustice, of oppression, of exploitation, have done their worst, and they have lost,” thundered the then 45-year-old bishop of St .Mary and St. James, Lesotho. “They have lost because they are immoral and wrong, and our God . . . is a God of justice and liberation and goodness. Our cause . . . must triumph because it is moral and just and right.”? (Perry, “The Laughing Bishop,” 36.)

Because we take God and His Word seriously we will continue to wrestle with the book of Revelation, to clarify our understanding of the book, especially of some of the more difficult passages. But we must never forget that Revelation is God’s word to followers of Jesus who are suffering for the privilege of doing so. In the book of Revelation, God draws back the curtains of the heavens and of history, to let suffering saints know who is in control at all times, and who will win in the end.

So while we continue to wrestle with some aspects of Revelation Ch 20, we will not forget how the story ends:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5 NIV)

In remembering how the story ends, we find the strength, and indeed the laughter, to press on. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)