Home > Book of Revelation, The 1,000 years > Revelation 20 and 12 compared

Revelation 20 and 12 compared

December 24, 2011

William Milligan D. D., (1821-1892) was Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In his comments on Revelation 20, Milligan pointed out that there are striking parallels between the prophecies in chapters 20 and 12 of Revelation. He wrote:

The whole picture of the thousand years thus presented to us is, in all its main features, in the binding of Satan, in the security and blessedness of the saints, and in the loosing of Satan for the war, a striking parallel to the scenes in chap. xii. of this book. There Michael and his angels contend with the devil and his angels, and the latter prevailed not (comp. the very remarkable parallel in John i. 5, “and the darkness overcame it not”), but were cast out of heaven into the earth, so that the inhabitants of heaven are for ever safe from them. There the child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and from the thought of whom it is impossible to separate the thought of those who are one with Him, is caught up unto God and unto His throne. Finally there also the dragon, though unable really to hurt the saints, “the rest of the woman’s seed which keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus,” makes war upon them, but without result. This picture in chap. xx. is a repetition, but at the same time a fuller development, of that in chap. xii.; and when we call to mind the peculiarities of apocalyptic structure formerly spoken of, we seem in this fact alone to have no small evidence of the correctness of the interpretation now proposed.

The chapter in which Milligan discussed Revelation 20 is presented in this post.

Points of comparison between Revelation 12 and chapters 19 & 20 are listed in the following table.

Revelation 12 Revelation 19-20
the woman is clothed with the sun [Rev. 12:1] the bride is clothed in fine linen, clean and white [Rev. 19:8]
Jesus rules all nations with a rod of iron [Rev. 12:5] Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron [Rev. 19:15]
Satan and his angels battle against Michael and his angels [Rev. 12:7] Satan is bound for a thousand years [Rev. 20:2]
Satan deceives the whole world [Rev. 12:9] Satan deceives the nations in the four quarters of the earth [Rev. 20:8]
the saints overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb [Rev. 12:11] the saints who are beheaded reign with Christ for a thousand years [Rev. 20:6]
Satan has but a short time [Rev. 12:12] Satan is loosed for a little season [Rev. 20:3]
the woman is threatened by a flood from the mouth of the serpent [Rev. 12:15] the beloved city is threatened by the armies of Gog and Magog [Rev. 20:9]
the earth helps the woman, and swallows up the serpent’s flood [Rev. 12:16] fowls devour the flesh of slain enemies; [Rev. 19:21] fire from heaven devours the armies of Gog and Magog [Rev. 20:9]
the dragon is wroth with the woman, and makes war with the remnant of her seed, those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. [Rev. 12:17] the devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone [Rev. 20:10]

In Milligan’s explanation, the “little season” for which Satan is loosed in Revelation 20:3 is not a distinct period of time following the age of the church, but he identified it with the present age. He wrote:

What is this “little time”? Is it a little time following the thousand years which had, in their turn, followed the close of the present dispensation? No. It is something altogether different. The words take us directly to that conception of the Christian age which is so intimately interwoven with the whole structure of the Apocalypse–that it is all a “little time.”

Milligan identified the little season or time with the whole age of the church: “in short, the time between the First and Second Coming of our Lord.” He wrote:

The “little time,” therefore, of chap. xx. 3, the “little time” during which Satan is loosed, and which, when more fully expanded, is the time of the war described in verses 7-9 of the chapter, is the historical period of the Christian Dispensation during which Satan is permitted to deceive the nations and to lead them to the war against the camp of the saints and the beloved city. It is, in short, the time between the First and Second Coming of our Lord. The period, so often sought in the thousand years of verse 2, is really to be found in the “little time” of verse 3.

In Milligan’s view the thousand years signifies completeness, rather than a period of time. He wrote:

The fundamental principle to be kept clearly and resolutely in view is this, that the thousand years express no period of time. Like so many other expressions of the Apocalypse, their real is different from their apparent meaning. They are not to be taken literally. They embody an idea; and that idea, whether applied to the subjugation of Satan or to the triumph of the saints, is the idea of completeness. Satan is bound for a thousand years–i.e. he is completely bound. The saints reign for a thousand years–i.e. they are introduced into a state of perfect and glorious victory.

In Discrete Millennialism, the thousand years is interpreted as the portion of a believer’s life during which he or she reigns with Christ, while living on the earth, and when Satan is bound, in respect to him, or her. It is a discrete period, for every individual, hence this interpretation is called Discrete Millennialism.