Home > Book of Revelation, Discrete millennialism, Gog & Magog, The 1,000 years > Thousand or thousands in Revelation 20:1-7

Thousand or thousands in Revelation 20:1-7

May 27, 2012

The question whether a thousand years, or thousands of years, best represents the thought of Revelation 20:1-7, is raised by the translation offered in the Tischendorf 8th Edition of the Greek New Testament, where the expression χίλιοι ἔτος is used, meaning thousands of years, as chilioi is plural. Most texts have χίλια ἔτη, a thousand years.

If chilioi is the correct word, rather than chilia, the idea that Christ will return to reign upon earth for one thousand years in the future is discredited. A spiritual interpretation of the reigns of the saints who are beheaded, and do not worship the beast or his image, seems more promising.

Kenneth Fortier compares murias (myriad) and murioi (myriads) with chilias and chilioi, in his article, A Preliminary Study of the Greek Word Thousand and Thousands.

Revelation 5:11 contains both words, myriads, and thousands. Fortier offers as a translation: “And I saw, and I heard a sound of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads (of) myriads and thousands (of) thousands.”

In discrete millennialism, the thousand years in Revelation 20:1-7 is symbolic. It applies to the reigns of individual believers, rather than the whole age of the church. The reign of Jesus is forever, and is not limited to a thousand years, but the lives and reigns of believers in the present age are of limited duration. Just as specific lengths of reign are assigned to each of the kings of Israel and Judah in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles, in John’s prophecy, the label χίλιοι ἔτος, or a thousand years, apples to Christians in a symbolic way.

To be beheaded is figurative, and pictures those who submit to Christ as Lord. For them, Satan is bound. James said, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” They reign with Christ, because they are “raised up together,” and made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” as Paul said in Ephesians 2:6. The number a thousand is symbolic, as it represents their reign as kings and priests in the present age, and this is a foretaste, or token, of future glory. When speaking of the saints collectively, John could refer to thousands of years, as many believers reign with Christ, and they are all included.

If a person’s reign with Christ ends prematurely, the thousand years can be said to come to an end, for that individual, and typically, deception follows. In Revelation 20:8-9, deceived people aligned with Gog and Magog compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city, which is the church. The apostle Peter refers to them in 2 Peter 2:1-3.

William D. Mounce has the following information about the word chilioi  translated “thousand” in Revelation 20:1-7.

Adjective: χίλιοι (chilioi), GK 5943 (S 5507), 11x. chilioi is the cardinal number “one thousand.” It is used interchangeably with chilias in the NT, although the latter is more than twice as common. Except for two uses in 2 Pet. 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”), chilioi only appears in Revelation. Six of its uses there describe the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), otherwise known as the millennium; two occurrences refer to the 1,260 days (11:3; 12:6); and one refers to the distance that blood flows out of the winepress, namely, 1,600 stadia (14:20 [KJV: “furlongs”]).

[William D. Mounce. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Zondervan, 2009.]

John’s use of chilioi in Revelation 20 is probably intended to suggest a link to 2 Peter 3:8.

Strong’s says that χίλιοι is used 10 times in the NT, at 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 11:3; 12:614:2020:220:320:420:520:620:7.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words indicates that the word is plural.


  1. October 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Regarding your second paragraph and mention of the ‘martyred’ saints (only), this is common as statement about this section concerning “resurrection of saints to reign with Christ for a Thousands (of) Years.

    Reading this sequence of verse, it announces:
    Rev 20:4 “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 for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

    Note first this verse says, “I saw… those with authority to judge.” This should remind of 1 Cor 6:2 “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Next this verse says, Rev 20:4
    “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God.” Now you have been introduced to both groups, and next this verse says, Rev 20:4 “They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands.”

    Now that we have identified (both) groups of saints, it says about (all) of these saints in the following verse, Rev 20:4-5 “They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Now we know (all of the Upright and Righteous of the Old Testament promise)… came to life and reigned with Christ for a ‘Thousands (of) Years’. The Greek word ‘Chilioi’ found in original manuscripts is an adjective of plural article, found without a quantatifier, meaning this was an ‘undefined number of thousands’, and translates properly into English as “Thousands (of) Years.”

  2. October 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    One more mention, in the original manuscripts (Rev 20:1-7, Pe 3:8) most scholar and theologian agree ‘Chilioi’ was found, and at some later date was substituted the Greek word ‘Chilias’.

    Chilioi is an adjective of plural article requiring a quantifier to identify number of thousands in reference, when used without a quantifier (as in Rev 20:1-7. Pe 3:8) is then an undefined number of thousands… meaning more than one thousands.

    Chilias is a noun of plural article, and as Chilioi requires a quantifier to identify number of thousands… as example xi/lias (Chilias) used without a quantifier in Rev 5:11 describes “thousands and thousands of angels.” You will aslo note Strongs Dictionary identifies this ‘Chilias’ as NT5507… for the word ‘Chilioi’… what was Strong trying to tell you.

  3. DeWayne Benson
    March 17, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Last addendum… Because Rev 20:1-7 does not have a quantifier (as common in every other mention of Chilioi/Chilias describing together a complex numeric), those cognitive of the two events being incompletely mentioned in Rev 20:1-7, find these duration’s within other bible verses, and found are extensive duration perhaps not fully described, yet sufficient to discover both events are greater than one single ‘thousands’ of years.

  4. December 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Wow, I did not see that one coming! The word for “thousand” is definitely plural, according to Biblehub.com. Very interesting! Great post, God bless!

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