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Istanbul, 25 May 2016

Good evening from Turkey! Here I'm spending fellowship time with Andi Berzani, Turkish evangelist in Istanbul. The teaching ministry is providing materials and funds for the local campus internship, thanks to the generosity of several who responded to last week's appeal.

My main purpose in the country, however, is to take part in a tour sponsored by the Biblical Archaeological Society, of which I am a member. It would have been hard to turn down such an opportunity (I'm an invited guest)! We begin tomorrow in Ephesus. Our group is comprised predominantly of university professors (I am an Adjunct Professor with Lincoln Christian University.)

Sights (really, sites) include Ephesus, Miletus, Bodrum, Kos, Knidos, Loryma, Dalyan, Caunos, Xanthos, Patara, Kalkan, Andriake, Myra, Phaselis, Antalya, Perga, Attalia, and Istanbul. You may recognize several of these locations from the missionary journeys of Paul. We'll travel to a number of the locations by Gulet (a traditional wooden sailing vessel). I expect the tour to be fascinating, faith-building, and fun.

The Millennium?

As we saw last week, the number 1000 is sometimes straightforward (either as a literal number or as an approximation), and sometimes figurative. What about its use in Rev 20:2-7, the millennial passage? Several points deserve mention.
  • Revelation is a book chock-full of images, symbols, metaphors. The general rule of thumb when reading apocalypse is to take nothing literally unless forced to. (The general rule for narrative is the opposite: to take things literally unless that wouldn't make sense.) 
  • Revelation features numerous symbolic numbers, like 7 (stars, angels, lampstands, and churches in 1:20), 666 (the number of the Earth Beast in 13:18), and 12,000 (the number of male Jewish virgins per tribe in heaven in 7:5-8). Other symbolic numbers that are multiples of 1000 appear in Rev 11:13 (7000 deaths), 7:4 and 14:1,3 (the 144,000), as well as 5:11 and 9:16.
  • Thus it would be truly surprising if the 1000 years of Rev 20 were a literal millennium. In apocalypses, numbers and times speak of states of affairs and conditions, not chronology. To literalize the millennium is a mistake.
  • Further, 1000 in Latin is mille, millennium simply means a period of 1000 years. Rev 20 is the only chapter in the Bible where you find a millennium --a flimsy foundation on which to construct an elaborate end-times scenario.
  • Finally, the church has historically held to a figurative interpretation of this passage, at least until 19th century Protestant Millennialism. Thus we should expect the passage not to support the doctrine of a literal millennium -- not to say it doesn't convey an important message.
When it comes to interpretation, "Context is king." What's the context of Revelation? It's nearing the year 100 AD. Roman persecution is beginning to break out against the Christians, and a number have already been executed. Domitian Caesar has all the power; Christians are in a hopeless situation (so it seems). So what's the message behind the imagery?

The tables have been turned! Rome has been annihilated at Armageddon (just as Babylon and Edom were destroyed in Isa 13 and 34). Jesus is reigning on the throne, not Caesar (and not just for 1000 years, but eternally)! Yet the emphasis here isn't on Christ's reign, but on that of the saints.

Satan, the power that animates Rome, is bound (v.2) in a sealed pit (v.3) pending his release for a time (v.7). Christ reigns with his followers, including the martyred saints (v.4). The Beast has received a mortal wound, although he refuses to back down, determined to use drag us down with him (12:7-12). Note that the "little while" of v.3 corresponds to the "short" time of 12:12; Satan is on the loose, and on the prowl.

Speaking of "beasts," our Swiss Mountain Dog Darcy (6000 hours old, and 1000+ oz.) is keeping an open mind on this subject. If the Millennium means food, she's for it. (As long as she can keep adding 1000g/week.)

The Millennium is simply a way to proclaim the victorious reign of Christ, including his ultimate victory over the evil one. Though the end has not yet come, yet we are victorious. Even so, we cannot afford to ignore Satan (he's still flapping around like a freshly caught fish in a boat). Yet there's no reason to give in to fear, as he has been defeated -- hurled into the abyss, ultimately to be destroyed the lake of fire.

So "the Millennium" isn't some future event; we experience the victory of the Lamb right now! We are a victorious kingdom (Rev 1:6; 1 Pet 2:9). Rev 20 isn't a prediction of "the Millennium," because it isn't a prediction of anything. The powerful imagery, as with the many numbers of Revelation, makes good sense if interpreted symbolically. For more, I recommend Jim McGuiggan's The Book of Revelation.


Next week we'll explore the number 12. In the meantime, thanks for prayers during my time in the land of the Hittites (OT), or Asia Minor, the land evangelized by the apostles (NT). Thank you or, in Turkish, Teşekkür ederiz.


Dr. Douglas A. Jacoby, M.T.S., D.Min.
International Bible Teaching Ministry

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