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Revelation 20:1-6 tells of 1000 years in which Christ will reign. I've heard there are different views on this 1000 years, mainly premillenialism, postmillenialism, and amillenialism. What are the differences between these views of the millenium in Rev 20:1-6? (Especially concerning the different timelines)

Revelation 20:1-6
1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

4I 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. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed 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.

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As you note, the different "millennialisms" are based on different interpretations of the "thousand year reign" mentioned towards the end of Revelation. Unfortunately, answering this question is not as easy as simply stating the different views on the millennium itself. Each of the different views only make sense inside their respective theological frameworks. For example, you cannot transplant the amillennial view of the thousand years and into a dispensational theological framework. Thus, in order to properly answer this, we must include bits of subjects other than just the millennium itself and one must be aware that you cannot simply choose one of these views on their own, you must arrive at one of these understandings based on your hermeneutic for understanding the rest of Scripture.

As you noted, there are several main views on eschatology. Your question mentioned three. While no set of boxes will suffice to accurately categorize these views, I think it's unfair to not include a fourth, namely historic-premillennialism. The modern view called premillennialism is radically different from what was known as premillennialism just a few hundred years ago. The radical shift of views under the same name makes it confusing, so one must delineate.*

How each of these views addresses the what and when of the millennium is also tied up in their views of the church, what the kingdom of God is and the timelines of both world history and individual lives.

Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism identifies the millennium as a future event in this world where Christians triumph over this world and the Kingdom of God is visible (as opposed to the church-invisible). Of all the views I understand this one the least, but I believe there is some variance of opinion on when the millennium starts. Some say it will be a gradual event where the church sets right all the wrongs of the world step by step until eventually we reach a golden age. Another view is that Christ will dramatically intervene at some point in the future to bring this about.

The thousand years of the millennium are generally considered to be figurative -- meaning a long period of time but not necessarily exactly 1000 years as we know them. Satan is bound during the millennium both spiritually and physically so he can't wreak his normal havoc. After the thousand years, Jesus will return. Those believers living will be caught up to be with Him in heaven and the dead will be raised, either to life with him or eternal death.

Amillennialism

Like post-millennialism, amillennialism believes that the thousand years is a figurative number indicating a long period of time and that Jesus will return after the thousand years is over. Unlike the other views, amillennialism believes that the thousand years has already started. Beginning with the first coming of Jesus and the establishment of the NT church the reign of Christ in victory through the invisible church has already begun. Satan is currently bound in that his power to stop the spread of the Gospel is limited. The kingdom is growing and reigning victoriously through true believers in the world today. However the world as a whole is also still inhabited by evil and good and evil grow side by side and in contrast to each other until Jesus returns for his own. This is the period of tribulation, and the church experiences but is preserved through it. Jesus second returning ends the millennium and marks the second judgement.

Premillennialism

The modern iteration of premillennialism is based on dispensational theology and is sometimes knows as Dispensational Premillennialism, although if someone gives no qualification as to which premillennialism is being referenced, it is is generally assumed to be this one.

The dispensational premillennial timeline is the hardest to describe. The millennium is a future event in which the nation of Israel is restored and all the promises about her are fulfilled. Before the millennium starts however, Jesus returns two more times, once privately to rapture the gentile believers out of the world and again publicly at the start of the millennium. In between these two returns is the tribulation, a 7 year period of disaster and judgement on earth. There are three views on when the church is raptured in relation to the tribulation, pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation. Evil in the world will generally increase until the start of the tribulation, at which point all hell breaks loose in a time of satanic dominance. After that time is over and Jesus has come (the third time if you are counting from time he came for the cross) Satan's power will be entirely bound and a new kingdom will be established on earth where the Jewish people are restored to their place as God's chosen people and reign on earth. When that's over eventually the church already raptured out of the world and the restored faithful remnant of Israel will be reconciled in heaven.

Historic Premillennialism

Also known as "Classic Premillennialism", is actually more similar to Amillenialism than it's modern name-sake. The period of tribulation for the church began with its establishment after the resurrection and will end when Christ returns to earth a second time. Evil will increase in the world along side of good. The church invisible will be sorely tried but always be victorious as protected and strengthened by Christ along the way. There are different views on the great tribulation and whether all of the prophecies are spread out throughout this church age or whether some of them are concentrated into a special great-tribulation period during the last seven (literal or figurative) years at the end. Either way, Christ returns once when the tribulation period is over both to collect his church out of the world, resurrect the dead, and to judge evil. Where historic pre-millennialism differs from amillennialism is what happens after that. Amillennialism sees the thousand years as overlaid on top of the tribulation, parallel tracks as it were or different perspectives on the same event. Historic pre-millennialism believes that the tribulation is now but that after the second return there will be a time of earthly reign in which all things are made new, Christs power to restore is demonstrated on the same turf on which the rest of history was played out but with him physically present and Satan bound. This time can be interpreted as either figurative for a long period of time or a literal thousand years.

*For full disclosure in case my bias comes through somewhere: I am historic-premil.

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Very nice exhaustively-concise answer! +1 –  El'endia Starman Oct 3 '11 at 13:24
    
I thought that in Amillenialism and Postmillenialism that the Tribulation had already passed, usually referencing the period around 70 AD and the destruction of the temple. But you mention the Tribulation in Amillenialism as a future event. Am I missing something? –  Bryan Rosander Apr 6 '12 at 15:19
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@BryanRosander: I should work in an explanation of how postmillennialism places the tribulation and the connection with 70 AD. They certainly do think that is a past event so you're right that far, but Amillenialism definitely says the tribulation started after Jesus first coming and is on going until his second coming: as in not a future event but a current event. We're living in that now. –  Caleb Apr 6 '12 at 18:40
    
Interesting. I never knew that. I always thought that they agreed on the tribulation. –  Bryan Rosander Apr 6 '12 at 19:48
    
@Caleb: How do the Historic Premillennialism see the part about that Satan "must be set free for a short time" in Rev 20:3? I always find it hard to see why he will be released if the creation already have been restored. –  Niclas Nilsson Jul 3 '12 at 21:10
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I don't know if a picture is a valid answer, but I think it shows a pretty good comparison.

http://www.drjpdawson.com/REVELATI/milviewz.gif

Source

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It's a good start, but it's definitely lacking. –  a_hardin Sep 21 '11 at 15:27
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@sven - would you elaborate on the Biblical backing for each viewpoint? –  warren Sep 21 '11 at 20:32
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This graph has a few issues :) For one, the existence of a "rapture" is a distinctly modern pre-mil view, yet it's mis-labeled here on the historic pre-mil timeline. –  Caleb Oct 2 '11 at 6:24
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On second review, this is just straight up wrong. The pre views are scrambled beyond explanation and it simply doesn't account for the actual distinguishing factors. –  Caleb Apr 6 '12 at 21:35
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Postmillennialism and premillennialism are both based on a literal "millennial kingdom" in which Satan will be sealed in the Abyss and there will be peace on earth for 1000 years. After the 1000 years there will be a final judgment. However, they differ in when Christ will return.

In premillennialism, it is believed that Christ will return before the millennium and will rule from an earthly throne.

In postmillennialism, it is believed that Christ will rule from a heavenly throne, and will not return until after the millennium for the final judgment.

In Amillennialism it is believed that the 1000 year period is symbolic and that we are currently in the millennium and Christ will return at the end of the current age.

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