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These Verses in the Book of Revelation About Jesus' Second Coming Have Sparked a Heated Theological Battle — but Who Really Has It Right?

"They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years..."

In this Tuesday, April 19, 2011 picture, Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, head of Bibliographic Services at the London Library, studies a copy of the King James bible as she poses for a photograph in the library in central London. Every Sunday, the majestic cadences of the King James Bible resound in the Chapel Royal in London, in scattered parish churches in Britain and in countless chapels, halls and congregations around the world. Still a best-seller, the King James Bible is being celebrated on its 400th anniversary as a religious and literary landmark, a defining moment in the development of English, and a formative influence on culture in Britain and its colonies. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

When it comes to the theological circumstances surrounding the Second Coming of Christ — the biblical belief that Jesus will one day return to Earth — American pastors espouse a variety of divergent viewpoints, especially when it comes to the contents of Revelation 20.

Charisma House

At the center of the debate is the so-called "millennium kingdom," a 1,000-year period of Jesus' rule that is briefly referenced in chapter 20.

The short description of this time period has created a plethora of questions and theories among theologians and end-times enthusiasts, as documented extensively in my new book, "The Armageddon Code: One Journalist's Quest for End-Times Answers."

Before diving deeper into that debate, it is essential to explore Revelation 20:1-6, which reads as follows:

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyssand holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He 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.

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.

It is that segment of scripture that has created quite a bit of discussion and debate among the faithful, especially among those with an interest in eschatology — the study of the end of days. Mainly, pastors and theologians have disagreed over whether the millennium period is literal or figurative; they have also haggled over where it fits into proposed eschatological timelines.

In addition to asking 1,000 pastors, ministers and priests were surveyed in January of this year based on a random sample of all Protestant churches in the U.S. about their views on the concept of a rapture and on the nature of the Antichrist, the survey that was conducted for "The Armageddon Code" also inquired about Jesus' millennium reign.

The poll, which was commissioned through LifeWay Research, asked the clergy members, "Which one of the following statements best fits your views on the millennium described in Revelation 20? The chapter says that Christ shall reign ‘a thousand years.'"

Here are the options that the preachers were given:

  • There is no literal millennium, but Christ is currently reigning spiritually and in the hearts of Christians (often called amillenialism)
  • The millennium is not a literal 1,000 years, but an era in which the world will gradually grow more Christian and just ending with Christ’s second coming (often called postmillennialism)
  • The millennium will be a future literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus reigns on earth following Christ’s second coming (often called premillenialism)
  • None of these/Not sure

Overall, the largest proportion of pastors — 48 percent — expressed support for premillennialism, with an additional 31 percent opting for amillennialism. The third most prevalent view was postmillennialism, which attracted just 11 percent of ministers. An additional 12 percent chose "none of these" or "not sure" when presented with the options.

LifeWay Research/Charisma House

As TheBlaze previously reported, the millennium is hardly the only area of contention that exists surrounding the study of biblical eschatology, with preachers expressing a variety of views surrounding the rapture as well as concepts such as the Antichrist.

You can read more about those results here and download the full data about what preachers really believe here. Find out more about "The Armageddon Code: One Journalist's Quest For End-Times Answers."

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