Is the 1,000 years referred to in the book of Revelation literal?
Many people question this number, some see it as only a symbol of a length of time. There are just as many that question whether the 6 days of creation are literal.
Some of the references of one thousand in the Scripture are:
Eccl. 6:5-6 “Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, even if he lives a thousand years twice-- but has not seen goodness.”
Ps 90:4 “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.”
2 Pet 3:8 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This is explaining to us how time is from God’s perspective.
Ps 84:10 “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Ps 91:7 “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.” (this numbering has the intent of expressing that those who trust in the Lord are protected from a pestilence)
Rev 5:11: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands”
(this again gives approximate number, the highest one the Greek language would allow)
Dan 7:10: “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.”
Ezek 45:1"Moreover, when you divide the land by lot into inheritance, you shall set apart a district for the LORD, a holy portion of the land; its length shall be twenty-five thousand cubits, and the width ten thousand. It shall be holy throughout its territory all around.”
(this is a very specific measurement of Israels land in the millennium)
Gen 6:14-16 "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. "And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. "You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks
Is this literal or should it.” Again very specific measurements for a boat, one would not say it was approximately this or that, it was whatever Noah decided.
The term 1,000 years is used 6 times which are grouped together as John is explaining the Millennium. Having it mentioned 6 times by itself does not answer this question but does emphasize the number is important.
In the same manner when the 144,000 are being numbered (Rev. 7), it tells us there are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes emphasizing 12,000. No one argues that it is not really 12,000 but really means another number. Throughout the book of Revelation there are very specific numbers and measurements mentioned “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Rev. 11:13)
Within 6 verses the term one thousand years is mention 6 times. If one were to take of the six days of creation and mention day six when man was made along with the animals 6 times would that be literal?
Rev. 20:2-7: “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison”
The question we need to ask first – is there a reason not to take this literally. (it is the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take the 144,000 literally because they spiritualize the meaning). If we read this carefully, the author (John) uses the term in several different ways, all which imply it referring to a measured time period.
The Scripture speaks of believers, “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). The Devil is bound by a mighty angel “laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2). Christ sets up His kingdom in this world called he Millennium, a time period which lasts for a thousand years. During this time the Devil will be kept in chains. John then ends it by saying ‘when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison.” Since these statements emphasize the same length of time (1,000 years), describing the various activities that will take place with the Devil, man and the length of the Millennium it should understood that God is communicating a literal time period.