Alan Kurschner raises an objection to many popular amil interpretations of Rev 20:
Alan is correct to point out that Revelation 20:1-6 is part of a larger literary unit. And I think he’s suggesting that the overall sequence is premillennial. The millennium in chap. 20 takes place after the return of Christ in chap. 19. So, by definition, it’s premillennial.
What about that?
i) Does 19 describe the Parousia? The Second Coming of Christ?
Keep in mind that when we think about the Parousia, that’s a theological construct based on many different passages of Scripture. So the question is whether we’re subconsciously fitting 19 into that theological framework. If we were just working with the textual clues in 19-20, what would we think?
ii) Apropos (i), another way to cast the question is to ask where the action takes place in 19-20? Is this a scene of Christ returning to earth? Well, that may be implicit in 19, where Christ defeats his earthly enemies or human adversaries. But what about 20:1-6? It could be argued that this scene also takes place on earth.
However, this is modeled, in some measure, on the vision of God’s throne room in Dan 7. Which also lies behind the divine throne room in Rev 4-5. That suggests a heavenly setting.
So it’s not simply a picture of Christ coming to earth, in premillennial eschatology–where Jesus reigns from Jerusalem. You do, of course, have that motif in Revelation, but that takes place after the “Millennium” (20:1-6), and after the final judgment (20:7-15).
iii) But let’s suppose 19-20 do describe a premillennial sequence. That, alone, doesn’t settle the issue. For one thing, we need to distinguish between a chronological or historical sequence, on the one hand, and a psychological or visionary sequence, on the other hand.
Likewise, we need to distinguish between a literary sequence and a historical sequence.
John is seeing visions in a certain order. And in his visions he is seeing events unfold in a certain order. But that raises questions of how we ought to correlate the data in real time and real space.
For instance, did John see all these visions in one sitting? Visionary revelation could be exhausting. A single vision left Daniel bedridden for days (Dan 8:27). That’s just a fraction of what we find in Revelation.
If he didn’t receive these visions in single sitting, then does his account recount the visions in the same order as he saw them? In what order did he see them? Can we reconstruct the process?
Even assuming that he saw them in one sitting, when he committed his visions to writing, did he preserve the original sequence? How could we tell?
For instance, biblical narrators sometimes rearrange events they saw in a topical or typological sequence rather than a chronological sequence. They group similar material together. Or they sequence events in the life of Christ in a way that evokes OT events.
Likewise, is the visionary or literary sequence chronological or symbolic? Is the order of events in Revelation meant to track the order of fulfillment?
iv) What’s the chronological relationship between 19:11-21 and 20:1-6? Are these successive events? Or are these simultaneous events in two different places (i.e. heaven and earth)? Are they distinguished by time or by space?
v) What’s the chronological relationship between 19:11-21 and 20:7-10? Are these successive events? Or does the fact that both events allude to Ezk 38-39 indicate that 20:7-10 is, in some respect, a throwback to 19:11-21?
vi) What’s the chronological relationship between 12:7-11 and 20:1-6? Are these consecutive events, or do these represent variations on a common theme? Assuming the latter, if Satan is cast down from heaven in 12, that would suggest a heavenly setting for 20.
And that, in turn, goes to the question of whether you view John’s narrative plan as basically linear or basically cyclical–with a climactic ending 19-22, that culminates the cycle.
vii) What’s the spatial relationship between 6:9-11 and 20:4? If these are variations on a common theme, then the heavenly setting of 6:9-11 creates a presumption in favor of the same setting in 20:4.
At the same time, we must make allowance for thematic progression as well as recapitulation, where the story is building to a dramatic conclusion. To some extent history repeats itself, but there will be a definitive break with the past at the end of the church age. In a sense, the repeatability of the past functions as a set-up or lead-in to an unrepeatable future (i.e. the eschaton).
viii) There is also the implicit chiasmic parallel between the first/second resurrection and the first death/second death. That affects whether we view the first resurrection as “spiritual” (e.g. the intermediate state) rather than physical.
It’s arguable that the resurrection language in Rev 20:4 is a spin-off from the “resurrection” in Ezk 37. Indeed, the narrative order in Rev 19-22 broadly follows the narrative order in Ezk 37-48.
ix) The issue of how the narrative sequence correlates with a temporal sequence is further complicated by John’s fondness for hysteron-proteron–a literary device which reverses the chronological sequence. Cf. Aune, 1:258-59; 3:1084-85.
All these factors raise the question of the distance at which the we were meant to view the narrative. Are we meant to focus on each scene, up close, as individually significant–or are we meant to view it from several paces back, where what matters is the general impression, the overall pattern, that John wants to convey–like a pointillist painting? Is his technique microscopic or macroscopic?
I’m not raising any issues which Alan isn’t thoroughly familiar with. I’m just discussing some of the considerations I bring to the text. In case Alan decides to eviscerate my post, I reserve the right to finger Evan May as the culprit. He hacked my password and posted this under my name. I’m blameless for what was said.