Revelation 20 is one of the most controversial chapters in the entire Bible. One of the biggest arguments among Christians is how to understand the thousand years of peace this chapter refers to. There are two main camps (this will be a very simplistic description, painted with a very broad brush. There are all sorts of distinctions even within these two main categories.) -
Premillennialists - This interpretation has Christ returning before the 1,000 years. This position tends to be pessimistic about the future, in that society will get worse and worse. Some premillennialists think that suddenly Christians will be raptured, and those 'left behind' will face a time of tribulation. Finally, Jesus will return and usher in a 1,000 year period of peace before commencing the final judgment. This position had its heyday around the turn of the 20th century among fundamentalists and other adherents of the Scofield Bible.
Postmillennialists - This position is a little more common in our circles. They understand that a duty Christians have is to build up the Kingdom of God. As this becomes more solidified, Christ will bless it in such a way that a 1,000 year period of peace occurs, at the end of which, Christ will return.
Revelation 20 is the only chapter in the Bible that refers to this 1,000 year period, and the language it uses is frustratingly vague. Both of these interpretations can claim the text supports their position, but both positions have significant holes in them as well. This is why most Reformed theologians favor a third interpretation:
Amillennialism - As its name implies, this position says there will not be a specific millennium. The understanding here is that the 1,000 years is a symbolic number, just like every other number in Revelation. This period of peace and Satan's repression was inaugurated with Christ's victory on the cross and will end at Christ's second coming.
It may seem like this is just another one in an endless string of controversies among Christians, but don't dismiss this too quickly. First of all, this text is here, and even if it's difficult we have to do something with it, we can't just ignore God's Word. Secondly, the way you interpret this text has massive practical applications for how you interpret current events and plan for the future. Please let me know if you would like some help finding additional resources that can help you come to a solid conclusion on this. This chart will help give you a basic understanding of the three positions:
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our holy God, from whose presence the earth and heaven flee (v11), but who has written you in His book of life (v15)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you understand this difficult chapter as He reminds you of everything else His Word contains.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: