Why do some rebel in the Millennium (Rev 20)?

One major epoch of heaven is what many call the “Millennium,” a Latin word that means “one thousand years.” The Bible describes the Millennium as a future, earthly dominion where Jesus will reign as King (Rev 19-20). This is the period to which Jesus refers when he teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).

The prayer is thus a literal request for heaven to come to earth, an event that is inaugurated upon Jesus’ second coming.

Revelation 20 states that Satan is bound during these one thousand years, which means he has no power to “deceive the nations” (Rev 20:3). It also means there is a time of healing and renewal for creation. The curse is not totally removed (that doesn’t happen until the “new heaven and earth” in Revelation 22:3), but its effects are rendered impotent. However, “when the thousand years are completed,” John writes, “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations” (Rev 20:7). The result is a major rebellion against Jesus. John says the number of the people is like “the sand of the sea” (Rev 20:8).

The major question this article seeks to answer is, “How is this possible?” That is, how is it possible for so many (or really anyone!) to rebel against Jesus after living for one thousand years in his kingdom?

The simple answer is that the people who rebel have not yet been glorified. This is to say the rebellion consists of people who are still in their earthly, un-resurrected bodies, and this kind of body is susceptible to sin and death.

While some will inherit the kingdom in their earthly states, others will inherit the kingdom in our heavenly states. It is important to note that what is often referred to as the “rapture” is a separate event from the second coming of Jesus. One scholar says it this way: The rapture is when we go to Jesus, and the second coming is when Jesus comes to us. The rapture occurs before the Great Tribulation, while the second coming of Jesus occurs after it. The rapture is best described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where Paul details how there is a future event where the dead in Christ will be raised and the living will be raptured. In both cases the believer is “glorified” (Rom 8:30), and receives an imperishable body (1 Cor 15).

This body is not susceptible to sin or death, and this is extremely important for our particular question.

Believers will dwell in heaven during the Great Tribulation, but the Bible shows that there will be some on earth who come to faith in Jesus during the event. These new believers however will not immediately receive a glorified body. Instead, should they survive the Great Tribulation, they will enter the Millennium in their non-glorified states, meaning they will be exactly as any human being is now, minus the temptation of Satan. In many ways they will be exactly like Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden prior to the serpent’s temptation, having the ability to sin, yet in this case no tempter to activate it.

Thus, the Millennium will be filled with both glorified and unglorified believers. Glorified believers will not be able to sin, even after Satan is loosed from the pit. Un-glorified believers, however, will still have the ability to sin, a propensity that is tested when Satan is loosed from his pit.

This shows the importance of glorification, which happens to a believer during either the rapture (if he is living) or the resurrection (if he is dead). The future rebellion shows that mankind is hopeless apart from the resurrection. Paul says it this way, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Paul spends a significant amount of time teaching the Corinthians the difference between a glorified and un-glorified body, and his conclusion is that an un-glorified body is prone to sin, while a glorified body is incapable of it.

This is something the Bible teaches from its earliest chapters.

God was clear that Adam and Eve would die if they disobeyed his command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). Adam and Eve’s sin made their bodies--and subsequently all of mankind's bodies--susceptible to death. The only hope any person has of being free from sin and living forever in heaven is glorification.

This message is buttressed with Noah, who is depicted as a type of second Adam. It’s astounding how much Noah’s story parallels Adam’s, and really the creation narrative's. For example, the darkness in Genesis 1:2 parallels the darkness from the Flood's rain clouds in Genesis 7:17. The dry land appearing in Genesis 1:10 parallels the tops of the mountains becoming visible after the Flood in Genesis 8:5. The vegetation sprouting in Genesis 1:11 parallels the freshly picked olive leaf in the dove’s beak in Genesis 8:11. And God’s first command to Noah after leaving the ark parallels his first command to Adam, which was to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).

It's a second creation story, and the similarities don’t end there.

Upon leaving the ark Noah “began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent” (Gen 9:20-21). Noah ate fruit in a forbidden way and then became ashamed through nakedness. Therefore, like Adam, Noah failed to live up to God’s standards.

Noah’s story reveals that Adam’s sin in Eden impacted mankind so deeply that even Noah, the sole man on earth who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord,” was still incapable of overcoming it (Gen 6:8). The story reveals that when God started over with the very best of us that we were still susceptible to sin, and this is because man was still in an un-glorified, earthly body. We needed something stronger to overcome sin and death. And this is why Jesus came, died, and rose from the grave. He wanted to give humanity victory over sin and death, because it's the only way we can truly dwell with God forever in heaven.

The message of the resurrection is that God will one day walk all of his proverbial Adams out onto a “new heaven and new earth,” where we won’t have to worry about ever being deceived again. This is because we will, at this point, have followed in the footsteps of our last Adam, the resurrected Jesus Christ, being raised from the dead to walk in newness of life.

Thus to answer our question, the reason some will rebel against Jesus at the end of the Millennium is because they will still be susceptible to sin and death. Like Adam and Eve, some will choose to follow the serpent rather than the Savior, and, also like Adam and Eve, their lives will end in tragic death.

Our question ponders how some could turn from Jesus after living with him for one thousand years, but what we forget is that Adam and Eve turned from God after dwelling personally with him in the Garden (not to mention Satan after dwelling with God in Heaven!). So long as we are in our earthly bodies, we will always be susceptible to sin and death. Satan knows this, and that is why he wants to keep us from trusting in the person and work of Jesus.

The final pages of Scripture show a new heaven and earth where God again dwells with humanity (Rev 21:3), where there are no more tears, no more death, no more grief, no more pain, and no more curse (Rev 21:4; 22:3). This is only possible because every person there will be in his glorified state, a state that can only come from Jesus, the one who conquered death and the grave.