This past Friday I recorded a response to Gary DeMar’s YouTube video concerning the number 1000 in Revelation 20. You can my response here: A Thousand Means A Thousand
In his video, Gary said, “The use of the number thousand in Revelation 20 is interesting because of the way thousand is used elsewhere in Scripture.” Then Gary provided three examples from the Old Testament where the word “thousand” is used less-than-literally. He concluded that, given such evidence, the number “thousand” in Revelation 20 is meant to be understood in a similar, non-literal way. But, I wondered — and you should too — why those three examples ought to have greater weight than the hundreds of other references to “thousand” in the Old Testament.
Well, last night as we were teaching our way through the book of Numbers, we came across the passage below, describing the dividing of the plunder Israel brought home after defeating the Midianites. It’s a passage where the word “thousand” occurs repeatedly as the animals and people are counted. At first glance, it might seem like an insignificant bit of accounting. But pay attention to the details because they include a vital bit of information that helps us understand the meaning of “thousand” in the Bible.
“Levy a tax for the LORD from the men of war who went out to battle, one in five hundred of the persons and of the cattle and of the donkeys and of the sheep; take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest, as an offering to the LORD. From the sons of Israel’s half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys and of the sheep, from all the animals, and give them to the Levites who keep charge of the tabernacle of the LORD.” Moses and Eleazar the priest did just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Now the booty that remained from the spoil which the men of war had plundered was 675,000 sheep, and 72,000 cattle, and 61,000 donkeys, and of human beings, of the women who had not known man intimately, all the persons were 32,000. The half, the portion of those who went out to war, was as follows: the number of sheep was 337,500, and the LORD’S levy of the sheep was 675; and the cattle were 36,000, from which the LORD’S levy was 72; and the donkeys were 30,500, from which the LORD’S levy was 61; and the human beings were 16,000, from whom the LORD’S levy was 32 persons. Moses gave the levy which was the LORD’S offering to Eleazar the priest, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. As for the sons of Israel’s half, which Moses separated from the men who had gone to war– now the congregation’s half was 337,500 sheep, and 36,000 cattle, and 30,500 donkeys, and the human beings were 16,000. (Numbers 31:28-46)
Notice that this passage is full of math. And it’s accurate math. For instance, half of 32,000 is 16,000, 1/500th of which is 32. These people were skilled at counting and using numbers. But, pay attention to the math concerning the number 1000. Twice, in dividing 1000, the outcome is 500. Half of 675,000 sheep equals 337,500. And half of 61,000 donkeys is 30,500.
What’s my point? This passage plainly tells us that 1000 equals 500 times 2. That’s mathematic certainty concerning the common meaning of 1000 in the Old Testament.
So, why didn’t Gary DeMar consider these passages when he was telling us what 1000 meant in Revelation 20? His system won’t allow it. The simple reality is that the Bible uses the term 1000 literally and mathematically far more frequently than it uses it to express any lack-of-specificity. If we just do a quick survey of how it is used throughout the Bible, it’s plain that Gary was cherry picking and overemphasizing certain texts in order to draw his predetermined conclusion. And that, my friends, is no way to “do” theology.