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Revelation 20:1-10: The Blessed of the Millenium Print E-mail
Revelation
Sunday, 24 June 2012

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Of all the controversial passages in the book of Revelation, our passage this morning is the most discussed and disputed. And as with the rest of the book, the obvious, but always difficult, question is this: when is this going to take place? Some (premillennialists) think that this text just continues on from chapter 19. Thus, they would say that following the battle that took place there would come a thousand year (millennial) reign of believers with Christ. Thus, Jesus comes back before the Millennium and then reigns on earth with believers for a thousand years. Yet, others (amillennialists) see chapter 20 as another cycle (recapitulation) climaxing once again in the return of Christ and the defeat of Satan. Theologians and commentators and pastors have debated these issues for many years. Pages have been written to defend or debunk certain views. And all we have mentioned are the major points, we have not even spoken of all the many different ways that certain points are viewed. There are many questions and many answers when it comes to the Millennium.

Yet, is that all there is?  Is this one of those passages that the everyday bible reader can just let the scholars debate and ignore?  Absolutely not.  For the record, I donít believe any of us should ignore any passages.  We must do our best by the power of the Spirit to understand and apply all of the Bible to our lives.  So then, what can we do with Revelation 20:1-10?  Well, letís begin by simply walking through the text and seeing what John tells us about the Millennium.  What he says can be broken into three sections: before, during, and after the Millennium.

Before the Millennium (v. 1-3)

Before the Millennium actually begins, John tells us of an important event.  Look at verses 1-3.  John tells us that before the Millennium begins Satan will be bound.  He will be thrown into the pit and sealed in so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.  After the thousand years are over, he will be released again for a little while.

The main question in this part of the text is the extent of Satanís binding.  Some argue that Satanís binding will be extensive so that he cannot continue any of his regular activities (thus, the emphasis on him being shut in and sealed).  Others argue that the binding will strictly limit him from deceiving the nations into making war on Godís people, which he will then be released to do at the end of the age (thus, the purpose statement).  Although Satan is still seeking to deceive and destroy, his influence has been limited by the work of Christ.  As Jesus taught, the strong man must be bound if his goods are to be plundered.  This would mean that Satanís activities are limited in the present age until he is releases at the end of the age to deceive the nations into making all out war on the Church (as we have seen in ch. 12-13).  Although, both of these are viable options, at this point I am leaning more towards the amillennial position and therefore see this as a limiting of Satanís activity during the present age.  He has been bound in this sense for a time until the end of the age comes.

During the Millennium (v. 4-6)

John goes on in verses 4-6 to tell us about the actual Millennium.  We need to consider each of these verses carefully, so letís begin with verse 4.  Look at that with me.  John has a vision of thrones and a group seated on them who have been given authority to judge.  This group could be angels or the martyrs mentioned later or believer in general.  Although it is hard to say for certain, I would take this as believers in general, particularly represented by the martyrs, which John describes next.  John says that he sees the souls of those who have been killed for their witness to Christ.  We have seen this group before in 6:9-11.  They cried out for justice and we have seen God answer their prayers throughout the book.  Again, we see that their cry is answered by God.  They are the ones who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.  Although this group could be limited to martyrs only, it does seem from the blessings that they receive in verse 6 that it also includes the rest of believers as well, who may not have been martyred, but still suffered for Christ.

The primary struggle with this verse comes with the last phrase: They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  John goes on to call this the first resurrection in verse 5.  Look at that with me.  What is John referring to here?  Some see this as the physical resurrection that is promised to believers.  They will be raised physically to reign with Christ on the earth for a thousand years.  Although that interpretation seems to be the most straightforward, another option is possible.  Since John only refers to seeing souls at the beginning of the verse, he could be referring here to spiritual resurrection.  When believers die they are raised spiritually to reign with Christ (the first resurrection, also known as the intermediate state) until Christ returns to bring the final resurrection of all (which John refers to here).  Thus, during the present age believers are raised to reign with Christ as they await His future return.

John then notes the great blessing of sharing in the first resurrection.  Look at verse 6.  John notes three blessings for those participating in the first resurrection.  First, the second death will have no power over them.  What is the second death?  John tells us later in the chapter that the second death is being thrown into the lake of fire (v. 14).  Those who participate in the first resurrection will not be thrown into the lake of fire.  They have been rescued from the power of the second death.  Second, they will be priests of God and of Christ.  We are not given an explanation for what this will mean exactly, but it is a privileged status indeed.  Third, they will reign with him for a thousand years.  Again, John emphasizes that they will reign with Christ.  They may have been disregarded in this life, but they will reign with Christ.  No matter how we take the Millennium, we must agree that those who follow Christ and give their lives to make much of Him will be blessed in the life to come.  Whether that means reigning with Christ during the present age waiting for His return or reigning with Him for a thousand years on the earth, it is a glorious blessing.  Blessed are those who belong to the King.

After the Millennium (v. 7-10)

Once the Millennium is over, then what happens?  John tells us in verses 7-10.  First, we see as he said would happen before that Satan is released.  Look at verses 7-8.  Some see this as another gathering of the nations similar to what we have already seen in Revelation.  Yet, others see it as a retelling of what John has already described in 19:11-21.  Again, I lean towards the latter understanding.  There is one great battle that will be fought at the end of the age and John describes it in a couple of places.  Before he told of the activity and defeat of the beast and false prophet.  Here he tells of Satanís involvement.  He will deceive the nations, represented here by the two Old Testament identities of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39).  Ezekiel used those names to speak of the nations who were at war with Israel and John uses them in a similar way here.  So then, as we have seen before, the Enemy gathers the nations to make war against Godís people.

Yet, once again we see that the battle is not much of a battle.  Look at verses 9-10.  Again, the Enemy never really even gets going.  He marches his army forward and they are immediately defeated by God.  The battle ends as soon as it begins.  There is no hope for the one who fights against God because God always wins.  We are then told that Satan is thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast and the false prophet.  The unholy trinity is defeated and cast into the lake of fire and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Once again we see the terrible description of eternal torment.  Do not think that Satan will joyously reign in Hell.  He will be tormented.  He will suffer.  Such suffering will last for all eternity.  And he will not be alone.  Not only will the beast and the false prophet be there, but all who refuse to follow Christ will taste the second death as well (see v. 15).  Do not miss that.  Do not take that lightly.  Such errors will have eternal consequences.  If you are here and you have never turned from your sins and followed Christ, then you need to know where your life is leading.  The glorious good news is that if you repent and believe in Christ, then you can be saved from the second death and given the gift of eternal life with Christ.  Do not delay.  Do not reject the Savior.

After looking at Johnís teaching on the Millennium, there are two final questions that I want to try and answer.  First, and this is the one that all the debate is about, when will the Millennium take place?  The two answers that we have considered are that it will either take place after the return of Christ or it is actually going on in the present age.  Although both of these options are viable interpretations of Revelation 20:1-10, due to what I have said already and what is taught in the rest of the New Testament, I lean toward believing that the Millennium is taking place right now.  It began at the Resurrection of Christ and it will end when He returns.  Satan has been limited in his activity so that the gospel can go to the nations and many will believe.  He will be released at the end of this age to deceive the nations again, but then he will be defeated once and for all and thrown into the lake of fire.  I think such an interpretation makes sense of the book of Revelation and fits with the rest of the teaching in the New Testament concerning Christís return.

Second, what does all of this have to do with us today?  As we said before, if you are here and you are not a believer in Christ then Johnís teaching on the Millennium, along with every other passage in the Bible, calls you to turn from your sins and trust in Christ.  You absolutely do not want to be numbered with the Enemy.  You do not want to face the second death.  I plead with you to trust in Christ and be saved.  For those of us who are believers in Christ, once again we see that we are blessed to be in Him.  We are blessed because we have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb (19:9).  And we are blessed because Christ has saved us from the second death, made us priests, and will allow us to reign with Him.  John wrote this book to encourage the seven Churches that it is far more blessed to be a martyr for Christ than to live this life in disobedience to Him.  Whatever the world offers is worthless compared to Him.  Whatever sacrifice we might make is nothing compared to glorious gain of Christ.  Whatever defeats and persecution and suffering we might face, the glorious good news of the Millennium, whenever it is, cannot be denied: we will reign with Him.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 July 2012 )

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