CHAPTER 20

The Reign of 1,000 years:

The Binding of Satan, the first Resurrection and the Last Battle, and the Prophecy of the Last Judgment

(Jesus' reply to the Pharisees when they accuse Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan) "But if it is through the Spirit of God that I drive out devils, then be sure that the kingdom of God has caught you unawares. Or again, how can anyone make his way into a strong man's house and plunger his property unless he has first tied up the strong man? Only then can he plunder his house." Matthew 12:28-29

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats." Matthew 25:31-2

-Ezekiel References: chapters 38-39

Chapter 20 begins with the fourth of John's Final 7 Visions. Each of the visions can be identified with the words Kai eidon, "And I saw" which begins each vision (19:11, 17, 19: 20:1, 4, 1; 21:1).

Please read 20:1-3 The Binding of Satan

Verses 1-3 "(And I saw) Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. He overpowered the dragon, that primeval serpent which is the devil and Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years. He hurled him into to the Abyss and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not lead the nations astray again until the thousand years had passed. At the end of that time he must be released, but only for a short while."

The Abyss is not hell, nor is it the abode of the dead, it is a separate realm of demons.

Question: When was the last time we saw an angel/ messenger with the key to the Abyss, how did we identify him, and what did he do? Hint: see Rev. 9:1.

Answer: In Rev. 9:1 we identified the angel/messenger as Jesus the Christ who owns the keys. At that time He released Satan from the Abyss.

Question: In what 4 ways is the Evil one named?

Answer: as the dragon, the serpent, the devil and Satan.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word satan always appears with the article "the satan" except in 1Chron. 21:1 in the Old Testament where it is a proper name. In the Greek LXX (Septuagint) the word appears as diabolos (in English 'devil') which we translate as "accuser", "adversary", or "slanderer." The basic meaning of satan in Hebrew is "an accuser in a court of law." In the New Testament Jesus also refereed to Satan as "the strong one [man]" (Matt 12:29; Mk 3:27; Lk 11:21); the "evil one" (Matt 13:19); and "the prince of this world" (Jn 12:31). Satan even tempts the Son of God (Matt 4:3-11; Mk 1:13f; Lk 4:2f). When Peter tries to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling His Passion, Jesus calls Peter "satan" because his thoughts are human and not divine (Matt 16:23; Mk 8:33). Satan takes the "seed" of the word of the Gospel from the mouth of those who receive it (Matt 13:19; Mk 4:15; Lk 8:12). He put the betrayal of Jesus into the heart of Judas (Jn 13:2), and then entered Judas for the consummation of the terrible deed (Lk 22:3; Jn 13:27). Satan tries to "sift the disciples like wheat" (Lk 22:31), and he filled the heart of Ananias with deceit (Acts 5:3). He tempts man with designs (1Co 7:5, 2 Co 2:11), with wiles (Eph 6:11), and with snares (1Tm 3:7; 2Tm 2:26). He can disguise himself as an angel of light (2Cor 11:14) and he can even seduce some of the faithful (1Tm 5:15). He is the enemy who is like a roaring lion seeking prey (1Pt 5:8) and Christians should give him no room to attempt his wiles in their lives (Eph 4:27). As the prince of darkness he has powers to do bodily harm (Lk 13:16; 1Co 5:5; 1Tm 1:20) and the power to kill (Heb 2:14). He has a house and a kingdom (Mt. 12:26; Mk 3:23, 26; Lk 11:18) and before Christ's resurrection he could claim that all the kingdoms of the earth were in his power (Lk 4:6). He has sons and daughters: those who do not do righteousness and do not love their brothers (1Jn 3:8, 10). But he is subject to the power of God and Christ defeated him on the Cross!

These terms to identify the Evil one have been used throughout this prophecy and the Bible as a whole. In Revelation the references to these names are found in:

NAME

REVELATION REFERENCE

The Dragon

12:3-4, 7, 9, 13, 16-17; 13:2, 4, 11; 20:2

The Serpent

9:19; 12:9, 14-15; 20:2

The Devil

2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2

The Deceiver

2:20; 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:2

He is also called the "destroyer" Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek) in Rev. 9:11 when he is named as the "angel of the Abyss." But remember, powerful as this evil enemy may seem, he is no match for Jesus the Christ!

Question: What action does Christ take against Satan?

Answer: He throws him into the Abyss and seals the opening.

Question: What is the reason that is given for his imprisonment and how long is it to last?

Answer: So that he can no longer deceive the nations. He will be imprisoned for 1,000 years.

Question: His imprisonment is the good news but what's the bad news?

Answer: He will be released at the end of the 1,000 years but only for a short time.

Notice that twice we are told that the great enemy of man will be bound by Christ for 1,000 years in the Abyss which will be sealed over him.

Question: Is this an event in the future or was this binding of Satan part of Christ's mission as the Messiah?

Answer: There are scholars who see this as a future event that will usher in a Golden Age of the Church when Christ will rule a "heaven on earth." There is, however, strong Biblical evidence that this "binding of Satan" was part of Christ's mission in establishing the Kingdom of heaven on earth as the Universal (Catholic) Church. In 1 John 3:8 St. John tells us "Whoever lives sinfully belongs to the devil, since the devil has been a sinner from the beginning. This was the purpose of the appearing of the Son of God, to undo the work of the devil." When Adam and Eve fell into sin through the seduction of the devil they lost their spiritual dominance of the earth and Satan became the "prince of the earth." That is why he could make the offer he made to temp Jesus during the 3 temptations in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew and Luke when, after Jesus' baptism, the confrontation between Jesus and Satan becomes all out warfare. Please read Matthew 4:8ff (also see Luke 4:5ff): "Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage."

Question: How could Satan make such an offer to Jesus?

Answer: Because he held dominance over the nations of the earth. See the Gospel of John:

Before Christ could establish His kingdom the Church, he had to bind the one who claimed power over the earth and could lead "the nations astray." Jesus declared His intention to "bind" Satan in His response to the accusation of the Pharisees that He casts out demons by the power of Satan. Read Matthew 12:26-29 and Luke 11:20-22:

But how long will Satan be bound before he will be released again? Most scholars agree that the unleashing of Satan from the Abyss will usher in the final eschatological battle and the End of Time. The only scholars who do not agree with this interpretation are those who think the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD was the final "parousia" (presence or coming) of Christ. This interpretation, however, denies the Apostle's Creed. It is the Creed of belief that has come down to us from the Apostles and it clearly states that "He [Jesus] will come again to judge the living and the dead."

Let's look at the next verse and then we will try to tackle the issue of the "thousand year reign" of Christ and the Church.

Please read Rev. 20:4-10 The First Resurrection and the Last Battle

Verse 4 "(And I saw) Then I saw thrones, where they took their seats, and on them was conferred the power to give judgment. I saw the souls of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus and for having preached God's word, and those who refused to worship the beast or his statue and would not accept the brand-mark on their foreheads or hands; they came to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."

This is the 5th of the 7 Last Visions.

Question: How has the condition of the Old and New Testament Saints changed with the resurrection of Christ and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant?

Answer: they now have access to the Kingdom of Heaven and the presence of God because Christ's sacrificial blood has cleansed them of all unrighteousness. The holy dead now reign with Christ as priest/kings in the heavenly assembly while we continue here in Christ's earthly kingdom of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ.

Question: When are these two parts of Christ's kingdom joined as one?

Answer: On the Lord's Day in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb = the most holy Eucharist when we receive Christ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Question: Why are we identified as the "Body of Christ" ?

Answer: From the very early years of the Church we were identified as the "Body of Christ" because we physically receive Christ into our bodies and are therefore united with Him in the Eucharist. We are what we eat.

Question: While Jesus was with His Apostles what 2 promises did he give them?

Hint: see Matthew 19:28.

Answer: 1) they would sit on thrones, and 2) they would judge.

With His death, resurrection and ascension to His throne (Eph 1:20-22) Jesus began the inauguration of the Age of the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13) in which all the nations of the earth are invited to the Marriage Feast with the prophets of the Old Covenant and the Saints and Apostles of the New Covenant (Is. 52:15; Lk 13:28-29, 22: 29-30). In this "New Age" of the Kingdom, the Apostles reign and rule over the New Israel. They are the foundation of the New Covenant Church (Eph 2:20) which is a kingdom of priest/kings by Christ's command and their successors, the bishops, continue their rule and authority on earth. This is exactly what John shows in this passage: the saints who sit on thrones and judge which parallels John's statement in Rev. 11:18: "...and now the time has come for your retribution, and for the dead to be judged, and for your servants the prophets for the saints and for those who fear your name, small and great alike, to be rewarded. The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth." ("Small and great alike" will be repeated in 20:12).

Now Jesus, as the "Second Adam" (see 1 Corinthians 15:45) has ascended to His throne and has bound Satan and His people have ascended to rule with Him (see Ephesians 2:6). The Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 (also see Psalms ch 8 and Heb ch 2) is now fulfilled through the triumph of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the dominion of the Saints as we gradually "disciple" (teach) the nations of the earth just as He commanded us in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.'"

Question: In addition to the thrones, what else does John see in the second sentence of verse 4 and did you notice any similarities to the description of the martyrs in Rev 6:9? Answer: Yes, he sees the "souls" of all those who had been beheaded. He also saw "souls" in 6:9. We will receive our resurrected bodies in the 2nd Resurrection; for now, after death and the 1st judgment, the souls of the righteous ascend to the Father.

In Revelation 20 verse 4 the use of the word "beheaded" is interesting. The Greek verb is pelekizo. It is not used anywhere else in the Bible but the act of beheading is mentioned using a synonym apokephalizo in Matt 14:10; Mk 6:16, 27 and Lk 9:9.

Question: Can you recall a "beheaded" prophet of God? Read Matt 14:1-12.

Answer: John the Baptizer, the Forerunner of Christ.

John, the priest, son of the priest Zachariah is the last of the Old Testament prophets and he is the forerunner of the Messiah (he was sent by God to announce the coming of the Christ). He summed up the prophetic witness of all the proceeding prophets (see Matt 11:13. Jesus speaking: "Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return." And Luke 16:16 Up to the time of John it was the Law and the Prophets; from then onwards, the kingdom of God has been preached..."). The point is that the Old Covenant witnesses, who were all forerunners, symbolized by John the Baptist, are counted among the faithful martyrs who "live and reign with Christ." Luke 24:25-27: [Jesus speaking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus] "Then he said the them, 'You foolish men! So slow to believe all that the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory? Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself." Also see Lk 24:44 "..everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled." and Acts 10:43 "It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.".

Verse 4 continued: "and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years." Catholics usually do not get caught up in the millennium debate. As a matter of fact I do not believe I have ever heard a homily on " the thousand year reign of Christ." Our Protestant brothers and sisters, however, are very much concerned with the interpretation of this passage. In #2 of the Introductory Lessons we talked about the 3 major millennium theories, each of which has variations. I do not want to revisit that lesson but we probably do need to quickly review the major theories. The question is: When is the Millennium? Is it before Christ's Second Coming or is it after His Second Coming? That issue is what separates the Pre from Post Millennialists and then there are the Amillennialists who believe there is no millennium.

I will try to chart these different interpretations to make their views more clear to you, and then we will discuss each of the millennial views. Please note that all views hinge on when Christ returns in relation to the 1,000-year reign and when does the Great Tribulation occur?

Historic Millenium

Postmillenium

Premillenium

Amilllenium

God works with Israel

God works with Israel

God works with Israel

God works with Israel

Christ's mission, death, Resurrection, and Ascension

Christ's mission, death, Resurrection, and Ascension

Christ's mission, death, Resurrection, and Ascension

Christ's mission, death, Resurrection, and Ascension

The Age of the Church

The Age of the Church

The Age of the Church

Church Age:

-Tribulation and Millenial reign of Christ over the Kingdom of heaven on earth occur in the same time frame with great increase of evil at the end of the age

(Tribulation ? views divided. Many historicists do not believe in a period of Tribulation)

The Great Tribulation

The Rapture = 1st Second Coming of Christ followed by Pre 3 1/2 years

Great Tribulation

Post 3 1/2 years

 

2nd Coming of Christ

 

2nd Second Coming of Christ

 

Millennial Reign of Christ and the Church

Triumphant Millennial Reign of the Church (literal/symbolic)

Millennial Reign of Christ and the Church

 

 

2nd Coming of Christ

 

2nd Coming of Christ

Final Judgment

Final Judgment

Final Judgment

Final Judgment

Eternity

Eternity

Eternity

Eternity

Biblical problems with these views

No suffering--a golden age

Church is cause of Christ coming

No suffering/ 2 Second Comings of Christ = second chance for unbelievers

 

 

The Historic Millennium View

-------à

Death Resurrection Ascension of Christ

Age of the Church in the spread of the Gospel

2nd Coming of Christ

Millennial Reign of Christ

Final Judgment

Eternal Reign of Christ

Historic Millennialists envision the spread of the Gospel through the earth in the Age of the Church which is followed by Christ's Second Coming at the time the Gospel has reached every corner or the earth, completing the Church Age. The Second Coming is followed by the Final Judgment before God's Great White Throne, the destruction of Death and the grave and eternal life for the blessed. Generally (but not all) historic Millennialists do not envision a period of universal tribulation.

The Postmillennial View

----------à

Death/Resurrection/
Ascension of Christ

Ministry of Church culminates in lengthy period of peace (millennium) and righteousness before Christ's return

Second Coming/
Final Judgment

 

Eternal Reign of Christ

Postmillennialists expect Christ's visible return after the Millennium and that the Church Age is this millennial period. They look for God to use the Church's teaching and preaching to usher in a lengthy period (some interpret this as a literal 1,000 years that will come at the end of the Church Age, others symbolically) of peace and righteousness before Christ's return. So 'Postmills' are divided into two groups: those who interpret the 1,000yrs literally and those who hold it is symbolic but both believe Christ will return at the end of this period. 'Postmills' are optimists: they believe the world will get better as the Gospel spreads across the earth. Postmillennialists usually adopt the Historical or Preterist view of Revelation.

The Premillennial Views

Premillennialists believe that Christ will return before the Millennium and that His Coming will usher in the Mellennium. They interpret Revelation chapter 20 literally and hold that Christ will reign on earth for a literal 1,000 years. 'Postmills' are pesimists: they generally believe that things will get worse and worse and then Christ will come again and the Millennium will be ushered in and things will be great. Most Protestant ministers, radio evangelists and tele-evangelists are 'Premills' (ie Charles Stanley, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, etc.) Within this basic agreement the most prevalent variations are the Premillennial-pretribulational and the Premillennial-posttribulational views:

Premillennial/Pretribulational View

------à

Death/ Resurrection/ Ascension of Christ

Church Age

Rapture
of the Church

Great
Tribulation/ 7 yrs

2nd Coming of Christ

Millennium
Reign of Christ

Final

Judgment

Eternal Reign of Christ

The 'Premill/Pretrib' scholars argue that there are 2 different peoples of God: Israel and the Church. They believe that these 2 groups have 2 different prophetic programs. According to this view, the Church will be "raptured" prior to a 7 year Great Tribulation. Some of these scholars support a 'Premill/Midtrib' position and believe the 7 years will be divided into two 3 year periods with a short period of 3 years that the Church will suffer before being "raptured out" by Christ). Following the tribulation, Christ will return to establish a 1,000 year millennial kingdom centered in Jerusalem and which will involve the reinstitution of the Old Covenant sacrificial system (not supported anywhere in Scripture). In their view the millennial kingdom will end with a rebellion by the forces of evil when Satan is unbound, after which will come the Final Judgment and beginning of the eternal reign of Christ. Hal Lindsey, author of the Late Great Planet Earth is a Premill/Pretrib.

The Premillennial/Posttribulational View

----à

Death/
Resurrection/
Ascension of Christ

Church Age

Great Tribulation = 7yrs

2nd Coming of Christ

Millennium Reign of Christ

Final Judgment

Eternal Reign of Christ

The Premillennial/posttribulational scholars teach that Christ will return at the end of a 7 year Great Tribulation which the whole Church experiences to establish a millennial kingdom. This kingdom will end with a rebellion lead by Satan followed by the Final Judgment. This view often interprets prophecy in a non-literal way and does not usually view Israel and the New Covenant Church as under completely different divine historical plans. Rather they see Israel and the Christian Church as one people of God. Many early Church Fathers held a view that was similar to the 'Premill/posttrib' interpretation, but they did not hold the heresy that may 'Premill/Pretribs' hold today that the Millennium will be a resurrection of Old Covenant Israel. 'Premills' of both types adopt the "Futurists" school of interpretation of Revelation.

.

The Amillennial View

-------à

Death/ Resurrection/ Ascension of Christ

The Church Age continual growth and continual tribulation for the Church on earth

2nd Coming/

Final Judgment

Eternal Reign of Christ

The Amillennialists scholars interpret Christ's millennial reign in an ideal or spiritual sense. While believing in a literal 2nd Coming of Christ, they however, reject the idea of a literal 1,000 year reign on the earth. Some 'Amill' scholars assert that Christ's reign began during His earthly ministry or at the time of His resurrection. Others that His Millennium began with the glorious reign of the Saints in heaven or it describes the spiritual authority of the Saints of the Church here on earth. Some 'Amills' believe both views are correct: the heavenly glory of the resurrected Saints and the authority of the Universal Church now on earth because we can bind Satan in the name of Jesus. As a proof-text they cite St. Peter's declaration that Christ now rules from the right hand of God the Father from Acts 2:33-36. Israel and the Church are viewed as forming one people of God. The 'Amill's' approach usually involves an "Idealist" view of the book of Revelation as a whole.

My favorite Biblical scholar, Dr. Scott Hahn, has a rather unconventional view of the Millennium rule. Dr. Hahn was influenced by the Catholic scholar Eugenio Corsini who sees the 1,000 years as corresponding to the establishment of the Davidic kingdom approximately 1003BC and lasting until the birth of Christ in 3/2BC, which as you have noticed is a literal 1,000 years. Dr. Hahn sees this period as God's preparation for ushering in of the reign of Christ. I can agree with the last statement but there is no way I can see this thousand year period as a triumphant reign of the Saints. Judah fell into apostasy and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed in God's judgment in 586/7BC. Just before the destruction of the Temple the prophet Jeremiah removed and hid the Ark of the Covenant. The new Temple, rebuilt in 5l6BC, was without the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. God did not take possession of this Temple and Jesus called it an "empty house."

What is this humble scholar's view? I more or less ascribe to St. Augustine's view. As so many of John's numbers are symbolic in Revelation (remember he is told from the very beginning by Christ that this is a book of "signs"), I believe that the 1,000 year represents the perfection of order of the number 10 multiplied by itself. In other words, the Millennium will last the perfect length of time according to God's plan. The millennium may be the symbolic reference to the period that runs from the Incarnation of Christ to the establishment of His Church reigning with Him to the end of time. It is what we were promised. The Messianic Kingdom is therefore established in 2 stages: His first coming in which Christ demonstrates His power over the devil and inaugurates the Kingdom of God and His second coming, at the end of time, when that kingdom will be established in its full, and complete form as the Heavenly Jerusalem. In the first stage Satan is bound but that does not mean he does not have influence. We still must fight evil but evil cannot overcome us during this Age of the Church. I also believe the Great Tribulation will come at the end of this Great Age of the Church, Christ's kingdom of heaven on earth. Although the Church has suffered persecution down through the ages, the persecution will be much more intense at the end when Satan is loosed again and through his influence the Antichrist will declare war on the Saints. I do not believe in a "Rapture" of Christians before or during the Tribulation. There is nothing in Scripture to support 2 Second Comings of Christ. A "Rapture" followed by a 2nd Coming makes 2 Second Comings of Christ. Also, why should God spare the Church this great suffering when He did not spare His own Son or His mother from suffering? I think at the end of this period of intense persecution there will be the final showdown between the forces of Christ and the forces of evil. We will, through Christ, be victorious and Christ will establish His Messianic Kingdom. See the CCC # 671-677

The Catholic Church does not support the 'Postmills' view of a historic triumph of the Church nor does she embrace a literal interpretation of millennium rule: CCC#677 "The Church will enter to glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, buy only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause His Bride to come down from heaven..."

If you would like to pursue these various theories I recommend the book The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen, Ascension Press.

The Biblical scholar David Chilton offers an interesting point concerning the 1,000 year mentioned in Rev. 20 and the age of man in Scripture.

Question: Who are the men in the Bible who lived the longest and what were their ages? Answer: Adam = 930 years and Methuselah = 969 years. What is significant about their ages is that man's life has never reached the "perfect" 1,000 years.

Question: Whose kingdom was meant to last forever? Hint: see 2 Sam 7:8-29

Answer: David's kingdom should have lasted the 1,000 years until the birth of Christ. David conquered Jerusalem circa 1000/ 10033BC and Christ was born circa 3/2BC. But once again man fell short. Only the Son of Man was able to bring in the 1,000 year reign!

Verses 5-6 "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over; this is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection; the second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of Christ and reign with him for a thousand years."

The first line of verse 5 is a parenthetical statement separating "the rest of the dead" from the blessed.

Question: According to these verses where does this reign of the Saints with Christ take place, in heaven or on earth, or both?

Answer: Both. Those who reign with Christ are all those He has redeemed, whether now living or death, but raised to new life in Him. See Eph 2:4-6; Rom 5:10; 11:15:
-Ephesians 2:4-6 "But God being rich in faithful love, through the great love with which he loves us, even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to life with Christ'it is through grace that you have been saved'and raised us up with him and give us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus."

Question: if "those who had been beheaded" in verse 4 are the Old Covenant faithful, who are "the rest of the dead" who did not come to life in verse 5?

Answer: It follows that they would be the Old Covenant unfaithful who are truly dead!

John is stressing the fact that the righteous dead believers of the Old Covenant have been included in Christ's Ascension and glorious reign. They live!

Question: What is the "First Resurrection?" Hint: see Acts 2:31-33; Col. 2:12

Answer: Christ's resurrection is the definitive resurrection which took place on Resurrection Sunday the 3rd day after Christ was crucified (as 1st century people counted) for the sins of the world. We however participate in His resurrection.

Question: How do we participate in Christ's resurrection? Hint: See Romans 6:4

Answer: We partake of Christ's resurrection through Covenantal baptism in which we are raised to "new life." Romans 6:4-5 "So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his; realizing that our former self was crucified with him..." Also see Eph 2:5-6; Col 3:1 and CCC #1212-13.

This is what John means when he tells us that we have a part in the resurrection of Christ "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection." This is the 5th of the 7 blessings in Revelation. In these verses two classes of people are being identified: 1) The elders and those they represent (faithful of both Old and New Covenants) who are promised that they will live and reign with Christ "for a thousand years." And 2) the rest of the dead, unbelievers.

The difficult phrase is that these unbelievers "did not live until the thousand years were completed." Some scholars conclude that the "rest of the dead" will live after the Millennium has ended but other scholars point out that John is concerned with telling us only about the Millennium itself and that the rest of the dead are excluded from life and dominion for this whole period. Passages like John 5:28-29 and Acts 24:15 tell us that there will be a general resurrection of both the just and the unjust at the end of time.

Question: Believers have already experienced the "first resurrection" in baptism but what will be the "first resurrection" for the unrighteous?

Answer: the Final Judgment.

But what is the "second resurrection?" In the Old Covenant the imagery of 2 resurrections is found in the articles of the Law. The Levitical purification system foreshadows the double resurrection promised to the faithful in the purification prescribed after one had been defiled by coming in contact with a dead body. Please turn to Numbers 19:11-12 and read the passage.

The cleansing ritual becomes a symbolic resurrection for the person who had become ceremonially "dead" through becoming defiled by coming in contact with a dead body. The "death" was the separation from the community. It was necessary for such a person to be symbolically resurrected in order to be returned to fellowship with the community and with God.

Question: This symbolic resurrection was accomplished by the sprinkling of holy water on which days of the 7 day period of defilement?

Answer: the third and the seventh days. In other words, this was a double resurrection.

Question: What day (number) was Jesus resurrected--a resurrection we share in through our baptism? Hint: see Matt 16:21;17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 18:31-33

Answer: on the third day. The 3rd day was the first resurrection in the purification rite.

Question: What was the 2nd resurrection of this purification period?

Answer: on the 7th day.

Question: What will be the 7th day of our 2nd Resurrection? Hint: see John 5:24-25 & 28-29. Also 1Cor 15:20-23.

Answer: There is to be a resurrection at the end of history'that will be the 7th day, the day the Kingdom of Heaven on earth is finally fulfilled. 7 is symbolically the number of fullness and spiritual perfection. Time will be in all its fullness at the 2nd Advent of Christ. It will be the Last Day. See Jn 6:38040, 44, 54; Acts 24:15; 1Thess 4:14-17 and CCC #673-77

Question: 1)What is the "first death" and 2) in Rev. 20:6 what is the second death that has no power over those who share in the first resurrection? Hint: see Rev. 20: 14d-15 Answer: 1) our physical death. 2) The Lake of Fire = Hell. The "real and final" death is eternal separation from God.

At the end of verse 6 John is told that the faithful "will be priest of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for 1,000 years." This is a restatement of what John was told in Rev. 1:5-6 "He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a Kingdom of Priests ..." All Christians are royal priests. Through baptism we have been resurrected to eternal life. This is the first resurrection. Christ is ruling now and the first resurrection, the baptism of believers is continuing now and those who are baptized are ruling with Him now (on heaven and on earth). Does this mean that the Millennium is taking place now and the 1,000 is symbolic for the perfection of order in time of the spotless Bride of Christ? Will the millennium of the first resurrection continue until the 7th day of the 2nd resurrection is fulfilled? Something to think about....

Verse 7-8 "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to lead astray all the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilize them for war, his armies being as many as the sands of the sea". Please read Ezekiel 38 and 39. Especially note 38:2,9 & 15 and 39:6

In the Ezekiel passages Mescheh and Tubal are countries in Asia Minor. The 'country of Magog' is only an invented name that means 'country of Gog.'

Question: When God deems the time is ready for the final defeat of Satan, what will happen to initiate the last great battle? See vs 7.

Answer: Satan will be released from the Abyss.

Question: When was he released earlier in Revelation?

Answer: He was released in chapter 9 to lead the attack against the Great City. That war was a prelude that foreshadows this final battle.

Question: For what reason will he be released in addition to leading the nations astray? Hint: see Matt 13:37-43. What is the outcome of this parable? Answer: When both the wheat (believers) and the tares (those who reject Christ) come to full maturity, Satan will be released for a short time to deceive the nations in one last attempt to overthrow the Kingdom of Christ.

This has been his goal from the very beginning. Do you remember the sudden concentration of demonic activity during Jesus' ministry? Satan knew he was facing the ultimate fight. But God used Satan to fulfill His plan by allowing Satan to engineer his own defeat at the cross! This last and final battle will be the sequel to the last attempt to defeat God's plans for man's salvation. Satan will be released to bring about the last rebellion.

In this Last Battle sequence John uses vivid imagery from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. In Ez 38-39 the prophet predicts the Maccabee's victory over the pagan Syrians and the reestablishment of Judah as an independent nation in the 2nd century BC. Ezekiel writes about Gog and Magog but they are not the same Gog and Magog of Revelation chapter 20. In Ezekiel Gog is a prince'in Revelation a nation. In Revelation Gog and Magog become the standard expression for rebellious nations just as Jezebel (in Rev 2:20) is not the same woman as the harlot queen of Israel in the book of 1Kings. Instead the Jezebel of Rev. 2:20 is a "type" of the previous Jezebel just as Gog and Magog are a "type" of the rebellious nations under the influence of Satan in the Last Battle.

These rebellious nations, symbolized by Gog and Magog, are "from the 4 corners of the earth"'in other words, not centrally located. They are numbered "like the sands of the sea" which is hyperbolic imagery to express their great numbers (see Jos 11:4; Judg 7:12; 1Sam 13:5; 2Sam 17:11 1Kin 4:20, 29; Job 6:3; Isa 15:8; 33:22; Hos 1:10; etc). It is the same hyperbole used by Joshua for the Canaanite nations in Joshua 11:4 and for the numbers of the Midianites defeated by Gideon in Judges 7:12. Joshua's defeat of the Canaanites and Gideon's defeat of the Midianites became two of the greatest victories in the history of the Covenant people. This victory against the armies of Satan is going to be a repeat of those first victories to take possession of the Promised Land! And it is the real "Promised Land" that is at stake here! Just as God brought judgment on the Temple in 70AD so too will He bring judgment on the Temple of the Cosmos in this final battle and just as God brought judgment on Judea and Jerusalem who heard the Word and rejected Christ so will He also bring the same judgment on the nations and great cities of the earth: on Rome, on Ephesus, and on the United States of America.

Verses 9-10 "They came swarming over the entire country and besieged the camp of the saints, which is the beloved City. But fire rained down on them from heaven and consumed them. Then the devil, who led them astray, was hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are, and their torture will not come to an end, day or night, for ever and ever."

Again John writes in the imagery of Ezekiel chapters 38-39 where Ezekiel describes how the invaders advance until they reach the mountains of Judah where the great city of Jerusalem sits. The reference to the "camp of Saints" recalls the kahal or "called out" sacred assembly "camp of God" of the Sinai Covenant Church. When David took Jerusalem in 1003BC the city known as "will provide peace" [jireh-salem] became Jerusalem the "camp of God."

Question: What is this beloved city? Hint: see Rev. 21:9; 22:5.

Answer: In this scene, Jerusalem has become the symbol of the "beloved city" the New Covenant Church.

Like Ezekiel's vision the invasion is suddenly halted by the overwhelming power of God who destroys the unbelievers with fire and condemns the devil to Hell and eternal torment. Satan's release from the Abyss was a trap intended to draw the forces of evil out into the open so that they could be destroyed. Once again Scripture teaches the everlasting duration of divine punishment (also see Matt 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mk 4:43, 48).

One point to note is that in the 'Premill' view of a perfect Messianic kingdom prior to the 2nd Coming of Christ how could Satan be successful in orchestrating such a defection and rebellion? However, if the Millennium rule is the Age of the Church it is understandable that there would be those in the world who have not yielded themselves to Christ and therefore have yielded themselves to Satan.

Please read verses 11-15: The Prophecy of the Last Judgment

"Then [kai edion = And now] I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. I [kai edion = And I] saw the dead, great and small alike, standing in front of his throne while the books lay open. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved. The sea gave up all the dead who were in it; Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged as his deeds deserved. Then Death and Hades were hurled into the burning lake. This burning lake is the second death and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was hurled into the burning lake."

Question: What does this prophecy point to; something past [in the 1st century], or does it point to future events?

Answer: The easy answer is that it points to the future final judgment of man and the world. But you may have noticed that nothing is "simple" in the Book of Revelation. Don't forget John is witnessing this vision in his present and in our past. This vision may be the eternal future breaking into the historical past. This passage introduces the theological principle of "compenetration." This principle expresses the action of Biblical prophets who describe a present event (or an event that is imminent) in terms that transcend the events that are about to happen because the events about to happen prefigures events that will occur at the end of time.

For example let's ask the Question: What did the events that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD signify?

Answer: the destruction of the world at the end of time. In this way Israel's history in the Old Testament is a prototype of the history of all the gentile nations that will receive the Word of God in the New Covenant Age. So Israel's conversion (at Sinai) and lapses and renewals and final fall into apostasy which led to judgment and destruction foreshadows the unfolding of salvation history in the other nations of the world. What happened to Israel will happen to all the nations when they come into judgment. This is what we are seeing in verses 11-13: the unfolding of the Final Judgment at the End of the Ages of the New Covenant.

Once the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire evil ceases to act in the world. In that eternal fire the unbelievers along with the Beast and False Prophet will suffer eternal punishment. For those who doubt the existence of Hell, this verse confirms that there is an everlasting duration of divine judgment. The teaching of the church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity (CCC#1035) but also teaches that God predestines no one to go the hell CCC#1037). Such a punishment is a willful turning away from God. The existence of Hell may be an uncomfortable thought but it confirms the existence of a just God (also see Matt 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mk 4:43, 48). See CCC#1861; 633, 1035-7

Let's look at this sixth vision verse by verse:

Verse 11 "[And I saw] Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace.

Question: Whom does John see on the white throne?

Answer: Usually it is understood in Revelation that God the Father is seated on the throne in the heavenly assembly, but in this case it may be the Son that John sees. In Revelation 3:21 Christ says "Anyone who proves victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I have myself overcome and have taken my seat with my Father on his throne." (also see Matt 25:31-2 quoted in the introduction). That the throne He is seated on a white throne may also help to identify Christ.

Question: Previously how has the color white been associated with Christ? Hint: see 1:14; 6:2; 14:14; 19:11 (Revelation trivia: I found references with "white" 18 times). Answer: It may be Christ on a white horse in 6:2; it is most probably Christ on a white horse in 19:11, and He was seen in a white cloud in 14:14. There may also be a connection to the Bishop's chair and Christ as our Priest/King. In 1Peter 2:28 Peter speaks of Christ as the great Shepherd and Bishop. We also have evidence that in the earliest centuries of the Church it was the custom to spread a white cover over the chair of the Bishop, but we do not know how early this practice was in use.

If this is Christ that John sees seated on the Judgment throne it would be in agreement with the great Creeds of the Church. The Apostles' Creed "[Jesus Christ} ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from where He shall judge come to judge the living and the dead." The Nicene-Constantinople Creed: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge bother the living and the dead;" The Creeds support the teaching of Sacred Scripture. Christ, we are told in the New Testament texts is the Judge charged with this duty by the Father (Mat 16:27; 25:31-46). The power to judge belongs to Jesus in His own right because the Father has given it to Him (Jn 5:22; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2Cor 5:10).

Earth and sky vanished: Everything transient disappears and is laid bare before the awesome judge on the great white throne. The way is now made for the New Heavens and earth ( Rev. 21:1; 2 Peter 3:13; Romans 8:23).

Verse 12 [And I saw] I saw the dead, great and small alike, standing in front of his throne while the books lay open. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved." This is the 7th repetition of "kai edion" = "and I saw", but it is still part of Vision #6. There are 7 Visions but "And I saw" is used 8 times. Eight is the number of Salvation and Redemption. It is the number of Jesus. The gematria of Jesus is 888.

Question: How will the dead be judged?

Answer: according to their works! See James 2:14-26. See CCC# 1038-1041.

Question: What information do the books contain?

Answer: One book records the actions of all people (see Daniel 7:10; Isa 65:6; Jer 22:30). The second book contains the names of those chosen for eternal life (Dan 12:1ff; Ex 32:32; Rev. 3:5 "Anyone who proves victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot that name out of the book of life."

This verse reveals 2 mysteries: 1) We have freedom of choice and 2) There is a grace of predestination. Man cannot attain salvation solely by his own efforts. God in His grace offers the gift of salvation, but He also knows who will accept His gift. We must act in such a way to respond to the destiny God planned for us. If we fail to respond we run the risk of having our names blotted out of the Book of Life.

Verse 13-14 "The sea gave up all the dead who were in it; Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged as his deeds deserved. Then Death and Hades were hurled into the burning lake.

Question: How careful are you about the words that come from your mouth? In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says [12:36] "So I tell you this, that for every unfounded word people utter they will answer on Judgment Day, since it is by your words you will be justified, and by your words condemned." Also see 1Corinthians 3:13b "The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person's work."

Note: In this verse Hades refers not to Hell but to Sheol, the abode of the dead. Now death and the grave no longer have any hold on mankind.

Verse 15 "This burning lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was hurled into the burning lake."

The Catholic Church teaches that the Last Judgment is a truth of faith. This passage refutes the heresy of universalism. Universalism teaches that all people will be redeemed and no one will face damnation. The Church, from its earliest years has condemned this heresy. Pope Paul VI in Creed of the People of God writes "He ascended to heaven, and he will come again, this time in glory, to judge the living and the dead'each according to his merits; those who have responded to the love and compassion of God going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire that is not extinguished [....]. We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ, whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as he did for the Good Thief, are the people of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies." (Creed of the People of God, 12 and 28).

We who have experienced the first resurrection can call on the promise of Christ that we need not fear the second death for Emmanuel (God with us) always keeps His promises!

"Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection; the second death has no power over them.." ( Rev. 20:6) In His love He assures us "And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Matt 28:20)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.