RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 150

The Millennial Age

(Revelation 20) 

     The twentieth chapter of Revelation has been the major battleground of the various basic competing systems of biblical eschatology.  In general, the way in which this chapter is interpreted seems to determine how the entire Book of Revelation and, to a large extent, how biblical prophecy as a whole is interpreted.  It is in this chapter that the record appears of a thousand-year period when Satan is bound and the world is ruled in righteousness by Christ and the people of God.

     But the question is whether, and to what extent, this record should be taken literally.  Is this thousand-year period exactly 1,000 years, or is the number merely a symbolic number?  Is Satan literally imprisoned and powerless during this time, or is he bound only in a relative sense by the liberating power of the gospel?  Is Christ to reign in a direct sense over the earth, on a literal throne, or is this only a figure of speech referring to the eventual conversion of the world to righteousness through the work of the Church and the preaching of the gospel?

     Although there are variants within each system, the three major approaches to eschatology are as follows: (1) Premillennialism, which takes a fully literal approach to the interpretation of this passage.  Premillennialism teaches that Christ’s personal return to the earth in glory, as described in Revelation 19, is followed by the literal binding of Satan in Hades and a literal thousand-year reign of Christ and the resurrected saints on the earth. (2) Postmillennialism, which takes a partially literal approach, teaching that there will be a literal period of Christian righteousness on the earth.  Christ’s reign, according to this teaching, will be spiritual, through His Church, which will have won the world to Him through its worldwide ministry of evangelism and teaching under His Great Commission.  His personal return to earth will be at the end of the millennium, when the new earth is established. (3) Amillennialism, which takes a fully spiritual approach, equating the Millennial Age with the Church Age.  Christ’s kingdom was established in a symbolic sense on the earth when Satan was defeated and bound by the Lord’s substitutionary death, resurrection, and ascension, and with His personal return to earth scheduled at the end of this Church Age for a general judgment.

     As pointed out in the Introduction to this commentary, and as consistently followed throughout its expositions, the only proper interpretation is, in our judgment, the fully literal approach.  This necessarily entails the premillennial position, as defined above.  Further reasons for taking this approach, especially with reference to the pivotal question of the millennium itself, will be developed in this chapter. 

The Reign of Christ on Earth

     The narration of Chapter 20 follows directly from that of Chapter 19, beginning with the conjunction “and.”  It is a continuing record of actual events, and the chapter division here is almost misleading.  In fact, the emphasis on a literal succession of future historical events in this Revelation record is pointed up by the use of this conjunction (Greek kai) to begin almost every verse in Chapters 19 and 20.  The chapter structure and content surely have the appearance, at least, of a straightforward record of real events.

Revelation 20:1.     And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 

     Apparently this event will follow immediately after the destruction of the assembled armies.  With all the human rebels and their leaders vanquished, only the demonic hosts remain opposed to the will of the conquering Lamb of God.  Now they also must be dealt with and the decision is to bind them in Hades for the time being, along with all the other spirits of rebellious men and angels already there.

     As previously noted (see on Revelation 9), various groups of fallen angels had long ago been locked in various compartments in the great cavity at the center of the earth.  There were still legions of evil spirits free to do their master’s bidding, however, and they had been especially active during the years of the tribulation.  They had long feared being cast into the abyss (translated “deep” in Luke 8:31), but finally the dreaded time had come for them also to join their fellows in Hades (note Matthew 8:29).  Although these malevolent spirits are not mentioned specifically in this passage, the binding of Satan necessarily assures that all those under his command will be put away as well.

     The angel who accomplishes this mission is not identified by John except that he has the key of the bottomless pit.  There is a possibility that the angel is Christ Himself, once again assuming the form of an angel (note on Revelation 8:3; 10:1).  Christ had uniquely claimed to have the keys of Hades (Revelation 1:18) and it would be fitting for Him to dispatch Satan there directly and personally.  On the other hand, He had on at least one occasion (Revelation 9:1) given the key to another angel, and there does seem a contextual intimation that “him that sat upon the horse” (Revelation 19:21) and the “angel come down from heaven” (Revelation 20:1), being mentioned in two successive verses, are probably two different persons.  If the angel is not Christ, it may possibly be the great angel Michael, who had long been a particular enemy of Satan’s (Jude 9; Revelation 12:7).  He and his angels had cast the Devil and his angels to the earth at the middle of the tribulation; it would be appropriate for them now to thrust them all the way to Hades.

     In addition to the keys to the abyssal pit, the angel held a great chain in his hand; with which to “bind the strong man” (note Mark 3:27).  This chain is obviously not a physical chain, since a spirit could hardly be restrained merely by a chain of iron.  Whatever its nature, it will suffice to keep the Devil restrained in Hades throughout the millennium.

Revelation 20:2.     And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.

     There is no doubt as to who is being bound.  It is the dragon, the persecutor of Christ and of God’s people (Revelation 12:17).  It is the same old serpent who had tempted Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).  It is the Devil (“accuser,” “slanderer”), the originator of sin (1 John 3:8).  It is Satan (“adversary”), the wicked prince of darkness who has tried by every means to destroy the work of Christ (Mark 1:13).  He had been identified before by all four of these names (Revelation 12:9), where he also had been acknowledged as leader of a third of the created angels, who had followed him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4).  But now he is finally to be bound.

     Here is the first explicit reference to the “thousand years.”  The most obvious reason for taking this term literally is that there is nothing in the context to indicate otherwise.  The word “thousand” or “thousands” is used frequently in the New Testament, but never before in any kind of symbolic sense.  Occasionally it is used in an indefinite way, for the purpose of conveying the idea merely of a large number rather than that of a precise count, but never in such a figurative sense as would be required by the amillennial view.  If the latter interpretation is followed (that is, if the millennium corresponds to the Church Age), the “thousand years” has already become almost two thousand actual years.

     Furthermore, this period is said to be “a thousand years” no less than six times in this passage (Revelation 20:2-7).  It is as though John (and the Holy Spirit) wanted us to know as emphatically and plainly as possible that Satan was to be bound, and Christ and the saints to reign on earth, for a real chronological period of a thousand years!

     Furthermore, the “binding” of Satan hardly squares with the nonmillennial viewpoint.  For the two thousand years of Christianity, it would seem that Satan has been more active than in all previous history, attempting, often very successfully, to hinder and thwart the preaching of the Word and the strengthening and spiritual growth of God’s people.  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  This warning surely gives no suggestion that Satan is presently bound and powerless.  Neither are his wicked hosts, with whom we must “wrestle” constantly (Ephesians 6:11-13) in order to “stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Revelation 20:3.     And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

     Somewhere deep in the center of the earth a prison cell has been reserved for a special prisoner, a cell in the remotest recesses of the bottomless pit.  The Greek word for this central cavity is abussos, meaning literally “without depth” or “bottomless.”  Modern translations call it the “abyss,” but “bottomless” is a more precise derivation.  Located at the very middle of the earth, one could not fall any deeper down, and every boundary is a ceiling. It seems that such a place will be Satan’s confine during the millennium, as far removed from human beings as is possible to be on this planet.  He who is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) will be absolutely shut off from exercising his wiles (Ephesians 6:11) for a thousand years.

     Not only will he be hurled to the center of the earth, but he will be shut up in his cell, with its entrance invincibly sealed so that he cannot even direct his own demonic hosts while so restrained.  These latter will presumably likewise be bound in appropriate compartments of Hades or the abyss, as will the spirits of lost men and women, there to await the judgment of the great day.  A central cavity no more than ten miles in diameter could easily confine the spirits of all the fallen angels and of all lost humanity through the ages, even if each spirit still required as much space as a human body.  It is doubtful whether such a cavity could ever be detected by scientific measurements made by geophysicists on the earth’s surface, but the Bible says it is there.

     Eventually, toward the close of the millennium, Satan “must” be released for a brief period, apparently because the people born during the millennium must be tested.  Incidentally, this is further proof that the binding of Satan is more than a relative semi-restraint on his power by virtue of Christ’s victory over him at Calvary.  It is true that on the cross the Lord Jesus despoiled principalities and powers (Colossians 2:14, 15) but if this is all that is meant by the millennial binding of the Devil, then what is the meaning of his subsequent unleashing?  Is the victory at Calvary to become defeat again?  Such an idea is preposterous.

     In the meantime, with Satan bound for a thousand years, the world will be freed from its most virulent source of evil.  The awful physical trauma through which the earth had just passed during the seven years of its tribulation will not only have purged it of its human and demonic corruption but also, in considerable measure, of its natural deformities.  Thus it will be prepared to serve appropriately as the physical setting of the great millennial messianic kingdom.

     The violent earthquakes and upheavals will have leveled all the polluted cities of a sinful world, the better to facilitate the erection of new, clean, peaceful communities at the beginning of the millennium.  These great land movements will also have eliminated the great mountain ranges and islands of the world, filling up the ocean depths and restoring gentle, globally habitable topography and geography all over the world, as it had been in the antediluvian age, before the cataclysmic upheavals of the great Deluge.  As Isaiah the prophet had foretold, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isaiah 40:4).

     This reversal of the topographic upheavals of the Flood, however, will not send waters over the continents again, since much of the waters of the oceans will already have been reelevated above the atmosphere, restoring in some measure the antediluvian “waters above the firmament.”  The worldwide drought of the first half of the tribulation, the cataclysmic splashdowns of bodies from the heavens during the trumpet judgments and the intensified solar radiations of the bowl judgments will all have contributed to the translation of vast quantities of water vapor far into the skies.

     Quite probably, the immense tectonic movements, eruptions, and landslides may also have trapped vast quantities of water beneath fresh sedimentary and volcanic deposits, reinstating in partial degree the primeval pressurized reservoirs of “the great deep,” facilitating the birth of copious artesian springs, including one which will feed the vast river emerging from the millennial temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8).

     Thus the seas of the millennial world will be relatively narrow and shallow once again, as in primeval days.  Furthermore, the restoration of the vapor canopy should, in large measure, restore the globally pleasant warm climate of the antediluvian period to the earth again.  No longer will great atmospheric movements generate violent rainstorms, blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes, because the uniform temperatures of the global greenhouse will inhibit air mass movements of more than local extent.

     In the original world, the only rains were gentle mists, from localized daily evaporation and precipitation (Genesis 2:5), keeping the world everywhere at comfortable temperatures and humidities, and supporting an abundance of plant and animal life in all regions of the globe.  There were no deserts or ice caps or uninhabitable mountain heights.  It was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  The cataclysm of the great Flood destroyed that beautiful world, but the global upheavals of the great tribulation will restore it, at least in measure.

     For example, note Joel’s prophecy: “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.  Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.  Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month” (Joel 2:21-23); see also Hosea 6:3, and Zechariah 10:1).

     The redistribution of earth’s topography and restoration of its vapor canopy will soon result in an elimination of many, if not all, of its wastelands and deserts: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. . . . for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.  And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isaiah 35:1-7; note also Isaiah 30:23; 32:15; 51:3; Ezekiel 34:26; 36:33-35; etc.).

     Somehow there will also come a great healing of the lands and waters of the earth.  Before the great Flood, the soils were rich in all needed nutrients, and the drinking waters all came pure and fresh from artesian springs fed from deep underground reservoirs.  The destruction of these deep fountains and the devastating land erosion of the great Flood largely destroyed God’s primeval terrestrial ecology, leaving the lands depleted and waters polluted.  Originally all animals, as well as man, were to derive nourishment only from plant foods (Genesis 1:29, 30), but under the far more rigorous conditions of the postdiluvian environment, God authorized man to eat animal flesh as well (Genesis 9:2-4).  Evidently for the same reason many animals also had to become carnivorous.

     These conditions were further aggravated during the long centuries after the Flood, with the lands becoming further impoverished and the waters further contaminated, requiring increasingly great expenditures on fertilization and purification.  The traumatic upheavals of the tribulation period had brought these conditions to a climax, with devastating famine conditions and with terrestrial waters so depleted and poisoned that all the animals of the sea had perished. Had such conditions been allowed to persist much longer, all life on earth would soon have become impossible.

     In some marvelous way, however, God will use the physical convulsions of that awful period of purging to cleanse the lands and waters of the earth as well as its moral and spiritual climate.  Possibly the tectonic and volcanic upheavals, and perhaps even the atmospheric bombardments, will implant new supplies of needed nutrients and trace elements in the soils.  Even the multitudes of dead animals and plants in the lands and oceans, as well as the skeletons of the millions of dead men and horses at Armageddon and elsewhere, may well become fertilizing agents for the lands as their remains are scattered far and wide.

     The unprecedented global earthquakes and eruptions will trigger vast and violent landslides and showers of dirt and rocks, entrapping tremendous volumes of ocean waters beneath great overburdens of solid materials which will rapidly become pressurized, lithified, and partially sealed.

     This will likely produce at last two important effects.  In the first place, the sea bottoms will be raised to higher elevations than at present, compensating for the great losses of water caused by the restoration of the atmospheric canopy and by the entrapment of vast volumes beneath the huge landslides and rock showers.  The entire crust itself will, to some unknown extent, have shifted and slipped over the earth’s mantle, rearranging the various continental plates to a more nearly uniform distribution of land and sea surface areas, but with relatively greater land areas than at present.

     Second, this extensive rearrangement of topography and formation of large pressurized subterranean water pockets will facilitate the development of a new terrestrial system of springs and spring-fed rivers, the waters of which will be purified by the processes of heating and percolation. “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isaiah 41:18).

     Whether or not the ocean population of fishes and other marine organisms will somehow be replenished is uncertain.  The second bowl judgment (Revelation 16:3) had caused the death of “every living soul . . . in the sea,” so that at least those fishes requiring a marine environment had apparently been eliminated from the so-called food chain.  The third bowl judgment had similarly affected the fresh waters, except that no reference was made to death of fresh-water organisms (Revelation 16:4) so that probably many of these had survived, and they would be more important for the future millennial economy.

     In the description of the great millennial river in Jerusalem, for example, the following intriguing statement appears: “And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:9).  This river will emerge from the new temple (Ezekiel 47:1) and may well contain health-giving minerals acquired from source beds deep under the city.  Perhaps also it may be artificially purified and fortified as it issues from its spring in the temple, using the knowledge and ingredients obtained from the accumulated research of the greatest minds of the ages, now redeemed and perhaps instructed by Christ Himself.

     The scenario inferred in the foregoing is bound to be incomplete and may well be incorrect in many respects.  Further study and research on these fascinating possibilities are in order, but the most important point is to realize that God is somehow going to revitalize this tired old planet and make it ready for the glorious kingdom of Christ on earth.

     And, in order to do all this, the god of this present age, the old dragon, Satan, must be completely restrained from continuing his nefarious and baleful influence over the earth.  He must be bound, and then the dominion usurped by him can be unbound.  “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house” (Mark 3:27).  “Because the creature [better translated as “creation”] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). 

Revelation 20:4.     And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

     Four times in this chapter, John says: “And I saw” (verses 1, 4, 11, 12), thus stressing that he was an eyewitness of these amazing events which are to come.  Immediately after he saw the beast and the false prophet cast into the lake of fire and Satan cast into the bottomless pit, he saw a vast array of thrones waiting to receive their kingly occupants.  Then, as he watched, “they” sat upon them and the authority to act as rulers and judges was assigned to them.

     But who are these kingly judges, and who are they to judge?  In terms of the narrative just preceding, there can be only one answer as to the identity of the judges.  They are the same saints, dressed in fine white linen, appropriate not only for the wedding feast but also for judicial robes, who comprised the armies accompanying Christ as He returned to earth (Revelation 19:8, 14, 19).  All those who had been redeemed by His blood, resurrected from the grave, raptured into His presence, and evaluated for their rewards at His judgment seat will apparently be assigned individual thrones of authority and judgment, unless they are deemed undeserving of any reward at all (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

     This remarkable situation is promised in many Scriptures, both directly and in parables.  “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).  “Judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).

     The twelve apostles have already been assigned their own specific jurisdiction.  “When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).  Other realms of authority will be assigned in proportion to faithfulness, according to the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) and the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

     Even in the introduction to the Book of Revelation, this future role of the saints is implied: “[He] loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:9, 10).  Furthermore, such authority is to be executed rigidly, conforming to the “iron scepter” principle already noted (see Revelation 2:26, 27) under the direct command of Christ Himself (Revelation 19:15).  In fact, as the verse under discussion plainly says: this reign of the saints will be with Christ.

     Nor will the tribulation saints be forgotten in this assignment of jurisdiction, even though they were not among those resurrected and raptured at the beginning of the tribulation.  They are, in fact, accorded very special recognition, in view of the unique circumstances which they have suffered.  They had maintained a faithful witness for the Lord Jesus and the truth of His Word under some of the most severe difficulties ever experienced.  All official or semiofficial toleration of Christianity by the governments of the nations had been withdrawn soon after the rapture, and those who dared to accept Christ had very soon faced fierce persecution everywhere.  Many had been slain even in the early years of the tribulation (Revelation 6:9).  Then a systematic extermination of believers had become the official policy of the world government when the beast acquired total power at the middle of the tribulation.  Those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark had been relentlessly hunted and executed.

     John now saw the “souls” of all these who had died for their faith, just as he had seen the souls of some of them under the heavenly altar near the beginning of the tribulation.  As each had been martyred during the tribulation, the soul of each had been translated to the heavenly temple, there to await this moment!

     Finally now, they also participate in the glorious resurrection of the dead.  They “lived”!  This simple declaration is the climax of all their sufferings, and far more than compensates for all they had endured as they witnessed for Christ and His Word.  They had cried “How long?” and now their blood had been avenged (Revelation 6:10).

     The statement that they “lived” can only refer to the resurrection of their bodies.  Amillennialists like to interpret this as referring to a resurrection of the soul at the time of conversion, but this is obviously a case of forced exegesis.  Souls do not die and, hence, cannot be resurrected.  The souls of these martyrs all along had been very much alive and aware and able even to speak, but now their bodies also “lived again” (v. 5), so that they also could reign with Christ.  The resurrection thus includes the resurrection of Christ as the firstfruits, then the resurrection of those who had died before His second coming in the air, and finally the resurrection of those who die between the time He comes to the air and the time He finally returns to earth.

     Thus will these tribulation saints also be installed on millennial thrones with appropriate spheres of authority, there to reign over the earth with Christ for a thousand years.  In Revelation 5:10 the throng assembled at the heavenly throne had anticipated this coming privilege and responsibility, singing: “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign over the earth.”

     The declarative statement in this verse of the millennial reign of Christ and His saints is sparse in details concerning the nature of that reign and conditions in the world at that future time.  Such information has already been provided, however, in previous passages of both Old and New Testaments, so is not repeated here by John.  One very vital item of information is given here for the first time, however, namely, the duration of this period.  That bit of information is given here no less than six times, in fact, so there should be no doubt that this wonderful future “dispensation,” also known by some as the “mediatorial kingdom,” will endure for a thousand years.

     The period will apparently be initiated by an eent known as the judgment of the nations, described in Matthew 25:31-46.  Its chronology is clearly just following the tribulation.  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29, 30).  Then, in the next chapter, the narrative part of this great Olivet discourse continues: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations [or, “Gentiles,” which is the same Greek word, ethnos]: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31, 32).

     The account in Revelation has given us the further information that, before this assumption of His glorious earthly throne, Christ had already slain the armies massed at Armageddon and resurrected His tribulation martyrs.  Thus the only ones left on earth are those followers of the beast who were not in the armies at Armageddon and who had not already perished in the plagues, as well as those who had managed somehow to escape the beast’s executioners while still refusing to receive his mark.  These are evidently the goats and the sheep, respectively.

     These will all be gathered to His throne from the ends of the earth by the holy angels (Matthew 24:31).  There will not be too many, though that exact number is unknown.  “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof . . . Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” (Isaiah 24:1-6).

     Superficially the basis of the judgment of these survivors of the tribulation period may seem legalistic, but actually it is very realistic in the context of the tribulation.  Those who were adjudged as “goats” had refused succor “to the least of these my brethren,” when they had suffered for lack of food or drink or clothing, or were even languishing in prison, no doubt awaiting execution, either because they were afraid to help or because they agreed with their persecutors, or both.  Both attitudes characterized people who either had, or would have, if the beast’s minions had reached them, received the dread “mark” of the beast.  Consequently, in view of the dire warning of Revelation 14:9-11, they must be condemned.  No doubt, they, like their compatriots at Armageddon, will then be slain, with their souls dispatched for a time to Hades.  Ultimately, these must depart into “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

     The “sheep,” no the other hand, had been both compassionate and courageous, rendering such help as the could to these persecuted “brethren” of the son of man, at the risk of their own lives.  Such people would undoubtedly have refused the mark of the beast if his emissaries had reached them, and thus had exhibited that attitude of faith toward their Creator and His Word which either had resulted in their acceptance of Him as their Lord and Savior or would have as soon as the true gospel of Christ was made known to them.

     The immediate destiny of these, however, was not departure to heaven, but to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  Eventually, of course, their great faith, which had manifested itself in such gracious and courageous works, like the great men and women of faith catalogued in Hebrews 11, would assure also their entrance into “life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).

     The “brethren” of whom the Lord had spoken could only be the persecuted tribulation martyrs, both Jew and Gentile, Jesus said: “. . . my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21).  Jesus called His disciples “my brethren” (Matthew 12:49; John 20:17), but never the Jews, as a nation.  Prophetically He said: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Hebrews 2:12).

     The “goats,” no doubt, at this time are composed almost exclusively of Gentiles (hence the “judgment of the Gentiles”), since the nation Israel has been undergoing its “day of Jacob’s trouble,” with the final result of its complete national conversion at the glorious return of Christ (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1; Romans 11:26). These redeemed of Israel will also, of course, at this time “inherit the kingdom,” and thus enter the millennium, ready to enjoy the fulfillment of all God’s ancient promises to their fathers.

     From each nation, with Israel at the head, will thus come a remnant to rebuild their devastated countries.  Even though the initial population of each nation will be small, the conditions and incentives will be present to encourage large families, and the populations will grow rapidly.  Furthermore, antediluvian longevity will be restored.  “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20).  This may be accomplished partially by the restoration of antediluvian climatological and agricultural conditions and partially by new technologies developed by millennial scientists.  In fact, scientific and technological research will thrive as never before, as mankind seeks as never before to fulfill its primeval commission to “subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

     Israel, of course, will be the chief nation of the world during the millennium.  “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2).

     Other nations will be expected to honor Israel and to center their worship there: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.  And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain” (Zechariah 14:16, 17).  A great temple will be established in Jerusalem, as described in Ezekiel 40-46, and a form of the ancient worship instituted again, complete with priestly orders and sacrificial animal offerings.  The worship will not be mere ritual, however, as it often was in pre-Christian Israel.  “Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them and seethe therein” (Zechariah 14:21).

     Such animal sacrifices had been, of course, set aside after the death and resurrection of Christ, for “he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12).  During the  Christian dispensation, the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ needed no animal sacrifices either as evidence of faith or as aid to faith.  In the millennium, however, it will be different.  It will be easy to believe in Christ – in fact almost impossible not to believe.  No longer will one suffer ridicule or persecution if he takes a stand for Christ, nor will he ever be led astray by evolutionary teachings in the schools or by overt temptations to sin by his peers.

     In every dispensation, salvation is offered only by the grace of God on the basis of the substitutionary death of Christ for sin.  Before His first coming people had given evidence of their faith in God’s promised redemption by offering sacrificial animals in atonement for their sins.  In that case, the sacrifices had served both as a significant aid to faith and as a testimony to their faith.  Even in the Christian age “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), but that faith is exercised in the person and finished work of Christ, as confirmed and recorded in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament.

     In the Millennial Age, with the glorified Christ and His resurrected and reigning saints personally present and with Satan and his hosts out of the way, there will be no room whatsoever for intellectual doubt as to the deity of Christ and the truth of His Word.  Nevertheless, salvation will still require a personal faith and commitment to Christ and, more than ever, the genuineness of such faith must be evidenced by works.  It may well be that this is at least part of the reason for the reinstitution of animal sacrifices.  In the days of His humiliation, it requires strong faith to believe in His coming glorification.  In the days of His glory, it will be difficult to remember and believe in His humiliation and death, and yet it is still as important as ever that men and women understand and believe that they are sinners and can only be saved through the substitutionary death of Christ for their sins.  Thus, the animal sacrifices will be a memorial and reminder of the great saving work of Christ, and thus will also serve both as an aid and evidence of faith.  

Revelation 20:5.     But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.

     The “rest of the dead,” of course, refers to the unsaved men and women whose souls are imprisoned in Hades.  This statement (that they “lived not again”) makes it crystal clear that the “resurrection” of which these verses speak is a bodily resurrection.  At the end of the millennium, Hades delivers up these spirits so that they also live again in the body (v. 13).  Their souls had never ceased to have conscious existence (see for example, Luke 16:23, as well as Revelation 6:9, 10).  So the phrase “live again” would be quite meaningless except in terms of the body.

     The resurrection of the unsaved will be the “resurrection unto damnation,” which was distinguished as a separate resurrection from the “resurrection of life” by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 5:29.  He also implied that “the resurrection of the just” was a distinct event (Luke 14:14).  Here, finally, it is revealed that the “first resurrection” precedes the second by a thousand years.

     This resurrection of the souls of the tribulation martyrs thus completes the first resurrection.  In the final sentence of this verse, the word “is” appears in italics (KJV) indicating its absence in the original.  The sense of the sentence is simply, “This completes the first resurrection.

     The word “resurrection” in Greek is anastasis, meaning literally “standing again.”  It is used forty times in the New Testament, and always refers most naturally to a bodily rising from the dead (John 11:24; Acts 4:33).  There is certainly no warrant for taking it to mean something else in this passage.

     The “first resurrection” does occur in more than one stage, according to 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.  The resurrection of the dead began with Christ Himself, as the “firstfruits of them that slept,” followed immediately by “many bodies of the saints” which “came out of the graves after his resurrection” (Matthew 27:52, 53).  Next comes the rapture, when “the dead in Christ shall rise” along with the living saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).  At the middle of the tribulation the two witnesses rise (Revelation 11:11) and now finally all the rest of the tribulation martyrs.

Revelation 20:6.     Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 

     No matter which stage of the first resurrection one may participate in, he is thereby assured that his future life will be one of blessedness and holiness.  He may have experienced the pains of death, but these will all be forgotten in the glorious resurrection, and he will never die again.  The awful second death which awaits the unsaved at the “second” resurrection cannot touch him any more than it could the body of the risen Christ (Revelation 1:18).

     On the other hand, the obverse side of this fifth of Revelation’s beatitudes suggests that the second death does have the “authority” in the case of all those who do not participate in the first resurrection.  Their future is one of misery and corruption, forever, in the lake of fire, rather than one of eternal blessedness and holiness in the fellowship of Christ.

     Not only will the saints reign with Christ a thousand years, but also they will be His priests (Revelation 1:6), thus directing both the civil government and spiritual instruction for the millennial populations.  Christ is High Priest, as well as King of kings, and all the resurrected saints will exercise varied religious and political functions under His supreme command throughout the millennium, in accord with the faithfulness of their service in this present life.

     The detailed manner and variety of these administrations is yet to be revealed.  The resurrected saints have their citizenship in heaven, not on earth (Philippians 3:20), and it is likely that once they have been awarded the heavenly “mansion” prepared for them by Christ (John 14:2, 3), they will never again reside on earth – at least not until their heavenly city descends from heaven to the renovated earth at the end of the millennium (Revelation 21:2).  Presumably at proper times, however, they will appear on earth to exercise prescribed duties with respect to their earthly charges.  For example, the resurrected apostles of the Lord have been promised that they will be assigned earthly thrones from which they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30).  It seems also that the resurrected King David may be placed over the entire nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:24, 25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5).  Some will be assigned jurisdiction over ten cities, some over five (Luke 19:17, 19).  Apparently there will be a hierarchy of authority assigned to the saints in either civil or religious duties or both.

     It may appear at first that the hosts of resurrected saints, including all the redeemed of all the ages, will so far outnumber the depleted population of the earth at the beginning of the millennium, that there will be more “kings and priests” than “subjects.”  Although the Scriptures give very little specific information about this intriguing topic, there are a number of factors at least to be considered.  In the first place, not all the saints will receive a reward.  Many will “scarcely be saved” and “shall suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15), so that the opportunity they might have had for fruitful service in the millennial age will be given to others (Luke 19:24-26).  Thus there may even be many of the raptured and glorified saints who will still themselves need some measure of supervision and guidance during at least the first years of the millennium.  Those who had attained a higher state of spiritual knowledge and effectiveness in the days of their flesh may well serve as teachers and leaders for those who died as “babes in Christ,” at least for the early years when the human population on earth is still low.

     Furthermore their ministries will be needed for all those who had died while still too young (many even still in the fetal state) to have even reached the so-called “age of accountability.”  They must surely be allowed to grow to maturity somehow, both physically and spiritually, and many of the more mature saints may well have assignments to train and tutor these.  Possibly the Lord may assign many of these specific duties to godly redeemed women in the heavenly city.

     There is no way to know precisely how many resurrected saints will be there in heaven in these glorious days to come during the millennium, but a reasonable guess might be about 4 billion.  This is roughly equal to the present population of the world and is 10 percent of what seems to be a plausible figure for the total number of men and women who have lived since Adam (probably about 40 billion).  Since the large majority of people die in an unsaved condition (Matthew 7:13, 14), the 10 percent figure seems at least reasonable.

     Whatever the number may be, it will undoubtedly be much larger than terrestrial populations at the beginning of the millennium.  However, the conditions favorable to human fertility and longevity will have been restored, as discussed earlier, and it will not take many years before God’s primeval command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) will be essentially accomplished, with numbers of people like “the sand of the sea” (verse 8).  There will by that time be such an abundance of people on earth as indeed to provide adequate challenge for all the saints, both those who were prepared for such responsibilities at the beginning of the thousand years and those who had required further training during its early years.

     There is one other intriguing possibility.  There exists “an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22) and these were created to be “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).  This relationship presumably will continue forever, since there is no intimation in Scripture that it will be changed in the new earth.

     Many of these angels have rebelled against God, following Satan, and these will all be consigned to everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41).  Those who had remained faithful to their calling, however, and who thus will still be subservient to the will of Christ, will probably also be under the direction of those who will “reign with Him.”  This is likely the meaning of the rather cryptic reference in 1 Corinthians 6:3.  “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”

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