Tuesday, April 13, 2021


  There is only one passage in the New Testament that discusses the Millennium--the thousand year reign of Christ.  ("Millennium" is drawn from the Latin words for "thousand" and "year.")  That passage is Revelation 20:4-6.  There are additional mentions of the "thousand years" in verses 20:2-3 and 20:7 as that period is pertinent to the narrative.  Although there is such scanty Scriptural evidence concerning this period, the Millennium is one of the most discussed topics in eschatology.  Three schools of interpretation are named for their views of when Christ will come in relation to the Millennium.  These schools are as follows.

Amillennialism is the belief that there will not be a literal Millennium during which Christ reigns on earth but that the Millennium is a term for the rule of Christ from heaven during the church age.

Premillennialism is the belief that Christ will return (an event often called the Parousia) before the Millennium and then set up a kingdom over which he will reign for 1000 years.

Postmillennialism is the belief that the church will ultimately triumph in its mission of evangelism and will have powerful influence over the affairs of the world so that a perfect society that aligns with Scripture will be established; at some point during this process the Millennium will be instituted; at the end of the Millennium, Christ will return to earth.

There are variations in each of these scenarios that are advocated by different individuals.


My discussion below of the Millennium relies a great deal on a chapter in "The Meaning of the Millennium.  Four Views" by Robert G. Clouse.  The chapter, which is titled "Historic Premillennialism," is by George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd does not justify the name "Historic Premillennialism" in his chapter, but I gather from an internet entry that "Historic" reflects the belief that it is the view of the early church fathers.  (I shall not enter into that discussion.)  Ladd's understanding of the Millennium agrees with Dispensationalism that Christ's Parousia will take place before the Millennium.  However, he does differ from the Dispensationalists in some other issues.  I shall indicate some of those differences.  I have chosen to focus mostly on his chapter in Clouse's book because he provides some insight into the nature of the Millennium and the role it plays in God's program.  I have added some of my own interpretative comments in some sections.


Ladd refers to the "Heavenly Session" of Christ and connects it to the idea of "revelation" or "apokalypsis."  Psalm 110 is often referred to in the New Testament and especially applied to Jesus.  Peter, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, quoted Psalm 110:1 (Acts 2:34-35) and then applied David's prophecy to Jesus:  "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36)  In making this application, Peter is stating that Jesus now reigns on the throne with the Father from heaven.  Ladd points out that Jesus is NOW the Messianic King of all.  In Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus' timeline reaches a climax by acclaiming Jesus as Lord.  Note the timeline is as follows:

--He was in the form of God

--Did not grasp at equality with God

--Emptied himself by taking the form of a servant

--Born in the likeness of men

--Humbled himself in obedience to death on a cross

--God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every name

--This has the purpose and/or result that every knee bows and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ is Lord

Note that the final outcome of this timeline is that every knee bows and confesses Jesus Christ is Lord.  Ladd believes this is a confession of Jesus as King.  In Romans 10:9, confession that "Jesus is Lord" is necessary for one to be saved.  Ladd also considers this is a confession that Jesus is King.  Many (including myself) have understood the Philippians 2 passage to culminate in the exaltation of Christ in the last days.  However, the grammar of the passage puts Christ's exaltation in the past, that is, at Jesus' ascension.  In Philippians 2:9 God put Christ in the highest position ("highly exalted him").  "Exalted" is an indicative aorist verb, implying the past.  This passage in Philippians coordinates with the passage in Acts 2:34-36, which applies Psalm 110:1 to Jesus.  Ladd states that this "heavenly session" of Christ--his being seated at the right hand of the Father--constitutes the movement of the Davidic throne from Zion (Jerusalem) to heaven.  As the Messiah, son of David, and as the Messiah, almighty son of God, Jesus is Lord--the King over the universe and over every human RIGHT NOW.  This position of Christ is known to Christians through the Biblical witness and is a matter of faith.  However, the will come a time when it will be known by sight.


In the New Testament the Second Coming of Jesus is usually referred to by the term Parousia (coming or visitation or presence).  However, sometimes it is referred to by the term Apokalypsis (revelation).  Obvious examples of this usage include (some translations may render it as a verb):  I Corinthians 1:7, II Thessalonians 1:7, I Peter 1:7, 1:13, 4:13.  In these verses, Jesus' Second Coming is the "Revelation" of Jesus.  Ladd states that this Revelation will be a "disclosure to the world of what is already Christ's: [his] sovereignty and lordship; what is now by faith will become sight."  Ladd says:  "We do not find in Scripture the idea that Jesus begins his Messianic reign at his parousia and that his kingship belongs primarily to the millennium.  We find on the contrary that the millennial reign of Christ will be the manifestation in history of the lordship and sovereignty which is his already."  

I should expand a bit on the ideas presented in the preceding paragraphs.  First, Ladd is arguing for a present reign of Christ over the earth from heaven.  Second, he is arguing that the Millennium will be a period when that reign will be visible on earth.  This latter idea is what he means when he says that it will take place "in history."  Ladd is countering the Dispensationalists who place a great emphasis on Christ's kingship in the Millennial period without emphasis on his present rulership.

Ladd's emphasis on the Heavenly Session is similar to the ideas of the Amillennialists who consider the present church age to be the Millennial reign of Christ.  That is, they equate the Heavenly Session with the Millennium.  Although Ladd acknowledges the Heavenly Session of Christ, as I have just discussed, he does not equate that heavenly reign with the Millennium.  Instead, he maintains that the Heavenly Session will be transferred, so to speak, to an earthly reign of 1000 years.  His argument comes from a careful exegesis of Revelation 20:4-6.  He maintains that  this brief passage reveals a 1000 year reign of Christ on earth--a literal Millennium.  The crucial argument is that the verb that is translated "came to life" in verses 20:4 and 20:5 must be taken literally in both verses.  He contrasts this passage with John 5:19-29.  In that latter passage, one can "spiritualize" or take metaphorically Jesus' use of "has eternal life" or "pass from death to life" or "will live" in verses 5:24 and 25.  On the other hand, in verse 5:29 "resurrection of life"and "resurrection of judgment" should be taken literally as they refer to the last judgment.  Notice that the "dead" in verse 5:25 hear the voice of the Son NOW whereas Jesus is careful to say "all who are in the tombs" will hear his voice in the FUTURE in the last days.  So, there is CONTEXTUAL EVIDENCE to guide us as to whether literal or metaphorical language is being used.  On the other hand, in Revelation 20:4-6, the context does not give any evidence for metaphorical use  of the verb "come to life."  In the absence of contextual evidence, we are constrained to take both uses literally.  "They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4c)  "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended."  (Revelation 20:5a) The outcome of this exegesis is that there is a LITERAL MILLENNIUM in the future.  There is a Heavenly Session now and there will be a earthly "session" of Christ as King in the future.  This earthly reign of Jesus will be a revelation of him in his glory, power, royalty, and sonship.


The doctrine of a literal Millennium rests on the brief passage of Revelation 20:4-6.  However, there is one passage that alludes to the Millennium and that is consistent with the context of Revelation 19-20.  The passage I refer to (taking this from Ladd) is I Corinthians 15:24-26.  Most people are aware that I Corinthians 15 is an extended teaching by Paul on the resurrection of the body.  It is instructive to follow the passage starting at 15:20.  I shall summarize, quote, or paraphrase the verses starting at 15:20 through 15:26, as follows:

15:20:  Christ rose as the "firstfruits" of the resurrection. (The term "firstfruits" refers to the earliest grain or fruit, such as grapes,  of a harvest--promising the full harvest to come.)

15:21:  Death came by a man (Adam), and the resurrection came by a man (Jesus).

15:22:  In Adam all die, but in Christ all are made alive.

15:23:  The order is:  Christ is the firstfruits, then at the Second Coming those who belong to him will be resurrected.

15:24:  After Christ destroys his enemies, he will deliver the Kingdom to God [the Father].

15:25:  Christ must reign until he has subdued all enemies.

15:26:  The last enemy to be subdued is death.

Ladd points out that the events described in Revelation 19-20 reflect the concepts that are stated in I Corinthians 15:20-26.  Note the events narrated in Revelation 19:11-20:15, as follows:

Christ's Second Coming is portrayed as his coming on a white horse (19:11-16).

Christ defeats two major enemies:  the Beast/Antichrist and the False Prophet along with their followers (19:17-21).

The devil is bound during the Millennium (20:1-3).

The devil is released after the Millennium; he deceives the nations into attacking the saints.  He is thrown into the Lake of Fire and his followers are destroyed by fire (20:7-10).

The sinners of all history are thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Death and Hades (20:11-15).

Thus, Christ reigns until he has subdued all his enemies. (Compare I Corinthians 15:25.) At the turn of the chapter, from Revelation 20 to Revelation 21, an entire new order is announced:  "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."  (Revelation 21:1)  Then we read:  "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.'"  Thus, in this new order, the Kingdom has been delivered to the Father.  Christ has done his magnificent work.  The completion of that work is described in Revelation 19-20.  Revelation, chapters 21-22, then, describe the blissfulness of the future life of the ages.  



If we now turn again to the Millennium, we notice that it occurs during a hiatus in the activity of Satan.  See Revelation 20:3.  There are few details that are given as to the nature of this period.  The material on the Millennium is contained in Revelation 20:4-6.  The focus in those verses is not on Christ, but on those who reign with Christ.  Notice who these people are.  The list is as follows.  References are to Revelation.

1.  The "souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God" (20:4b).

2.  Those "who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands."  (20:4c) "They [this very likely refers to both the groups in 1 and 2 of this list] came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (20:4d)

3.  The ones who share "in the first resurrection."  (20:6a)  "Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years." (20:6b)

The first two groups are persons who will live during the reign of the Beast.  However, it is a matter of Christian doctrine that those who will be resurrected "unto life" includes all who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  I need to pause and make the case that the "first resurrection" includes not only the martyrs of the Tribulation period but also all who are saved by faith.  


If we return to Jesus' remarks on coming into life and experiencing the resurrection in John 5, we have the following statements:

John 5:24:  "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."  This verse was briefly referred to earlier.  It seems clear that this "life" is the eternal life that a believer receives through faith.  Jesus reinforces this idea in the following verse.

John 5:25:  "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and now is here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."  The spiritually dead will hear the voice of Jesus calling them.

John 5:28-29:  "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."  Jesus describes two resurrections--one "of life" and the other "of judgment."  Whereas, in John 5:24 and 25, hearing the Jesus' word and believing  brings spiritual life,  in John 5:28-29, hearing Jesus' word brings about physical life that is either "of life" or "of judgment."  The former, "of life," is a resurrection that allows one to participate fully in the Kingdom of God with Jesus.   It is the "first resurrection" that is referred to in Revelation 20:5.  The "second resurrection" is described in Revelation 20:12ff.


In I Corinthians 15:12-49, Paul makes an extended argument in support of the resurrection from the dead as the future destiny of believers.  In 15:50-57, he briefly goes back over the resurrection to life in the context of the coming of the Kingdom of God, of the victory over death, of the rapture of living believers.  Our present physical existence, which Paul calls "flesh and blood" cannot experience the Kingdom of God.  But, the resurrection, as well as the rapture of those alive at that moment, will bring about a change into a new order of existence.  Paul calls it an imperishable and immortal body, now equipped to experience the Kingdom of God.  

In I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul relates the Resurrection/Rapture of the saints to the Parousia.  Just as in I Corinthians 15:50-57, he mentions the "dead in Christ" and "we who alive, who are left."   Both groups join Jesus in his Parousia.  Notice that Paul is including first century Christians among the "dead in Christ."  They will be resurrected.  Paul did not realize that there will also be second, third, fourth century Christians, and even twenty-first century Christians, who will be resurrected and be joined with Christ in his Parousia.  


Revelation 20:6 gives a blessing to those who share in the first resurrection.  John has put the spotlight on the martyrs during the reign of the Beast/Antichrist.  But, the testimonies of Jesus and of Paul also include ALL CHRISTIANS in the first resurrection.  There is further evidence that the first resurrection and its attendant victorious reign with Christ includes all Christians throughout the centuries.  Jesus promised his disciples:  "you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matthew 19:28)  In I Corinthians 6:2-3, we read:  "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels?  How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!"  Note that Paul is writing to first century Christians.  Thus, when John saw thrones (Revelation 20:4) and those who were seated on them, the Biblical evidence seems to include all who are saved sharing in that victory.  John's perspective, and the persepective of his readers, was of the first century church.  He, like Paul, very likely believed that all the events that he was prophesying would occur in the next few years.  It is very likely that he--from his own human understanding--believed that the Beast/Antichrist would be a Roman emperor.  So, the thrones would be occupied by first century Christians.  But his prophesy does not exclude those who would follow Christ in the centuries to come.  


Another issue should be addressed.  It is almost synonymous with what has already been discussed.  I am referring to the fact that martyrdom seems to be the qualification for occupying one of the thrones of Revelation 20:4.  It is even possible to interpret verses 20:4-6 to exclude all except martyrs from reigning with Christ.  However, this interpretation would lead to a problem.  Verses 20:5-6 divides the dead into only two groups:  those who experience the first resurrection and those who experience the "second death."  In the sort of shorthand communication which runs through Revelation 20:4-15, two terms are mentioned and their coupled terms are left to the reader to supply.  The following explains this:

Term mentioned:  First Resurrection; coupled term:  Second Resurrection

Coupled term:  First Death; Term mentioned:  Second Death   

So, the "first resurrection" is what Jesus, in John 5: 29 calls the "resurrection of life.'  The "second resurrection" is what he calls the "resurrection of judgment" in John 5:29.  The "first death" is simply physical death, which all experience except those who are raptured at the Parousia.  The "second death" is defined in Revelation 20:14.  It is to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  From this discussion, it is evident that all who are saved by faith enter into the first resurrection.  It then follows that they also reign with Christ.  One does not have to be a martyr to reign with Christ.  However, one must have the faith of a martyr.  One must have given one's life over to Jesus.  


I have ignored the issue of "Israel" and the role that Israel will play in the last days as well as the question of the salvation of Israelites and their resurrection.  I believe this is a complex issue that should be dealt with as a separate post.  I shall just briefly say that I believe Old Testament "believers" will be resurrected in the First Resurrection and that Israel will play an important role in the Millennium.  I shall do my best to address that issue in another post.


Ladd humbly admits that he cannot see a clear purpose for the Millennium that is revealed in the New Testament.  He refers to the idea of "progressive revelation."  Progressive revelation usually refers to Biblical evidence that expands as one progresses through the history of the Scripture.  So, for example, very little about the afterlife is revealed in the Old Testament, but more detail is given in the New Testament.  Also, although the coming of the Messiah is progressively revealed in the Old Testament, the full nature of Jesus and how he ministered, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven awaited the actual events that took place from the announcement of Gabriel in Luke 1 to the ascension in Acts 1.  Salvation by grace through faith was present in the Old Testament period, but it was Paul who clearly explained that doctrine.  For Ladd, the revelation of the Millennium and its nature is alluded to in the Old Testament and given a concrete foundation in the New Testament.  However, its full nature awaits the arrival of the actual event in the future.  Ladd offers briefly the following purposes for the Millennium:

A.  The "millennium is part of Christ's Messianic rule by which he puts all his enemies under his feet (I Cor. 15:25)."

B.  It also may "reveal to the world as we know it the glory and power of Christ's reign."

C.  It will bring a measure of peace and righteousness to the world while the devil is imprisoned.  Once he is released, he will find "the hearts of men still responsive to his enticements...This will serve to commend the justice of God in the final judgment."  That is, although the "environment" of the Millennium will bring about peace and righteousness, that "environment" will not cure original sin.  Thus, God will be just in putting sinners into the Lake of Fire.  


Ladd is a Premillennialist.  His writings espouse a concept of the Parousia--the Second Coming of Christ--that takes place before the Millennium.  This is in contrast to two other major teachings on the Millennium.  First, there is Amillennialism, which denies a literal Millennium.  Some interpreters equate the church age with the Millennium, and the idea of the Heavenly Session of Christ is also equated with the Millennium.  Second, there is Postmillennialism, which believes that the church will ultimately be triumphant in evangelism and will create a reign of righteousness on earth.  This period may or may not be for a literal thousand years.  At the end of that period, Christ will return.  

The most influential group of interpreters who promote Premillennialism are the Dispensationalists.  I have written more than once in this website concerning the Dispensationalists.  Although Ladd agrees with the Dispensationalists on a number of issues, he also disagrees with them on some issues.  In the essay that I have based much of this article on, Ladd points out his differences with the Dispensationalists on the following points.

A.  church in millennium

B.  sacrifices

C.  literal fulfillment of OT

A.  THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE MILLENNIUM:  Ladd differs from the Dispensationalists with regard to the role of the church during the Millennium.

B.  ANIMAL SACRIFICES DURING THE MILLENNIUM:  The Dispensationalists believe that animal sacrifices will be reinstituted.  They believe that the temple that is described in Ezekiel 40-43 will be the rebuilt temple of the Millennium and that animal sacrifices will be offered there.  Ladd believes that the animal sacrificial system was ended with Christ (see Hebrews 10:5-16 and 8:13) and that this would apply to the Millennium as well as the present time.  The Dispensationalists believe that the Millennial animal sacrifices will serve as a memorial to Christ, pointing back to his death just as the Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to his death.  This explanation is really an attempt to justify their interpretation of the Old Testament and has no Scriptural warrant.  

C.  LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT:  Ladd believes that "Dispensationalism forms its eschatology [doctrine of last things] by a literal interpretation of the Old Testament and then fits the New Testament into it.  A nondispensational eschatology [such as his own] forms its theology from the explicit teaching of the New Testament.  It confesses it cannot be sure how the Old Testament prophecies of the end are to be fulfilled for (a) the first coming of Christ was accomplished in terms not foreseen by a literal interpretation of the Old Testament, and (b) there are unavoidable indications that the Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church."

Ladd admits that his methodology "sounds like" Amillennialism.  However, he replies that Romans 11:26 states that "all Israel will be saved."  This means that one's eschatology must take Israel as a people into account, which is not done in Amillennialism.  He also points out the New Testament teaching of the Millennium in Revelation 20, as I have already described.  Again, this contradicts Amillennialism even while using an approach to Scripture similar to that of Amillennialism.  

If one follows Ladds methodology, then some of the "headlines" of Dispensationalism fade into the background or, at least, must be approached with caution.  For example, will the Jewish Temple be rebuilt?  Is the existence of Israel as a nation necessarily a precursor to the last days?  I think that "caution" should be the watchword.  Ladd was a brilliant scholar and, I think, was very helpful in clarifying some matters.  But one needs to be humble and cautious about making final judgments about many of these matters.  


I think that I have only begun to wade into the waters of the Millennium and have not yet begun to swim.  It is a difficult subject that will take  years to understand.  I do think that Ladd and others have helped me to see the Millennium as an important component of the reign of Christ.  Moreover, Ladd's highlighting of the Heavenly Session of Christ and the Parousia as the Revelation of the majesty and glory of Christ have been helpful.  One final thought is this:  the Millennium is not the final word from the Lord.  There is more to come!


Clouse, Robert G.  The Meaning of the Millennium.  Four Views.  Downer's Grove, Il:  Intervarsity Press, 1977.

Crossway.  The Holy Bible.  English Standard Version. Wheaton, Il:  Crossway by Good News Publishers, 2001.


Saturday, February 20, 2021



Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).


I.  Satan loosed

          A.  When he is loosed:  after 1000 years

          B.  His activity when he is loosed

                   1.  Deceive the nations

                   2.  Gather them for battle

II.  The battle

A.    The position taken by the nations

1.     On the plain of the earth

2.     Around the camp of the saints and the beloved city

B.     The action taken against them

1.     Fire falls from heaven

2.    It consumes them

III.  The fate of Satan

A.    Thrown into the Lake of Fire (where Beast and False Prophet are)

B.     The torment of those in the Lake:  tormented day and night forever and ever

1. THE TRANSITIONAL INDICATOR:   Verse 20:7 marks a transition from a narrative of the triumphant saints to a return to the narrative concerning Satan that broke off in verse 20:3.  In that verse we learn that Satan will be imprisoned in the Abyss for a thousand years so that he cannot deceive the nations during that time.  However, verses 20:7 and following are prepared for by the notation in verse 20:3 that it is necessary for him to be released for a little while.  That release and its consequences are described in 20:7-10.  The transition to that description is marked by the clause:  “And when the thousand years are ended…” 

2.  THE NECESSITY OF SATAN’S RELEASE:  Verse 20:3 contains much information, which is summarized below.

·       The angel throws Satan into the Abyss (“bottomless pit”).

·       He seals the entrance to the Abyss.

·       The purpose of this imprisonment is to keep Satan from deceiving the nations.

·       The length of the imprisonment is 1000 years.

·       At the end of that time he “must” be released for “a little while.”

In verse 20:7-8, that prediction of release is fulfilled.  The consequence is that Satan goes to work deceiving the nations.  The wording in verse 20:8 is:  “and [he] will come out to deceive the nations…” 

Looking ahead, we know that the ultimate destiny of Satan is to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  The Beast and False Prophet had experienced that punishment at the close of the Battle of Armageddon (19:20).  But Satan’s punishment is delayed until two time periods and their activities are completed.  These periods are the 1000 years and the “little while.”  In the former, the saints rule and reign with the Lord and Satan is sidelined in “the county jail.”  In the latter, Satan is out for a little while during which he is deceiving the nations and gathering them for battle, much as his minions accomplished in the run-up to Armageddon (16:13-16). 

The challenge of interpretation is this:  why is it necessary for Satan to be released for a little while?  The consequence of his release is deception.  In that deception are revealed two things:

1.     The nature of Satan

2.     The vulnerability of the nations

The nature of Satan is to deceive.  In the Garden of Eden, Satan deceived Eve.  (Genesis 3:13, I Timothy 2:14)  Satan is characterized as “the deceiver of the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9)  Upon his release from his imprisonment in the Abyss, he immediately goes to work at his main occupation, deception. 

The nations are vulnerable to deception.  The following is from the introduction to an article in Wikipedia on “The Confidence Trick”:  confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust. Confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulitynaïvetécompassionvanityirresponsibility, and greed.”  Notice that we would judge three out the six traits that are listed (vanity, irresponsibility, greed) to be sinful or leading to sin.  The other three traits we do not consider necessarily evil, yet they make people vulnerable to be victims of deception.  Thus, we may be deceived because of our own evil tendencies.  We also may be victimized by deception.  Thus, we see two major components of our sinful condition:  we are both perpetrators and victims.  We see this in the cycle of abuse that continues over generations within families.  We see this in the people who pulled under the spell of certain politicians who appeal to both the good and evil natures of people. 

The manifestation that results from Satan’s release:  The outcome of Satan’s release for “a little while” is manifestation.  Satan’s nature and the vulnerability of the nations are manifested.  It is a necessity for these to be made manifest—that they “play themselves out.”  Once they are manifest, then God’s judgment is justified.  Although God owes no one an apology nor explanation, yet we find that God, throughout the history of creation, is careful to justify his actions, both to the angelic hierarchy and humankind. 

For example, in the lengthy passage on justification in Romans 3, Paul comments on God’s actions in providing “propitiation by his [Christ’s] blood, to be received by faith.”  Paul explains “This [provision by God] was to show God’s righteousness…It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25b-26)  Note that Paul states that God’s great act of justification was “to show” God’s righteousness—what God is truly like.  For God is righteous (“just”) and the one who makes people righteous (“justifier”).  All of this was to “show” God’s nature.  The word that ESV translates “to show” is a noun that can mean “evidence.”  God’s act of justification is evidence of his nature.  Or, we could say, his justification is the MANIFESTATION of his nature.  “The truth will out.”  So, the truth of Satan and of the nations will come out.  Release Satan from his prison and he will immediately manifest his deceitful nature and the nations will fall for it.  As my Dad said:  “The devil immediately gets a following.”

3.  THE RESULT OF SATAN’S DECEPTION:  Satan is quite successful in his goal of gathering the nations together (I shall explore the specifics of these “nations” later) for battle against the “camp of the saints and the beloved city…”  (verse 20:9)  However, the outcome is not a success for the “nations.”  The nations are destroyed by fire from heaven.  Notice what this episode reveals about the nature of Satan and his deception.  Satan is good at getting people together for a battle.  He is not necessarily good at winning the battle.  He may give people short-term victories, but, ultimately, the outcome is disastrous. 

I knew a man who took a trip out to San Francisco in 1968.  It was one year after the “Summer of Love.”  He described the scene as chaotic and dangerous.  “Speed freaks” (methamphetamine addicts) and heroin addicts dominated.  People were carrying guns, and paranoia was rife.  What started as utopia had disintegrated into dystopia. 

In a sense, Satan’s goal in this case, as with most of his projects, is not for the nations to win the battle.  His goal is to gather the nations FOR BATTLE.  He did not care if they won.  He may lead people into grand causes, crusades, huge business enterprises, powerful empires, or small-time schemes.  They all have a way of eventually falling apart.  The history of the ancient middle east is the story of empire after empire dominating the scene for a short time and then collapsing and giving way to another empire.  Satan’s deception is that these great projects will last forever and provide humanity with all that is needed for happiness and fulfillment.  But they are inspired by deception—that a particular god or man or nation is all-powerful and all-wise.  They are built on a lie and cannot last.

As I am writing this, the United States is in the early stage of reacting to the storming of the Capitol building, where the two houses of the national legislature (Senate and House of Representatives) meet.  People who, I believe, were fed false information resorted to mob violence in order to disrupt the process of the certification by the Senate and House of the presidential election results.  They have been inspired by rumors and conspiracy theories.  Now their brief display of raw physical power is over and the nation is trying to pick up the pieces they left behind.  The sad thing is that there were some legitimate issues that they and their leaders had been bringing before the nation.  However, the lies that they were being fed poisoned their cause.  Satan is the father of lies.  Sooner or later, he shows his hand, and degeneration ensues.


                After the “nations” who have attacked the “camp of the saints and the beloved city” are destroyed by fire, Satan himself meets his final defeat.  Throughout the book of Revelation—indeed, throughout the Bible—Satan’s plans are frustrated and he is limited in his activity, despite his considerable power.  Revelation 12 reflects this pattern.  The dragon cannot devour the child of the woman.  (12:4-5)  The woman is given protection from the dragon in the wilderness. (12:6) Michael and his angels defeat the dragon and his angels.  (12:7)  This defeat is also ascribed to the faithfulness of the saints.  (12:11)  On earth, the dragon cannot capture the woman because of divine help.  (12:13-16)  This is not the end of Satan’s pursuit of the righteous, but all of his efforts ultimately fail.  So, finally, the last battle ends in the defeat of the followers of Satan, and Satan himself meets his end.

          He is thrown into the Lake of Fire.  There are four “places” of judgment mentioned in the New Testament.

1)    HADES, which has the following uses:

a)    A place or position of humiliation and weakness:  Matthew 11:23, Luke 10:15,

b)   Power or source of evil:  Matthew 16:18

c)     A place where people go after they die, including a place of torment:  Luke 16:23

d)   A place where people go after die, not necessarily resulting in torment:  Acts 2:27

2)    GEHENNA, which has the following uses:

a)    Place of judgmental torment:  Matthew 5:22 (angry and insulting), 5:29 (better to go without a body part than destroyed in Gehenna) (along with Matthew 5:30, Mark 9:43, 9:45, 9:47), Matthew 10:28 (place where God destroys soul and body) (along with Luke 12:5)

a)    Parent of the sinful:  Matthew 23:15

b)   Source or origin of evil:  James 3:6

2)    ABYSS, which has the following uses:

a)    A place where demons fear to go:  Luke 8:31

b)   A place where the dead go:  Romans 10:7

c)     A source of smoke that can bring darkness:  Revelation 9:1 & 2

d)   Also the source of tormenting locusts who are led by the destroying angel of the abyss:  Revelation 9:11

e)    The abyss is the source of the Beast:  Revelation 11:7 & 17:8

3)    LAKE OF FIRE, which is mentioned in the following:

a)    Revelation 19.20: “and the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet…These two were thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”

b)   Revelation 20.10, 14, 15 lake of fire

c)     Revelation 21.8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The Lake of Fire is defined in the following ways:

1.    It burns with sulfur (a minimum of 392 degrees Fahrenheit).

2.    It is where the Beast and the False Prophet will be.

3.    To be thrown into it is to suffer the second death.

4.    It is the “portion” (destiny) of all sorts of sinners.

Thus, the Lake of Fire is a terrible destination.  It is the place where Satan winds up.  All of his schemes and deceptions and ambitions finally bring him to this terrible end.  He is never mentioned again in Scripture.  The final note is that “they” (the Beast, False Prophet, and the devil) will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.”


          Verses 20:7-8 describe Satan’s deception of the “nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle…”  This is an echo of Ezekiel 38-39, which also includes references to Gog and Magog.  That latter passage is similar to Revelation 20:7ff, but with some differences.  In the Ezekiel passage, Ezekiel is told to prophesy “Gog, of the land of Magog” and other mysterious persons and nations.  Ezekiel says to them that God is going to draw them, along with countries such as Persia and Egypt, to Israel, which is described as “the land that is restored from war.”  Although they will come prepared for war, God, “in [his] jealousy,” will rain down “hailstones, fire and sulfur…” and give this huge army to the birds and beasts to be devoured.  In a lengthy cleansing process, Israel will collect the weapons for firewood and bury the dead for seven months.  Then, Israel will “know that I am the Lord God” and the nations will understand that God “hid” his face from Israel temporarily to deal with their transgressions.  Notice that Ezekiel 38-39 is echoed in both our present passage of Revelation 20:7-10 as well as in Revelation 19:11-21.

          Dwight Pentecost, a Dispensationalist, rejects the idea that Revelation 20:7-10 and Ezekiel 38-39 are describing the same event.  He includes the following reasons (Pentecost, 349-350) (and my responses):

·       Ezekiel says a “northern coalition” attacks, but Revelation says all nations are involved.  However, many nations are indicated in Ezekiel.

·       Ezekiel does not mention Satan, but Satan is always implied to be the instigator of such behavior.

·       He considers that the chapters following Ezekiel 38-39 are descriptions of the Millennium.  Since chapters 38-39 are placed before, he concludes that the events are before the Millennium.  However, strict chronology would not necessarily be found in a book of prophecy.  Moreover, Ladd (see below) believes the chapters following are of the eternal state, not the Millennium.  Also, note that Ezekiel 37 could be descriptive of the Millennium, and this would mean chapters 38-39 describe events after the Millennium.

·       He believes that Revelation 20:7-10 describe the armies as being devoured by fire, whereas the Ezekiel describes the disposing of bodies.  However, Ezekiel 38:22b speaks of “fire and sulfur.”  Moreover, the word for “consumed” is used figuratively in several places in the New Testament.  (See, for example, Mark 12:40, Luke 15:30, John 2:17, II Corinthians 11:20).  Moreover, fire can destroy without total consuming an article.

·       Revelation 20 is followed by the new heaven and new earth; Pentecost cannot conceive that the prolonged cleansing of 7 months would not corrupt the new heaven and earth; but the time line of Rev. 20-21 is not detailed enough to allow this objection.

G. E. Ladd (269-270)  understands the latter part of Ezekiel to have “the same basic structure” as Revelation 20-22:

·       Ezekiel 36-37:  “[describes the] salvation of Israel…restored to their land and blessed with the messianic salvation (36:24-29)

·       “The kingdom is disturbed by an eschatological war, led by Gog from Magog (chapters 38-39)...

·       After the “divine victory” there is an “eternal new order” (described by Ezekiel “in terms of a rebuilt temple…”) (this corresponds with Revelation 21-22)

Swete (264-265) does not try to fit Revelation 20:7-10 to Ezekiel 38-39.  He, as with many, ignores any possibility of supernatural prophecy and seeks a rational explanation:  “But whatever Gog and Magog may have meant to Ezekiel, St John’s phrase [Gog and Magog] has no definite geographical associations; it comes in all probability not directly from Ezekiel, but from Jewish apocalyptic sources in which it had assumed a new connotation.  In Rabbinical writings Gog and Magog appear as the enemies of the Messiah…”  …Christian interpreters of the fourth and following centuries…” [had various views of Gog and Magog, such as:  Roman Empire, the Goths, the Huns].  Augustine believed they represent all the far-distant nations.  “This great uprising of the nations will, [Augustine] adds, be the final protest of the world against the church.”

Rist (521-522):  “This episode of Gog and Magog is based upon a popular saga that makes its earliest known appearance in a strange prophecy in Ezek. 38-39.  According to it, God will entice Gog of the land of Magog to attack and plunder the seemingly defenseless Israelites…But God in his wrath against these heathen people will destroy them with hailstones, fire, and brimstone…This prediction, frequently with Gog of Magog changed to Gog and Magog…was soon adapted to messianic and apocalyptic expectations [in other writings]…” “Evidently this account of Gog and Magog [in Revelation 20:7-10] is a retelling of the story of the earlier battle [in Revelation 19:11-21], which also showed some dependence upon the prophecy in Ezekiel.”

Morris (238-239)  “…Gog and Magog seems to signify all people…Magog appears to be the land from which Gog came…In later Judaism Gog and Magog were thought of as two leaders…they often symbolize the forces of evil.  For John the combination is another way of referring to the hosts of the wicked.  He has in mind the last great attack of evil on the things of God.”

          Conclusion:  Probably, the observations of the scholars—that “Gog and Magog” in Revelation 20:8 is used as a generalized designation for evil “nations”—is accurate.  Keep in mind that the term “nations” in the Old Testament generally refers to all other people groups than Israel and that they were considered outside the covenant relationship with God and, generally, evil.  The expression “Gog and Magog” in later Judaism probably carried this same kind of connotation of evil.  At the same time, it probably also is used in Revelation to refer to Ezekiel 38-39, to that confederation of enemy nations that Ezekiel predicted would make an attack on the people of God at the end of the Millennium. 

          I mentioned earlier, in discussing the necessity of Satan’s release (as stated in 20:3), that Satan’s release would necessitate his deceptive and evil activity, which is displayed in his instigation of the attack by the nations of the world.  Moreover, this attack also reveals the inherent evil in the hearts of people.  Even though the Millennium will entail a thousand years of peace, prosperity, and righteousness, there will be people in the world who are vulnerable to the deception of Satan.  This reveals that they have not been regenerated by salvation.   This fact opens a new question that needs to be considered in another post:  What is the nature and meaning of the Millennium?


Crossway.  The Holy Bible.  English Standard Version. Wheaton, Il:  Crossway by Good News Publishers, 2001.

Ladd, George Eldon.  A Commentary on the Revelation of John.  Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1972.

Morris, Leon.  The Revelation of St. John. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 12.  Gen. ed. R. V. G. TaskerGrand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.

Pentecost, J. Dwight.  Things to Come A Study in Biblical Eschatology.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ. House, 1958.

Rist, Martin.  “The Revelation of St. John the Divine” in The Interpreter’s Bible. vol. 12.  Nolan B. Harmon, Ed.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1957.

Swete, Henry Barclay.  The Apocalypse of St John.  London:  MacMillan and Co., 1906.


Friday, January 1, 2021



Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) (Crossway.  ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL:  Good News Publishers, 2008.)

This post studies Revelation 20:4-6.  As a simplified organization, I shall ask and answer a series of questions.


1.     What all is covered under “I saw” of verse 20:4?  This is not a critical question in the analysis.  John begins chapter 20 with “And I saw an angel…” In 20:4, he announces, “And I saw thrones…”  In 20:11, he states, “And I saw a great white throne…”  In chapter 21, verse 1, he says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”The phrase/clause “I saw” is a prevalent introduction to material throughout the book, as follows.

a.      In chapter 5, he says:  “then I saw in the right hand…a scroll…”

b.    Chapter six begins (in Greek):  “And I saw…” 

c.     Chapter 7 begins:  “After this I saw four angels…”

d.    The second verse of chapter 8 begins:  “Then I saw the seven angels…and seven trumpets were given to them…”  

e.    Chapter 9 tells how, after the fifth trumpet is blown, John “saw a star fallen from heaven to earth…” 

f.      Chapter 10 relates how John “saw another mighty angel…” 

g.    This pattern is broken in succeeding chapters, but chapter 12 begins with “a great sign appeared in heaven…” which is an implication of the process of “seeing.” 

h.    Chapter 13 begins:  “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea…” 

i.       Chapter 14 contains implications of seeing: 

                                                             i.      14:1 is the image of the 144,000

                                                          ii.      14:6 begins “Then I saw another angel…” 

j.       Chapter 15 begins “Then I saw another sign…”  (This begins the narrative of the seven last plagues which continues through chapter 16.) 

k.    In 17:3, John, in the Spirit, says:  “and I saw a woman…”  (This begins the account of Babylon and its fall, which carries through chapter 18 and into chapter 19.) 

l.       Chapter 19:11 begins “then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!”  Thus begins the description of the Battle of Armageddon. 

m. So, the pattern throughout the book is an ACCOUNT OF WHAT JOHN SAW.  Revelation begins:  “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (1:1-2, emphasis added)

n.    Throughout the book almost every new topic is introduced by John’s relating that he saw something.  This reminds us that John had a series of visions.  So, chapter 20 begins with John’s seeing the angel that captured Satan.  Then, in verse 4, John saw the thrones.  He is changing the topic to the thrones and those who sat upon them.  Everything that follows in 20:4-6 is the vision of those on the thrones.  John SAW it all. 

2.    Who are included among those who were beheaded and how are they connected to those who sat on the thrones?  Note the categories that are listed. 

a.    In the Greek these categories are as follows: 

                                                             i.      Those who sat on the thrones

                                                           ii.      The souls of those who were beheaded on account of the testimony about Jesus and the word of God

                                                        iii.      Whoever did not worship the Beast nor his image and did not accept the Mark on their forehead or their hands

b.    The Greek does not carefully group these, but it is logical to group these as follows:

                                                             i.      I saw:  all of the groups

1.    Those beheaded:  probably this group includes all that follows

                                                           ii.      So we could  indicate the inclusiveness of categories, as follows:  I saw:  Those on thrones to whom judgment was given, including those who were beheaded

1.    On account of the testimony about Jesus

2.    On account of the word of God

3.    Because they did not worship the Beast or his image

4.    Because they did not receive the Mark on their forehead or their hands (although it is possible that the last two groups were not among the beheaded)

3.     What is the “First Resurrection?”  I believe that this is one of the crucial questions in the interpretation of this passage.  First, we need to divide the question into two parts:  (a)  How should verse 20:5 be understood?  (b)  How does the first resurrection compare with the data in I Corinthians 15, I Thessalonians 4, and John 5?

a.    How should verse 20:5 be understood?  Verse 5 begins by stating that the “rest of the dead did not come to life” until after the thousand year period.  Then, there follows:  “This is the first resurrection.”  The question would be:  “Is the ‘first resurrection’ that which takes place when the ‘rest of the dead’ come to life?”  The arrangement of the clauses, including those in verse 20:4, could imply this.  This is because the statement on the “first resurrection” is delayed until after the statement on the resurrection of the “rest of the dead.”  However, if one counts, in order, the resurrections, there are two and the first is described in verse 20:4.  Despite the insertion of the statement about the “rest of the dead,” it is logical to infer that the “first resurrection” is that of the martyrs of verse 20:4 (as well as all other Christians of other ages—see below).  We then must conclude that the sentence regarding the “rest of the dead” is parenthetical.  Although, to my knowledge, Greek did not have parentheses, parenthetical material does not seem to be totally unexpected.  This parenthesis is a brief explanation that helps the reader keep track of all the cast of characters and events.  It also is further explained in verse 20:6.  I shall discuss that later.

b.    How does the “first resurrection” compare with the data in I Corinthians 15, I Thessalonians 4, and John 5?  There are three major descriptions of the resurrection in the New Testament.  I shall consider them out of order.  Each serves a different purpose.

                                                             i.      I Corinthians 15 is Paul’s in-depth discussion of the resurrection that ties Christ’s resurrection to the salvation and to the resurrection of all the righteous.  It goes on to give some understanding of the physical/metaphysical nature of the resurrection.  It goes on to introduce the rapture of living Christians as an adjunct to the resurrection.  This powerful presentation was written to the church at Corinth and includes admonitions that are applications of the truth of the resurrection.  Paul calls his readers to join him in facing persecution with confidence in the resurrection (15:30-32), to live sober lives as reflections of the truth of the resurrection, to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” in the light of the resurrection.  Note that Paul is presenting the resurrection as the certain future of Christians of the first century (and beyond) and not only the martyrs of the last days.

                                                          ii.      I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is Paul’s answer to those who are concerned about their loved ones who have died.  He wants them to know that they will be reunited with those loved ones in the resurrection/rapture.  He describes that set of events in the following order:  (1) a complex of almost simultaneous events consisting of a “cry of command, with the voice of the archangel,” “the sound of the trumpet of God,” and the descent of the Lord from heaven; (2) the resurrection of the “dead in Christ”; (3) living Christians are “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (the Rapture).  (4)  And “so we will always be with the Lord.”  This is written as an encouragement to Christians (of the first century and beyond) about their loved ones who have died (verse 4:13 and 4:18).  It describes their resurrection at the coming of Christ.  They certainly would not be among the last-day martyrs.

                                                       iii.      John 5 (especially 5:19-29) After Jesus healed the man born blind, which is related in John 5:1-17, Jesus spoke to his Jewish opponents in a lengthy discussion (5:19-47) regarding his divine nature, power, and prerogatives.  It comes out of this comment by John (5:18b):  “…not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”  Jesus began (5:19-29) by focusing on the power to raise the dead that is possessed by the Father and the Son.  (5:21)  Associated with the power of resurrection is the prerogative of judgment (5:22), because the outcome of judgment is either life or death.  For example, Jesus said in 5:24:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  Jesus goes on to specify the ultimate separation in association with resurrection (5:25):  “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”  He expands and explains this further (5:28-29):  “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”  Jesus is dividing all humanity into two camps:  those who hear his “word and believe him who sent me” (5:24) and “those who have done evil (5:29).  The category of the righteous is not limited to last-day martyrs.  In fact martyrdom is not the ultimate criterion for the “resurrection of life.”  Rather, saving faith in Jesus Christ is the deciding factor.

                                                        iv.      In conclusion, the “first resurrection” of Revelation 20:5 includes all the righteous dead who are raised at Christ’s return, as related especially in I Thessalonians 4.  It also includes those who are raptured in that same complex of events.  Since the martyrs during the reign of the Beast (a period often referred to as the Tribulation) would be included among the righteous dead, they would join the righteous of previous centuries in this great gathering together of those who experience the “resurrection of life.” (John 5:29)

4.    Who will reign with Christ for 1000 years? (verse 20:6)

a.    There are two groups who are said to reign with Christ.  The first is the group of martyrs that are listed in verse 20:4.  They are as follows.

                                                             i.      They proclaimed the testimony of Jesus

                                                          ii.      They proclaimed the word of God

                                                       iii.      They had refused to worship the Beast or its image

                                                        iv.      They had not received the Mark of the Beast

                                                          v.      These all are said to come to life and reign with Christ

b.    The second group is defined in 20:6 as those who experience the first resurrection.  In my discussion above, I conclude that this group includes all the righteous dead.  They will be from all generations.  (I’ll discuss the “Old Testament” righteous elsewhere.)

c.     I conclude that those who reign with Christ will be all the righteous dead.  Yet, a special place of honor seems to be reserved for the last-day martyrs.  They are defined by their verbal witness, their defiance of the order to worship the Beast and his image, and their refusal to receive the Mark of the Beast.

d.    I believe that the message to all Christians of all ages is to follow the example of these last-day martyrs.  There may not be a Beast demanding worship and loyalty overtly as is the case of the Beast of the last days.  However, there are always pressures to go along with whatever this world is currently holding up as worthy of worship.  It may be a teen-age idol, the latest fashions, some video game that has created a sensation.  It may be abortion rights or the homosexual agenda.  It may be a harsh dictator.  It may be those powerful temptations that I John 2:14 lists that have always drawn people away from loyalty to the Father and the Son.  In every case there are consequences to refusing to worship the gods of this world.  The consequence may not be to experience a martyr’s death; it may simply to be shunned or to find one’s career is in jeopardy.  The martyrs of the early Christian centuries as well as those who suffer today, especially in North Korea, China, and Muslim countries—all of these serve as examples for us to follow.  Finally, we have the example of the last-day martyrs.  Let us pray for faithfulness and courage and deep love for God to be worthy fellow servants with all of these heroes of the faith.

5.    What is the “second death” (verse 20:6)?  This question is answered directly in 20:14:  the second death is to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  This topic will be discussed in another post when I consider 20:11-15.  In a previous post, I diagrammed how all (or most) humans experience a “first death.”  Those who are saved experience also a “first resurrection.”  The rest experience a “second resurrection” and a “second death.”  This will be expanded in the material on 20:11-15.