Thursday, December 10, 2020



          Chapter 20 is a fast-moving account that moves us from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Battle of Armageddon (Chapter 19) to the final culmination of all things in the Eternal Kingdom of God (Chapters 21 and 22).  It includes the mysterious Millennium, the final judgment of Satan, and the Great White Throne Judgment of humans.  This post will cover the first six verses of Chapter 20 in a preliminary way.  It will seek to clarify the identity of Satan, to introduce the Millennium, and to begin an intense look at verses 20:4-6.  Future posts will continue thinking through verses 20:4-6, discuss further the Millennium, and then discuss the latter part of the chapter, including the final judgment.  Obviously, a lot of work lies ahead. 

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).  Other abbreviations are

·       ESVSB = English Standard Version Study Bible

·       NIVSB = New International Version Study Bible

·       KJV = King James Version

VERSE 20:1:  John has a new vision, which he introduces with “then.”  In the Greek, it simple is “and.”  The translator observes, rightly I believe, that this sentence begins a new focus.  The Battle of Armageddon is over, and now we are observing the next series of events.  It begins with an angel, one of many who play important roles in Revelation.  The angel comes down from heaven, and he is equipped with a key and a great chain.  The key is to the “bottomless pit,” which I translate as “Abyss.”  This, it seems to me, is faithful to the Greek word (it is a transliteration of the original).  It does not draw any conclusions about how deep the Abyss is, nor whether it has a bottom.  It is a deep, dark hole that seems to have some sort of lid. 

VERSE 20:2:  The angel goes into action.  He seizes the dragon.  It is significant that an ANGEL did this.  Notice that Satan is big and powerful and scary, but there are persons—angels—that can lick him.  In Revelation 12:7ff, Satan (the Dragon) and his angel fight against Michael and his angels.  And—guess what?—Satan loses.  He is thrown out of heaven.  Moreover, credit for this defeat is also given to the “brothers,” which are the human followers of Jesus:  “And they [the brothers] have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”  (12:11)  So, this is the formula for whipping the devil: 

·       Rely on the blood of the Lamb:  The blood of Jesus was shed for our sins.  If the devil tries to convince us that we’re no good, we’re failures, jerks, of no value, we do not point to our accomplishments or our family name or our good looks.  We point to the cross of Jesus Christ where he died for our sins.

·       Testify faithfully about Jesus:  The one thing that Satan wants to do is to “control the narrative.”  But the word of God has another explanation:  it tells of who Jesus is—the Son of Man and the Son of God, what he has done—he died and rose again, and what it means for us—Jesus has conquered sin, hell, and the grave and has made us a kingdom and priests unto our God.  We can give an extended, detailed testimony to all that, or just simply say:  Jesus is my Savior and I trust him.  It will destroy the works of the devil.

·       Love not your life even unto death:  Be willing to risk reputation, social standing, money, and even your life to tell the story of Jesus and to live for him.  When you take that stand, you have cut the ground from under Satan.

The description takes additional words to identify exactly who is seized:  “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan…” (See Revelation 12:9.)  The “dragon” is used exclusively in Revelation—in Revelation 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, and 17; 13:2, 4, and 11; 16:13; 20:2 (the present verse).  Chapter 12 describes the dragon to be a monstrosity with seven heads and ten horns.  He is sort of a prototype for the Beast.  He is described as sweeping stars from heaven, which may mean that he has a great many followers, especially demons.  He also is a threat to the male child of the “woman clothed with the sun,” whose description identifies him as Christ.  He has a huge war with Michael that involves angelic hosts on both sides.  He is identified as the deceiver of the whole world and is expelled from heaven.  He is an archenemy of the woman and of her offspring, those “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”  The dragon gives the Beast power and great authority (13:2).  The Beast draws people, not only into worship of himself, but also into worship of the dragon.  (13:4)  The second beast of chapter 13 is described as speaking “like a dragon” (13:11), perhaps a reference not just to dragons in general but to the dragon who is Satan.  In 16:13, three demonic spirits appear, one from each member of an unholy trinity:  the dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet.  These will entice the kings of the earth and their armies into a battle that ultimately will be with Christ and his armies at Armageddon. 

          The term “serpent” has some connection with evil and with Satan.  For example in Luke 10:19, Jesus promises his followers “authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy…”  The “serpent deceived Eve…” is mentioned in II Corinthians 11:3, in reference to the narrative in Genesis 3.  Serpents are in the tails—or the tails are like serpents—of monstrous horses that are released as part of the nightmare of the sixth trumpet in Revelation 9:19.  In Revelation 12, verses 9, 14, and 15, “Satan” and the “serpent” are used as synonyms.  In fact, the wording of 12:9 is very similar to verse 20:2:

·       Verse 12:9:  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…

·       Verse 20:2:  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan…

The term “devil” (Greek “Diabolos”) is a common word.  It is used 36 times in 14 different books of the New Testament.  The following are a few examples:

·        Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

·       Luke 8:12 “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so they may not believe and be saved.”

·       John 8:44  “You [his Jewish adversaries] are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

·       Acts 10:38 “…He [Jesus] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

·       Ephesians 4:27 “and give no opportunity to the devil”

·       I Timothy 3:6 “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

·       Hebrews 2:14 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”

·       I Peter 5:8  “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

·       I John 3:8 “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

·       Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to thrown some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Verse 20:2 continues with a very few words:  “and bound him for a thousand years.”  Those very few words and the reference to a thousand years in verses 20:3, 4, 5, 6, 7 are the basis for the concept of the “Millennium,” or 1000-year reign of Christ over the earth.  The following is from George Eldon Ladd:

The interpretation of this chapter [Revelation 20] has been a source of great debate and even conflict in the church.  Systems of eschatology have often been identified in terms of the way they treat the question of the millennium—the thousand-year reign of Christ.  A postmillennial view was popular among interpreters of the historical school, who saw in the Revelation a prophecy of the course of history down to the end.  Postmillennialism means that the return of Christ would not occur until the Kingdom of God had been established by the church in human history.  In this view, chapter 19 does not describe the coming of Christ but is a very symbolic way of describing the triumph of Christian principles in human affairs and the triumph of Christ through his church.  After this “golden age,” Christ will return to raise the dead, judge the world, and inaugurate the new eternal order.

          Amillennialism is the term used to describe the view of those who do not look for a millennial reign of Christ either before or after his second coming.  This way of interpreting Rev. 20 involves the principle of recapitulation, viz., that the structure of Revelation does not relate consecutive events but frequently covers the same ground from different perspectives.

          Interpreters of this viewpoint often identify the binding of Satan and his incarceration in the abyss with the victory over Satan accomplished by our Lord in his earthly ministry.  It is clear that the gospels do represent Jesus as having bound Satan (Matt. 12:29) and toppled him from his place of power (Luke 10:18); and this victory over Satan is reflected in the Revelation…; it is an open question as to whether the binding of Satan in Rev. 20 is the same as that in Matt. 12 or is an eschatological event.

          Amillennialists usually understand the “first resurrection” in one of two different ways.  Some see here the resurrection unto eternal life, which is an altogether spiritual reality that occurs for each believer when he becomes a Christian (John 5:25; Eph. 2:5-6).  The reign of Christ with his saints is either the reign of Christ manifested in history through his church, or the spiritual reign of believers with Christ “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6).  The thousand-year period is not literal piece of history; it is a symbolic number coextensive with the history of the church on earth between the resurrection of Christ and his return.

          A different amillennial interpretation understands the resurrection and reign of the saints with Christ to represent the destiny of the martyrs.  Though they were slain, the martyrs did not really die.  In fact, they lived and reigned with Christ in heaven.  The “millennium” is the church age when martyred saints reign with Christ in heaven, awaiting the resurrection.

          Premillennialism is the view that Rev. 20 is altogether eschatological.  The coming of Christ will be followed by a binding of Satan and the resurrection of the saints who will join him [Christ] in a temporal kingdom when he reigns over the earth.  This millennial kingdom will end with a final rebellion and the last judgment.

          A variant form of premillennialism is Dispensationalism, which sees the millennial kingdom primarily in terms of God’s theocratic promises to Israel.  The entire book of Revelation is interpreted in terms of these dispensational presuppositions and is concerned with the fate of restored Israel in the last days and not with the church.  In many circles the only form of premillennialism known is Dispensationalism.  The form of premillennialism which sees the Revelation as a prophecy of the destiny of the church is not widely held today but it is the theology expounded in the present commentary [Ladd’s book].

          A key issue in our understanding of the millennium is whether chapter 20 involves recapitulation, looking back from the end to the whole history of the church.  In chapter 12, it is unmistakably clear that the passage looks back to the birth of Messiah.  However, in the present passage, no such indication is found.  On the contrary, chapters 18-20 appear to present a connected series of visions.  Chapter 18 tells of the destruction of Babylon; chapter 19 tells of the destruction of the beast and the false prophet; and chapter 20 moves on to tell of the destruction of Satan himself—a destruction accomplished in two stages…. (Ladd, 259-261)

The preceding material is pretty heavy for anyone to grasp, and especially difficult for someone who is a newcomer to all this terminology.  A brief set of definitions of my own making are the following:

·       Postmillennialism asserts that the church will triumph in the world and create a thousand-year paradise  BEFORE Christ returns.

·       Amillennialism asserts that there will be NO 1000-year reign of Christ on earth.  Instead, the millennium represents the age of the church—quite imperfect—which Christ oversees from heaven.

·       Premillennialism asserts that there will be a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth after his Second Coming.  Dispensationalism is a complex set of ideas that includes premillennialism. It asserts that Christ will reign from Jerusalem over Israel, which will be the dominant nation on earth.  Christ will set up the throne of David and literally fulfill all of the promises to Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David. 

Another commentator, certainly more liberal than Ladd, comments on the thousand years:  “For the present the Dragon is not slain or consumed, but only made a prisoner…for a term of a thousand years, i.e. a long period of time, a great epoch in human history…” (Swete, 257)  He further comments:

Any serious attempt to interpret the vision of the Thousand Years must begin with an examination…of contemporary Jewish belief [about]…the Messianic Reign. (1)  While the O.T. represents this Reign as permanent (Daniel ii. 44, vii 27…), the pseudepigraphic writers of 100 B.C—100 A.D….looked for a temporary triumph of righteousness before the consummation of all things… (2) To this golden age varying periods were assigned [from 40 to 7000 years].  (3) In Enoch xci. ff. human history is divided into weeks, of which the eighth and ninth witness the victory of righteousness, while the tenth is that of the final judgment…This conception of a week of millennia took root in early Christian thought [with allegorical treatment of Genesis 2]…

It can scarcely be doubted that St. John’s mind is familiar with these conceptions; yet he employs them with considerable reserve…But St. John does not commit himself to a reign upon earth.  When [a commentator named Charles] writes “the martyrs…reign with Christ personally on earth for a thousand years…with Jerusalem as the centre of the kingdom,” he introduces…ideas which are in fact absent from [this passage]…

Early Christian interpretation fell into the same snare.  [He quotes various early commentators.]  [However Augustine saw] in the captivity of Satan nothing else than the binding of the strong man [Mark 3:27].  [And interpreted] the thousand years [as] the whole interval between the first Advent and the last conflict…[And he saw] in the reign of the Saints, the entire course of the Kingdom of Heaven; in the judgment given to them, the binding and loosing of sinners; in the first resurrection, the spiritual share in the Resurrection of Christ which belongs to the baptized…

[Augustine’s interpretation] overlooks…the limitation of the first Resurrection to the martyrs and confessors.  But on the whole it seems to be on right lines.  The symbolism of the Book is opposed to a literal understanding of the Thousand Years… (Swete, 260-262)

VERSE 20:3:  This verse continues the account of the imprisonment of Satan.  He is put in the Abyss sealed within it.  This action disables Satan as the deceiver of the nations.  In chapter 12, Satan was expelled from heaven.  The implication seems to be that he no longer has access to God to accuse the Christians (12:10).  However, he continued to have considerable power and freedom on earth (12:12).  Now, he has totally lost his freedom.  However, his final act is yet to come:  “After that he must be released for a little while.  (20:3c)  This is explained later in the chapter.

VERSE 20:4-6:  The following verses are a bit confusing.  Allow me to give an interpretive outline, which does not strictly follow the order in these verse:

I.                   Humans are given thrones and authority to judge

II.                The fate of the martyrs

a.    The souls of those who were beheaded are seen (see 6:9-11)

b.    Included among these are the souls of those who had not worshiped the Beast nor taken his Mark

c.     These all come to life

d.    They reign with Christ for 1000 years

e.    This is the First Resurrection (?)

f.      They are blessed and holy

g.     They do not experience the Second Death

h.    They will be priests of God and Christ and will reign with Christ for 1000 years

III.             The fate of the rest of the dead: 

a.    They do not come to life until the 1000 years are over

b.    They experience the Second Resurrection (?)

c.     They experience the Second Death (?)

There are several difficulties in this passage.  First, I shall give a fairly standard version of events, and then I shall point out how this passage creates questions about that standard version.  In the standard version, ALL CHRISTIANS ARE EITHER RESURRECTED OR RAPTURED AT THE RETURN OF CHRIST.  (Dispensationalists have a different twist on this, but their version does not affect this “version.”)  This is the First Resurrection.  At his return, Christ sets up the Millennial Kingdom and Christians participate in his reign.  At the end of the Millennium, and after a brief skirmish with Satan, the Great White Throne Judgment takes place.  Sinners are resurrected (the Second Resurrection) long enough to be judged and thrown in the Lake of Fire.  Being thrown into the Lake of Fire constitutes the Second Death.  The following chart may help (or not) clarify this terminology:


Saved individuals


Normal physical death = First Death




= First Resurrection




Second Resurrection

Before Judgment



Second Death = Lake of Fire




The present passage (20:4-6) seems to imply that ONLY martyrs reign with Christ during the 1000 years.  This is implied in 20:4b, in which those who had been beheaded for their testimony are mentioned, and 20:4c, in which those who refused Beast worship and refused to take the Mark of the Beast are mentioned.  In 20:4d “they” come to life and reign with Christ. 

There are several questions that one may have after reading these verses.  These questions include:

·       What does it mean to see the “souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus”?  Are these “souls” without bodies—of persons who had not been resurrected?

·       Do these descriptions allow for “all Christians,” including those who have not been martyred, to have thrones and reign with Christ? 

·       Does this verse even allow for martyrs previous to the reign of the Beast to reign with Christ? 

·       Who are the “rest of the dead” in verse 20:5. 

·       What exactly is the “First Resurrection” of verse 20:5?

          I shall quote extensively from commentators and study Bibles to give their views on some these verses.  Before I do, I would like to say that I believe that the “standard version,” which I described above is an accurate representation of the two resurrections and the two deaths that these verses refer to.  I have put in the questions because, if we read these verses, it is quite possible to raise these questions.  I shall present several commentators’ views and then—in a second post—come back to face these questions again and try to sort them out.  I honestly do not think any of these commentators face the passage in an honest way, but simply impose their views (variants of the “standard version”) on the passage.

          The following is a quote of the notes on Revelation 20:4 and on 20:5 from The Ryrie Study Bible King James Version.  As I quote from notes in study Bibles, I must deal with the style of these notes.  A note often includes a brief quotation of part of the verse referred to.  I include these quotations, including italics when they are used, so that the reader knows exactly what the note is commenting about.  Ryrie’s notes are as follows.  20:4 the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus.  These are the martyrs of the tribulation days who will share the joys of the millennial kingdom.” “20:5 the rest of the dead. The wicked dead will be raised and judged after the millennium.  The first resurrection Refers back to the end of v. 4.  This resurrection includes all the righteous  (the resurrection of life, John 5:29, and the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14), who will be raised before the millennium begins.” (Ryrie)

Ryrie does not comment on John 5:29 directly.  In his comment on John 5:21-27, he comments that “Those who believe will escape judgment (v. 24).”  In the KJV, John 5:28-29 states:  “Marvel not at this:  for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  John 5:24 states:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  All of these quotations from John are in the context of an extended direct quotation from Jesus.

Similarly, Ryrie does not comment on Luke 14:14, nor does he make any pertinent remarks on the passage.  Luke 14:14 (KJV) states [direct quotation from Jesus]:  “And thou shalt be blessed:  for they [the poor whom you invited to a banquet] cannot recompense thee:  for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

To summarize Ryrie’s comments:  He believes that those who reign with Christ during the Millennium include all believers.

Other comments in other study bibles are not as definitive.  ESVSB does not deal with these questions head-on.  It indicates, but rather ambiguously, that the Premillennial view is that all believers will reign during the Millennium.  NIVSB recognizes the problem, without much comment.  Its comment on verse 20:5 is as follows:  rest of the dead Either the wicked or everyone except the martyrs (see v. 4).” 

The Wesley Study Bible describes the Premillennial view briefly:  “Other Christians believe that 19:1-21 depicts Christ’s Second Coming which will culminate in the binding of Satan pictured in 20:1-3, after which the saints will be raised and rule with Christ on earth for a period symbolized by 1,000 years (20:4-6).  At the end of this period Satan will be released for one last rebellion and will be destroyed (20:7-10).  Then the unrighteous will be raised and all will be judged (20:11-15).  This position is called premillennialism (pre = before) since it teaches the return of Christ before the millennium.  It is an ancient Christian position which has become popular again since the last century.”

Pentecost, a Dispensationalist, argues that 20:5 is a reference to the resurrection of the unrighteous:  “It will be observed that the first part of verse five [20:5], ‘But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,’ is a parenthetical statement that explains what happens to those who are left in the realm of death when the first resurrection is completed at the second advent of Christ. This passage teaches that one thousand years will intervene between the first resurrection, or the resurrection unto life, and the resurrection of the rest of the dead, which, according to Revelation 20:11-13, is the resurrection unto damnation.  The only way that the obvious teaching of this passage can be obviated is to spiritualize it so that the passage is not speaking of physical resurrection, but rather of the blessedness of the souls who are in the presence of the Lord….the New [Testament] makes it clear that the resurrection unto life and the resurrection unto judgment are separated by a span of one thousand years.” (Pentecost, 401-402)

The original Scofield Bible notes comment on Revelation 20:5 as follows.  “The ‘resurrection of the just’ is mentioned in Luke 14:13, 14, and the resurrection of ‘life’ is distinguished from the ‘resurrection unto damnation’ in John 5:29.  We here learn for the first time what interval of time separates these two resurrections.  See I Cor. 15. 52, note.” (Scofield) 

Scofield’s note on I Corinthian 15:52 presents the Dispensationalist view in a way similar to Pentecost and Ryrie, but, I believe, makes the case for a separation between the “resurrection of the just” and the “resurrection unto judgment” better than the other two authors:  “Two resurrections are yet future, which are inclusive of ‘all that are in the graves’ (John 5:28).  These are distinguished as ‘of life’ (I Cor. 15.22, 28; I Thes. 4.14-17; Rev. 20. 4), and ‘of judgment’ (John 5.28, 29; Rev. 20.11-13).  They are separated by a period of one thousand years (Rev. 20.5).  The ‘first resurrection, that ‘unto life,’ will occur at the second coming of Christ (I Cor. 15.23), the saints of the O.T. and church ages meeting him in the air (I Thes. 4. 16, 17); while the martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20.4), are raised at the end of the great tribulation….The bodies of living believers will, at the same time, be instantaneously changed (I Cor. 15.50-53; Phil. 3.20, 21)…After the thousand years the ‘resurrection unto judgment’ (John 5.29) occurs.  The resurrection-body of the wicked dead is not described.  They are judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20.7-15).

          The table that follows may clarify (or not) the views of these commentators.    



Verse #

Quotation from the verse


Revelation 20:4

“The souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus”

Ryrie:  These are the martyrs of the tribulation days who will share the joys of the millennial kingdom

Revelation 20:5

“The rest of the dead”

Ryrie:  The wicked dead will be raised and judged after the millennium. 

Revelation 20:5

“the first resurrection”

Ryrie:  “Refers back to the end of v. 4.  This resurrection includes all the righteous (the resurrection of life, John 5:29, and the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14), who will be raised before the millennium begins.”

ESVSB:  (Comment does not clarify who is on the throne) “Premillennialists think this [all of verse 4] means that deceased believers will experience bodily resurrection at the beginning of the millennium”

Revelation 20:5

“the rest of the dead”

NIVSB: “Either the wicked or everyone except the martyrs (see v. 4)”

Revelation 20:5a

“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.”

Pentecost:  :  “It will be observed that the first part of verse five [20:5], ‘But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,’ is a parenthetical statement that explains what happens to those who are left in the realm of death when the first resurrection is completed at the second advent of Christ.”

Revelation 20:5

“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.  This the first resurrection.”

Scofield Bible:  “The ‘resurrection of the just’ is mentioned in Luke 14:13, 14, and the resurrection of ‘life’ is distinguished from the ‘resurrection unto damnation’ in John 5:29.  We here learn for the first time what interval of time separates these two resurrections.  See I Cor. 15. 52, note.”

John 5:21-27

(See below for quote of John 5:24.)

Ryrie:  Those who believe will escape judgement (v. 24). 

John 5:28-29

“Marvel not at this:  for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”


John 5:24

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.


Luke 14:14

“And thou shalt be blessed; for they [the poor who are invited to a banquet] cannot recompense thee:  for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”


I Corinthians 15:52

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Scofield:  “Two resurrections are yet future, which are inclusive of ‘all that are in the graves’ (John 5:28).  These are distinguished as ‘of life’ (I Cor. 15.22, 28; I Thes. 4.14-17; Rev. 20. 4), and ‘of judgment’ (John 5.28, 29; Rev. 20.11-13).  They are separated by a period of one thousand years (Rev. 20.5).  The ‘first resurrection, that ‘unto life,’ will occur at the second coming of Christ (I Cor. 15.23), the saints of the O.T. and church ages meeting him in the air (I Thes. 4. 16, 17); while the martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20.4), are raised at the end of the great tribulation….The bodies of living believers will, at the same time, be instantaneously changed (I Cor. 15.50-53; Phil. 3.20, 21)…After the thousand years the ‘resurrection unto judgment’ (John 5.29) occurs.  The resurrection-body of the wicked dead is not described.  They are judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20.7-15).





Biblica, Inc.  NIV Study Bible.  Kenneth L. Barker, Gen. Ed., Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1985, 2011.

Crossway.  ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL:  Good News Publishers, 2008.

Harper, Albert F. (Gen. Ed.)  The Wesley Study Bible New King James Version.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publ., 1990.

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

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

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell.  The Ryrie Study Bible King James Version.  Chicago:  Moody Press (The Moody Bible Institute), 1976.

Scofield, C. I. The Scofield Reference Bible.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1909, 1945.

Swete, Henry Barclay.  The Apocalypse of St. John.  The Greek Text with Introduction Notes and Indices.  London:  MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1906.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Scripture quotations are from English Standard Version (ESV) as I find them in the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB). (Crossway Books.  English Standard Version Study Bible. Good News Publishers, 2007.)


                In Revelation 19:11-21 we have a description of a great battle between the One who is riding a white horse and his armies and the Beast and his armies.  The description includes the following parts:

·       Description of the One who is riding the white horse and his armies:  19:11-16

·       The invitation to the birds to have a great supper of the flesh of those who will be slain in the battle:  19:17-18

·       The capture of the Beast and the False Prophet, with a summary of the role of the False Prophet and with the report of throwing the two into the Lake of Fire:  19:19-20

·       The killing of those who are in the armies of the Beast:  19:21

I have discussed in a previous post the evidence that this battle is the “Battle of Armageddon,” even though it is not identified as such in the passage. 

          In this post, I shall discuss evidence that this battle is a COMPONENT OF THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST.  This conclusion seems self-evident, and yet careful interpretation requires that we make the case. 

          I have examined a great many Scriptures regarding the Second Coming.  I first just ran through Scriptures from my own memory and also did word searches of such words as “parousia” (often translated “coming”).  I also consulted a website that lists many Scriptures about the Day of the Lord.  I think some patterns and helpful information came out of these searches.  One helpful result was that Old Testament material emerged that provided new insight for me.  These searches will be the main background for my discussion of this effort to merge the general idea of the Second Coming with the description of the Battle of Armageddon  (which I shall refer to as “Armageddon”).



a.    Matthew 24:29-31

                                                             i.      Cosmic signs (sun darkened, etc.)

                                                           ii.      The “sign of the Son of Man”

                                                        iii.      Son of Man coming on clouds

                                                        iv.      He comes with “power and great glory”:  A pointer to Armageddon

                                                           v.      Angels gather the elect

b.    Mark 13:24-27:  same as Matthew, except omission of “sign of the Son of Man”

c.     Luke 17:24:  “a lightning flashes and lights up the sky…so will the Son of Man be in his day”:  an indication of the spectacular nature of the second coming

d.    Matthew 24:27:  “For as lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man.”  Compare this to Luke 17:24 above. 

e.    Luke 21:24-28

                                                             i.      Cosmic signs

                                                           ii.      Great “distress of nations in perplexity…people fainting with fear…”

                                                        iii.      Son of Man coming “in a cloud”

                                                        iv.      Comes with “power and great glory”

2.    ACTS 1:6-11, ESPECIALLY 1:11:  A very simple, straightforward promise from an angel that states that, just as Jesus was taken up in a cloud, he will return in the same way.

3.    I CORINTHIANS 15:22-26: 

a.    All will be made alive

b.    Christ, at his resurrection, was the firstfruits

c.     At “the end” Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father

d.    But first he will destroy “every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” 

e.    “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

f.      This description of Christ’s destruction of his enemies is a pointer to Armageddon.

4.    I CORINTHIANS 15:51-53:  “we shall be changed” is a brief statement of the rapture of the living saints immediately after the resurrection of the righteous dead.

5.    I THESSSALONIANS 4:13-18:  A more detailed description of the resurrection/rapture simultaneous with the Second Coming.  There is no indication of Armageddon.

6.    I THESSALONIANS 5:1-11, especially 5:2-3

a.     The “day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

b.    “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them…and they will not escape.”  This is a pointer to Armageddon.

c.     “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”  Assurance to Christians

7.    II THESSALONIANS 2:1-12, ESPECIALLY 2:8:  “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”  This is a pointer to Armageddon.  The details differ from Revelation 19. See discussion below.  Otherwise, this confirms that Christ will defeat the Beast at his return.

8.    II PETER 3:1-13, ESPECIALLY 3:7, 10, 12-13

a.    Verse 3-4 describes “scoffers” in the last day who ask sarcastically, “Where is the promise of his coming [parousia]?”  This ties the passage to the Second Coming

b.    Verse 7 describes a future destruction of heaven and earth by fire.

c.     Verse 10 announces that the “day of the Lord will come like a thief…” This is consistent with other passages on the Second Coming.  However, it goes on to say:  “and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up…”

d.    Verses 12-13 also mention this destruction of heaven and earth as well as stating:  “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

e.    This passage seems to encompass a much larger view of the consummation than other passages that focus on the Second Coming, the resurrection/rapture, and Armageddon.  Much of what is indicated in this passage are also viewed in passages in Revelation beyond chapter 19.

9.    I John 2:18-25, 2:28-3:3, 4:1-6, II John 7:  These passages mention certain topics related to the last days and the Second Coming, with limited detail.

a.    The “antichrist” is mentioned in I John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3 II John 7.

b.    I John 2:28 promises the parousia.

c.     I John 3:2 promises that we shall be like him (Christ) when he appears.

1.    Revelation 1:7 promises the Second Coming

a.    Christ will come “with the clouds…”

b.    Every one will see him, included “those who pierced him” and all tribes “will wail on account of him.”  This refers to Zechariah 12:10:  “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child…”  ESVSB comments on Revelation 1:7:  “Most scholars think the wailing is a reaction to judgment instead of the kind of grief that leads to salvation.”  The quote from Zechariah leaves the matter ambiguous.  It is possible that this is reference to Armageddon and the terror that Christ will bring as he slays his enemies.

2.    Revelation 3:10-11:  Jesus promises to keep the church of Philadelphia “from the hour of trial” and also promises that he is coming “soon.”  There is no other detail given.

3.    Revelation 5:9-10 praises the Lamb and refers to his redemptive work that has made the ransomed people a “kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”  Thus, the redeemed are promised a share in the triumph that shall be Christ’s at his second coming.  See number 3 above.  This triumph includes the victory at Armageddon.

4.    Revelation 16:15:  In the midst of the description of the events of the sixth bowl of wrath, Jesus breaks in with a word (which is put in parenthesis in ESV):  “Behold, I am coming like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed.”  Immediately before this statement, in 16:13-14, demonic spirits go to the kings of the world and draw them into a battle.  In 16:16, the site of this battle is given as Armageddon.  So, we see juxtaposed the gathering of the kings’ armies to Armageddon with the Second Coming of Christ.  This is strong evidence that Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ are simultaneous.

5.    Matthew 24:37-44:  Jesus compares his parousia to the days of Noah.  People were living their lives “normally,” when suddenly the “flood came and swept them all away.”  So the parousia will be a time when people think life will go on as always, but destruction will come.  He gives a series of examples, such as “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left…”  ESVSB gives two possible interpretations.  One is that the one who is “taken” is taken away to judgment and the other “remains to experience salvation at Christ’s return.”  The other is that the one who is “taken” is “among the elect that the Son of Man will ‘gather…from the four winds’ (v. 31).”  Many have interpreted this as the rapture.  Jesus goes on to warn of his coming by using the parable of the master of the house and the thief in the night.  If the master knew when in the night the thief was coming, he would have guarded his house.  The main emphasis of this passage is a warning that Jesus’ parousia will be marked by judgment of those who are not among the elect.  This is consistent with Armageddon, to some extent.

6.    Matthew 26:64:  Jesus is standing before the Sanhedrin at trial.  In response to the High Priest’s inquiry into whether Jesus is the Christ, he replies:  “You have said so [an idiom mean “yes, I am”]. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Jesus refers to God the Father as “Power.”  It is an unusual designation for God, but it certainly fits who God is.  Moreover, it emphasizes that Jesus, in his ascension entered into a new realm.  To use a crude example, Jesus now “rubs elbows” with God the Father in all his majesty and all of his power.  Not only is Jesus now in the vicinity, so to speak, but also he is now in partnership with that power.  It is from that position of power that Jesus will come again to earth.  So, Jesus ties two situations intimately together—Jesus sitting with Power and coming again on clouds.  This points to the might which he will display at Armageddon.

7.    Romans 2:5:  “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”  Paul is in the midst of an indictment against the person who judges others but does not have a heart of repentance.  He looks to the future and sees a “day of wrath.”  This is not necessarily the moment of the Second Coming.  It could be a later day, such as is depicted in Revelation 20:11-15, a scene that I usually refer to as the “Great White Throne Judgment.”  Nevertheless, it warns that the return of Christ will set in motion events that will include that judgment.  However, I do not believe this verse refers specifically to the Second Coming or Armageddon.

8.    II Thessalonians 1:5-7:  “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…”  Jesus is depicted as returning “with his mighty angels in flaming fire…”  He will at that time inflict “vengeance.”  This is vengeance for unbelief but also for afflicting the saints.  The ultimate vengeance is “eternal destruction.”  However, the mention of Jesus’ return “with his mighty angels in flaming fire” could be a pointer to Armageddon.


1.     Isaiah 13:4-6:  “The sound of uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together…The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle…Wail for the day of the Lord is near, as destruction from the Almighty will come.”  The Day of the Lord as a day of battle.

2.    Isaiah 13:9-11:  “Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel with wrath and fierce anger…I will punish the world for its evil.”  The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment

3.    Isaiah 24:21-22:  “In that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven…and the kings of the earth.”  What it means to punish the “host of heaven” is uncertain, but probably refers to Satan and his minions.  The “kings” could refer to the kings and their armies gathered at Armageddon.

4.    Isaiah 27:1  “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent…and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”  See #3 above:  this probably refers to the same spiritual warfare

5.    Jeremiah 30:7-9  “That day is so great…it is a time of distress for Jacob, yet he will be saved out of it…in that day…I will break his yoke from off your neck…but they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.”  Israel is in focus as the one who is rescued in that day.

6.    Jeremiah 46:10  “That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance…The sword shall…drink its fill of their blood.  For the Lord…holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.”   The Euphrates is not close to Armageddon.  However, the day of the Lord is depicted as bringing vengeance upon the enemies of the Lord.

7.    Ezekiel 30:3-4  “For…the day of the Lord is near…a time of doom for the nations…”  A warning that the day of the Lord is going to be bad for the Lord’s enemies

8.    Ezekiel 38:14-16  “…son of man, say to Gog, on that day…you will come from…out of the north…”  This is a complex passage that may refer to Armageddon or to another God-appointed military campaign.

9.    Daniel 12:1-2  “At that time shall arise Michael, who has charge of your people.  And there shall be a time of trouble…But at that time your people shall be delivered…And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  This points to a deliverance of Israel that is in conjunction with resurrection.

10.                       Joel 1:15 “Alas for the day:  the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.”  The day of the Lord is understood to include destruction from God.

11.                       Joel 2:1-4  “Blow a trumpet in Zion…for the day of the Lord is coming…a day of darkness and gloom…”  This refers to a locust invasion, but it looks far into the future to the coming day of the Lord and, perhaps, Armageddon.

12.                       Joel 2:30-32  “And I shall show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…” This corresponds to New Testament pictures of the Second Coming.  To what degree the dark imagery might refer to Armageddon is not clear.

13.                       Amos 5:18-29  “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord…it is darkness and not light, as if a man fled from a lion and a bear met him…” This emphasizes the dark side of the day of the Lord, which is consistent with Armageddon.

14.                       Zephaniah 1:7-8  “Be silent before the Lord God!  For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests…I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire.”  The day of the Lord is a time of sacrificing evildoers.

15.                       Zephaniah 1:14-18  “The great day of the Lord is near…A day of wrath is that day…a day of battle cry against the fortified cities…I will bring distress on mankind…because they have sinned against the Lord…for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”  The day of the Lord includes a battle.

16.                       Zephaniah 3:8  “Therefore wait for me…for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.  For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation…”  the day of the Lord includes a gathering of kingdoms that will experience the wrath of the Lord.

17.                       Zechariah 14:2  “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped .  Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”  The day of the Lord includes a gathering of nations, especially against Jerusalem.

18.                       Revelation 6:12-17  “When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold there was a great earthquake,  and the sun became as black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood…Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich…and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks…calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  The day of the Lord (which this probably depicts) is day when people shrink in terror from the vengeance of God and the Lamb.   


     It must be admitted that NONE of the Scriptures that I have examined perfectly parallel the description of Armageddon that is found in Revelation 19.  Some give indications or refer to certain events that might be understood to refer to Armageddon.  In fact, we could say that ALL of the various descriptions of the Second Coming and of the Day of the Lord are different from one another.  We can attribute this fact to the following:

·       Each of the Scriptures is emphasizing a different aspect of the Second Coming or the Day of the Lord or both. 

·       Some of the Scriptures are using figurative language that refers to events without giving direct and exact descriptions.

·       The two concepts—the Second Coming and the Day of the Lord—include extended timelines and numerous events.

·       In some cases the consequences of components of the Second Coming or Day of the Lord and not the components themselves are in view. 

·       The audience that is intended varies in some of the Scriptures so that what is emphasized varies.  For example, the comfort of the resurrection may be intended for Christians who have lost loved ones.  Enemies of the Lord’s people may be warned of the vengeance of the Lord. 

When one considers that each of the Scriptures that I have considered may have one, two, or more of these aspects, it is not surprising that we cannot find Scriptures that directly confirm Armageddon as a component of the Second Coming.


          These Scriptures include the following:  Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:24-28, Acts 1:11, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:1-11, II Thessalonians 2:1-12, II Thessalonians 1:5-7.  The parallels to Matthew 24:29-31 do not have specifics on any battles that are fought.  The “power and great glory” could indicate such violence, but it could simply refer to Christ’s spectacular appearance.  Acts 1:11 and the passage in I Thessalonians 4 focus on the fact of Christ’s coming and, in I Thessalonians, the accompanying resurrection/rapture.

          I Thessalonians 5:1-11 stresses the “sudden destruction” that will come to those who are not spiritually ready.  Matthew 24:37-44 has the same theme, warning the Second Coming will include a judgment on those who are not trusting in Christ.  Armageddon is certainly compatible with these warnings.  Luke 21:24-28 is an exception to the other parallels to Matthew 24.  In Luke there are descriptions of “distress of nations” and “people fainting for fear.”  These descriptions are consistent with Armageddon.  Also, II Thessalonians 1:5-7 describes the Second Coming as a time of vengeance on unbelievers and repayment of those who have afflicted the righteous.  Armageddon could be a part of that vengeance.

          Perhaps the closest parallel to the description of Armageddon in Revelation 19 is found in II Thessalonians 2:1-12, especially verse 2:8.  In that verse, there is direct confrontation between the returning Christ and the “lawless one,” who is obviously the Beast.  In II Thessalonians the Beast is killed, whereas in Revelation 19 he is thrown alive into the Lake of Fire.  However, the Lake of Fire is designated as the “second death” in Revelation 20:14.  Thus, we could deem the two passages as quite compatible.


          Isaiah 13:4-6 describes a gathering of kingdoms to battle and the Lord’s host opposing them. In Isaiah 24:21-22 it is said the Lord will punish his spiritual enemies as well as kingdoms who oppose him.  Jeremiah 30:7-9 describes the day of the Lord as a time when Israel will be rescued from her enemies.  In Jeremiah 46:10 the day of the Lord is a day of vengeance.  All of these can be considered to point to Armageddon, although other historical applications might also be considered. 

          In numerous Scriptures on the day of the Lord, it is emphasized that the day will have a dark, gloomy, frightening side.  See Joel 2:1-4, 2:10, 2:30-32, and  Amos 5:18-20.  These are compatible with violent Battle of Armageddon.

          Zephanian 3:8 warns of the day when the Lord will bring together kingdoms in order to pour out his “indignation.”  This also is compatible with Armageddon.

          In Revelation 6:12-17, the “great day of their [the Lamb and the One who seated on the throne] wrath” is the occasion for all to hide in terror.  This passage may be interpreted several ways in its context.  However, it could be understood as a proleptic [predictive] picture of Armageddon.


          There are no perfect parallels between descriptions of the Second Coming and Armageddon.  Nevertheless, the evidence is strong that Armageddon is one component of the Second Coming.  The exact time-line of all the events that can be included in the Second Coming is not clear.  However, very likely the resurrection/rapture will take place before Christ actually reaches the earth.  Once he reaches earth, in a short time, Christ and his army arrive at Armageddon and defeat the enemies that are gathered there. 

          This concludes my discussion of chapter 19 of Revelation.  I shall next consider chapter 20, which holds as many—if not more—challenges for interpretation.

          Thank you, all my loyal readers.  I hope you are safe during this pandemic.  I am beginning to feel better as I recover from my own case of COVID-19.  I covet your prayers for myself and my wife as she also deals with illness.  God bless all of you.

Bill Fitzgerrel