Revealing Revelation – The Millennial Musings

08Jan11

Now that the binding of Satan is behind us we will now turn our attention to the events that take place during this Millennium. As we discovered in our previous discussion, Satan was bound at Christs’ first advent and his binding was limited to his ability to utterly deceive nations. This allows for the triumph of the Gospel in time and actuality.

The focus now, though, shifts from the binding of Satan back to the situation faced by the persecuted masses. It is at this point that we must not forget that one of the primary purposes of John’s writing to “reveal” Christ is that His revelation was to bring assurance and comfort to those who were, like John, presently facing horrific persecution and tribulation at the hands of the Jews and roman government.

It is back to those first century martyrs and victims of persecution that the focus returns. But it is also quite probable that the truths reflected in the discussion of those first century saints has direct impact on the Church throughout history.

Rev. 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

There have been several possible interpretations of this passge through history and all appear plausible and can find justification within the text itself.

The first view, what I will label the Augustinian View, is that this passage represents the spiritual reigning of all of those that comprise the true Church throughout the ages. This pictures both the living and deceased members of the Church that from salvation forward are seated in the heavenlies with the Sion and rule and reign with Him throughout eternity.

The second view, with I will refer to as the Reformed View, states that this is a picture of the “spiritually resurrected” saints. By this it is meant that this pictures the rule and reign of the saints in Heaven throughout history from the point of their death forward. This would take place during the time between their death and the one, general, bodily resurrection at the end of time. This coincides with Paul’s statement that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

The third view is what has been brought to me attention by Dr. Kenneth Gentry. He has recently embraced this view and, as a result, will cause him to make some adjustments to his previous writings and his present work, which is a commentary on the book of Revelation. Though it is not original to him (others have promoted this view including famed theologian Vern Porthress), I will label this the Gentry View for easier reference.

The Gentry View, which I will not be able to do justice to in this short amount of time, is that this is a special resurrection especially for those of the first century martyrs. These are same ones who were previously seen under the altar begging for their revenge against their persecutors. The context regarding those involved is those that were beheaded and did not worship the Beast. This context limits the discussion of Revelation 20 to those first century believers only and should be seen as representing any group outside of the originally intended audience. The resurrection in question then, is simply a special resurrection of the first century for those particular persons.

I am not in the position to take a stand on any of the three though I have, over time, embraced a combination of the first two. I have only recently been made aware of the third view and cannot do it justice to critique or embrace it at this time.

The first two, though, do have a common thread that ties them together and that is found in the following two verses.

Rev. 20:5-6 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! 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.

If the G entry View is correct and the first resurrection is an exclusive promise to the first century martyrs that the “rest” in verse 5 would include the rest of humanity, saved and unsaved alike. If incorrect then the first two views would argue that this first resurrection should be seen as a “spiritual” resurrection that takes place at the moment of salvation.

This would appear to align itself well with the other writings of John, especially what is found in His Gospel. Consider the similarity of ideas of different kinds of “resurrections” and who partakes in them from the Gospel of John.

John 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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

What from the outset appears to be a passage about a “resurrection” is quickly shown to be a spiritual and not a physical resurrection. Note how Jesus declares that this “coming to life” of those who hear His voice is taking place at a time that was “now here.” He is not referring to a future event some several millennia away, but rather a present and continuing event.

Note also that it is those who “hear” His voice that come to life. These are the spiritually dead who hear His voice, not the physically dead in the tombs (as we shall see). He also even further explains what kind of resurrection is in question when He states that this “now” event is a life giving event in which He gives “life” to the spiritually dead. This is best seen simply as salvation. Those who hear His voice and come to life (resurrected) receive this life from the Son.

To make it even more obvious that this first resurrection is spiritual he immediately contrasts this “now here” timing resurrection with a physical one that takes place later, at time He would later refer to as the “Last Day.” (John 6)

John 5:28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

So, this resurrection occurs on the last day and involves those who are “in the tombs.” These dead are the physical dead and are contrasted with the previously discussed spiritually dead. Also note that the previous spiritual resurrection was only for those that hear His voice (spiritually), but this resurrection is for “ALL” that are in the tombs. This resurrection will include everyone as everyone will hear His voice on the Last Day.

Also note that this resurrection is a single event for both the saved and the damned. they are not separated by a millennia. Jesus clearly here pictures a single resurrection of all of the dead, both those who will receive eternal life and those who will receive eternal damnation.

This is also amplified in Matthew 25 where we learn of one general judgment that takes place at His coming.

Matt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

This one, general judgment of both the sheep and the goats coincides with this one, general resurrection. So, there is no room to insert a millennia into the above verse just as there is no room to insert one in the John passage dealing with the resurrection of the elect and damned. It is one single event and is contrasted to the spiritual resurrection of salvation that is found earlier in John 5.

This then is quite probably what John is describing in the Revelation passage as well.Those who take part in the first resurrection (salvation) are those that the second death (eternal) has no power over and those who are proclaimed as priests of God. this language is vital in that it is quite a common theme in the New Testament that those who are His through faith are made priests of God, especially here in Revelation

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light

Revelation 1:6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This truth takes place in the present and extends throughout history while the second and physical resurrection in simply a single event that ends history. Also it should be noted that this all began with the first coming of Christ, and as Matthew 25 points out, it will be consummated and completed at His second coming. That is the Millennium!

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