Characters and Themes – Millennial Musings and the Resurrection

13Apr11

This second discussion will conclude our look at the Millennium as found in the book of Revelation, Chapter 20.

Rev 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4Then 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. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed 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.

This time we will look at the second paragraph (vv. 4-6) and tackle the third and fourth question raised in the previous post.

1. Who is this angel that binds Satan and when does this take place?

2. How is Satan bound and for what purpose?

3. What is the first resurrection?

4. How long is the Millennium?

What are we to do with the apparent different resurrections listed in Revelation 20. It should first be noted here that the rest of Scripture never mentions two different physical resurrection. In fact as was discussed previously in the “Wanna Sound Smart” post we discovered that there is no time intervals between any of the major eschatological events and that they are, in fact, simultaneous.

But then how do we handle the apparent two different resurrections listed above. Are there any Scriptures that will help shed light on this passage. Of course there are. But first we must be reminded that this is the only place that two different resurrection are truly listed, so we must examine this passage in light of the rest of Scripture that appears to promote just one , general resurrection.

First let us consider the Premillennial expectation. The Premillenialist teaches that these are two separate resurrections of the same “type” in that they are physical and precede judgment. In the Premillenial design there are two different resurrections; one for the elect and one for the damned as well as two judgments accordingly.

The difficulty here is what to do with those born and “saved” during the Millennial reign of Christ? When are they resurrected? Are they part of third of second resurrection? Is there a third of sorts with another judgment of the elect not mentioned? This confusion leads to many hypothesis that are simply inadequate and end up being arguments from silence and pure conjecture.

The Premillennialist also has the resurrected, glorified, perfected saints living on earth during the Millennium without much of an explanation as to how that all works in terms of inter-mingling with the un-resurrected saints and pagans. Then there’s the second resurrection which is followed by the White Throne Judgment starting at Revelation 20:11. But this appears to conflict with Matthew 25 in which both the sheep and the goats are present at the same judgment…

Confused yet?

This is when attendees begin to mention that they just cannot connect all the dots! They are not alone.

So what do we do with the differing Resurrections. Let’s first consider that the author of Revelation is the Apostle John and one his primary themes, especially in his Gospel, is the resurrection of life. This mystical transference from death to life runs throughout his Gospel. John continually pronounces that salvation is a resurrection of sorts in which the dead man comes to life in Christ. This is juxtaposed against the physical resurrection which appears on the the “last day.”

In fact, one short passage in John’s Gospel makes this argument quite clearly. How this passage ties into this passage in Revelation is quite profound and in one passage alone we discover both types of resurrections listed.

SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION

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. 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. 26For 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.

This is quite clearly a spiritual resurrection. The “dead” hear the voice of the Savior and pass from death to life. they are spiritually resurrected. The “dead” come to “life.” This would be those who take place in the first resurrection.

PHYSICAL RESURRECTION

Jesus, though, wants to make clear that this first resurrection is not to be considered a physical resurrection by contrasting the first with this second resurrection in the exact same context. In fact, it is the exact next verse!

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

Jesus stresses the point by starting with the phrase, “Do not marvel at this.” In other words, He is stating that anyone can claim that someone moves from spiritual death to spiritual life, but now he is making the claim that a similar resurrection takes place physically!

Note here Jesus refers to ALL who are in tombs. He is no longer discussing those who are spiritually dead hearing His voice and coming to life spiritually, He is now discussing a physical resurrection regarding those in TOMBS. Note how they are both resurrected at the same time and receive their judgment at the same time, just like the judgment found in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20!

Jesus then later states in the same context (John 6) that this second resurrection or “raising up” will be on the “last day!” This last day resurrection will tie in nicely to how Scripture (Rev 20 especially) pictures the return of Christ and how it immediately precedes judgment. But more on that later. But for now we understand that the first resurrection is spiritual and EVERYONE who takes part in this resurrection is immediately “raised up” to reign with Christ. This raising up is NOT a future event, but, as Paul declares, it is a present reality!

Ephesians 2: 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Notice of Paul continues this theme? Some is spiritually dead, is made alive in Christ and is seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Compare this to the passage in revelation 20 noting that John’s initial audience is being persecuted and executed and so the context reflects such. The important thing top note is that spiritual resurrection places one with Christ, seated next to Him as Paul declares!

…They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed 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.

Also note that those who take part in the first resurrection will be called “priests.”

1 Peter 2:5 to be a holy priesthood

1 Peter 2:9 a royal priesthood, a holy nation

Revelation 1:6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father

This popular expression is given to His elect at their presence in the Kingdom not in some future setting. So, this first resurrection is Spiritual and all who take part are priest, reign with Christ from that moment and are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. They are also the ones in which the second death will have no power.

Finally we come to the length of the Millennium. Many outside the Postmillennial/Amillennial camp will argue that the time between the first and second advents has more than doubled the 1,000 years the Millennium is supposed to last. So, we must answer this charge with Scripture that points to how 1,000 is used in the Bible as an expression of an unknown and large number.

First it is important to note that this passage in Revelation 20 is quite figurative to begin with. Their is a dragon, a bottomless pit, an unnamed angel and Satan all represented. As we saw previously the chaining and binding has a specific purpose and was figurative of that purpose, so the passage itself is loaded with figurative imagery.

Also, as we have seen previously and will note below, Christ is ALREADY reigning! There is no need for some future event in which Christ will begin to reign and neither is or reigning with Him delayed!

1 Cor 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Eph 1:20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Matt 26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. 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.”

Hebrews 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

Col 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Col 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

But what of the term 1,000? Why should this be considered figurative?

  • God owns the cattle on a thousand hills?Really…only 1,000? Do I get the cattle on hills 1,001 through 1,003?
  • God blesses to a thousand generations? Only 1,000 generations? Wow, it would be sad to be in generation 1,001!
  • God keeps a steadfast love for thousands? Really? Only thousands? Bummer!
  • A day in God’s court is ONLY better than a thousand elsewhere? Does that mean once you het day 1,001 you’re bettor off somewhere else?
  • Does a thousand years really feel like yesterday? How many thousands of days does it take to feel like a week?
  • Is a day really like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day?

You getting the point yet?

These questions all show where Scripture uses the term 1,000 to represent an unknown or very large number. This may have to do with the fact that no moan lived to be 1,000 years old. The oldest, Methuselah, lived to be 969 years old. It was an unobtainable number. It was also the most common highest number used by the Israelites, or as multiples of 1,000. But note in the above examples how 1,000 is used figuratively. No other number receives such treatment in the Scriptures.

And more importantly, why would we, considering the totality of Scripture, “limit” the reign of Christ to simply 1,000 years. The rest of Scripture tell us His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; one in which we see no end.

Isa 9:7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,


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