Rev. 20:4-6 "Reigning With Christ"
The three views on the millennium are really not that difficult to grasp.
Millennium is referring to the 1,000 years being referenced in Revelation 20.
The prefix before the term “millennium” refers to the view one believes Scripture is teaching in relation to the kingdom and the time of Christ return.
Pre- meaning Jesus returns before the 1,000 years to literally set up His physical kingdom on earth for a 1,000 years.
Post- meaning Jesus returns after the 1,000 years. And the 1,000 years is ushered in by the Church.
A-meaning that the 1,000 years is the symbolic representation of the spiritual reign of Christ. There is no literal and physical reign of Christ on the earth for a 1,000 years.
The hard part is trying to piece the sequence of events together in light of the whole of Scripture. Revelation is full of Spiritual allegory and it is hard to understand on its own.
Therefore we must know what the Bible teaches from other passages in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament in order to inform our understanding of Revelation. And this certainly applies to Revelation 20 when it comes to the millennium and the events surrounding it.
Our text this morning specifically deals with the events of the two resurrections and how they reveal spiritual truths that inform our understanding of the Kingdom.
First, we see there is a contrast being made in verses 4-5:
I. The Contrast (4-5).
I. The Contrast (4-5).
Notice that John sees judges seated on thrones and the souls of martyrs reigning with Christ.
We are not told where those thrones are. I believe they are in heaven where Christ is seated and ruling at the Father’s right hand.
Those on the thrones are the ones who have been given authority to judge. Many theologians believe that this is a reference to exalted believers who are seated with Christ in heaven because of Ephesians chapters 1-2.
Those who had been martyred are seen in connection to them and they reign with Christ for a thousand years. This is the same period that Satan is bound as we saw in verses 1-3.
These Martyrs suffered at the hands of anti-christ and did not take the mark of the beast on their hands or foreheads.
This mark is something that is implemented under the ant-christ's rule that controls peoples ability to buy and sell. It appears to be some type of identification with the world system that is hostile to Christ.
Revelation 13:11-18 and Revelation 14:9-12 lays this out in more detail but identification with the world system at the expense of Christ is what is being described. And those who do it and take the mark will go to their destruction.
But then John contrast the souls he sees with the rest of the dead who don’t come to life until the 1,000 years have ended.
This I believe is a reference to the day of Christ return. Remember there is tribulation going on on the earth. Matthew 24 told us that tribulation began in connection to 70 AD at the destruction of the temple.
And tribulation will intensify on the earth into great tribulation and Christ will return and send out His angels to gather His elect with a loud trumpet call.
This is the final trumpet and the dead in Christ shall be raised at the sound of the trumpet (Remember what we saw in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4).
So if we have first, a spiritual resurrection and then second a physical resurrection then the physical resurrection takes place at the end of the thousand years symbolic spiritual reign of Christ in heaven and at the end of tribulation on earth.
Both the just and the unjust are raised as our Lord told us in John 5:28-29-- 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
So both the just and the unjust are raised in the second resurrection. But the first resurrection is really where the blessing originates. Look back at your text to verse 6:
II. The Blessing (6).
II. The Blessing (6).
So it seams that more than just martyrs have had the opportunity to be raised in the first resurrection. Revelation 20 is specifically addressing the martyrs but the spiritual resurrection includes others as well. It is syn-ominous with regeneration in John 5:24:
John 5:24-- 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.
The Apostle Paul seams to understand our place in Christ has not only made the dead come to life but we are also seated with Him in the heavenlies as he says in Ephesians 2:4-7:
Ephesians 2:4-7--4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 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, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For those 7 Churches of Asia minor that Revelation was written to, they would have been living under the shadow of the threat of persecution in the first century. And we know that in the centuries following it would have been even more intense.
It would have been a great encouragement for martyrs and their families that they were reigning with Christ.
Christian historians reason that this idea of reigning with Christ was a key belief that made so many of the martyrs face death for the cause of Christ with joy in their hearts.
Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna was martyred Feb 23 in 155 AD at 86 years old. He was one of the last living links to the Apostles as he was a disciple of the Apostle John.
What we know of Polycarp is from a letter written by an eyewitness of the account of his arrest and martyrdom. He wanted the authorities that came to arrest him fed and he prayed while they ate for 2 hours.
One of the men in the party said, “Why did we go to so much trouble to capture a man like this?”
I pick up when Polycarp is before the Proconsul:
“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.”
“86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
“I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.”
“Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.”
“If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.”
“You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
Christian that Polycarp was a dangerous man. The Empire of Roman society believed him to be a very dangerous man.
He was a threat to their way of life and there were many others that died in that time period because they would not deny Christ. They were dangerous people.
Christian I hope when the time comes that in the moment of testing that we are just as dangerous as they were.
You can tell by what Polycarp says that he has a profound sense of the reality of resurrection into eternity and the hope of righteousness and the certainty of the eternal punishment of the wicked.
Kingdom certainty in light of the absolute hope of the resurrection through faith in Jesus Christ should always be the mindset of the Christian believer.
I think Polycarp knew that Christianity was far more than just a tradition or going through a set of rituals but it was a life lived with a focus on gospel truth in light of eternity by grace through faith alone in Christ.
It is not a life that is primarily consumed with this material world.
The Resurrection of the dead and the reality of eternity really serves to put this life in perspective.
Christian the first resurrection has set you in the place of blessing and holiness before God. Grace abounds and it has set you apart, clothing you in the very righteousness of God in Christ.
The second death is being thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14) and it has no power over you because of God working the first resurrection, by making you alive with Christ even when you were dead in your sins. He has seated you in the heavenlies with Christ.
The spiritual reality of this only the half has been told. Eternity will bear it out for us and we will not be disappointed.
That which has been told calls us to confess our sins in full and certain dependence on His grace and faithfulness. We know He forgives us and cast our sin away.
Unbeliever without Christ you have a rendezvous with the second death. You need a saviour. Believe the gospel.