SBC Banner


Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

December 3, 2014

Revelations 20:1-6

  1. Recap. Revelation 19 concluded with the judgment of the Roman Empire also referred to as the great prostitute (19:2), the beast (19:20), and the false prophet (19:20). Rome and her empire, along with all the rulers and provinces associated with the Empire, have been brought under judgment. Revelation 20 reveals what happens next.

    1. Verses 1-3. John sees an angel coming down from heaven. In his hand is the key to the Abyss (bottomless pit) and a great chain. We read about the Abyss in Revelation 9:1 where we saw Abaddon/Apollyon (Satan) open the abyss and release locusts. Those locusts represented Satan unleashing the Roman Empire as the destroyer of the Jewish nation. The angel seizes the dragon and binds him for 1000 years (symbolic time frame). Revelation 1:1,2 showed us that the book shows that the message would be conveyed in symbols or "signs." The visions John saw were "signified" to him. "Signify” means "to give a sign, to signify, indicate." By definition a sign or symbol is something that refers to something else, but not literally to itself. (Examples illustrating this use of "signify" are John 12:32,33; 21:18,19; Acts 11:28.) Note some examples of symbols in Rev. 20: chain (v1), dragon (v2), beheaded souls (v4), beast (v4). Are these all literal? Note some symbols in the context of Rev. 20: great harlot (19:2), the Lamb (19:9), marriage of the Lamb (19:9), rides a white horse (19:11), eyes like a flame of fire (19:12), sword out of his mouth (19:15,21), treads the winepress of God's wrath (19:15). If these are not literal but symbolic, then why take the 1000 years, the first resurrection, or the reign to be literal, earthly, or physical? Should one passage in a symbolic context be used to reach conclusions completely contrary to clear truths taught elsewhere in doctrinal contexts? Other obviously symbolic uses of the number 1000 in poetic or prophetic contexts. The idea is a large and complete number: the whole or completeness of some large quantity. Psalms 50:10 - The cattle on a thousand hills belong to God. Psalms 105:8 - God's word is remembered to a thousand generations. Psalms 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8 - 1000 years is as a day and a day as 1000 years. Remember that we shared that 1000 was used to describe a complete or full number of something.

    2. Satan is thrown into the Abyss, shut it, and sealed it for the “1000” years. It is important to read the meaning of this binding. The binding means that Satan “might not deceive the nations any longer.” It is important to consider that the angel does not say that Satan is no longer deceiving people. Satan is the great deceiver and will continue to tempt people to sin until Christ returns (1 Peter 5:8). The angel is pointing to something different when we are told that Satan can no longer deceive the nations. What has Satan been doing in the book of Revelation that he will no longer be able to do for the “1000” years? It seems evident from our study that the dragon has lifted up a world power to make war on those who follow Jesus (Rev. 12:17) and deceive the world to worship it rather than God (Rev. 13:13-15). This is what the dragon has been causing in the second half of the book of Revelation. As Daniel prophesied in Daniel 2:44 the kingdoms of the earth have been brought to an end by the kingdom of God that shall never be destroyed.

    3. We also need to examine the 1000 year period. The 1000 years seems to be in contrast to what will happen after the 1000 years. Satan will be released “for a little while.” Satan is going to be sealed in the Abyss for a significant duration of time while his release will be for a very short amount of time. We will be given more details about the 1000 years in the next few verses.

    4. Verses 4-6. John sees thrones and those seated on the thrones who were given authority to judge. The saints were previously seen as under the altar. They are killed for the cause of Christ either by their testimony of Jesus or for not worshiping the beast. They are now pictured as seated on thrones and reigning with Christ. Even Paul stated that the saints now reign with Christ. Ephesians 1:17-23, and 2:6-7 “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” John also sees the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God. These are the ones who had not received the mark of the beast and did not worship the image of the beast. These are also the souls that we saw under the altar in Revelation 6:9. Remember that the souls under the altar were told that more servants of God would be killed before their blood was avenged (6:11). We have seen that truth occur as those who did not worship the beast are also killed. Their victory is again depicted as “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” John sees the saints not slain and defeated but reigning in Christ. Because Christ reigns we reign because we are in him. The dead and the alive in Christ are reigning in him now as he reigns. Because we are included in him we reign in him. (Eph1:13) The thousand years are the time of the reign of Christ (20:4,6). The scriptures teach that the reign of Christ began when he rose from the dead(Ephesians 1:19–23 ) Paul taught the same point in 1 Corinthians 15:25 (read) concerning Christ reigning after his resurrection. The 1000 year reign of Christ began when he rose from the dead. He must continue to reign until all the enemies are put under his feet and death is the last enemy. Therefore, the 1000 year period is not 1000 earthly years, but a symbol for the complete time of Christ’s rule. Another way to describe the 1000 year period is the church age.

    5. The same beheaded, martyred souls here reign victoriously. Physical resurrection is victory over death. So "resurrection" serves as a symbol of victory - in this case victory over the oppressors who cause suffering and persecution (see Isaiah 26:13-19; Hosea 13:14; Ezekiel 37:1-14). Note especially the Ezekiel passage, where people were suffering and thought they had no hope. But God offers them hope, symbolized by a resurrection or return to life. If that is the meaning here, then the first-century Christians were suffering, persecuted, and needed hope. Had their hope died? No, the assurance here is that they will be victorious! They will live again - i.e., they will be victorious, and this assurance of victory gives hope. This is the "first resurrection" - a resurrection of hope and victory despite persecution and suffering.

    6. Notice that this is the fulfillment of what Jesus promised to the seven churches of Asia. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:10-11). The faithful will not be hurt by the second death. Verse 6 makes that very point. These faithful martyrs are sharing in the victory of life and reigning with Christ for 1000 years. This is a simple image of triumph for the people who have gone through this ordeal. Those who have died for the cause of Christ are not left out or left behind, but are reigning with Christ. The first resurrection refers to those killed for Christ being given victorious life in Christ, reigning with him. The first resurrection is for those who die in Christ. They will be resurrected to new life and not face death anymore.

    7. John refers to a second death that will be discussed later called the lake of fire (vs. 14). This second death is a judgment for those outside of Christ.

    8. Instead of having to deal with a second death (judgment) the believers will be priest of God and reign. In Rev. 2:26, 27 Jesus had promised that those who overcome will rule the nations with a rod of iron even as he had received authority from His Father. In Rev. 3:21 He makes a similar promise to the Laodicea church that they will sit with Him on His throne, as He sat with His Father on His throne after He overcame.

    9. But how does Jesus rule? He rules now as King of His spiritual Kingdom the church. See John 18:36; Psalms 110:5, 6 (cf. vv 1-4); Rev. 12:5; Acts 2:29-36; 13: 33; Eph. 1:20-23 (see our studies about the spiritual reign of Christ in His church). And His faithful rule with Him: Rev. 1:5,6; 3:21; 5:9,10; 20:4,6; 22:5; Rom. 5:17; cf. Luke 19:11-19; Matt. 25:21,23; 19:28; 2 Tim. 2:12; Dan. 7:9,22; 1 Cor. 6:2.

    10. It follows that the reference to Christians sitting in Christ's throne is spiritual, not physical, even as Jesus' rule is spiritual not physical. The passage symbolically describes the victory of persecuted saints over their enemies. The saints have been slain (death/defeat) but are raised to rule by achieving victory over their enemies. The 1000 years does not refer to a specific length of time but represents the completeness of the victory (1000 represents completeness). The application to us is that, just as these people suffered for the Lord, so will we at times. But just as they were ultimately victorious to reign over their enemies so will we.

click here to select another lesson