(Rev 20:5 ESV) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
This is a highly controverted passage. The text implies that the faithful were resurrected early, perhaps at the beginning of the Millennium, whereas “the rest of the dead,” surely meaning the damned, aren’t resurrected until the end of the Millennium. But it’s really hard to fit a resurrection of the saved 1,000 years before the resurrection of the damned into the rest of the Bible, which plainly teaches to the contrary.
The solution is found in thinking less literally, but not all that much less literally. Continue reading
We continue going verse by verse —
(Rev 20:4 ESV) 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 those 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.
Who reigns with Christ — and when? Well, sometimes the scriptures speak of Christians ruling at the end of time, but sometimes the idea is that Christians rule right now. Continue reading
Let’s now consider chapter 20 one verse at a time.
(Rev 20:1-3 ESV) Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and 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.
How long is 1,000 years? Well, most time indicators in the Revelation are symbolic, and we can’t just assume that 1,000 years is literal, when so many other numbers are not. And the rest of the scriptures make no mention of a 1,000-year reign. Rather, we find the 1,000-year reign in Jewish and Zoroastrian speculations. Continue reading
The 1,000-year reign can’t refer to an earthly kingdom
(John 18:36 ESV) 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(Dan 2:44 ESV) And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
Jesus declares plainly that the kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. And Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdom is clear that the kingdom to be established at the time of the Romans will last forever. There won’t be a second earthly kingdom that replaces the original spiritual kingdom. Nor do any of the numerous Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom speak of a transition from a spiritual kingdom to an earthly kingdom. Continue reading
In the comments, Chris asked me to explain how someone can die today and pass directly to Judgment Day. I offered a shorter version of this explanation:
1. Think of time as a dimension. An arrow drawn on a piece of paper.
2. God is not on the arrow but all around and outside and inside. Continue reading
A little Southern blues to put you in the mood for the Apocalypse —
I’ve mentioned earlier that I managed to grow up in church and attend Lipscomb University and not know what the “Rapture” is. Such was the authority of Foy Wallace in Tennessee and north Alabama in those days. We were so against the Rapture that we didn’t even bother to study why it was wrong.
But a large portion of the Protestant world believes in Rapture theology. Even many in the Churches of Christ believe in the Rapture; we just don’t call it that. Indeed, our hymn books often speak of meeting Jesus in the sky. Continue reading
I’ve posted a series of three brief articles on the unity of the Spirit over at Wineskins:
Unity of Blood
Unity of Fire
Unity of Spirit
Among the many visions that have captured the church’s imagination is the figure 144,000 found in —
(Rev. 7:2-10 ESV) 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Continue reading
The Revelation has 22 chapters, and each verse is packed with allusions not only to the OT but also the apocryphal literature and perhaps even Greek materials. And there are plenty of excellent commentaries that cover this ground.
Therefore, to avoid over-taxing the patience of the readers, I’m going to hit the high points of the remaining chapters, until we get to the very end of it all. We’ll linger a bit over the last two chapters.
But I figure there are a number of particular images that merit pondering in greater depth. There are certain passages, such as the Thousand-Year Reign, that have captured the church’s imagination over the years.
I don’t claim any special insight, but hopefully, like you, I’m curious. What do these things mean? Continue reading