Who are the REAL Millennials Pt. 2 / Revelation 20:7-15

Revelation 20:7-15

Revelation series part 35


Last time we noted this chapter divides itself into 3 sections:

1-6 The Millennium

7-10 The Final Vanquishing of Satan

11-15 The Great White Throne Judgment

While today we want to focus on vss. 7-15, we need to remember this is all happening in the context of “The Millennium” and what that means.

The Millennium

The period of time referenced here is called the millennium simply because…

A MILLENNIUM = 1000 years.

And we get that figure from the 6 times it is mentioned in this short passage:

Revelation 20:2 CSB / He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:3 CSB / He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.

Revelation 20:4 CSB / Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:5 CSB / The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.

This is the first resurrection.

Revelation 20:6 CSB / Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:7 CSB / When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison

And there are 4 chief characteristics of this 1000 years worth noting:

  1. Satan bound – so he cannot deceive the nations
  2. The Saints reign with Jesus
  3. The Lost aren’t resurrected until after it is over
  4. At the end, Satan is released for a short time again

It’s also worth noting this millennial concept was not new to Jewish readers.

As you know, there are some Bibles which contain additional books between the Old and New Testaments that we have – called the Apocrypha. In addition to these there are a host of other Jewish writings which are similar – they are referred to as pseudepigrapha.

“Pseudo” because they purport to be written by some OLD Testament saint – but we know historically they were not.

These are Jewish writings from roughly 200 BCE to 100 CE.

They were never considered inspired either by the Jews or by Christians, but John’s Jewish readers would have been familiar with them.

One of those books, the Book of Jubliees – sometimes called the Apocalypse of Moses – was written by a Pharisee around 100-110 BCE. And it also describes this same idea of a future 1000 year reign of the Messiah with Satan bound and a near Heaven on earth.

So this was by no means an entirely new to John or his first readers.

But I want to clear up a few details about this time before we move ahead unpacking the rest of the chapter.

Who are the Millennials?

Last time we asked this question: Who are the REAL millennials; the Biblical millennials? From the text we can see they are comprised of 2 groups:

Those who are Christ’s at His return – living and dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 CSB / We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Or, as our text has it: Revelation 20:4 CSB / Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

So the resurrected saints are clearly the 1st group.

But who might the 2nd group be? Who are those who are reigned over during this time?

After all the previous chapters had described the near, if not total destruction of those who HAD received the mark of the beast. So who might these be who populate this era?

Those who are NOT Christ’s but nevertheless survived the rise of Antichrist and the Tribulation.

While the text does not spell it out we might well surmise they are comprised of those who are not Christ’s at His coming, but who nevertheless, for several possible reasons did not accept the mark of the beast either.

One thinks for instance of those in Islam who would have rejected the 4 key antichrist concepts of personal autonomy, culturally defined morality, security and well-being in materialism and self-styled spirituality. Their beliefs run counter to these even though they do not hold to Biblical truth and the Gospel of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

Orthodox Jews would fall into the same category as would many others who are devout in their religions.

So too would millions in places like sub-Saharan Africa and the expanses of China who would never even be exposed to the antichrist system as we’ve seen it defined in the previous chapters.

Ostensibly, these would enter into this new age whole, and would live under the direct, manifest rule and reign of Jesus and the Saints. A most amazing time for sure.

Now that is only speculation and I would not make a doctrine out of it. But it seems a reasonable possibility to me.

That aside, let’s move on in the text itself to the 2nd section –

7-10 The Final Vanquishing of Satan.

We don’t need to spend a lot of time on this as the salient points are right on the surface. But there are several important things to take note of.

  1. Satan will be released.

Revelation 20:7 CSB / When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison

  1. Satan will go out to deceive once again.

Revelation 20:8 CSB / and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea.

The earth has enjoyed an unprecedented time of prosperity, peace and blessing for this 1000 years, but then Satan is allowed to exert influence and deception once again.

Certainly we ask – WHY? But the text gives us no direct reason.

We’ll discuss some possibilities later, but we do not have a full answer. What we DO have is Scripture simply telling us it will be so.

The reference here to Gog and Magog is a highly debated one.

The terms Gog and Magog come mainly from Ezekiel 38-39. Many think Gog is either an individual leader’s name, or possibly title, and so Magog is the people of Gog.

For the Jews, Gog and Magog took on the same concept as Babylon did – i.e. representative of those who oppose and oppress God’s people. Much like we might see a foul nation rise under bad leadership and say “Oh, that’s another Hitler and 3rd Reich.”

But there are no other historical references to, or evidences of, any such Gog and Magog empire like we do for Babylon or Israel’s other enemies. And attempts to link Gog with being a leader over Russia and its allies – to fit modern prophecy buffs – really doesn’t have much footing. The idea that Russia would still be “Russia” 1000 years after Jesus’ return seems highly speculative and unlikely.

Out of all the explanations I’ve read, the one which makes the most sense is that Gog, comes from  a Sumerian word gug – meaning darkness. In other words, Satan is being identified (as is common) as the Dark Prince or Prince of Darkness, and Magog simply refers those who follow him in this last deceptive attack on God and God’s people. So it is figurative in a way the Jewish readers would have been able to identify with.

Whether that is correct or not, what we DO know is what the text says: Satan deceived nations and gathered a group from the 4 corners of the earth.

  1. To gather them for battle. Rev 20:8

Revelation 20:8 CSB / and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea.

  1. They try to attack the “beloved city”.

Revelation 20:9 CSB / They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

The identification of the “beloved city” has led many to speculate that this is  geographical Jerusalem as we know it today. That Jerusalem will be the place of Jesus’ rule with the saints during the 1000 years. And this keeps many prophecy watchers glued to events transpiring in Israel and Jerusalem today.

While this is possible, it also has some serious problems.

First, it would be quite impossible to house all of the resurrected and translated saints together in such a singular geographical city like Jerusalem today. How many millions are we talking about here? Vast numbers for sure. Far more than is feasible.

Second, the language of “encampment” here is taken directly from the Old Testament arrangement of how the Jews in the wilderness were encamped in formation around the Tabernacle. So it would seem something else is being hinted at.

The most reasonable explanation to me is that this in fact the New Jerusalem which will be presented to us in detail in the next 2 chapters. The 1,400 mile cube which is the Heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews 12:12 and the New Jerusalem of Rev. 3, 20 and 21.

Since the Bible ties the concept of The City together with it also being God’s People this makes sense of 1 Thess 4:16-17

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 CSB / For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

The Greek word here translated “to meet” the Lord in the air is a technical military term.

It is used to describe the people of the city who had been conquered in war. When the conquering King would make his official approach to the city, the people would go out “to meet” and escort him back into the city. It is used in only two other places in the New Testament: Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15. In both cases, people go out to meet someone only to escort them back.

This is the picture of what is commonly called “the rapture”.

If, as Rev. 21:2 notes, the city comes down out of Heaven prepared like a Bride for her husband, and the Bride of Christ is His redeemed – the metaphors all begin to come together quite nicely.

And the idea that the Beloved City being besieged by Satan and his followers is The New Jerusalem changes the picture considerably.

  1. There is no war this time. Rev 20:9

Revelation 20:9 CSB / They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

God’s people aren’t engaged in this conflict at all. The reality that all along, Satan has opposed God comes into full view – and God Himself responds without us.

This my friends is Armageddon. The battle that takes place on the plane of Meggido –
which is what Armageddon means.

Once again, such a vast army as pictured here could not be gathered in the geographical plane of Megiddo. It simply isn’t capacious enough. It is symbolic to the Jewish mind who in their history – saw that locale as a common battle ground for conflicting forces from surrounding nations.

This is not some military war on Middle East soil – but the final destruction of all that opposes God.

  1. The Devil is finally, absolutely vanquished.

Revelation 20:10 CSB / The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

As the anti-christ system and its spokesman the false prophet were dispatched to the lake of fire in Ch. 19, so now too,  Satan himself is consigned there, and as the text says: will be tormented day and night – forever.

Which then brings us to the 3rd section.

11-15 The Great White Throne Judgment

Revelation 20:11 CSB / Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.

Who is the one seated on this throne? Is this the Father or the Son?

In John 5 Jesus said all judgment has been committed to Him. But the majority of the references in the Revelation itself always depict the Father as the one on the throne. Perhaps the answer is both.

The book of Hebrews mentions Jesus sitting down at the right hand of the Father on His throne after His resurrection – 4 times. And Rev. 3:21 says He sits WITH the Father on His throne.

So it is probably best to see it as God judging: Father and Son in unison.

Earth and Heaven fleeing away may make reference to neither angel nor man being able to hide from His judgment. Similar to David’s cry in Psalm 139:7-8

Psalm 139:7–8 CSB / Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

Or, it may have reference to how seeing God in His glory simply makes everything else disappear from view. You cannot look into the sun and see anything else. So here, the brightness of His glory so fills the view that everything else is wholly eclipsed.

However we take it, the spectacle is mind-boggling.

Revelation 20:12 CSB / I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.

“Great and small” – Mounce: “The point is that no one is so important as to be immune from judgment, and no one is so unimportant as to make judgment inappropriate”.

Notice the “books”.

We have the “book of life” mentioned, and then other – “books.”

One gets the immediate idea that there are different judgments for those in different books.

The righteous as we shall see, (those in the book of life) are judged that they may receive their rewards.

Those outside of Christ, all others, are judged that they may receive their just punishments.

On what basis?

Revelation 20:13 CSB / Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works.

Each according to their “works.”

That the sea and death and Hades gave up their dead, is just a way of saying that everyone who has ever lived and already died, will at last stand before God to give an account for their lives. This has been a theme throughout the Scriptures.

But when we say each one will be judged for the works, more is being said than each one is being judged simply solely on the basis of their “actions.”

For one may do what is technically the right thing – but do it for the entirely wrong motives.

Many a person acts honestly not because they want to delight their Savior, but so they won’t get caught, or violate their conscience, or because it makes them feel good, or simply because it is the law.

This is not acceptable before God as the parable of the Prodigal Son clearly shows.

The elder son could honestly say: “I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders.”

And we immediately see that his devotion and service to his father was not out of love.

So we read in Jeremiah 17

Jeremiah 17:10 CSB / I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.

This holds true even for our religious service – Isa 29:13

Isaiah 29:13 CSB / The Lord said: These people approach me with their speeches to honor me with lip-service— yet their hearts are far from me, and human rules direct their worship of me.

Or Ezekiel 33:31 CSB / So my people come to you in crowds, sit in front of you, and hear your words, but they don’t obey them. Their mouths go on passionately, but their hearts pursue dishonest profit.

No one will be able to plead on that day – “But I did all the right stuff!”

God’s question will be, “where was your heart in relation to me in all of your purported obedience?”

If genuine love for Christ and His glory does not inform us in our walk, our works are all entirely dead and unacceptable no matter how good, noble, beneficial or devout they seem outwardly.

And then the text ramps things up yet more.

For not only will all mankind be judged, there will be a completely new order established: Life without any reference to sin and death and all that comes of sin.

Revelation 20:14 CSB / Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

In other words, death and the grave both cease to be factors any more.  1 Cor 15:20-28

1 Corinthians 15:20–28 CSB / But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he abolishes all rule and all authority and power.

For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet.

The last enemy to be abolished is death.

For God has put everything under his feet. Now when it says “everything” is put under him, it is obvious that he who puts everything under him is the exception.

When everything is subject to Christ, then the Son himself will also be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

Can we even begin to grasp the wonder of an existence where death isn’t even a remote part of the landscape? Where it will never again even come into mind?

Oh what a great salvation Christ has prepared for us!

And then we get this final clarifying statement to put it all together: Rev 20:15

Revelation 20:15 CSB / And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Here is the great dividing line in all of humanity.

And here is a most powerful reminder of the Gospel and all it imports.

At the end of all things – what matters is whether or not one stands before God, having had Jesus take all the just due for their sins on the cross at Calvary – being listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life – or standing before God and having to give an account for every act, the motive behind every act, every wayward, evil or contrary thought, and their unrepentant state in refusing Christ as their sin-bearer and Lord.

It is why we plead with all people everywhere to come to Christ!

We are all on our way to the judgment seat of the final day. And now is the day of grace. Now is the time to be reconciled to the Father through faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Son on the cross.

Now is the time to end your rebellion against His right of ownership and Lordship over your life, and come to Him seeking mercy for having denied Him His rights, in favor of your own lordship over yourself.

Now is the time to acknowledge your sin, to confess you are guilty and deserving of eternal punishment, and asking to be forgiven on the basis of Jesus’ substitutionary death.

For there is no 3rd option. You either stand in Him, or in fallen Adam.

So where are you today? That is THE question!

This verse could not be more succinct or clear: Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life, was thrown into the lake of fire.

Now it is commonly asked: It this literal? I think C.H. Spurgeon’s comment on this is the perfect consideration: “Oh, that lake! Have you ever read the words, “Shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death”? The lake of fire! and souls cast into it! The imagery is dreadful. “Ah,” says one, “that is a metaphor.” Yes, I know it is, and a metaphor is but a shadow of the reality. Then, if the shadow be a lake of fire, what must the reality be? If we can hardly bear to think of a “worm that never dieth,” and a “fire that never shall be quenched,” and of a lake whose seething waves of fire that dash o’er undying and hopeless souls, what must hell be in very deed?”

Well now, what else is important to take away from all of these things before we end?

1. Why the millennium?

What is the point of this 1000 year interregnum and a last loosing of Satan before the New Heavens and New Earth?

This is a reasonable question, but one the Scripture does not answer directly. However, there are some reasonable things to consider when we think about it.

It will prove environment it not the answer to sin. Even if we should have 1000 years without Satan’s temptations, at the drop of a hat, we will turn – if not for the grace of God.

It will prove that Satan is not ultimately to blame for all that has gone wrong – human sinfulness is.

It proves man’s problem is himself, not Satan. No matter how long man may be without the influence of the Devil, and no matter how superlative things may be environmentally, man is still man, and apart from total re-creation, mere renovation no matter how extensive, will not do.

It will give time to vastly increase the number of the redeemed.

There will be vast numbers redeemed during this time – more than those lost previously.

Possibly the fulfillment of uniquely Jewish promises.

To demonstrate the salvation in Christ is not plan B.

The Garden was never the end game – from the beginning, something more was intended.

2. There WILL be ultimate justice

As we saw in the text, both great and small will stand before the throne.

No sin will be so great as to eclipse all others.

No sin is so small as to escape just punishment.

Make no mistake, judgment on that day will not be on a sliding scale. Each individual will be accountable for their own sins, irrespective of their environments.

Yes, others may have impacted the particular sins you’ve been involved in, or perhaps influenced the way those sins were acted out – but each one will stand on their own. There will be no finger pointing. There will be no excuses. No scapegoating. There will only be personal responsibility.

And as God is ontologically incapable of over-punishing sin, so He is ontologically incapable of under-punishing or ignoring sin.

In His holiness and His justness, all must be made right.

3. Satan, death and sin will be eradicated forever

The finality of all this is meant to bring the highest comfort to Believers. Never again will there be any sin, any opposition to God, any war, sickness, pain, sorrow, grief, worry, doubt, fear, or deception – ever again!

Christ will rule and reign in all of His magnificent glory and only what is in perfect harmony with His nature and perfections will be allowed.

Never again will any Believer be tempted to sin.

Never again will we have any interruption in our enjoyment of, and intimacy with, Christ.

Never again will we lose a loved one, fail to live in perfect holiness or live in the sorrow of regret or fear the future.

4. All will be summed up in Christ.

As Jonathan Edwards wrote: “Love desires the love of the beloved. So the saints in glory shall see God’s transcendent love to them; God will make ineffable manifestations of his love to them. They shall see as much love in God towards them as they desire; they neither will nor can crave any more.”

“Herein they shall enjoy God in a more exalted and excellent manner than man would have done if he had never fallen; for doubtless that happiness, that Christ himself partakes of in his Father’s bosom, is transcendently sweet and excellent; and how happy therefore are they who are admitted to partake of that portion of delight with him!”

Believer – Begin to pray for the soon return of Jesus, and live in preparation for it.

Unbeliever – Come to Christ today.

Find the forgiveness for all your sins that He has prepared for in His substitutionary death on Calvary.

Be reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son.

Trust Him today, and be born again.

Let me close with one more quote from Edwards, from the conclusion of one of his own sermons. He preached, and I preach to you now with him: “come to Christ, and accept of salvation in this way.

You are invited to come to Christ, heartily to close with him, and trust in him for salvation: and if you do so, you shall have the benefit of this glorious contrivance.

You shall have the benefit of all; as much as if the whole had been contrived for you alone. God has already contrived every thing that is needful for your salvation; and there is nothing wanting but your consent.

Since God has taken this matter of the redemption of sinners into his own hand, he has made thorough work of it; he has not left it for you to finish. Satisfaction is already made, righteousness is already wrought out: death and hell are already conquered. The Redeemer has already taken possession of glory, and keeps it in his hands to bestow on them who come to him. There were many difficulties in the way, but they are all removed. The Saviour has already triumphed over all, and is at the right hand of God, to give eternal life to his people.

Salvation is already brought to your door; and the Saviour stands, knocks, and calls that you would open to him, that he might bring it in to you. There remains nothing but your consent. All the difficulty now remaining is with your own heart. If you perish now, it must be wholly at your door. It must be because you would not come to Christ that you might have life; and because you virtually choose death rather than life, Prov. 8:36. “He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”—All that is now required of you, is, that your heart should close with Christ as a Saviour.”

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