« Prev Revelation 20:4 Next »

REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 20 - Verse 4

Verse 4. And I saw thronesyronouv. See Re 1:4; 3:21; 4:3-4.

John here simply says, that he saw in vision thrones, with persons sitting on them, but without intimating who they were that sat on them. It is not the throne of God that is now revealed, for the word is in the plural number, though the writer does not hint how many thrones there were. It is intimated, however, that these thrones were placed with some reference to pronouncing a judgment, or determining the destiny of some portion of mankind, for it is immediately added, "and judgment was given unto them." There is considerable resemblance, in many respects, between this and the statement in Daniel, (Da 7:9) "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit;" or, as it should be rendered, "I beheld"—that is, I continued to look—"until the thrones were placed or set," to wit, for the purposes of judgment. See Barnes on "Da 7:9"

So John here sees, as the termination of human affairs approaches, thrones placed with reference to a determination of the destiny of some portion of the race, as if they were now to have a trial, and to receive a sentence of acquittal or condemnation. The persons on whom this judgment is to pass are specified, in the course of the verse, as those who were "beheaded for the witness of Jesus, who had the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast," etc. The time when this was to occur manifestly was at the beginning of the thousand years.

And they sat upon them. Who sat on them is not mentioned. The natural construction is, that judges sat on them, or that persons sat on them to whom judgment was entrusted. The language is such as would be used on the supposition either that he had mentioned the subject before, so that he would be readily understood, or that, from some other cause, it was so well understood that there was no necessity for mentioning who they were. John seems to have assumed that it would be understood who were meant. And yet to us it is not entirely clear; for John has not before this given us any such intimation that we can determine with certainty what is intended. The probable construction is, that those are referred to to whom it appropriately belonged to occupy such seats of judgment, and who they are is to be determined from other parts of the Scriptures. In Mt 19:28, the Saviour says to his apostles, "When the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." In 1 Co 6:2, Paul asks the question, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" The meaning as thus explained is, that Christians will, in some way, be employed in judging the world; that is, that they will be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and be elevated to a station of honour, as if they were associated with the Son of God in the judgment. Something of that kind is, doubtless, referred to here; and John probably means to say that he saw the thrones placed on which those will sit who will be employed in judging the world. If the apostles are specially referred to, it was natural that John, eminent for modesty, should not particularly mention them, as he was one of them, and as the true allusion would be readily understood. And judgment was given unto them. The power of pronouncing sentence in the case referred to was conferred on them, and they proceeded to exercise that power. This was not in relation to the whole race of mankind, but to the martyrs, and to those who, amidst many temptations and trials, had kept themselves pure. The sentence which is to be passed would seem to be that in consequence of which they are to be permitted to "live and reign with Christ a thousand years." The form of this expressed approval is that of a resurrection and judgment; whether this be the literal mode is another inquiry, and will properly be considered when the exposition of the passage shall have been given.

And I saw the souls of them. This is a very important expression in regard to the meaning of the whole passage. John says he saw the souls— not the bodies. If the obvious meaning of this be the correct meaning; if he saw the souls of the martyrs, not the bodies, this would seem to exclude the notion of a literal resurrection, and consequently overturn many of the theories of a literal resurrection, and of a literal reign of the saints with Christ during the thousand years of the millennium. The doctrine of the last resurrection, as everywhere stated in the Scripture, is, that the body will be raised up, and not merely that the soul will live, (see 1 Co 15:1 and See Barnes "1 Co 15:1") and consequently John must mean to refer in this place to something different from that resurrection, or to any proper resurrection of the dead as the expression is commonly understood. The doctrine which has been held, and is held, by those who maintain that there will be a literal resurrection of the saints to reign with Christ during a thousand years, can receive no support from this passage, for there is no ambiguity respecting the word soulsqucav—as used here. By no possible construction can it mean the bodies of the saints. If John had intended to state that the saints, as such, would be raised as they will be at the last day, it is clear that he would not have used this language, but would have employed the common language of the New Testament to denote it. The language here does not express the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; and if no other language but this had been used in the New Testament, the doctrine of the resurrection, as now taught and received, could not be established. These considerations make it clear to my mind that John did not mean to teach that there would be a literal resurrection of the saints, that they might live and reign with Christ personally during the period of a thousand years. There was undoubtedly something that might be compared with the resurrection, and that might, in some proper sense, be called a resurrection, (Re 20:5-6,) but there is not the slightest intimation that it would be a resurrection of the body, or that it would be identical with the final resurrection. John undoubtedly intends to describe some honour conferred on the spirits or souls of the saints and martyrs during this long period, as if they were raised from the dead, or which might be represented by a resurrection from the dead. What that honour is to be, is expressed by their "living and reigning with Christ." The meaning of this will be explained in the exposition of these words; but the word used here is fatal to the notion of a literal resurrection and a personal reign with Christ on the earth.

That were beheaded. The word here used—pelekizw—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, to axe, that is, to hew or cut with an axe—from pelekuv, axe. Hence it means to behead with an axe. This was a common mode of execution among the Romans, and doubtless many of the Christian martyrs suffered in this manner; but "it cannot be supposed to have been the intention of the writer to confine the rewards of martyrs to those who suffered in this particular way; for this specific and ignominious method of punishment is designated merely as the symbol of any and every kind of martyrdom."— Professor Stuart.

For the witness of Jesus. As witnesses of Jesus; or bearing in this way their testimony to the truth of his religion. See Barnes on "Re 1:9"; compare Re 6:9.

And for the word of God. See Barnes on "Re 1:9".

 

Which had not worshipped the beast. Who had remained faithful to the principles of the true religion, and had resisted all the attempts made to seduce them from the faith, even the temptations and allurements in the times of the Papacy. See this language explained in Barnes on "Re 13:4".

 

Neither his image. Barnes on "Re 13:14-15".

 

Neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. See Barnes "Re 13:16".

 

And they lived. ezhsan, from zawto live. Very much, in the whole passage, depends on this word. The meanings given to the word by Professor Robinson (Lex.) are the following:

(a) to live, to have life, spoken of physical life and existence;

(b) to live, that is, to sustain life, to live on or by anything;

(c) to live in any way, to pass one's life in any manner;

(d) to live and prosper; to be blessed. It may be applied to those who were before dead, (Mt 9:18; Mr 16:11; Lu 24:23; Joh 5:25; Ac 1:3) Ac 9:41, but it does not necessarily imply this, nor does the mere use of the word suggest it. It is the proper notion of living, or having life now, whatever was the former state—whether non-existence, death, sickness, or health. The mind, in the use of this word, is fixed on the present as a state of living. It is not necessarily in contrast with a former state as dead, but it is on the fact that they are now alive. As, however, there is reference, in the passage before us, to the fact that a portion of those mentioned had been "beheaded for the witness of Jesus," it is to be admitted that the word here refers, in some sense, to that fact. They were put to death in the body, but their "souls" were now seen to be alive. They had not ceased to be, but they lived and reigned with Christ as if they had been raised up from the dead. And when this is said of the "souls" of those who were beheaded, and who were seen to reign with Christ, it cannot mean

(a) that their souls came to life again—for there is no intimation that they had for a moment ceased to exist; nor

(b) that they then became immortal—for that was always true of them; nor

(c) that there was any literal resurrection of the body, as Professor Stuart (ii. 360, 475, 476) supposes, and as is supposed by those who hold to a literal reign of Christ on the earth, for there is no intimation of the resurrection of the body. The meaning, then, so far as the language is concerned, must be, that there would exist, at the time of the thousand years, a state of things as if the martyrs were raised up from the dead—an honouring of the martyrs as if they should live and reign with Christ. Their names would be vindicated; their principles would be revived; they would be exalted in public estimation above other men; they would be raised to the low rank in which they were held by the world in times of persecution, to a state which might well be represented by their sitting with Christ on the throne of government, and by their being made visible attendants on his glorious kingdom. This would not occur in respect to the rest of the dead—even the pious dead, (Re 20:5)—for their honours and rewards would be reserved for the great day when all the dead should be judged according to their deeds. In this view of the meaning of this passage, there is nothing that forbids us to suppose that the martyrs will be conscious of the honour thus done to their names, their memory, and their principles on earth, or that this consciousness will increase their joy even in heaven. This sense of the passage is thus expressed, substantially, by Archbishop Whateley, (Essays on the Future State:) "It may signify not the literal raising of dead men, but the raising up of an increased Christian zeal and holiness: the revival in the Christian church, or in some considerable portion of it, of the spirit and energy of the noble martyrs of old, (even as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias;) so that Christian principles shall be displayed in action throughout the world in an infinitely greater degree than ever before." This view of the signification of the word lived is sustained by its use elsewhere in the Scriptures, and by its common use among men. Thus in this very book, Re 11:11: "And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet." So in Ezekiel, in speaking of the restoration of the Jews: "Thus saith the Lord God, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live," Eze 27:12-14. So in Ho 6:2: "After two days he will revive us, [cause us to live again;] in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." So in the parable of the prodigal son: "This thy brother was dead, and is alive again," Lu 15:32. So in Isa 26:19: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise." The following extract from D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation will show how natural it is to use the very language employed here when the idea is intended to be conveyed of reviving former principles as if the men who held them should be raised to life again. It is the language of the martyr John Huss, who, in speaking of himself in view of a remarkable dream that he had, said, "I am no dreamer, but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They [his enemies] have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ will rejoice at this. And I, awaking from among the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy." So a Brief addressed by Pope Adrian to the Diet at Nuremberg, contains these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." For a further illustration of the passage, see the remarks which follow

(b) on the state of things which may be expected to exist in the time referred to in Re 20:4-6.

And reigned with Christ. Were exalted in their principles, and in their personal happiness in heaven, as if they occupied the throne with him, and personally shared his honours and his triumphs. Who can tell, also, whether they may not be employed in special services of mercy, in administering the affairs of his government during that bright and happy period?

A thousand years. During the period when Satan will be bound, and when the true religion will have the ascendency in the earth. Barnes on "Re 20:2".

 

{a} "thrones" Da 7:9; Lu 22:30 {b} "judgment" 1 Co 6:2,3 {c} "souls" Re 6:9 {a} "reigned" Re 5:10

« Prev Revelation 20:4 Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |