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20. The Thousand Years

1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time. 4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 7And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. 10And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. 15And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

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Re 20:1-15. Satan Bound, and the First-Risen Saints Reign with Christ, a Thousand Years; Satan Loosed, Gathers the Nations, Gog and Magog, Round the Camp of the Saints, and Is Finally Consigned to the Lake of Fire; the General Resurrection and Last Judgment.

1. The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he had given his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself for a thousand years.

the key of the bottomless pit—now transferred from Satan's hands, who had heretofore been permitted by God to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth; he is now to be made to feel himself the torment which he had inflicted on men, but his full torment is not until he is cast into "the lake of fire" (Re 20:10).

2. that old—ancient serpent (Re 12:9).

thousand years—As seven mystically implies universality, so a thousand implies perfection, whether in good or evil [Aquinas on ch. 11]. Thousand symbolizes that the world is perfectly leavened and pervaded by the divine; since thousand is ten, the number of the world, raised to the third power, three being the number of God [Auberlen]. It may denote literally also a thousand years.

3. shut him—A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas omit "him."

set a seal upon himGreek, "over him," that is, sealed up the door of the abyss over his head. A surer seal to keep him from getting out than his seal over Jesus in the tomb of Joseph, which was burst on the resurrection morn. Satan's binding at' this juncture is not arbitrary, but is the necessary consequence of the events (Re 19:20); just as Satan's being cast out of heaven, where he had previously been the accuser of the brethren, was the legitimate judgment which passed on him through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Re 12:7-10). Satan imagined that he had overcome Christ on Golgotha, and that his power was secure for ever, but the Lord in death overcame him, and by His ascension as our righteous Advocate cast out Satan, the accuser from heaven. Time was given on earth to make the beast and harlot powerful, and then to concentrate all his power in Antichrist. The Antichristian kingdom, his last effort, being utterly destroyed by Christ's mere appearing, his power on earth is at an end. He had thought to destroy God's people on earth by Antichristian persecutions (just as he had thought previously to destroy Christ); but the Church is not destroyed from the earth but is raised to rule over it, and Satan himself is shut up for a thousand years in the "abyss" (Greek for "bottomless pit"), the preparatory prison to the "lake of fire," his final doom. As before he ceased by Christ's ascension to be an accuser in heaven, so during the millennium he ceases to be the seducer and the persecutor on earth. As long as the devil rules in the darkness of the world, we live in an atmosphere impregnated with deadly elements. A mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming. Though sin will not be absolutely abolished—for men will still be in the flesh (Isa 65:20)—sin will no longer be a universal power, for the flesh is not any longer seduced by Satan. He will not be, as now, "the god and prince of the world"—nor will the world "lie in the wicked one"—the flesh will become ever more isolated and be overcome. Christ will reign with His transfigured saints over men in the flesh [Auberlen]. This will be the manifestation of "the world to come," which has been already set up invisibly in the saints, amidst "this world" (2Co 4:4; Heb 2:5; 5:5). The Jewish Rabbis thought, as the world was created in six days and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenary periods, followed by a sabbatical millennium. Out of seven years every seventh is the year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world the seventh millenary shall be the millenary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, A.D. 200, states that the world is to endure six thousand years; two thousand before the law, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under Messiah. Compare Note, see on Heb 4:9 and Heb 4:9, Margin; see on Re 14:13. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Cyprian, among the earliest Fathers, all held the doctrine of a millennial kingdom on earth; not till millennial views degenerated into gross carnalism was this doctrine abandoned.

that he should deceive—so A. But B reads, "that he deceive" (Greek, "plana," for "planeesee").

and—so Coptic and Andreas. But A, B, and Vulgate omit "and."

4, 5. they sat—the twelve apostles, and the saints in general.

judgment was given unto there—(See on Da 7:22). The office of judging was given to them. Though in one sense having to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yet in another sense they "do not come into judgment (Greek), but have already passed from death unto life."

souls—This term is made a plea for denying the literality of the first resurrection, as if the resurrection were the spiritual one of the souls of believers in this life; the life and reign being that of the soul raised in this life from the death of sin by vivifying faith. But "souls" expresses their disembodied state (compare Re 6:9) as John saw them at first; "and they lived" implies their coming to life in the body again, so as to be visible, as the phrase, Re 20:5, "this is the first resurrection," proves; for as surely as "the rest of the dead lived not (again) until," &c., refers to the bodily general resurrection, so must the first resurrection refer to the body. This also accords with 1Co 15:23, "They that are Christ's at His coming." Compare Ps 49:11-15. From Re 6:9, I infer that "souls" is here used in the strict sense of spirits disembodied when first seen by John; though doubtless "souls" is often used in general for persons, and even for dead bodies.

beheaded—literally, "smitten with an axe"; a Roman punishment, though crucifixion, casting to beasts, and burning, were the more common modes of execution. The guillotine in revolutionary France was a revival of the mode of capital punishment of pagan imperial Rome. Paul was beheaded, and no doubt shall share the first resurrection, in accordance with his prayer that he "might attain unto the resurrection from out of the rest of the dead" (Greek, "exanastasis"). The above facts may account for the specification of this particular kind of punishment.

for … forGreek, "for the sake of"; on account of"; "because of."

and whichGreek, "and the which." And prominent among this class (the beheaded), such as did not worship the beast. So Re 1:7, Greek, "and the which," or "and such as," particularizes prominently among the general class those that follow in the description [Tregelles]. The extent of the first resurrection is not spoken of here. In 1Co 15:23, 51; 1Th 4:14 we find that all "in Christ" shall share in it. John himself was not "beheaded," yet who doubts but that he shall share in the first resurrection? The martyrs are put first, because most like Jesus in their sufferings and death, therefore nearest Him in their life and reign; for Christ indirectly affirms there are relative degrees and places of honor in His kingdom, the highest being for those who drink his cup of suffering. Next shall be those who have not bowed to the world power, but have looked to the things unseen and eternal.

neither—"not yet."

foreheads … handsGreek, "forehead … hand."

reigned with Christ—over the earth.

5. But—B, Coptic, and Andreas read, "and." A and Vulgate omit it.

again—A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and Andreas omit it. "Lived" is used for lived again, as in Re 2:8. John saw them not only when restored to life, but when in the act of reviving [Bengel].

first resurrection—"the resurrection of the just." Earth is not yet transfigured, and cannot therefore be the meet locality for the transfigured Church; but from heaven the transfigured saints with Christ rule the earth, there being a much freer communion of the heavenly and earthly churches (a type of which state may be seen in the forty days of the risen Saviour during which He appeared to His disciples), and they know no higher joy than to lead their brethren on earth to the same salvation and glory as they share themselves. The millennial reign on earth does not rest on an isolated passage of the Apocalypse, but all Old Testament prophecy goes on the same view (compare Isa 4:3; 11:9; 35:8). Jesus, while opposing the carnal views of the kingdom of God prevalent among the Jews in His day, does not contradict, but confirms, the Old Testament view of a coming, earthly, Jewish kingdom of glory: beginning from within, and spreading itself now spiritually, the kingdom of God shall manifest itself outwardly at Christ's coming again. The papacy is a false anticipation of the kingdom during the Church-historical period. "When Christianity became a worldly power under Constantine, the hope of the future was weakened by the joy over present success" [Bengel]. Becoming a harlot, the Church ceased to be a bride going to meet her Bridegroom; thus millennial hopes disappeared. The rights which Rome as a harlot usurped, shall be exercised in holiness by the Bride. They are "kings" because they are "priests" (Re 20:6; Re 1:6; 5:10); their priesthood unto God and Christ (Re 7:15) is the ground of their kingship in relation to man. Men will be willing subjects of the transfigured priest-kings, in the day of the Lord's power. Their power is that of attraction, winning the heart, and not counteracted by devil or beast. Church and State shall then be co-extensive. Man created "to have dominion over earth" is to rejoice over his world with unmixed, holy joy. John tells us that, instead of the devil, the transfigured Church of Christ; Daniel, that instead of the heathen beast, the holy Israel, shall rule the world [Auberlen].

6. Blessed—(Compare Re 14:13; 19:9).

on such the second death hath no power—even as it has none on Christ now that He is risen.

priests of God—Apostate Christendom being destroyed, and the believing Church translated at Christ's coming, there will remain Israel and the heathen world, constituting the majority of men then alive, which, from not having come into close contact with the Gospel, have not incurred the guilt of rejecting it. These will be the subjects of a general conversion (Re 11:15). "The veil" shall be taken off Israel first, then from off "all people." The glorious events attending Christ's appearing, the destruction of Antichrist, the transfiguration of the Church, and the binding of Satan, will prepare the nations for embracing the Gospel. As individual regeneration goes on now, so there shall be a "regeneration" of nations then. Israel, as a nation, shall be "born at once—in one day." As the Church began at Christ's ascension, so the kingdom shall begin at His second advent. This is the humiliation of the modern civilized nations, that nations which they despise most, Jews and uncivilized barbarians, the negro descendants of Ham who from the curse of Noah have been so backward, Cush and Sheba, shall supplant and surpass them as centers of the world's history (compare De 32:21; Ro 10:19; 11:20, &c.). The Jews are our teachers even in New Testament times. Since their rejection revelation has been silent. The whole Bible, even the New Testament, is written by Jews. If revelation is to recommence in the millennial kingdom, converted Israel must stand at the head of humanity. In a religious point of view, Jews and Gentiles stand on an equal footing as both alike needing mercy; but as regards God's instrumentalities for bringing about His kingdom on earth, Israel is His chosen people for executing His plans. The Israelite priest-kings on earth are what the transfigured priest-kings are in heaven. There shall be a blessed chain of giving and receiving—God, Christ, the transfigured Bride the Church, Israel, the world of nations. A new time of revelation will begin by the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit. Ezekiel (the fortieth through forty-eighth chapters), himself son of a priest, sets forth the priestly character of Israel; Daniel the statesman, its kingly character; Jeremiah (Jer 33:17-21), both its priestly and kingly character. In the Old Testament the whole Jewish national life was religious only in an external legal manner. The New Testament Church insists on inward renewal, but leaves its outward manifestations free. But in the millennial kingdom, all spheres of life shall be truly Christianized from within outwardly. The Mosaic ceremonial law corresponds to Israel's priestly office; the civil law to its kingly office: the Gentile Church adopts the moral law, and exercises the prophetic office by the word working inwardly. But when the royal and the priestly office shall be revived, then—the principles of the Epistle to the Hebrews remaining the same—also the ceremonial and civil law of Moses will develop its spiritual depths in the divine worship (compare Mt 5:17-19). At present is the time of preaching; but then the time of the Liturgy of converted souls forming "the great congregation" shall come. Then shall our present defective governments give place to perfect governments in both Church and State. Whereas under the Old Testament the Jews exclusively, and in the New Testament the Gentiles exclusively, enjoy the revelation of salvation (in both cases humanity being divided and separated), in the millennium both Jews and Gentiles are united, and the whole organism of mankind under the first-born brother, Israel, walks in the light of God, and the full life of humanity is at last realized. Scripture does not view the human race as an aggregate of individuals and nationalities, but as an organic whole, laid down once for all in the first pages of revelation. (Ge 9:25-27; 10:1, 5, 18, 25, 32; De 32:8 recognizes the fact that from the first the division of the nations was made with a relation to Israel). Hence arises the importance of the Old Testament to the Church now as ever. Three grand groups of nations, Hamites, Japhetites, and Shemites, correspond respectively to the three fundamental elements in man—body, soul, and spirit. The flower of Shem, the representative of spiritual life, is Israel, even as the flower of Israel is He in whom all mankind is summed up, the second Adam (Ge 12:1-3). Thus Israel is the mediator of divine revelations for all times. Even nature and the animal world will share in the millennial blessedness. As sin loses its power, decay and death will decrease [Auberlen]. Earthly and heavenly glories shall be united in the twofold election. Elect Israel in the flesh shall stand at the head of the earthly, the elect spiritual Church, the Bride, in the heavenly. These twofold elections are not merely for the good of the elect themselves, but for the good of those to whom they minister. The heavenly Church is elected not merely to salvation, but to rule in love, and minister blessings over the whole earth, as king-priests. The glory of the transfigured saints shall be felt by men in the flesh with the same consciousness of blessing as on the Mount of Transfiguration the three disciples experienced in witnessing the glory of Jesus, and of Moses and Elias, when Peter exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here"; in 2Pe 1:16-18, the Transfiguration is regarded as the earnest of Christ's coming in glory. The privilege of "our high calling in Christ" is limited to the present time of Satan's reign; when he is bound, there will be no scope for suffering for, and so afterwards reigning with, Him (Re 3:21; compare Note, see on 1Co 6:2). Moreover, none can be saved in the present age and in the pale of the Christian Church who does not also reign with Christ hereafter, the necessary preliminary to which is suffering with Christ now. If we fail to lay hold of the crown, we lose all, "the gift of grace as well as the reward of service" [De Burgh].




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