V44Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I [saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.. In verses 4-64Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I [saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. the actual kingdom of peace is described, and reigning with the Lord is mentioned twice. That implies that Christ Himself is reigning. This is described here very briefly. From chapter 21:9 it is described more extensively. The Old Testament is full of characteristics about this kingdom. That it is about ruling, is to be derived from the end of the verse, but also from the thrones that John sees. He also sees that “they”, which are the twenty-four elders, are taking their seats on those thrones. Daniel has also seen thrones, but he saw no one sitting on them (Dan 7:99“I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took [His] seat;
His vesture [was] like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne [was] ablaze with flames,
Its wheels [were] a burning fire.
). John sees how judgment is given to those who sit on the throne, which means that authority is given to them to reign.
The thrones that John sees are on earth, for Christ reigns on earth, where His throne also is. Earlier you have already seen thrones on which twenty-four elders are seated, but then they are standing in heaven (Rev 4:44Around the throne [were] twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones [I saw] twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.). Here they stand on earth and are seated on their thrones in order to reign with Christ for a thousand years. He has promised that to His disciples in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:2828And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.; Lk 22:3030that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.). And Paul says to the believers of the church that they will judge the world (1Cor 6:22Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent [to constitute] the smallest law courts?). The twenty-four elders represent the believers of the Old Testament and of the New Testament.
Then John sees yet two other groups of believers. These second and third group are believers that came to faith after the rapture of the church and died the martyr’s death for the sake of their faith. The second group consists of believers that were killed before the great tribulation, ‘the souls under the altar’ (Rev 6:99When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;). They were beheaded because of the testimony that they bore of the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness to the Word of God.
When they cry for revenge, they hear that they must wait until the other group, which is mentioned here, will also be killed (Rev 6:10-1110and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”11And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until [the number of] their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.). This third group was killed during the great tribulation. This group had to suffer because of the beast, but they have not bowed to him or to his image. It cost them their lives, but now they get the reward.
Both groups have been killed by their enemies who thought that by killing these witnesses they got rid of the Jesus they hated. In the same way the enemies of the Lord Jesus thought to have got rid of Him themselves when He hung dead on the cross. But as the Lord Jesus became alive, these martyrs become alive. To become alive means to rise physically. It is becoming alive from the dead. Only after this becoming alive there is mention of a reigning with Christ. This is all the more a proof that now in our days, there cannot possibly be a mention of a millennial kingdom of peace wherein Christ reigns and wherein everyone takes part who are related with Him.
“They came to life and reigned.” Man now finally gets his actual destination. In Genesis 1:26 he was already called to reign over creation and in Genesis 2:7 he received life from God. But man lost both because of his sin. Through Christ he gets back what he has lost and that in an even more glorious way. He actually reigns with Christ and indeed as a resurrected saint and certainly not as a subordinate. Faithfulness to God will never cause loss of any blessing, but in fact only a richer enjoyment of it, richer than we have ever been able to enjoy (Rom 8:1818For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.; 2Cor 4:1717For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,).
Here everyone who has ever been humiliated will be exalted in His time (1Pet 5:66Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,). They have all abstained themselves from their own throne and have bowed themselves before God and are now allowed to sit on their throne, a throne that has been given to them.
V55The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.. “The rest of the dead” are the unbelievers, for all believing dead have been raised. They will not rise at the beginning of the millennial kingdom of peace, but they will remain in the grave, in hades, the place of torment (Lk 16:2323In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.). From the moment that the Lord Jesus reigns, no believer will ever die anymore (cf. Isa 65:2222“They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, [so will be] the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.
). With the becoming alive of the believers of the previous verse “the first resurrection” has been fulfilled.
The first resurrection will happen in phases:
1. Firstly, Christ rises (He has already risen);
2. then all who are of Christ will rise at His coming (1Cor 15:2323But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,).
Also the coming of Christ will happen in phases:
1. He will come first to take up the church and all Old Testament believers in the air to be with Him (1Thes 4:15-1815For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words.). On this occasion the believers who are dead will be resurrected and the believers who are alive will be changed.
2. Then the wedding of the Lamb will take place, as you have seen in chapter 19 (Rev 19:77Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride [lit wife] has made herself ready.”).
3. Then the Lord Jesus will come from heaven for the second time, this time together with the church and the other believers, in order to defeat His enemies and to establish His kingdom. That is the moment that the martyrs of the previous verse will rise in order to participate also in the government of Christ.
Then the first resurrection will be finished.
The unbelievers will become alive only after the kingdom of peace and will be judged before the great white throne where only unbelievers will stand. The body of the unbelievers will be made alive, but the spirit will remain spiritually dead. With this body they will be in hell forever and also be dead. They will stand as dead before the great white throne.
So there are two resurrections:
1. a resurrection of the righteous, or the first resurrection, and
2. a resurrection of the unrighteous (Lk 14:1414and you will be blessed, since they do not have [the means] to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”; Acts 24:1515having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.).
Between both resurrections lies a period of a thousand years. The two resurrections are mentioned by John in his gospel (Jn 5:2929and will come forth; those who did the good [deeds] to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil [deeds] to a resurrection of judgment.):
1. the resurrection of life and
2. the resurrection of judgment.
V66Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.. It is an extraordinary privilege to participate in the first resurrection. He who takes part of that is fully unreachable for the power of the second death, which is hell. The first death is physical and temporary; the second death is physical and eternal. Death and life are actually definitions that you should read in their context in order to understand their meaning. So you may find that it is said of the physically dead that they live (Mt 22:3232‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”) and of the physically living is said that they are dead (Eph 2:11And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,).
Everyone who has part in the first resurrection, are priests “of God and of Christ” and not ‘for’ God and ‘for’ Christ. They in fact pour out the priestly blessing on behalf of God and on behalf of Christ on to creation over which they will reign with Christ. ‘Reigning’ literally means ‘ruling as kings’. They come from heaven to be priests on earth. They are not priests who represent people before God, but priests who represent God before men. In this view they also look like the Lord Jesus as the King-Priest (Zec 6:1313Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”‘; Gen 14:1818And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.).
V77When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,. The word “completed” doesn’t only mean that the thousand years have passed and are ‘over’, but it also implies that they have been ‘fulfilled’, in the sense that a pre-determined goal has been achieved. The earth has had its sabbath’s rest.
Now before the peace of the kingdom of peace will lead into the peace of eternity, it is necessary for the human race to be subjected to a final test. For this purpose what was already announced at the end of verse 33and he threw him into the abyss, and shut [it] and sealed [it] over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. will happen, namely that satan has to be “released” for a little while “from his prison”.
V88and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.. The nature of satan has not changed by his stay in the bottomless pit, nor has the nature of man. Satan is unchangeably wicked. When he is released he immediately acts just as he always did. He will go out over the whole earth, to all its corners (cf. Isa 11:1212And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
; Eze 7:22“And you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel, ‘An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land.) with the purpose to deceive the nations. The corners of the earth literally means that these people find themselves far from the center of blessing, which is Jerusalem.
From the deception by satan it also appears that the sinful flesh of man has not changed under the greatest blessing. Many have pretended to be obedient to the Lord Jesus (Psa 18:4545Foreigners fade away,
And come trembling out of their fortresses.
; 66:33Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!
Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You.
; Mic 7:1717They will lick the dust like a serpent,
Like reptiles of the earth.
They will come trembling out of their fortresses;
To the LORD our God they will come in dread
And they will be afraid before You.
). They simulated that they acknowledged Him as their Lord, but they only did that because they were (justly) afraid for the judgment. But the flesh always remains enmity against God (Rom 8:77because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so],), even though it simulates to be submissive. In this way man loses the argument of always blaming satan to justify themselves (cf. Gen 3:1313Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”). That is absolutely out of order here. Also without the devil the heart of man will not change for the better.
The Gog and Magog which John mentions, are not to be confused with Gog in the land of Magog which Ezekiel mentions (Eze 38:1-61And the word of the LORD came to me saying,2“Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him3and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.4I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company [with] buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords;5Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them [with] shield and helmet;6Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah [from] the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you.; 39:1-21“And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal;2and I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel.). The army that Ezekiel refers to comes from a certain area, the far north, and will wage war against Israel and be defeated when the Lord Jesus will already be ruling in Jerusalem. The Gog that John mentions comes from everywhere. John uses this name because of the great demonical similarities between both attacks.
Satan has great success in the recruitment of men for the sake of his army. An enormous, uncountable army rises up.
V99And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.. Under the influence of satan this enormous army passes across the breadth of the earth. The goal is the camp of the saints and Jerusalem, which is here called “the beloved city” (Psa 78:6868But chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion which He loved.
; 87:22The LORD loves the gates of Zion
More than all the [other] dwelling places of Jacob.
), the center of the earth. The beloved city is also the place where the saints encamp, where they have rest. They are separated from the pagans that find themselves in the corners of the earth.
This enormous army is as blind for the power of the Lord Jesus as the armies were, that went to Jerusalem before the kingdom of peace (Rev 19:19-2019And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.20And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.). God sends His consuming fire from heaven and there are no more enemies left. The description of this war is even briefer than the one in the previous chapter.
Now read Revelation 20:4-9 again.
Reflection: Which groups of people are allowed to reign with the Lord Jesus?