Revelation chapter 20 introduces us to the most beautiful, peaceful, and rewarding age this world will ever know - the Millennium, or the one thousand year reign of the Lord Jesus Christ as KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. He will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end (Isaiah 9:6,7).
Before beginning our study of this chapter, may I take a moment to refute the reasoning of critics who deny this doctrinal truth? Those who oppose the teaching of a literal one thousand year reign of Christ upon earth are in direct opposition to the Word of God! Their claim that the doctrine is dangerously built on a single chapter of the Bible proves that they are not good students of Godís Holy Word, for many passages both teach and reflect this truth. Letís investigate.
First of all, if Israel has no future, dozens of Old Testament prophecies immediately go down the drain. For example, Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33, with all of their benedictions upon the people of Israel, must be scrapped if there is no place upon earth where they find fulfillment. To spiritualize or allegorize the literal truths concerning Israelís future is to be willfully blinded. I have spent thousands of hours in Godís Book and could never honestly or intellectually arrive at such a conclusion.
Secondly, there must be a Millennium, or scores of verses become hollow platitudes of meaningless predictions. Consider the following texts - they could never depict heaven because they occur on earth. If so, there must be a time and place for their fulfillment, because none of them has yet occurred.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb (as nature is tamed) (Isaiah 11:6).
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid (Micah 4:4).
Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness (Isaiah 32:1).
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed. . .and it shall stand for ever (Daniel 2:44).
The Lord...shall suddenly come to his temple (Malachi 3:1).
Ezekiel describes this Temple, built and located upon the earth (see chapters 40 through 48). Israel will be the head - not the tail - of the nations in that day (see Zechariah 8:23).
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them (Isaiah 65:21).
The Lord Jesus Christ referred to the period of time during which these events take place as the regeneration. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Likewise, Peter declared, And [God] shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:20,21).
The word restitution means "a reconstitute" and is similar to the regeneration of Matthew 19:28. In addition, Paul stated in Ephesians 1:21 that there is an age which is to come. This same age is called the dispensation of the fulness of times (Ephesians 1:10). Again these terms refer to the rule of Christ and His people over the earth - not angels, as the spiritualizers would have us believe. Angels ruling the earth is an impossibility, for unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come (Hebrews 2:5).
Instead, the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:17). The title, the most High [God], or the most High is Christís millennial title throughout the Psalms, the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Hosea. The most High [God] will also bear the title King of Israel in that day (John 1:49). All upon earth will obey Him for [He] shalt break them with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9). The result: Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power (Psalm 110:3). Earthís inhabitants will love the Lord Jesus so much during the kingdom age that daily shall he be praised (Psalm 72:15). Yes, His name shall endure forever (Psalm 72:17).
The center of all this kingdom activity is Jerusalem, not heavenís golden shores. Proof? Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:6). Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). [They] shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:13). And the Redeemer shall come to Zion (Isaiah 59:20). The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem (Joel 3:16). Thus saith the Lord.. I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:3). Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:22).
The preceding evidence is proof enough! Only the spiritually blind can deny the fact of a literal Millennium. Only the willfully ignorant can claim that the teaching is based on just one chapter of the Bible. Our brief review has but touched the hem of the garment concerning millennial truth. Believe God, not men. Now, since mille means "thousand" and annum means "years," letís beg in our study of chapter 20 which presents the mille annum, Millennium, or the one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth.
Verse 1-3: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
What a victorious sight John now sees - an angel coming from heaven with a key and a chain in his hand for the purpose of opening the bottomless pit and binding satan for one thousand years. Some scholars believe the angel to be Christ himself because he has the keys of hell and death (chapter 1, verse 18). This is a distinct possibility. However, one who possesses keys often loans them to another when help is needed. Thus, the angel might be Michael, the archangel. The important observation here is that Christís ownership of the keys - which open the pit of the abyss for satan - is by virtue of His completed work upon Calvaryís cross. Remember His statement in verse 18 of chapter 1: I am he that liveth, and was dead; [Calvary]; and, behold, I am alive for evermore [the Resurrection], Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
The chain carried by the angel is used to bind the villain of the ages - called the dragon, that old serpent ... the devil, and satan - for 1,000 years. What horrid titles the evil one bears! Dragon, in Hebrew, pictures a hideous monster. The term old serpent portrays the slithering snake who brought ruination upon the entire human race through his deceitful work in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1-6). satan means "slander," for he is the accuser of [the] brethren as we learned in chapter 12, verse 10, and he is also the father of slanderers and gossips (see John 8:44). devil means "adversary" or "foe," and surely satan has been a foe of Christ and His followers until this present moment in our text. Now, at last, he is cast into the bottomless pit, shut up and sealed for a Millennium (verse 3).
The bottomless pit is not the lake of fire into which the beast and false prophet were cast in chapter 19, verse 20. Rather, it is a temporary prison where satan is incarcerated for ten centuries in order that peace, prosperity, happiness, and holiness may exist on earth during Christís millennial reign. At the end of this time, he is loosed [for] a little season, leads one final revolt against God, and is subsequently cast into the eternal lake of fire. . .where the beast and the false prophet are (chapter 20, verse 10).
Verse 4: And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
John now observes thrones occupied for judgement. Who sits upon them? Members of the first resurrection - which includes the Old Testament saints, Church Age saints, and Tribulation saints. The resurrection of the Old Testament believers is described in Daniel 12:1 and 2, and the resurrection of New Testament saints in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:15-54. As we have seen, the resurrection of the martyred Tribulation saints undoubtedly occurs at the glorious appearing of Christ (Titus 2:13) when He returns to earth. Chapter 6, verses 9 through 11, presented this view. At that point these martyrs awaited their resurrection but were told to wait yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
Thus, we see that the thrones are occupied by resurrected believers from Adam onward, inclusive of the last Tribulation martyrs. Each has been a participant in the first resurrection. These saints are entitled to sit upon thrones because they are members of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Christ has made them kings and priests (chapter 5, verse 10).
Verse 5: But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The closing sentence of this verse, This is the first resurrection, should have been the conclusion of verse 4. The transition from verse 4 to verse 5 would then be: And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. [This is the first resurrection.] But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This clarifies the issue. The dead of verse 5 - raised a thousand years later - could not be part of the first resurrection (those of verse 4) - because...
Verse 6: Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Since the remaining dead come forth one thousand years later, we immediately understand that they cannot be part of the first resurrection. Those who take part in the first resurrection reign with Christ during the Millennium, while the this group remain in their graves. They, in turn, are raised for the Great White Throne Judgment after the 1,000 years. Verse 7-9: And when the thousand years are expired, satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
This portion of Scripture has caused many people great concern. They ask, "Why should satan be loosed for a short season? What purpose could God have in unchaining this monster after one thousand years of blessed peace?" The answer is, "The free will of man."
All persons who enter the Millennium are redeemed people (Isaiah 60:2 1 and Joel 2:28). However, one must remember that procreation still takes place during this era of time because those who survived the Tribulation hour enter the Millennium with human bodies. The believers upon the thrones possesses resurrected bodies and do not bear children, but the others do. Consequently, the children born during this one thousand year period are born with the old Adamic, or sin, nature which has been an inherent part of man ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.
Many of them, of course, accept Christ as their personal Saviour, but many do not! In addition, since satan is bound, there is little to tempt them. They simply do not face the problems and trials which have confronted mankind in past ages. satanís release, then, is to determine whether or not Christ is real to these children of the Millennium, or whether they have been submissive simply because He ruled with a rod of iron (chapter 19, verse 15).
The truth is revealed as millions follow the devil. Yes, even after living with the Lord Jesus Christ for ten centuries, much of mankind rebels. Verses 8 and 9 inform us that satan deceives the nations internationally (pictured by the four corners of the earth), and gathers them together for one last battle. The army is gigantic in number...as the sand of the sea. Once again the camp of Godís people - the beloved city of Jerusalem - is surrounded, just as the armies of the Tribulation hour gathered against Jerusalem to battle (see Zechariah 14:1). Then, in an instant, God destroys them all with a devouring fire from heaven.
To whom do the names Gog and Magog refer? In Ezekiel 38 and 39, they identify Russia. Not so in verse 8. Instead, they most likely indicate the memory of past brutality - much like the names Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Iraq do today. As Gog and Magog (Russia) invades Israel and comes against Jerusalem during the Tribulation hour, such an indelible impression is left upon all the world that now - one thousand years later - the details are still vivid. Thus, this past war, fought in the same area, is brought to mind as satan once again attempts to destroy Israel.
Verse 10: And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
This is the end for the deceiver of the ages. He is cast into the place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Many centuries were required for this slanderous culprit to reach his final destination. Now that he has arrived, he will experience nothing but continual torment - day and night - for ever and ever. Amen!
We need to digress for a moment at this point, because many persons - Christians included - harbor a misconception about hell. Whenever they see or hear the term, they picture a place where a little red suited gremlin stokes the fires and torments his victims with a pitchfork. satan is neither the stoker nor does he torment his followers - and, as we have observed, he does not enter hell until after the Millennium. As we have already learned, satan is the god of this world [system] (2 Corinthians 4:4), the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), and the ruler of heavens one and two - the aerial and stellar heavens. He retains this position until he is cast out of heaven (see chapter 12, verses 7-9). He then reigns on earth for the final forty-two months of the Tribulation period.
Upon Christís return to earth, satan is bound in the bottomless pit, and then, following the Millennium, is released for a short season. Finally, he is cast into hell, or the lake of fire and brimstone, where he is tormented for all eternity. An understanding of these truths is essential to both victorious living and correct interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
We now come to the most awesome portion of Scripture in the entire Bible - the judgment of the wicked.
Verse 11-15: And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Again John says, I saw. The term is found thirty seven times in this book. What a privilege was his! This time he views the gloomiest hour of history - the judgment of the wicked - as well as Christ sitting upon a white throne. White is the symbol of purity, justice, and holiness in Scripture. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white (chapter 19, verses 7 and 8).
Since "white" stands for all that is honorable and right, what does it symbolize? Integrity - for Christ, Who is the truth (John 14:6), is himself the Judge. Notice that the term is Great White Throne. This pictures a great judgment that is about to fall on those who have rejected the "so great salvation" question (see Hebrews 2:3).
How does one know that the tender, loving Jesus is the One who sits upon the throne as Judge? The answer is found in John 5:22: For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. Again, the Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man (John 5:27). The One raised from the dead - the Lord Jesus Christ - is the Judge, according to Acts 17:31: [For] he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. That moment is now before us!
What a solemn scene as unregenerate mankind comes face to face with God for the investigation of all their evil deeds. Every transgressor is present: presidents and paupers, high society snobs and skid row derelicts. Yes, this group includes every Christ rejecter of the ages, small and great, rich and poor, free and bond. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life [the first resurrection]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [the resurrection for judgement] (John 5:28,29). Make no mistake about it, there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:15).
As the unsaved stand before a holy God, the books are opened. Yes, He has record of every wicked deed sinners have ever committed. Nothing remains hidden. Adultery, abortion, drunkenness, drug addiction, harlotry, hatred, lawlessness, murder, rebellion, sexual promiscuity, wife swapping, and every other abominable practice is then exposed in detail.
How is all this possible? God is both omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful). The psalmist said in chapter 139, verses 1 and 2, O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising. God knows everything about every member of the human race. God adds, I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them (Ezekiel 11:5). I know when you have eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin (2 Peter 2:14). I know when your tongue is about to curse, For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether (Psalm 139:4). I the Lord search the heart (Jeremiah 17:10). This statement is extremely important, For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19).
Godís books will be totally accurate because He sees every move humans make: The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth (2 Chronicles 16:9). All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). That aborted fetus flushed into oblivion, that sex act in a parked car or motel room, that crooked deal for illegal gain - everything is indelibly inscribed in the journal of the Almighty bookkeeper. One cannot hide from God, whoever He may be! Furthermore, no mistakes will be made, for the dead will be judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. We also see that every unbeliever will be present, for the bodies come forth from land and sea and the souls come from Hades (or hell). Then, body, soul, and spirit are reunited to stand before God.
Many have never realized that there is a time when the wicked are released from hell. This is not a new doctrine or man made theory. (Order my full-length audio cassette, "Hell Without Hell," for a thorough study of this subject.) However, for the moment, letís examine a few facts regarding this teaching.
The New Testament contains two Greek words - Hades and Gehenna - both of which are translated hell in our English Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ used both words repeatedly. Why two words? Are there two places? Yes! A simple illustration will help us understand.
Everyone knows the difference between a local jail and a penitentiary. When an individual is arrested for a crime, he is not placed in the penitentiary until he has had a trial. Instead, he is locked up in the local jail (city or county), where he awaits his trail. Then, upon being found guilty, he is transferred to the penitentiary, where he serves his sentence. The next statement is of extreme importance. Get it!
When Jesus used the word Hades, He referred to the local jail - the place where the sinner is bound until the judgment morning. Then, on Judgment Day, the sinner comes out of the local jail (Hades), stands before the Judge (the Lord Jesus himself), is found guilty, and is subsequently transferred to the final penitentiary of souls (Gehenna). The lake of fire is usually synonymous with Gehenna.
The eleven instances where Christ mentioned Hades are as follows: Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:22,23; Acts 2:27; 2:31; 1Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13; and Revelation 20:14.
Gehenna is mentioned twelve times by the Savior: Matthew 5:22; 5:29; 5:30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43; 9:45; 9:47; Luke 12:5; and James 3:6.
After studying the twenty-three texts, one observes that verses 13 and 14 of our present study now make perfect sense: Death [the grave] and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them. The plural pronoun "them" indicates two places: the grave and Hades - one for the body and the other for the soul. Next they were judged every man according to his works (thatís the trial). Then death and [Hades - Greek] were cast into the lake of fire [Gehenna - the final penitentiary].
Why are they transferred? Gehenna differs from Hades in that Gehenna is a place where there are degrees of suffering. After one has been examined and judged as to how much light he had (how often he heard the message of salvation and rejected it), he is assigned to this place called Gehenna, where there are degrees of suffering according to oneís light and works. Thus, the final hell will differ for all, depending on oneís evil deeds and the number of times he rejected Christís offer of love.
Now we understand Romans 2:5 a little better: But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up [storest up, savest up] unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath. This is why it shall be more tolerable [more bearable, more endurable] for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for [Capernaum] (Matthew 11:24). What was Capernaumís sin? Capernaum had greater light since Christ visited the city and preached to her citizens. This is also why the Pharisees receive the greater damnation (Matthew 23:14).
Clearly, sinners are raised from death and Hades, judged by Christ at the Great White Throne, and then transferred to Gehenna. The "good news," however, is that none of this happens to those who are trusting in the merits of the shed blood of Jesus. When one trusts Christ, his name is written in the book of life. The judgment just discussed is only for those whose names are not found inscribed in the book (see verse 15). If one is saved, he need never be concerned about hell as his eternal destiny, for he that believeth on [Christ] is not condemned (John 3:18). He is also passed from death unto life (John 5:24). Thus, there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Amen.
The great judgment is only for those who participate in
the final resurrection which occurs after the 1,000 year or millennial
reign of Christ upon earth. Those who were raised prior to the Millennium
are eternally secure, for blessed and holy is he that hath part in the
first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power (verse 6).