Revelation 20:4-15: The Millennium

Revelation 20:4‑15  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
We have learned from the visions seen by the apostle that the leaders, together with their followers, in the final rebellion of apostate Christendom, will come under summary judgment at the appearing of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Now we learn, from the visions that follow, that “the armies which were in heaven” (Rev. 19:1414And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)), and that followed the King of kings are invested with judicial authority. Are we not to distinguish in these armies three classes of saints? Firstly, there is the church, together with the Old Testament saints. Already we have seen these saints represented under the figure of elders as surrounding the throne in heaven and intelligent in the mind of God (Rev. 4-5); then we have seen them presented as the bride and guests at the marriage of the Lamb, for the satisfaction of the heart of Christ (Rev. 19:99And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:9)); now we see them as forming part of the armies that follow the Lord out of heaven to be associated with Him in His reign.
Secondly, John sees the resurrection of those who had suffered martyrdom on account of their witness of Jesus, and their faithfulness to the word of God, and who, in the days of the fifth seal, had cried to God, saying, “How long, O Holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on those that dwell on the earth?” They were told to rest yet a little season. That season is over, and the answer to their cry is come, for they are raised to have a glorious reward for all their sufferings, by being associated with Christ in the blessings of His reign.
Thirdly, we hear of those saints who had suffered under the reign of the beast, for refusing to worship him or receive his mark. They, too, will live and reign with Christ a thousand years.
The raising of these saints completes the first resurrection. The first resurrection does not signify that all that have part in it are raised at the same moment. Christ's resurrection was the first fruits (1 Cor. 15:2323But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:23)); then follows the resurrection of Old Testament saints, and those who have fallen asleep during the present period, at the time of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-1716For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16‑17)); and finally the resurrection of the saints at the appearing of Christ, who have died or suffered martyrdom during the period between the rapture and the appearing.
It is clear that the expression “the first resurrection” includes Christ and His saints, and blessed and holy are those who have part in this first resurrection. On such the second death—that final separation between God and the soul—will have no power. The unregenerate will alone have part in the final resurrection at the close of the millennial reign.
In these verses we are carried to the end of the glorious reign of Christ, to learn that at the end of the thousand years there awaits one final test for man. It seems no part of the purpose of God in the Revelation to describe the blessedness of the millennium. This has already been done in many passages of infinite beauty in Psalms and Prophets of the Old Testament. Here we are taken to the end of the reign of Christ to learn that the flesh never alters. Before the flood men filled the earth with violence and corruption. Under law, man transgressed and fell into idolatry; under grace men utterly reject God's offer of salvation and Christendom becomes apostate. At last, under the reign of Christ in righteousness, it will be found that the instant Satan is loosed “for a little season,” the nations will be deceived and gathered together under his leading to oppose Christ and His saints. It has been truly said, “Such is man, and such is Satan. A thousand years' confinement in the bottomless pit has not changed the character of the deceiver. A thousand years' blessedness under Christ's rule has not changed the nature which greedily listens to the deceiver's voice.” There will indeed be the saints, and the beloved city, true to the Lord, but the mass of men will be found in opposition to Christ and His own, for men will be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and their numbers as the sand of the sea.
The names Gog and Magog would seem to be used as symbols, borrowed from the Prophet Ezekiel, to represent the hatred and opposition of the world to Christ and His people. In Ezekiel Gog is a literal person, the chief prince of the vast region to the north of Palestine and known in our day as the Empire of Russia.
The issue of this last conflict will not, for a moment, be in uncertainty, as in the conflicts of men. The destruction of these rebels will be instantaneous and overwhelming. Fire from God, out of heaven, will devour them, and Satan, the leader in this last rebellion, will enter upon his final doom in the lake of fire, where already the beast and the false prophet are confined, there to “be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Another scene of intense solemnity follows—the judgment of the “great white throne.” This surely takes place in eternity, for we read, “the earth and the heaven fled away.” The present order of creation disappears to prepare the way for a new creation. There is “found no place” for the present “earth and the heaven” in which man has sought to gratify his pride and magnify himself by founding mighty empires and building great cities, enriched and adorned with all that human skill can devise.
But if the scenes in which man's pride has been set forth and his rebellion against God expressed, forever pass away, we learn that man, himself, remains to answer to God for his rebellion and receive the just reward of his deeds. Thus we learn that the time will come when “the dead small and great” will stand before the throne of judgment.
The figure of the two books would seem to set forth, on the one hand, that the record of all the works of man are known to God, and on the other hand, that God has kept a record of the names of those ordained to life. At this solemn judgment men will be judged, not only on account of their evil works, but because they have rejected Christ and His work (whereby their sins could have been forever put away) as manifested by the solemn fact that their names are absent from the book of life.
In this solemn scene we are permitted to see the end of all evil and the final doom of every enemy of God, both small and great. The devil is “cast into the lake of fire.” Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”