In Revelation 20:4, John says that the saints who are “beheaded” for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who do not worship the beast, or his image, “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” He does not say that they reign over nations on the earth. Neither does he say anything about Jesus returning to the earth, for the thousand year reign to begin, as premillennialism teaches. That doctrine denies the reign of Christ as Lord over all at the present time, and says Jesus is yet to become king; he is currently “uncrowned.” He has to descend to the earthly Jerusalem, it is said, and he will reign there as king. Ethnic Jews, they allege, will then be doted on by Gentiles.
But Jesus possesses far greater authority and power than the premillennialists admit. He has the key of David, and “openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” Only when Jesus opens our minds, can we understand the truth. For many, the mysteries of God remain hidden, and shut. The two witnesses have power to “shut heaven.” When heaven is shut, the gifts of God are withheld.
Premillennialists say that thousand year millennium is all about Christ returning “here,” but that doctrine is not found in Revelation 20. Their minds are shut to the real meaning of John’s prophecy; they are among the armies of those who encompass the camp of the saints, the beloved city, Revelation 20:8-9.
John connects the thousand years with Ezekiel’s prophecy of Gog and Magog. This is where premillennialism goes astray, as they often separate the thousand years from the assault by Gog and Magog which comes at the end of it.
Ezekiel’s prophecy says nothing about a thousand years, or reigning with Christ. Yet, before the time of Ezekiel, the Jews had previously lived under kings of the line of David. Because of their iniquity, they were removed to other lands. The prophets foretold a restoration, another exodus, that would eclipse the first one when Israel came out of Egypt. Perhaps John alludes to the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel, and applies the historical lessons to the church.
When seeking an interpretation of the number of the beast, 666, we find this number is mentioned in connection with the reign of Solomon; his annual income in gold was 666 talents. This suggests that the number of the beast represents something most are concerned about: their annual income. Ezekiel wrote:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;
After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.
When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;
Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
The Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon, after several centuries of monarchy; the church too, after the monarchy of Christ’s rule during the apostolic era, went into a kind of captivity. The Reformers recognized the church as being captive in the Babylon of Revelation. In Revelation 18:4, John says, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” This Babylon is not limited to Rome, but includes all false religion, flawed interpretations, and superstition. Surely it also includes tens of thousands of sects and denominations.
God brings the saints out of captivity, and destroys his enemies, throughout the history of the church, and in the lives of individual Christians.
The thousand year reign is the privilege of those who are “beheaded.” This has to do with obedience to Christ, who is Lord over all. Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 10:2-5
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
To bring every thought into captivity, is mastery over what Paul called the old man. He contrasts the “old man” with the “new man” which is the creation of God.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
In The NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel, Iain M. Duguid wrote: [pp. 453-454]
The point of Ezekiel 38–39 is not that at some distant point in
future history these particular nations will oppose Israel, while
others (America? Britain?) will rally to her aid. Rather, these seven
nations from the ends of the earth, from all four points of the
compass, represent symbolically a supreme attempt by the united forces
of evil to crush the peace of God’s people. This, not coincidentally,
is the interpretation given to “Gog and Magog” in Revelation 20:8: They
represent “the nations in the four corners of the earth,” whom Satan
gathers for the final battle against God’s people, the city he loves.
Their defeat in Revelation is the prerequisite for the establishment of
the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city of Revelation 21, which itself has
many points of contact with Ezekiel’s visionary temple in Ezekiel 40–48.
Copyright © 2011 by Douglas E. Cox
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