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THE MILLENNIUM AND THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD.
From Revelation 19:6 to Revelation 21:8 we have traced the consecutive order of events. The first is the announcement of the kingly power of God and the marriage of the Lamb, and the last is the doom of the wicked in the lake of fire. The first is the dawn of that bright and joyous day of a thousand years, the day which is the goal of hope to the groaning creation; the second is the gloom, fixed and eternal, measured in its duration by the life time of Almighty God.
In the previous chapter we had as the prominent symbol a white horse ; in this chapter it is a white throne . The former sets forth victorious power in conquest; the latter rule and sessional judgment. The horse, or rather what it represents, precedes the action of the throne, prepares the way for it, so to speak.
There are four great actions in the chapter: first, the binding of Satan in the abyss for a thousand years (vv.l-3); second, the reign with Christ of all the heavenly saints for a thousand years (vv. 4-6); third, Satan’s last and desperate attempt to regain the mastery of the world, and his utter defeat and final doom (vv. 7-10); fourth, the judgment of the wicked dead (vv. 11-15).
SATAN CONFINED IN THE ABYSS.
Revelation 20:1-3 . “ And I saw an angel descending from the Heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon,the ancient serpent who is (the) devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the abyss, and shut (it) and sealed (it) over him, that he should not any more deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be loosed for a little time. ” The vision before us discloses an event, the natural sequence to that related at the close of the previous chapter, and yet sufficiently distinct to form a separate vision. There are three persons consigned to the lake of fire without trial the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Assyrian (Isaiah 30:1-33 ) at the commencement of the millennial reign; also the devil at the close of the reign. Having seen the two chief ministers of Satan,the leaders of the hosts on earth opposed to the Lamb and His saints, *The powers referred to in Zechariah 14:2 and Psalms 83:1-18 are gathered against Jerusalem and the Jews , those in Revelation 19:1-21 are gathered against the Lamb and His heavenly saints. The former have their seat in the east; the latter in the west. Thus there will be two vast hostile camps, in policy and aim opposed to each other. The north-eastern powers will be under Gog and his subordinate the king of the north. The western powers and the chiefs of Europe generally will be under the Beast and his subordinate in political authority the False Prophet or Antichrist. ignominiously cast alive into the lake of fire,followed by the destruction of their armies, we ask, What about the unseen spiritual being who goaded and lured on to destruction his agents and their followers? Does he escape? No! Summary judgment overtakes him as it did them . They are dealt with on earth by Christ; the devil is the subject of God’s judgment from on high. The dragon, the real instigator of the rebellion so effectually crushed, is seized upon by an angel from Heaven and chained up in the abyss or bottomless pit. * Abyss signifies deep (Luke 8:31 ) or bottomless. The word occurs nine times in the New Testament, seven of these in the Apocalypse, one in Luke as we have seen, and the other in Romans 10:7 . Out of it the Beast ascends, and into it Satan is cast (Revelation 17:8 ; Revelation 20:3 ). The abyss is a place, but the locality is undetermined. He will be sent to join his followers in the lake of fire a thousand years after. He has yet other work to do on earth, but till then he is shut up and prevented from doing further mischief.
It must be borne in mind that Satan, from the time of his expulsion from the heavens (Revelation 12:9 ), is on the earth unseen by mortal eye, but actually on the earth,blighting, destroying, and ruining everything which has the semblance of standing for God. Thus the angel, the minister of his punishment, is witnessed by the Seer “descending from the Heaven.” Satan is seized on earth. It is a reality, although no human eye may witness it.
The angel has the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. One need scarcely insist upon the symbolic character of the scene, for that seems evident on the surface.The figures, however, of the key and chain surely denote that God is supreme even over the satanic region of the abyss. Thus instrumentally, by angelic agency, He locks (the key ) up Satan and binds him (the chain ) secure in theabyss for a thousand years. *The key of the bottomless pit in Revelation 9:2 is to open it; in Revelation 20:1 to close it. His liberty is curtailed and his sphere of operation narrowed. He is effectually curbed and restrained from doing further mischief on the earth until his prison door is unlocked (v. 7). Until the fall (Genesis 3:1-24 ) Satan’s place was on high; consequent on the introduction of sin into the world the Heavens and earth were the enlarged sphere of his operations; then on his expulsion from the heavenly places the earth and the abyss are in a manner given over to him; now, as we have just seen, he is shut up in the abyss, confined there during the millennial reign; then for a brief season he is once more permitted to work his will on the earth, and seduce the nations from their nominal allegiance to Christ glorified and reigning; finally he is cast into the lake of fire for ever and ever.
The names of the dragon are mentioned in the order in which they occur in Revelation 12:9 . There, however, he is termed “the great dragon.” As the dragon he is the embodiment of cruelty. As the serpent he is the personification of guile. As the devil he is the arch tempter of men. As Satan he is the declared opponent of Christ and His people. *For a fuller elucidation of these names see remarks on Revelation 12:8 . The term “dragon” represents a real historical entity, an actual living person with whom every responsible creature on earth has to do. His power and presence are, of course, controlled and limited, as he is but a creature, but his agents are so numerous and diversified, and increasingly active in their master’s service, that some have gone the length of claiming for Satan the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. These, however, are divine attributes, and necessarily belong to the Creator alone.
The dragon is seized and cast into the pit, which is then locked up and sealed “over him” (see R.V.). The seal affixed to the stone “upon the mouth of the den of lions” (Daniel 6:17 ), as also upon the stone rolled to the door ofthe sepulchre (Matthew 27:60 ; Matthew 27:64 ; Matthew 27:66 ), intimates that the judicial and governing authority pledged itself to retain in secure custody its prisoner. The door of the abyssis securely fastened.
Revelation 20:3 . No “ more deceive the nations *Probably there is special reference to the deception used in gathering the nations as such to Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-14 ; Revelation 20:8 ). until the thousand years were completed .” The career of Satan from his first connection with the human race (Genesis 3:1-24 ) till his imprisonment in the abyss has been one of cruel, heartless deception. He has falsified the character of God; he has blinded the minds of men to the nature of sin and to its eternal consequences, and has so misrepresented the Gospel that millions are morally ruined by the ready acceptance of that which is “another gospel.” “The whole world lieth in the evil one” is indeed a sweeping declaration (1 John 5:19 , R.V.). This solemn statement is in no wise exaggerated. The race in its then living entirety, save the elect, is at the last gathered under the banner of Satan,only to find out when too late that all have been miserably deceived (Revelation 20:7-9 ).
A THOUSAND YEARS.
The term a “ thousand years ” occurs in our chapter six times (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Three out of the number are connected with Satan; two of them assert the reign of the saints with Christ; the sixth intimates the period between the resurrection of the saints and that of the wicked. All these six occurrences of the period a thousand years refer to the same time, but, of course, viewed in different connections, and, in our judgment, should be regarded not in any symbolic sense, but as describing an exact and literal denomination of time. The term THE MILLENNIUM as a designation referring to the period of the Lord’s reign public and personal with His saints over the earth is gathered from this chapter. According to Jewish reasoning the six millenniums drawing to a close answer to the six days in which the heavens and earth were made, the seventh sabbatic day of rest lookingforward to that long and blessed Sabbath of a thousand years. “There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9 , R.V.).
3. “ After these things he must be loosed for a little time. ” A group of connected events precede the loosing of Satan. “After these things” refers to more than the imprisonment in the abyss. After the destruction of Babylon, after the marriage of the Lamb, after the war on earth, after the utter rout and destruction of the Beast,the False Prophet, and their armies, and after the binding of the dragon and sealing of the abyss and Satan’s long captivity of a thousand years he is “loosed for a little time.” There are two brief periods in the coming crisis connected with the career of Satan, in both of which he displays unusual activity. First, from his expulsion from Heaven till chained in the abyss; second, from his release out of the abyss till cast into the lake of fire.
THE REIGN WITH CHRIST
CHRIST’S PERSONAL REIGN.
This interesting passage, round which controversy has raged for many centuries, is one which powerfully appeals to every thoughtful reader. It concerns every saint on earth. Who are they who reign with Christ in heavenly glory over this earth? Are they saints or angels? Christ’s sovereignty as Man (Psalms 8:1-9 ) and King (Psalms 2:1-12 ) is the unquestionable truth of the Scriptures, a royal sovereignty to be displayed for a thousand years. Seers of old beheld it in vision. The bards of Judah sang of it. The rays of the prophetic lamp, as held in the hands of the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi, were directed on to the glories and blessings of the coming millennial kingdom. The earth, so long under the tyranny of Satan and the misrule of man, waits for its promised deliverance.
The moment has arrived for the actual realisation of the scene celebrated in Heaven, “The kingdom of the world (or world kingdom) of our Lord, and of His Christ, is come, and He shall reign to the ages of ages” (Revelation 11:15 ,R.V.). There it was announced in anticipation; here it isactually come. The verses in Revelation 20:4-6 are unique inthis respect, that in them alone is unfolded a summary of those who share with Christ in the blessed reign of righteousness and glory. There are three classes specified.
Revelation 20:4 . “ I saw thrones. ” The two exiled prophets,Daniel *I beheld “till the thrones were cast down ” (Daniel 7:9 ). But the text in theoriginal says exactly the opposite. It reads “till the thrones were placed ” (R.V.), that is, set or established. We may also add that the Hebrew prophet does not conduct his readers into the millennium, but simply to its introduction. He breaks off at that point where one like the Son of Man receives from the Ancient of Days the universal and everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14 ). The prophet Ezekiel takes us much further. The millennium in some of its most important features is described,such as the settlement of the tribes in parallel bands across the face of enlarged Palestine, the temple and its services, the Jewish prince, Christ’s vicegerent, on the throne, the healing of the Dead Sea, etc. (Ezekiel 40:1-49 ; Ezekiel 41:1-26 ; Ezekiel 42:1-20 ; Ezekiel 43:1-27 ; Ezekiel 44:1-31 ; Ezekiel 45:1-25 ; Ezekiel 46:1-24 ; Ezekiel 47:1-23 ; Ezekiel 48:1-35 ). and John, beheld in vision the same thrones.The former saw them unoccupied. The heavenly sitters thereon constitute a revelation peculiar to the New Testament, and hence John supplements the vision of Daniel by adding, “they sat upon them.” Both scenes refer to the commencement of the millennial reign. Nor must the thrones in our text be confounded with the twenty-four thrones of Revelation 4:4 . Those seen in vision by Daniel (Daniel 7:9 ) and by John (Revelation 20:4 )relate to the millennial government of the earth. Those beheld in the earlier vision (Revelation 4:1-11 ) grouped around the throne of the Eternal are set in Heaven. The twelve thrones on which the apostles are to sit in sessional judgment upon Israel (Matthew 19:28 ) are no doubt includedin the larger and more comprehensive governing idea conveyed by the Seer (Revelation 20:4 ).
THE FIRST CLASS MENTIONED WHO REIGN WITH CHRIST.
4. “ They sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. ” To whom do the pronouns they and them refer?for the company mentioned is not otherwise described. Some have suggested “nations” as being the immediate antecedent (v. 3), others angels. Again, “they sat upon them” has been supposed to signify the twelve thrones of the apostles (Matthew 19:28 ), and by others to mean thetwenty-four heavenly thrones (Revelation 4:4 ). Another class of expositors limit the application to martyrs only, supposingthe pronouns to be a summary of the two classes of martyrs referred to in the text. But “ they ” are evidently a separate and independent company from the martyrs first seen in the separate state; whereas our company are witnessed enthroned “judgment was given to them.” It is never predicated of spirits that they are crowned and reign. To refer the sitters on the thrones to nations seems a far-fetched idea. Nor can the idea of enthroned angels be entertained, even if supported by the weight of such names as Ewald, P. W. Grant, and others. The reign of angels is nowhere taught in the Scriptures, but rather the contrary, “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak” (Hebrews 2:5 ). Thegovernment of the earth is to be administered by Christ and His heavenly saints (see 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ). We must,too, look for a larger and broader view of the kingly reign in our text, and not narrow it down to apostles or any limited company.
The “ they ” evidently refers to a well-known class. We have already seen, more than once, the redeemed in Heaven represented by the twenty-four elders taking part in the scenes unfolded from chapters 4 to 19. They are the sum of Old Testament and New Testament believers raised or changed at the Coming into the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ). This is a much larger body of saints than themartyrs, and hence you have nowhere to locate them in the reign, save as included in the two plural pronouns they and them . It would be strange indeed to have the reign of martyrs to the exclusion of those very saints in Heaven “made kings and priests unto God.” The Old and New Testament saints in Heaven during the time of the apocalyptic judgments are the sitters on the throne beheld by the Seer.
4. “ Judgment was given to them. ” That is, royal authority to rule is conferred on these saints. It is the fulfilment of that grand and unqualified statement, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2 ).
THE SECOND CLASS WHO REIGN WITH CHRIST.
4. “ And (I saw) the souls *We are quite aware that the term soul often stands for or represents a person, as in Acts 27:37 ; Genesis 12:5 , etc., but is it so in the case before us? Twice the Seer beheld the souls of those slain or beheaded, i.e. , the souls of persons. They are first beheld under the altar (Revelation 6:9 ). then on the eve of reunion with their bodies.But in both he sees them out of the body in the separate state. In our chapter John first beholds the souls of the martyrs, then he sees them as raised in life and reigning, no longer in the separate state. The soul never dies, it cannot be killed. It has a life which neither sword nor axe can reach (Matthew 10:28 ). of them that had been beheaded on account of the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God ” (R.V.). What John sees in vision is not persons but souls, the souls of martyrs in the separate state. These form an earlier class of martyrs than those who suffer under the Beast, and are evidently identical with those slain under the fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11 ). Thispersecution takes effect soon after the removal of the saints to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3 ). The grounds of thisoutburst of rage and cruelty are twofold: first, on account of the testimony of Jesus, which is of a prophetic character. The testimony of Jesus in the Gospels is very different from that in the Apocalypse; there it is the unfolding of grace, here it is the disclosure of judgment; there the Father in love, here God setting up the kingdom. This latter is a testimony which the apostate peoples of the earth cannot endure, hence those who receive it must suffer even to death. The second ground of this persecution is on account of the Word of God. Faithful adherence to it characterises the remnant in these times. Men will then take sides for or against the rights of God. No trimming of sails or temporising policy will be allowed. A rigid cleaving to the Word will show up the scene in its true light and character a path so narrow and a sphere so circumscribed that death alone is the end. We gather that no saint in the coming crisis dies a natural death. He either lives through the period or is martyred.
THE THIRD CLASS WHO REIGN WITH CHRIST.
4. “ And (I saw) those who had not worshipped the Beast, nor his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and hand. ” If the descriptive words “the testimony of Jesus” and “the Word of God” connect the previous company with those noted in ?Revelation 6:9-11 , so here the reference to the Beast, his image, and mark on forehead or hand, unmistakably directs us to Revelation 13:15-17 . How good and wise is our God to furnish us with those helps by the way. There are difficulties inevery part of the divine volume, but the key to unlock the door is always at hand . The Apocalypse is no exception to the rule. “Was there a key sent with the book, and has this been lost? Was it thrown into the Sea of Patmos or into the Meander?” asks a distinguished theologian.
Death in one of its many forms is the only alternative to active and public support of the Beast. The Beast tramples down all rights and ruthlessly destroys all who stand in his way. The inalienable right and responsibility of the creature as such to worship God the Creator is impiously denied. It is the attempt of man on earth to take the place of God. The Antichrist,or Man of Sin, does so in the temple and amongst the Jews (2 Thessalonians 2:4 ). The effort under the first of the Gentile monarchies (Daniel 3:1-30 ), as also under the last (Revelation 13:1-18 ), to banish God from the heart and conscienceof man can have but one issue: death and ultimate triumph on the one hand, judgment and everlasting ruin on the other. For Nebuchadnezzar, however, there was repentance granted and mercy shown. To the Beast and his followers there will be neither.
The mystic mark on the forehead, whatever that may be,publicly proclaims the person as an adherent of the Beast; on the hand intimates active support, a willing worker in the interests of the Beast.
THE LIFE AND REIGN OF THE MARTYRS.
. “ And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. ” The martyred saints are raised after the marriage and supper (Revelation 19:7-9 ), and just on the eve of the assumption of the kingdom, hence they are neither part of the bride nor amongst the guests at the bridal supper. The two martyred companies are specifically referred to. John has just seen their souls in the separate state, now he sees them raised “they lived,” which, of course, implies their resurrection. Death had overtaken their bodies. Hence to men they were dead, but to God they were alive, for John saw their souls. Physical death is never applied to the soul, nor is the term resurrection. The terms death and resurrection are used of the body only. We do not here refer to any figurative use of them, but to the words as literally understood. (Compare with Matthew 10:28 ,which shows that the soul has life of itself which man cannot reach; also Matthew 22:32 ; Luke 20:38 , even after physical death, “all live unto Him.”) The duration of the reign of these martyrs, for they have not lost butgained by laying down their lives, is now stated for the first time to be “a thousand years.”
These two associated facts are clearly emphasised: the confinement of Satan and the reign of Christ for the lengthened period of one thousand years. Hallelujah!what an hour of triumph, what an answer to the life laid down under the axe of the executioner, in the dungeons of the inquisition, or under the fiend-like cruelty of a Nero!
THE REST OF THE DEAD.
Revelation 20:5 . “ The rest of the dead did not live till the thousand years had been completed. ” That a literal resurrection and a literal reigning are meant seems unquestionable. Why depart from the simple and obvious meaning of the words, and suppose a resurrection and a reign of principles? It is persons and not principles which are before us in the text. It is surprising that such a far-fetched and unnatural theory should find support in certain quarters generally considered sober and orthodox.
The doctrine of a general resurrection, of good and bad alike, of just and unjust, is disproved in our text. It must be frankly conceded that the Lord’s words in John 5:28-29 seem to teach a general resurrection: “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in 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; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” or judgment. The “hour” referred to embraces a thousand years, at the commencement of which the righteous are raised, and at its close the wicked. We are not giving an arbitrary force to the term hour , as in the very chapter quoted from, the hour of spiritual quickening, that is, of the soul, has already lasted nigh two thousand years (v. 25).
Between the resurrection of those “that have done good ” and those “that have done evil ” a thousand years transpire. “The rest of the dead” are the wicked raised to judgment (Revelation 20:13 ). Not one saint of God will be found in this last closing scene of resurrection and consequent judgment, which is final and eternal. There is a resurrection of the just, effected at different times, commencing with Christ the firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:23 ), “afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” into the air *At the death of Christ “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after His resurrection , and went into the Holy City, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53 ). We have no reason tosuppose that those saints died again and were buried. It is appointed unto men to die once (Hebrews 9:27 ). We question if the Jerusalem martyrs (Revelation 11:11-12 ) are raised simultaneously with the general body of martyrs. In our judgment the time, occasion, and circumstances are different. The Jewish witnesses perhaps take precedence. when the living are changed and the dead in Christ of all ages raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16 ).Then on the eve of the introduction of the millennial kingdom we have the resurrection of the apocalyptic martyrs (Revelation 20:4-6 ). Thus from the resurrection ofChrist till those of Old and New Testament times we have a period of nigh two thousand years; again, between the raising of those latter and that of the martyrs several years, at least seven, transpire. But with the wicked dead it is far different. From Cain onwards all remain in their graves till after the millennial reign, when they are raised the last act in time and then judged in eternity (vv. 12, 13). All such are raised at one and the same time, and find themselves after judgment in the lake of fire with the devil, the Beast, and his Jewish associate in crime, the False Prophet. Then the curtain closes only to be drawn aside once more (Revelation 21:8 ) for a passing glance.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION.
Revelation 20:6 . “ This is the first resurrection. ” *It may be noted here that, according to the true reading, the living and reigning is certainly resurrection. “The rest of the dead lived not until,” etc.; so that it is clearly used here for resurrection, as the following words confirm: “This is the first resurrection.” “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,” vol. 5, p. 636 footnote, Morrish ed. Blessed and holy he who has part in the first resurrection: over these the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” The vision itself occupies verse 4 (the longest verse in the apocalypse) and the first part of verse 5. Then the interpretation follows, commencing with the words, “This is the first resurrection,” and continues down to the close of verse 6. The interpretation we have transcribed in full. The change which will pass over the living saints at the Coming is equivalent to the raising of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 ). Then every trace of mortalityand corruption shall disappear, and all be glorified. The dead are raised in glory (v. 43). The bodies of saints,whether alive or in the grave at the Coming, are changed into the likeness of His body of glory (Philippians 3:21 ). “The first resurrection” is here regarded as completed. It is a term of special blessedness and import. To have part in it was the eager desire of the apostle (Philippians 3:11 ). The resurrection of the dead is equally taught in both Testaments,but resurrection from the dead is New Testamentrevelation alone, and is first taught in Mark 9:9 ; then in Luke 20:35 its application to believers is assured. The term “second resurrection” is never used of the wicked.
Every one who has part in the first resurrection is pronounced “blessed and holy.” It is a matter of individual blessedness. The first term is descriptive of his happy condition: the second of his character. Happiness and holiness are inseparably associated, and must never be separated. “Over these the second death has no power.” The expressions, “ first resurrection” and “ second death” are contrasted terms, because all who have no part in the one shall certainly share in the other. The second death is the lake of fire (v. 14). Into it the raised wicked dead are cast. But this awful death, dying yet never dead physically, has no title, no authority over those embraced in the first resurrection, for these “die no more.” Their bodies are immortal. They can no more die than can angels (Luke 20:36 ). The “second death” has no claim over the “sons of the resurrection.”
The positive blessedness of the risen and glorified saints is next declared, not simply their immunity from the eternal consequences of sin the “second death” “but they shall be priests of God and of Christ.” Both the holy (1 Peter 2:5 ) and royal character of priesthood (v. 9) shall then be in fullest exercise, unceasingly and unhinderedly.We shall have continual access into God’s presence as His priests, and in association with Christ exhibit in its blessed fulness the royal virtues of Him Whom our souls delight to honour.
THE REIGN OF A THOUSAND YEARS.
. “ And shall reign with Him a thousand years. ” *We have the authority of the late Dean Alford for the statement that for the first three hundred years the whole Church understood the thousand years’ reign in its plain and literal sense. He also maintained, as we do in our exposition, that verse 4 of our chapter reveals three classes of saints. The greatness of the statement and the grandeur of the subject leave the soul amazed. Once poor wretched sinners, then raised to such a height, only subordinate to Him Who redeemed us by His blood, and exalted us by His grace to such glory! This reign in regal power and splendour, this assumption of kingly dignity as Christ’s fellow-heirs, continues for a thousand years, but the eternal state which succeeds shall disclose fresh glories and added dignities, although the mediatorial kingdom as such outlasts the longest span of life yet recorded. Methuselah lived 969 years, “ and he died ” (Genesis 5:27 ). Saints in the heavens and saints on earth shall live a thousand years,and shall not die.
The reign of Christ and the confinement of Satan are associated facts. The tempter of men must be removed.The glory must not be dimmed nor the blessing marred by the further machinations of Satan. The reign of a thousand years is the grandest event in the history of the race. There are no details given, but simply a statement of the fact. The earthly blessings secured to Israel and the world under the sway of Christ are, in the main, the subjects of the prophets, whilst the heavenly character of the reign is unfolded from Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 .The millennial reign is better described by the scriptural term THE KINGDOM. It consists, however, of two departments, respectively spoken of as the kingdom of the Son and the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:41-43 ).The former relates to the earth, the latter to the heavens. Daniel 7:27 unites the two. “Most High” is in the plural, and signifies “the heavenly places,” as in Ephesians 1:3 ; Ephesians 1:20 . “The people (Israel) of the saints.” The people and saints are distinguished. Israel on earth is the former, the changed and risen saints in the heavenlies are the latter. The people are said to belong to the saints; for, after all, the kingdom in its widest extent forms the joint dominion of Christ and His heavenly people, although Israel shall exercise sovereign rule and authority amongst the nations their head, and not as now the tail.
SATAN’S LAST ACTION AND FINAL DOOM.
Revelation 20:7-10 . Our chapter is apportioned into four distinct yet closely related sections. In the first we have the dragon bound for a thousand years and cast into the abyss, which is then sealed over him (vv. l-3). In the second we havethe three classes specifically brought before us who reign with Christ during the millennial era, and their blessedness (vv. 4-6). In the third we witness the last and universal gathering of the wicked on earth under the banner of Satan,and the final and everlasting doom of the devil in the lake of fire (vv. 7-10). In the fourth no denomination of time is used as in the previous sections. Here we have got to the end of time, to the close of human history, and the usheringin of the eternal state by the judgment of the dead at the great white throne (vv. 11-15).
The third section is really a continuation of the first,which had been interrupted by the calm and tranquillising sight of the various classes of heavenly saints who reign with Christ.
7. Now the history of Satan is resumed, *A similar interpretation in connection with the dragon is noted in Revelation 12:1-17 .We have the war in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-9 ). Its successful issue results in the expulsion of Satan and his angels, who are cast down to the earth. This is followed by joy and rejoicing in Heaven (Revelation 12:10-12 ). Then the history of Satan is resumed which had been interrupted by the heavenly rejoicing (Revelation 12:13-17 ); verse 13 connecting itselfwith verse 9. connecting itself with verse 3.
Revelation 20:8 . On the completion of the thousand years’ imprisonment Satan, not now spoken of as the dragon, “ is loosed from his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which (are) on the four corners of the earth,Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war, whose number is as the sand of the sea .” During the reign all Israel is saved (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ; Romans 11:26 ), andtheir seed and seed’s seed for ever (Isaiah 59:20-21 ). But not so the Gentiles. The populations of the earth will be greatly thinned by judgments, large numbers be saved, but many will only render feigned obedience to the authority of the reigning Monarch of the earth. Not the obedience of faith, but a compelled submission under the iron rod (Psalms 2:9 ), an obedience extorted by fear (see Psalms 18:44 ;Psalms 66:3 ; Psalms 81:15 ; in the margin of each of those texts we reach feigned obedience ). Another consideration, which in itself fully accounts for the countless multitudes gathered by Satan from all parts of the earth, is that death even amongst the unsaved will not be the rule, rather the exception (for the principle see Isaiah 65:20 ); besides, the peoplingof the earth shall go on as ever, but Scripture does not, so far as we know, intimate that those born during the thousand years are converted, except those amongst Israel (Isaiah 59:21 ). The restraint upon Satan being removed,the nations, not merely individuals, but communities and peoples who had basked under the light and blessing of Messiah’s personal reign, yield themselves up to Satan. Alas! what is man? He has been tried and tested under every possible condition, in every possible way, under goodness, government, law, grace, and now under glory. The former gathering of the powers was under human leaders (Revelation 19:19 ). This one is on a vaster scale, and under the direct control and guidance of Satan himself.Both end in utter rout and ruin.
THE LAST HUMAN CONFEDERACY.
. The gathering of the nations is universal in character from the four corners of the globe, and so numerous are they that the only comparison is to the sand of the seashore. This vast assemblage is metaphorically spoken of as Gog and Magog . * Gog, or Russia (Ezekiel 38:1-23 ; Ezekiel 39:1-29 ). Who is Gog? The reference is to the vast and growing power of Russia, the outcome of the warlike Sclavonic tribes of ancient origin, descended from Japheth, eldest son of Noah (Genesis 10:2 ). The capital cities of European and Asiatic Russia are named in the first verses of the two chapters. “Meshech” (Moscow), formerly the seat of government of European-Russia, now second city of the empire, and “Tubal” (Tobolsk) chief city of Siberia, are not only thus early designated, but Russia itself is distinctly named, and that, too, fourteen and a half centuries before she was known in history as Russia. The words in the beginning of our chapters, “The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal,” should read, “Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (R. V.). Thus Russia and were it still doubted, the naming of her chief cities surely establishes the fact is clearly pointed out in the Scriptures of truth, a certain proof of the futurity of this remarkable prophecy. Russia was only known by name in history in the ninth christian century. It is derived from Ruric, a Norman pirate who really founded the empire. Her geographical position is also indicated in the prophecy: “And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts .” Gog is a symbolic term for the head of all the Russias. Magog, also symbolic, is his land. The Prophet of visions tells us of Persia, Ethiopia, and many other nations coming down under the leadership of Gog “like a cloud to cover the land.” The apparently defenceless state of Judea, its numerous and thriving villages, having neither walls, bars, nor gates, seem to offer an easy prey to the nations, while the world’s wealth, centralised in the Jew, will awaken the cupidity of the powers (Ezekiel 38:10-13 ). To plunder and destroy are the objects of this mighty confederation (see Isaiah 33:1-24 , which also refers to Gog’s attack). Alas! little do they dream that Jehovah hath girded Zion with strength, and that the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers not sleeps. The Lord Jesus Christ is there , Israel’s glory and defence, and His and their enemies only reach the Judean mountains to find a grave, and their wealth to swell the treasures already gathered in Immanuel’s land (Ezekiel 39:1-29 ). The chosen leader of this expedition against restored Israel is Gog, the last Czar of Russia, whose name is withheld. These terms really refer to the last Czar of Russia and his land (Ezekiel 38:1-23 ; Ezekiel 39:1-29 ). Now the last attack upon Judea is after the destruction of the western powers (Revelation 19:1-21 ) and the eastern enemies of Israel (Zechariah 14:1-21 ; Psalms 83:1-18 ). Gog (Russia) comes down upon the land toplunder and destroy, not knowing that the Lord has come and made salvation the sure bulwarks of His ancient earthly people (Isaiah 26:1-2 ). Hence the last attempt todestroy Israel at the commencement of the millennium is repeated on even a more gigantic scale at the close . The object is the same in both attacks, only the former comes from the north, the geographical location of Gog; whereas the latter is from all parts of the earth. One can thus readily understand why the terms Gog and Magog are used,so as to connect the two attempts to overthrow and destroy Israel, the one pre-millennial the other post-millennial. It will be observed that no kings or great men are named, as in the gathering under the Beast (Revelation 19:1-21 ), but nations simply as such.
Revelation 20:9 . “ And they went up on the breadth of the earth,and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. ” They crowd and cover the earth in its entirety. They come from north, south, east, and west. They gather under one leader, swayed by one deadly impulse of hatred, and to one centre. The nations have experienced for one thousand years the beneficent rule of Christ. Satan has been for one thousand years restrained,his liberty curtailed, and yet the mad attempt is entered upon to crush the camp of the saints, and to destroy the beloved city, Jerusalem. The nations converge upon Jerusalem. Christ does not intervene. It is a matter for God to take up. The camp of the saints on earth, and the “beloved city,” a beautiful designation of Jerusalem in the future (Isaiah 60:1-22 ), are surrounded by the multitudinous hosts of earth. No mention is made of how Christ and Hispeople, heavenly or earthly, regard this last mad attempt of Satan and his deceived followers. All is silent in the camp and city. The apostate nations march into the jaws of death. Their judgment is sudden, swift, overwhelming, and final. God deals with the hosts of evil, “ Fire came down out of Heaven and devoured them ,” the Authorised Version adding “from God.” The words should be deleted on the authority of the critics, yet the sense is the same, for the judgment is from God .
SATAN CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE.
Revelation 20:10 . What of the proud boast of the perfectibility of human nature in light of the closing scene in the drama of history! For the first time in the history of the race (from Genesis 3:1-24 to Revelation 20:1-15 ) we have an earth without a sinner upon its surface. Satan has now to be dealt with. He is allowed to see the end of all his heartless machinations.He is foiled and defeated. His doom was fixed seven thousand years before its execution (Genesis 3:15 ). His headis bruised by the woman’s seed. There yet remains the one final act of everlasting judgment. “ And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where (are) both the Beast and the False Prophet, and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages. ”
The dragon was first cast out of Heaven, then shut up in the abyss, now cast into the lake of fire. As the dragon he is shut up, as Satan he is loosed, and as the devil he is cast into the lake of fire. *For the signification of these titles see remarks on Revelation 12:8 . In this last war the dragon is not named. Satan, signifying adversary , is the open and declared enemy and adversary of God, of Christ, of the saints, of Israel, and in that character he stands out apart from human agents as the leader of the hosts who gather against the camp and city. But as the devil, the deceiver and tempter of men, he is cast into everlasting torment.
It is observable, too, that in the narrative the Seer changes his standpoint. In verse 7 he looks on to the end of the thousand years, whereas in verse 9 he adopts the historical tense. In the former he is the prophet; in the latter he is the historian. Need we add that the whole vision is yet future. We refer to the different points of view as John beheld them and narrates them.
10. “ Cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. ” A lake supposes solid land on either side. “Fire and brimstone” are figures of inexpressible torment (see Revelation 14:10 ; Isaiah 30:33 ).
10. “ The Beast and the False Prophet ” are already there . They were consigned to their most awful doom at the commencement of the millennial reign, and they are found in it at its close. What a pertinent and striking illustration of the Lord’s words in Mark 9:49 , “Every one shall be salted with fire.” Salt is preservative. Here are two men who have been salted with fire, not consumed, but preserved in torment by torment, and that for a thousand years. We do not contend for actual literal flames, for the devil is a spirit (see also Luke 16:23-24 ). Fire consumesnatural objects. But we do most strongly insist upon that which the figures are meant to teach, “outer darkness,” “wailing and gnashing of teeth,” “a never dying worm and quenchless fire,” “fire and brimstone,” etc. The truth is that in the lake of fire mental agony and corporeal suffering are united and endured in degree proportioned to the guilt of those who have sinned. The punishment is in exact measure to the sin, but all is everlasting or eternal.
10. “ They shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages. ” The plural pronoun refers to the devil, the Beast, and the False Prophet. “Day and night” shows that the torment is without intermission, unceasing. “For the ages of ages” signifies here and in Revelation 14:11 eternityin its full and proper meaning never-ending existence.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD
THE THRONE AND THE JUDGE.
Revelation 20:11 . “ And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the Heaven fled, and place was not found for them. ” This verse constitutes a distinct vision of itself. The words “I saw” occur again in verse 12. There are two separate visions: first, the throne and the Judge; second, the dead and their judgment. The millennium opens and closes each with an act of sessional judgment, and in both the Lord in Person is the Judge. The living are the subjects in the former case; the dead are on their trial in the latter. The throne of glory set up in Matthew 25:31 is totally distinct from the great white throne of our chapter. The times of the respective judgments: the one before, and the other after the millennial reign; the parties judged, the living in the one case, the dead in the other; nations , too, in the former; individuals in the latter; these and other essential differences between the two thrones mark them off as fundamentally distinct. It is impossible to regard them as one and the same.
There are three great thrones: (1) in Heaven (Revelation 4:2 ),from whence the universe is governed; (2) on earth (Matthew 25:31 ), for the judgment of the nations in respect to theirtreatment of the preachers of the Gospel of the kingdom (vv. 40-45); (3) the great white throne, for the judgment of the dead (Revelation 20:11 ).
11. “ A great white throne. ” *Not the throne of the Sovereign, but that of the Judge, not regal but judicial. Neither is it permanently set up, but temporally, and for a special purpose. There is but one such.We are about to view the greatest assize ever held. The august dignity of the Judge, the greatness of the occasion, the vastness of the scene, and the eternal consequences involved fitly demand the epithet great . The judgment is not governmental, but is one according to the nature of God Himself, Who is light , and that gives its own true and proper character to the throne. Greatness and puritycharacterise it.
11. “ Him that sat on it. ” Here the pronoun alone is used; the name of the Judge is withheld. But we learn from the Lord Himself who it is that judges. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22 ); and, further, that the Son executes His own judgment (v. 27). It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the despised Nazarene and crucified Lord, “who shall judge the quick and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1 ). The quick , or living, Hehas already judged (Matthew 25:31 ). Now He is about to judge the dead . The Son of Man it is Who sits on the throne.We gather that the name is withheld because the judgment and attendant circumstances are in moral keeping with the divine nature, not so prominently with His manhood as the title Son of Man would suggest.
11. “ From whose face the earth and the Heaven fled. ” One could readily imagine that the present scene,so marred and wrecked, would at once disappear before the glory and majesty of such a One, but that is not what is seen here. It is the earth and the Heaven constituted by the Lord Himself as spheres to display His glory and righteousness that cannot abide the glory of His face. The millennial scene, both in its higher and lower departments, is at the best an imperfect condition. “The earth and Heaven fled” not passed out of existence, not annihilated. The next clause carefully guards against any such unscriptural deduction “place was not found for them.” It does not intimate the complete disappearance of the millennial earth and Heaven. Consequent upon the removal of these, new heavens and a new earth fitted, furnished, and constituted for eternity take their place are made, not created *Making supposes pre-existing material. Matter has been created once. Creation is the production of material, or matter, which never before existed. Isaiah 65:17-18 is millennial, and intimates a complete moral change. (Isaiah 66:22 ; 2 Peter 3:13 ). Between the passing away of the millennial scene and the introduction of the eternal worlds, material in both cases, the great white throne is set up. *The removal of the present material heavens and earth, as beheld by the Seer and foretold by Peter (2 Peter 3:10 ), is in order that the “new Heaven and new earth” may take their place (Revelation 21:1 ). But the question has been raised: What about the millennial saints on earth? How will they be preserved during the burning and dissolving of which Peter speaks? On this Scripture is silent. Without doubt God will care for and preserve His own during the great change. The bodies of the saints on earth will be constituted for the new conditions of life, for an earth destined never to pass away. Yet the everlasting distinction will be observed between the heavenly and earthly peoples, however close the connection may be. This consideration imparts profound solemnity to the scene before us. For the throne is not set on the earth, nor in relation to its dispensations and times. It is a scene outside human history entirely. We have passed out of time into eternity. The judgment therefore of the throne is final, and in its very nature eternal.We are in God’s eternity. There can be no measures of time nor limitations bounded by the globe, for that by which all is measured and limited has passed away. The judgment is of persons in their individual relation to God, and is consequently final and eternal.
THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD BEFORE THE THRONE.
Revelation 20:12 . “ And I saw the dead, the great and the small,standing before the throne ” (R.V.). A new vision. The term dead here has a twofold signification. First, it refers to those who had actually died, and only such are viewed in the passage. Second, all in this judgment are spiritually dead. John sees them as raised not in a separate state. Verse 13 states facts prior to verse 12, and accounts for the dead standing before the throne. There is a resurrection of the just and of the unjust (Acts 24:15 ). But the resurrection of the former is special, both as to time and character. There is really no ground for the prevalent notion of a general resurrection and a general judgment.The former is negatived by the statement in verse 5 of our chapter, “The rest of the dead did not live till the thousand years had been completed.” A general judgment is as destitute of divine authority as that of a common resurrection, for here the dead alone are judged, whilst in Matthew 25:1-46 and Revelation 19:1-21 the living only are in view a thousand years before.
12. “ The great and the small. ” This Biblical phrase, of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament, is found five times in the Apocalypse (Revelation 11:18 ; Revelation 13:16 ;Revelation 19:5 ; Revelation 19:18 ; Revelation 20:12 ). In the first four of these references the order of the words is reversed from that in our text: “small and great.” The exception is due to the greatness and majesty of the occasion. The article before the adjectives would intimate that special classes of the great and the small are there, from all ranks of men in the Church and inthe world. The highest and most responsible, down to the least, are congregated and gathered round the throne.
12. “ Standing before the throne. ” How real and present the vision was to the Seer! On what do they stand?Not on earth, for that has disappeared. The dead are maintained before the throne of omnipotent power. The throne beheld by the grandest of the prophets (Isaiah 6:1-13 ) had an altar of sacrifice beside it; hence the righteous claim of the throne was met and answered by the altar. The throne in the innermost room of the tabernacle of old had blood the witness of death sprinkled upon it. But the throne before us is great and white, and there is neither altar nor blood. Oh, the horror, the despair, the agony of standing in one’s sins, searched by the blaze of divine light! Caves, rocks, caverns, there are none in which the guilty soul may hide, for these have fled, and each sinner is now face to face with God, from Whom there is no escape and no shelter.
DIVINE RECORDS OF HUMAN HISTORY.
12. “ And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is (that) of life. And the dead were judged out of the things written in the books,according to their works. ” “Books were opened.” Every responsible soul on earth has his life and history written above. Nothing is forgotten, nothing is too trivial, all are unerringly set down in the records of God. Infants and idiots are alone excepted. The ground of judgment is that of works, of deeds. Men are responsible for what they have done, not for what they are as born into the world. The existence of an evil nature in each one of the human race (Psalms 51:5 ) is not the ground of judgment, and hence infants and irresponsible persons are not contemplated, and do not come in for judgment at all. We cannot help, nor are we responsible for, the existence of the evil nature in us, but we are responsible for its activity . The root in you you cannot help, but the fruit you can, and for this provision has been made in the sacrifice of Christ. Judgment is according to “because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6 ).
Literal books, or rolls, are, of course, out of question.Their awful signification is enough to appall the stoutest heart, and make the most hardened conscience quail. The ungodly dead shall be confronted withal they have thought, done, and said, from the moment of responsibility till its close. If judgment proceeds on the ground of works there can be but one result, one issue of the fair and impartial trial: condemnation, final and eternal. Twice it is said that the judgment is “according to their works.” Memory, too, will be stirred in that awful moment, and add its solemn Amen , as the record of each one’s life is read over amidst the profoundest silence and awe inspired by such a scene.
But the book of life is next opened and carefully scanned,with the result that not one name of the ungodly is found in its pages. Their names might have been written in that book, but mercy was despised, grace rejected, and now judgment and its execution must take their course. It is the book of life referred to in Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 , but not that of Revelation 3:5 . This latter is the book of Christian profession , true and false; the former is the record of all true believers.
COMING UP OF THE DEAD
Revelation 20:13 . “ And the sea gave up the dead which (were)in it, and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, each according to their works. ” Literally, the sea, “the sepulchre of buried nations,” shall have to yield up its dead. Thevoice of the Son of God, for all the dead shall hear it (?John 5:28 ; ?John 5:29 ), will fathom the lowest depths of the deepest sea,and the angry billows and waves shall answer to the voice of their Creator, and yield up their dead, every one. Death, too, which claimed the body, and hades the soul the Lord has the keys of both shall give up their dead, every one. The emperor and peasant, the high and low, the rich and poor, have been humbled to one dead level.Now all come forth at that voice of irresistible power and majesty, and each one is judged “according to their works.”
DESTRUCTION OF DEATH AND HADES
Revelation 20:14 . “ And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (even), the lake of fire. ” All do not enter into death and hades. It is appointed unto “men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27 ), not unto all men, as the text is generally, but erroneously, read.Enoch and Elijah were caught up, and those alive at the Coming shall be changed, they will not die. When the first resurrection is completed, then death and hades are done with for saints, their work in holding respectively the body and soul is at an end. But they still continue to hold the ungodly dead in their terrible grip. Strong they are, but Christ is their Master (Revelation 1:18 ). Now that their work is over they are cast into the lake of fire; they were brought into existence, so to speak, by sin, and as the lake of fire is the eternal depository of all contrary to God as light and love they are cast into it.
“This is the second death,” that is, the lake of fire. The bodies of the wicked will be constituted to last through eternal ages; they will never die, but eternally exist in the second death. It is not extinction of existence, not annihilation, but it is torment during the lifetime of the Almighty and Eternal God. Nor will there be apportioned to each the same amount,measure, and degree of punishment. The place is common to all, but “ many stripes” and “ few stripes” (Luke 12:47-48 ) indicate the infliction of various degreesof punishment.
CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE.
Revelation 20:15 . “ And if any one was not found written in thebook of life he was cast into the lake of fire. ” Such then is the eternal doom of the wicked. The dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and now all the unbelieving from the days of Cain find themselves in one horror of horrors, in one place where memory will give point and sting to the agony of eternal separation from God,from light and happiness. May God solemnise our spirits as we ponder these realities soon to be the awful lot and portion of many.
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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 20". "Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent