Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 20:4

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
New American Standard Version

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Nave's Topical Bible - Animals;   Beheading;   Church;   Jesus Continued;   Millennium;   Persecution;   Resurrection;   Righteous;   Vision;   Year;   Thompson Chain Reference - Beheading;   Exaltation-Abasement;   Faithfulness-Unfaithfulness;   Fidelity;   Future, the;   Immortal Soul;   Immortality;   Kings of Israel;   Kingship, Spiritual;   Man's;   Martyrdom;   Mortality-Immortality;   Nation, the;   Promises, Divine;   Punishments;   Reward;   Soul;   Spiritual;   Suffering for Righteousness' S;   Sufferings Rewarded;   The Topic Concordance - Government;   Resurrection;   Suffering;   Worship;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Beasts;   Confessing Christ;   Judgment, the;   Martyrdom;   Reward of Saints, the;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Day of the lord;   Humanity, humankind;   Jesus christ;   Martyr;   Millennium;   Ruler;   Son of man;   Soul;   Witness;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Heaven, Heavens, Heavenlies;   Resurrection;   Second Coming of Christ;   Word;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Conflagration;   Croisade, or Crusade;   Hell;   Millennium;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Amillennialism;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Forehead;   Millennium;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Canticles;   ;   Witnesses;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Crimes and Punishments;   Eschatology;   Millennium;   Persecution in the Bible;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Chiliasm;   Crimes and Punishments;   Hand;   Millennium;   Parousia;   Revelation, Book of;   Throne;   Time;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Angels;   Ascension;   Ascension of Isaiah;   Day of Judgment;   Devil ;   Enoch Book of;   Eschatology;   Hand;   Heaven;   House;   Image;   Immortality;   Judge Judging (Ethical);   King;   King (2);   King of Kings and Lord of Lords;   Lord;   New Jerusalem;   Numbers;   Papias;   Parousia;   Peter Epistles of;   Resurrection;   Soul;   Soul ;   Throne ;   Witness;   Witness (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Beheading;   Dispensation,;   Millennium;   Prophets, the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Fire;   Gog;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Forehead;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Cerinthians;   Millenarians;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Authority in Religion;   Damn;   Forehead;   Hades;   Mark;   Persecution;   Print;   Psychology;   Resurrection;   Revelation of John:;   Satan;   Soul;   Throne;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for March 24;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I saw thrones - Christianity established in the earth, the kings and governors being all Christians.

Reigned with Christ a thousand years - I am satisfied that this period should not be taken literally. It may signify that there shall be a long and undisturbed state of Christianity; and so universally shall the Gospel spirit prevail, that it will appear as if Christ reigned upon earth; which will in effect be the case, because his Spirit shall rule in the hearts of men; and in this time the martyrs are represented as living again; their testimony being revived, and the truth for which they died, and which was confirmed by their blood, being now everywhere prevalent. As to the term thousand years, it is a mystic number among the Jews. Midrash Tillin, in Psalm 90:15, Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, adds, "by Babylon, Greece, and the Romans; and in the days of the Messiah. How many are the days of the Messiah? Rab. Elieser, the son of R. Jose, of Galilee, said, The days of the Messiah are a thousand years."

Sanhedrin, fol. 92, 1, cited by the Aruch, under the word אירק says: "There is a tradition in the house of Elias, that the righteous, whom the holy blessed God shall raise from the dead, shall not return again to the dust; but for the space of a thousand years, in which the holy blessed God shall renew the world, they shall have wings like the wings of eagles, and shall fly above the waters." It appears therefore that this phraseology is purely rabbinical. Both the Greeks and Latins have the same form of speech in speaking on the state of the righteous and wicked after death. There is something like this in the Republic of Plato, book x., p. 322, edit. Bip., where, speaking of Erus, the son of Armenius, who came to life after having been dead twelve days, and who described the states of departed souls, asserting "that some were obliged to make a long peregrination under the earth before they arose to a state of happiness, ειναι δε την πορειαν χιλιετη, for it was a journey of a thousand years," he adds, "that, as the life of man is rated at a hundred years, those who have been wicked suffer in the other world a ten-fold punishment, and therefore their punishment lasts a thousand years."

A similar doctrine prevailed among the Romans; whether they borrowed it from the Greeks, or from the rabbinical Jews, we cannot tell.

Thus Virgil, speaking of the punishment of the wicked in the infernal regions, says: -

Has omnes, ubi Mille rotam volvere per annos,

Lethaeum ad fluvium Deus evocat agmine magno:

Scilicet immemores supera ut convexa revisant,

Rursus et incipiant in corpora velle reverti.

Aen., lib. vi., 748.

"But when a thousand rolling years are past,

So long their dreary punishment shall last,

Whole droves of spirits, by the driving god,

Are led to drink the deep Lethean flood

In large, forgetful draughts, to sleep the cares

Of their past labors and their irksome years;

That, unremembering of its former pain,

The soul may clothe itself with flesh again."

How the apostle applies this general tradition, or in what sense he may use it, who can tell?

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And I saw thrones - θρόνους thronousSee Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 4:3-4. John here simply says, that he saw in vision thrones, with persons sitting on them, but without intreating who they were that sat on them. It is not the throne of God that is now revealed, for the word is in the plural number, though the writer does not hint how “many” thrones there were. It is intimated, however, that these thrones were placed with some reference to pronouncing a judgment, or determining the destiny of some portion of mankind, for it is immediately added, “and judgment was given unto them.” There is considerable resemblance, in many respects, between this and the statement in Daniel 7:9; “I beheld until the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit”; or, as it should be rendered, “I beheld” - that is, I continued to look - “until the thrones were placed or set,” to wit, for the purposes of judgment. See the notes on that passage. So John here sees, as the termination of human affairs approaches, thrones placed with reference to a determination of the destiny of some portion of the race, “as if” they were now to have a trial, and to receive a sentence of acquittal or condemnation. The “persons” on whom this judgment is to pass are specified, in the course of the verse, as those who were “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, who had the Word of God, who had not worshipped the beast,” etc. The “time” when this was to occur manifestly was at the Beginning of the thousand years.

And they sat upon them - Who sat on them is not mentioned. The natural construction is, that “judges” sat on them, or that persons sat on them to whom judgment was entrusted. The language is such as would be used on the supposition either that he had mentioned the subject before, so that he would be readily understood, or that, from some other cause, it was so well understood that there was no necessity for mentioning who they were. John seems to have assumed that it would be understood who were meant. And yet to us it is not entirely clear; for John has not before this given us any such intimation that we can determine with certainty what is intended. The probable construction is, that those are referred to to whom it appropriately belonged to occupy such seats of judgment, and who they are is to be determined from other parts of the Scriptures. In Matthew 19:28, the Saviour says to his apostles, “When the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” In 1 Corinthians 6:2, Paul asks the question, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” The meaning as thus explained is, that Christians will, in some way, be employed in judging the world; that is, that they will be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and be elevated to a station of honor, as if they were associated with the Son of God in the judgment. Something of that kind is, doubtless, referred to here; and John probably means to say that he saw the thrones placed on which those will sit who will be employed in judging the world. If the apostles are specially referred to, it was natural that John, eminent for modesty, should not particularly mention them, as he was one of them, and as the true allusion would be readily understood.

And judgment was given unto them - The power of pronouncing sentence in the case referred to was conferred on them, and they proceeded to exercise that power. This was not in relation to the whole race of mankind, but to the martyrs, and to those who, amidst many temptations and trials, had kept themselves pure. The sentence which is to be passed would seem to be that in consequence of which they are to be permitted to “live and reign with Christ a thousand years.” The “form” of this expressed approval is that of a resurrection and judgment; whether this be the “literal” mode is another inquiry, and will properly be considered when the exposition of the passage shall have been given.

And I saw the souls of them - This is a very important expression in regard to the meaning of the whole passage. John says he saw “the souls” - not “the bodies.” If the obvious meaning of this be the correct meaning; if he saw the “souls” of the martyrs, not the “bodies,” this would seem to exclude the notion of a “literal” resurrection, and consequently overturn many of the theories of a literal resurrection, and of a literal reign of the saints with Christ during the thousand years of the millennium. The doctrine of the last resurrection, as everywhere stated in the Scripture, is, that the “body” will be raised up, and not merely that the “soul will live” (see Revelation 20:5-6, but there is not the slightest intheation that it would be a resurrection of the “body,” or that it would be identical with the “final” resurrection. John undoubtedly intends to describe some honor conferred on the “spirits or souls” of the saints and martyrs during this long period, as if they were raised from the dead, or which might be represented by a resurrection from the dead. What that honor is to be, is expressed by their “living and reigning with Christ.” The meaning of this will be explained in the exposition of these words; but the word used here is fatal to the notion of a literal resurrection and a personal reign with Christ on the earth.

That were beheaded - The word used here - πελεκίζω pelekizō- occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, “to axe,” that is, to hew or cut with an axe - from πέλεκυς pelekus“axe.” Hence it means to behead with an axe. This was a common mode of execution among the Romans, and doubtless many of the Christian martyrs suffered in this manner; but “it cannot be supposed to have been the intention of the writer to confine the rewards of martyrs to those who suffered in this particular way; for this specific and ignominious method of punishment is designated merely as the symbol of any and every kind of martyrdom” (Prof. Stuart).

For the witness of Jesus - As witnesses of Jesus; or bearing in this way their testimony to the truth of his religion. See the notes on Revelation 1:9; compare Revelation 6:9.

And for the Word of God - See the notes on Revelation 1:9. “Which had not worshipped the beast.” Who had remained faithful to the principles of the true religion, and had resisted all the attempts made to seduce them from the faith, even the temptations and allurements in the times of the papacy. See this language explained in the notes on Revelation 13:4.

Neither his image - notes on Revelation 13:14-15.

Neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands - See the notes on Revelation 13:16.

And they lived - ἔζησαν ezēsanfrom ζάω zaō“to live.” Very much, in the whole passage, depends on this word. The meanings given to the word by Prof. Robinson (Lexicon ) are the following:

(a)to live, to have life, spoken of physical life and existence;

(b)to live, that is, to sustain life, to live on or by anything;

(c)to live in any way, to pass one‘s life in any manner;

(d)to live and prosper; to be blessed.

It may be applied to those who were before dead Matthew 9:18; Mark 16:11; Luke 24:23; John 5:25; Acts 1:3; Acts 9:41, but it does not necessarily imply this, nor does the mere use of the word “suggest” it. It is the proper notion of living, or having life “now,” whatever was the former state - whether nonexistence, death, sickness, or health. The mind, in the use of this word, is fixed on the “present as a state of living.” It is not necessarily in contrast with a former state “as dead,” but it is on the fact that they are now alive. As, however, there is reference, in the passage before us, to the fact that a portion of those mentioned had been “beheaded for the witness of Jesus,” it is to be admitted that the word here refers, in some sense, to that fact. They were put to death in the body, but their “souls” were now seen to be alive. They had not ceased to be, but they lived and reigned with Christ as if they had been raised up from the dead. And when this is said of the “souls” of those who were beheaded, and who were seen to reign with Christ, it cannot mean:

(a)that their “souls” came to life again, for there is no intimation that they had for a moment ceased to exist; nor,

(b)that they then became “immortal,” for that was always true of them; nor,

(c)that there was any literal “resurrection of the body,” as Prof. Stuart (2:360,475,476) supposes, and as is supposed by those who hold to a literal reign of Christ on the earth, for there is no intimation of the resurrection of the “body.”

The meaning, then, so far as the language is concerned, must be, that there would exist, at the time of the thousand years, a state of things as if the martyrs were raised up from the dead - an honoring of the martyrs as if they should live and reign with Christ. Their names would be vindicated; their principles would be revived; they would be exalted in public estimation above other men; they would be raised from the low rank in which they were held by the world in times of persecution to a state which might well be represented by their sitting with Christ on the throne of government, and by their being made visible attendants on his glorious kingdom.

This would not occur in respect to the rest of the dead - even the pious dead Revelation 20:5 - for “their” honors and rewards would be reserved for the great day when all the dead should be judged according to their deeds. In this view of the meaning of this passage there is nothing that forbids us to suppose that the martyrs will be “conscious” of the honor thus done to their names, their memory, and their principles on earth, or that this consciousness will increase their joy even in heaven. This sense of the passage is thus expressed, substantially, by Dr. Whately (Essays on the Future State): “It may signify not the literal raising of dead men, but the raising up of an increased Christian zeal and holiness; the revival in the Christian church, or in some considerable portion of it, of the “spirit and energy” of the noble martyrs of old (even as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias), so that Christian principles shall be displayed in action throughout the world in an infinitely greater degree than ever before.”

This view of the signification of the word “lived” is sustained by its use elsewhere in the Scriptures and by its common use among people. Thus in this very book, Revelation 11:11; “And after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” So in Ezekiel, in speaking of the restoration of the Jews: “Thus saith the Lord God, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves,” and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live,” Ezekiel 37:12-14. So in Hosea 6:2; “After two days he will “revive” us (cause us to live again); in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall “live” in his sight.” So in the parable of the prodigal son: “This thy brother was dead, and is alive again,” Luke 15:32.

So in Isaiah 26:19; “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” The following extract, from D‘Aubigne‘s “History of the Reformation,” will show how natural it is to use the very language employed here when the idea is intended to be conveyed of reviving former principles as if the people who held them should be raised to life again. It is the language of the martyr John Huss, who, in speaking of himself in view of a remarkable dream that he had, said, “I am no dreamer, but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They (his enemies) have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ will rejoice at this. And I, awaking from among the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy.” So a Brief addressed by Pope Adrian to the Diet at Nuremberg contains these words: “The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther.” For a further illustration of the passage see the remarks which follow (section b) on the state of things which may be expected to exist in the time referred to in Revelation 20:4-6.

And reigned with Christ - Were exalted in their principles, and in their personal happiness in heaven, as if they occupied the throne with him, and personally shared his honors and his triumphs. Who can tell, also, whether they may not be employed in special services of mercy, in administering the affairs of his government during that bright and happy period?

A thousand years - During the period when Satan will be bound, and when the true religion will have the ascendency in the earth. See the notes on Revelation 20:2.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them,.... Besides the throne of God the Father, and the throne of glory, on which the Son of God sits, and the twelve thrones for the twelve apostles of the Lamb; there will be thrones set, or pitched, for all the saints, Daniel 7:9 who will sit on them, in the character of kings, and as conquerors, and shall sit quiet, and undisturbed, and be in perfect ease, and peace, for they that sit on them are the same persons hereafter described in this verse; for after the binding of Satan, an account is given of the happiness and glory of the saints during that time:

and judgment was given unto them; that is, power, dominion, regal authority, possession of a kingdom, answerable to their character as kings, and to their position, sitting on thrones, Daniel 7:22 unless it should be rather understood of justice being done them, which does not so manifestly take place in the present state of things, and of which they sometimes complain; but now righteous judgment will be given for them, and against their enemies; their persons will be openly declared righteous; their characters will be cleared of all false imputations fastened on them; and their works and sufferings for Christ will be taken notice of in a way of grace, and rewarded in a very glorious manner. And so it may respect their being judged themselves, but not their judging of others, the wicked, which is the sole work of Christ; nor will the wicked now be upon the spot to be judged; nor is that notion to be supported by See Gill on Matthew 19:28, See Gill on 1 Corinthians 6:2, See Gill on 1 Corinthians 6:3. The Jews fancy that their chief men shall judge the world in the time to come; for so they sayF23Yalkut Simconi, par. 2. fol. 41. 4. ,

"in future time, (or in the world to come,) the holy blessed God will sit, and kings will place thrones for the great men of Israel, and they shall sit and judge the nations of the world with the holy blessed God:'

but the persons here meant are not Jews, but sufferers for the sake of Jesus, as follows:

and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God: these, with the persons described in the next clause, are they who will sit on thrones, during the thousand years of Satan's being bound, and will have judgment given them; even such who have bore witness to the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the true Messiah, and the only Saviour of sinners, and to him as the essential Word of God, or to the written word of God, the whole Gospel, all the truths and doctrines of it; and who have been beheaded for bearing such a testimony, as John the Baptist was, the first of the witnesses of Jesus: and since this kind of punishment was a Roman one, it seems particularly to point at such persons who suffered under the Roman Pagan emperors, and to design the same souls said to be under the altar, and to cry for vengeance, Revelation 6:9. This clause, in connection with the former, is differently rendered; the Syriac version renders it thus, "and judgment was given to them, and to the souls that were beheaded", &c. the Arabic version, "and to them was given the judgment the souls killed", &c. the Ethiopic version, "and then I saw a seat, and the son of man sat upon it, and he rendered to them judgment for the souls of them that were slain for the law of the Lord Jesus".

And which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands, see Revelation 13:1. This describes such who shall have made no profession of the Popish religion, nor have supported it in any way; who shall not have joined in the idolatry of the Romish antichrist, but shall have protested against it, and departed from it, and shall have adhered to Christ, and to the true worship of God; see Revelation 14:1. And so this, with the preceding character, includes all the saints that lived under Rome Pagan, and Rome Papal, to the destruction of antichrist, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom; not that these martyrs and confessors, or even all the saints of their times, are the only persons that shall share in the glory and happiness of the thousand years' reign of Christ, and binding of Satan; for all the saints will come with Christ, and all the dead in Christ will rise first, or be partakers of the first resurrection; and all that are redeemed by his blood, of whatsoever nation, or in whatsoever age of the world they have lived, even from the beginning of it, shall be kings and priests, and reign with him on earth, Zechariah 14:5 though John only takes notice of these, because the design of this book, and of the visions shown to him, was only to give a prophetic history of the church, from his time, to the end of the world; and these particularly are observed to encourage the saints under sufferings for Christ:

and they lived; meaning not spiritually, for so they did before, and while they bore their testimony to Christ, and against antichrist, and previous to their death; nor in their successors, for it would not be just and reasonable that they should be beheaded for their witness of Christ and his word, and others should live and reign with Christ in their room and stead; nor is this to be understood of their living in their souls, for so they live in their separate state; the soul never dies; God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: but the sense is, that they lived again, as in Revelation 20:5 they lived corporeally; their souls lived in their bodies, their bodies being raised again, and reunited to their souls, their whole persons lived; or the souls of them that were beheaded lived; that is, their bodies lived again, the soul being sometimes put for the body, Psalm 16:10 and this is called the first resurrection in the next verse:

and reigned with Christ a thousand years; as all that suffer with him will, and as all that will live godly must, and do, 2 Timothy 2:12 2 Timothy 3:12. Christ being descended from heaven, and having bound Satan, and the dead saints being raised, and the living ones changed, he will reign among them personally, visibly, and gloriously, and in the fullest manner; all the antichristian powers will be destroyed; Satan will be in close confinement; death, with respect to Christ and his people, will be no more; the heavens and the earth will be made new, and all things will be subject to him; and all his saints will be with him, and they shall reign with him; they shall be glorified together; they shall sit on the throne with him, have a crown of righteousness given them, and possess the kingdom appointed for them; they will reign over all their enemies; Satan will be bruised under their feet, being bound; the wicked will be shut up in hell, and neither will be able to give them any disturbance; and sin and death will be no more: this reign will not be in a sensual and carnal way, or lie in possessing worldly riches and honours, in eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage; the saints will not be in a mortal, but in an immortal state; the children of this resurrection will be like the angels; and this reign will be on earth, Revelation 5:10 the present earth will be burnt up, and a new one formed, in which these righteous persons will dwell, 2 Peter 3:13 of which See Gill on Revelation 21:1 and it will last a thousand years; not distinct from, but the same with the thousand years in which Satan will be bound; for if they were distinct from them, and should commence when they are ended, the reign of Christ with his saints would be when Satan is loosed, which is utterly inconsistent with it. The Syriac version very rightly renders it, these thousand years, referring to those of Satan's binding. Nor are these thousand years to be understood prophetically, for as many years as there are days in a thousand years; for as this would defer the judgment of the wicked, and the ultimate glory of the saints, to a prodigious length of time, so it should be observed, that prophetic time will now be no longer, according to the angel's oath in Revelation 10:6 but these are to be understood literally and definitely, as before, of just such an exact number and term of years; see 2 Peter 3:8 this is a perfect number, and is expressive of the perfection of this state, and is a term of years that neither Adam, nor any of his sons, arrived unto; but Christ the second Adam shall see his seed, and shall prolong his days longer than any of them, Isaiah 53:10. It is an observation of the Jewish RabbinsF24Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 5. fol. 185. 4. vid. Jacchiad. in Dan. vii. 25. , that the day in Genesis 2:17 is the day of the holy blessed God (i.e. a thousand years), and therefore the first Adam did not perfect, or fill up his day, for there wanted seventy years of it: and it is a notion that prevails with them, that the days of the Messiah will be a thousand yearsF25Midrash Tillim, fol. 4. 2. ; and so they will be at his second coming, but not at his first, which they vainly expect, it being past: and also they sayF26T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1, 2. & Gloss. in ib. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 42. 1. & 49. 3. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 150. 2. , that in these thousand years God will renew his world, and that then the righteous will be raised, and no more return to dust; which agrees with John's new heaven and new earth during this state, and with the first resurrection: and so Jerom, who was conversant with the Rabbins, saysF1Comment. in Zach. xiv. 16, 18. that the Jews expect a thousand years' reign.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

6 And I saw a thrones, and they sat upon them, and 7 judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were 8 beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which 9 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.

(6) A description of the common state of the Church of Christ in earth in that space of a thousand years, during which the devil was in bonds; in which first the authority, life, and common honour of the godly, is declared, (Revelation 20:4). Secondly, newness of life is preached to others by the gospel after that time; (Revelation 20:5). Finally, he concludes with promises, (Revelation 20:6).

(a) For judgment was committed to them, as to members joined to the head: not that Christ's office was given over to them. {(7)} This was a type of the authority of the good and faithful servants of God in the Church, taken from the manner of men. {(8)} Of the martyrs, who suffered in those first times. {(9)} Of the martyrs who suffered after both the beasts were now risen up, chapter 15. For there, these things are expounded.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

And they sat upon them (και εκατισαν επ αυτουςkai ekathisan ep' autous). First aorist active indicative of κατιζωkathizō Another period here apparently synchronous (Revelation 20:7) with the confinement of Satan in the abyss. No subject is given for this plural verb. Apparently Christ and the Apostles (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30) and some of the saints (1 Corinthians 6:3), martyrs some hold.

Judgment was given unto them (κριμα εδοτη αυτοιςkrima edothē autois). First aorist passive of διδωμιdidōmi Picture of the heavenly court of assizes.

The souls (τας πσυχαςtas psuchas). Accusative after ειδονeidon at the beginning of the verse.

Of them that had been beheaded (των πεπελεκισμενωνtōn pepelekismenōn). Genitive of the articular perfect passive participle of πελεκιζωpelekizō old word (from πελεκυςpelekus an axe, the traditional instrument for execution in republican Rome, but later supplanted by the sword), to cut off with an axe, here only in N.T. See Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2 for previous mention of these martyrs for the witness of Jesus (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10). Others also besides martyrs shared in Christ‘s victory, those who refused to worship the beast or wear his mark as in Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9.; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20.

And they lived (και εζησανkai ezēsan). First aorist active indicative of ζαωzaō If the ingressive aorist, it means “came to life” or “lived again” as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14.

And reigned with Christ (και εβασιλευσαν μετα του Χριστουkai ebasileusan meta tou Christou). Same use of the first aorist active indicative of βασιλευωbasileuō but more clearly constative. Beckwith and Swete take this to apply solely to the martyrs, the martyrs‘ reign with Christ.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies


See on Revelation 2:13.

They sat

All the faithful members of Christ's Church. Compare they reigned with Christ.

Beheaded ( πεπελεκισμένων )

From πέλεκυς anax. Only here in the New Testament.

They lived

Equivalent to lived again. Compare Revelation 20:5.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

And I saw thrones — Such as are promised the apostles, Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30.

And they — Namely, the saints, whom St. John saw at the same time, Daniel 7:22, sat upon them; and Judgment was given to them1Corinthians6:2. Who, and how many, these are, is not said. But they are distinguished from the souls, or persons, mentioned immediately after; and from the saints already raised.

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded — With the axe: so the original word signifies. One kind of death, which was particularly inflicted at Rome, is mentioned for all.

For the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God — The martyrs were sometimes killed for the word of God in general; sometimes particularly for the testimony of Jesus: the one, while they refused to worship idols; the other, while they confessed the name of Christ.

And those who had not worshipped the wild beast, nor his image — These seem to be a company distinct from those who appeared, Revelation 15:2. Those overcame, probably, in such contests as these had not. Before the number of the beast was expired, the people were compelled to worship him, by the most dreadful violence. But when the beast "was not," they were only seduced into it by the craft of the false prophet.

And they lived — Their souls and bodies being re-united.

And reigned with Christ — Not on earth, but in heaven. The "reigning on earth" mentioned, Revelation 11:15, is quite different from this.

A thousand years — It must be observed, that two distinct thousand years are mentioned throughout this whole passage. Each is mentioned thrice; the thousand wherein Satan is bound, verses2,3, 7; Revelation 20:2; 3,7, the thousand wherein the saints shall reign, verses4-6. Revelation 20:4-6 The former end before the end of the world; the latter reach to the general resurrection. So that the beginning and end of the former thousand is before the beginning and end of the latter. Therefore as in the second verse, Revelation 20:2 at the first mention of the former; so in the fourth verse, Revelation 20:2 at the first mention of the latter, it is only said, a thousand years; in the other places, "the thousand," verses3,5, 7, Revelation 20:3,5,7 that is, the thousand mentioned before. During the former, the promises concerning the flourishing state of the church, Revelation 10:7, shall be fulfilled; during the latter, while the saints reign with Christ in heaven, men on earth will be careless and secure.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Beheaded for the witness of Jesus; for the witness which they bore. And they lived; were restored to life. This language has been commonly understood to mean that the martyrs thus raised were to appear upon the earth again; but the place which was to be the scene of their new existence, does not seem to be indicated.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 4. And they sat upon them] Resting from former persecutions, and reigning in righteousness even here upon earth.

And judgment was given unto them] That is, say some, the spirit of discerning between Christianity and Antichristianism, or the clearing of their innocence, and doing them right, say others. Or, they had their chairs, seats, and consistories, wherein they did both preach the word and execute the Church censures, as some sense it.

And I saw the souls] This makes against the millenaries. Souls reign not but in heaven, there are "the spirits of just men made perfect," Hebrews 12:23. True it is, as Mr Cotton well observeth, that there are many devices in the minds of some, to think that Jesus Christ shall come from heaven again, and reign here with his saints upon earth a thousand years. But they are, saith he, but the mistakes of some high expressions in Scripture, which describe the judgments poured out upon God’s enemies in making way to the Jews’ conversion, by the pattern of the last judgment. Thus he. The souls here mentioned are the same, I conceive, that were seen under the altar, Revelation 6:9, and do cry, "How long, Lord?" These are not capable of a bodily resurrection, nor of an earthly reign.

And they lived and reigned with Christ] They, that is, those that sat on the thrones (not they that were beheaded), "lived and reigned," as spiritual kings (after the same manner as they are priests, Revelation 20:6), for else there should be more kings than subjects.

With Christ] It is not said "with Christ upon earth;" this is an addition to the text; or if the words did import a reigning upon earth, yet this would not infer an earthly reign for a thousand years, in great worldly delights, begetting, many children, eating and drinking, and enjoying all lawful pleasures, as some dream today. The conceit, I confess, is as ancient as Cerinthus, the heretic, and Papias (scholar to St John), a man much reverenced for opinion of his holiness, but yet homo ingenii pertenuis, saith Eusebius, not oppressed with wit. Jerome and Augustine explode it as a Jewish fable, and declare it to be a great error, if not a heresy; so do all the ορθογνωμονες at this day. The patrons of Christ’s personal reign upon the earth are Mr Archer, and Mr Burroughes (Moses’ Choice), who tells us that if the opinion of some concerning Christ’s coming to reign here in the world before the day of judgment be not a truth, he cannot make anything of many places of Scripture, as this place for one. But if he cannot, yet others can. See an answer to his and Mr Archer’s chief arguments in Mr Bayly’s Dissuasive from the Errors of the Times, chap. xxi. p. 238.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

These words are conceived to set forth the glorious and happy condition of the church of Christ here on earth, during the time of Satan's restraint; and the term of a thousand years, shows that will be the longest happy condition that ever the militant church enjoyed, for purity of ordinances, for increase of light and knowledge, for the power of godliness, for the abundance of professors, for the more open and public profession of Christianity, for outward freedom and peace, and all this for a long continuance of time; which happy state and condition is here set forth by thrones, showing the saints' dignity and dominion over the enemies.

And whereas St. John says, he saw the souls of martyrs who had shed their blood for Christ, the meaning, say some, is, he saw them in their successors of the same faith, those pious Christians which should at that time live, and in their principles and practices are like the holy martyrs; these shall then enjoy a more quiet, happy, and comfortable state, during this time, than the servants of God enjoyed at any time before.

Yet observe farther, That this glorious condition of the church is not absolute, but comparative only, both in respect of purity, and in respect of peace; for whilst the church is on this side heaven, there will be both corruptions within, and temptations without: hypocrites there will be, and offences will come, though freedom from all these will at that time be more than usual; yet taking up the cross, and being conformed to Christ in his sufferings, will be duties belonging to saints whilst the world endures.

Observe lastly, That yet there is no ground from hence to expect Christ's personal reign upon earth, or his corporal presence with his church here: for it is not said that he reigned with them, but that they reigned with him; denoting that this kingdom is spiritual, consisting in purity and peace, in righteousness and joy, in the Holy Ghost.

As to a personal reign of Christ then with his people here on earth, it seems not probable, because the scripture is silent of it, and joins Christ's personal coming and the day of judgment together. Besides, were Christ personally upon earth, how should we enjoy him, and converse with him? It is impossible we should enjoy a glorified Christ until our bodies be spiritualized, which they will never be until they get to heaven.

Once more, What will become of the saints during these thousand years of Christ's supposed presence with them? Either they will live all that thousand years, (which is not rational to suppose,) or they will die in that time; if they die, and go to heaven, they will go from Christ, and not to him, and must for a time be absent from him, instead of being for ever with him; and doubtless heaven will be a melancholy place, if Christ be out of it.

The sum then is this, "That the saints living and reigning with Christ, holds forth the flourishing condition of the church militant: the expression of sitting upon thrones, speaks an honourable condition that the church will be certainly in, after the downfall of antichrist; and the term of a thousand years, shows it will be the longest happy condition that ever the church enjoyed."

God Almighty hasten that desirable time.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 20:4. (217) τῶν πεπελεκισμένων) πέλεκυς, an axe, especially used by the Romans in punishments. Raphelius compares the passage of Polybius, μαστίγωσαντες ἅπαντας, κατὰ τὸ παρʼ αὐτοῖς ( τοῖς ῥωμαίοις) ἦθος ἐπελέκισαν.— ἔζησαν, lived) returned to life, [in that manner, in which the rest of the dead lived not again before the general resurrection.—V. g.].—The same word is thus used with the same force in Revelation 20:5 and ch. Revelation 2:8. John saw them not only when restored to life, but when in the act of reviving (comp. Ezekiel 37:7): as before he saw the dragon in the act of being bound, and not only in that condition.— μετὰ, with) They shall be with Christ (Revelation 20:6), and with God (Revelation 20:6), not Christ and God with them. Therefore that kingdom will be in heaven. Comp. ch. Revelation 21:3, μετὰ, with.— χίλια ἔτη, a thousand years) They who are held back by the article τὰ, here improperly inserted before χίλια,(218) greatly entangle themselves. Two millennial periods are mentioned in this whole passage, each three times: the former is the millennium in which Satan is bound, Revelation 20:2-3; Revelation 20:7; the other, that of the reign of the saints, Revelation 20:4-6. Lange wrote, Epicris. p. 421, that he finds no foundation for two periods of a thousand years, either in the text, or in the event itself, or in the connection of the parts of the Apocalypse. But the second millennium extends even to the resurrection of all the dead, Revelation 20:5; the former comes to a close before the end of the world, Revelation 20:7, etc. Therefore the beginning and end of the former is before the beginning and end of the second. On this account, as at Revelation 20:2 in the first mention of the former millennium, so at Revelation 20:4, in the first mention of the second, it is said without the article, χίλια ἔτη: in the other places, τὰ χίλια ἔτη, the article having the force of a relative, and meaning those thousand years, Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:5; Revelation 20:7. Finally, χίλια ἔτη, without the article, is used in Revelation 20:6,(219) as though in a separate enunciation. The omission of the article conveys a less restricted meaning than its insertion. Many admit, that the millennium in which Satan is bound, is different from the millennium in which the saints reign, as Pareus testifies on the Ap. col. 1093, where he seems to hint at Brightman and Cotter. Jungman altogether agrees with them in his Observ. Germ. against Beverley, p. 71. To this are added all those who take the second millennium only for eternity itself, as Viegas on the Ap. p. 793, Nic. Collado, Corn. a Lapide, and Nic. Muler.

This distinction between the two periods of a thousand years affords a great advantage, and that too of such necessity, as to prove this very distinctness of the millennial periods. In the judgment of an illustrious man, a serious difficulty is raised by the hope of better times, or even by the reconciling of the millennial kingdom itself with the final perverseness and damnable security of men of the last times. The keeping the times distinct alone remedies this difficulty. During the course of the former millennium, the promises which describe most flourishing times of the Church will be fulfilled: ch. Revelation 10:7; afterwards, while the saints who belong to the first resurrection shall reign with Christ, men on earth will be remiss and careless, Matthew 24:37, etc.; according to which explanation that remarkable passage, Luke 18:8, retains the natural meaning of the words. Respecting this [false] security, which will seize men, when the enemies are now removed, there is a valuable suggestion subjoined to the commentary of Patrick Forbes on the Apocalypse. The confounding of the two millennial periods has long ago produced many errors, and has made the name of Chiliasm hateful and suspected; the distinction between the two resolves the difficulties to which Chiliasm is justly liable, and aids in the sound interpretation of prophecy. Let the treatise, Erklärte Offenb., I beg, be consulted, p. 942, etc. As to what remains, what can orthodoxy itself blame? Let them pronounce sentence, on whose authority others depend. Add, that they who neither extend the remaining times of the world beyond the truth of Scripture, nor curtail them, they alone are well able to meet and contend with scoffers.

This is the last period in the age of the world; wherefore in this place we will comprehensively repeat an analysis of the times, which we have already abundantly spoken of, with sobriety and modesty.

The age of the world, contains

3½ Æons.

An Æon,

2 Chroni.

A Chronus,

5 καιροor times.

A Time,

2 ancient sæcula.

A Sæculum,

7 prophetical months.

A Month,

2 weeks of Daniel.

A Week,

7 59/63 ordinary years.

A Year,

365 97/400 days.

The same age of the world comprises 7777 7/9 natural years, which are 490 prophetical months.

Therefore a perfect septenary is displayed, I will not here say in the natural days, and that indeed a square, but in the prophetical months, and that indeed a square; in the natural years, it is seen through all the expressed articles of the whole sum, from the thousandth to the unit, and below. This TESSELATED CONFORMATION of times, natural and prophetical, of those of Daniel and those of the Apocalypse, ought to convince of their truth every one who has any capacity for receiving this kind of truth.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

This is a very difficult text. Thrones are places of dignity and judicature; they seem here to signify only places of dignity.

And they sat upon them; those mentioned afterward in this text sat upon them.

And judgment was given unto them; that is, a power of judgment, 1 Corinthians 6:2,3, to be executed afterward. The persons sitting upon these thrones are described to be:

1. Such as had kept themselves from idolatry, or any compliance with antichrist, either in the form of the beast, or of the image of the beast.

2. And for that non-compliance had suffered death, and for witnessing to the truths of Christ contained in his word.

These are described as living with Christ in honour and dignity, all that space of the church’s rest and tranquillity before expressed. Our learned Dr. More interprets the thrones and judgment, concerning those thrones or places of judicature, upon which the dragon’s officers sat to condemn the saints of God, from whence issued the putting to death of many of the saints of God, and thinks that in this vision there is a recourse to the second thunder. Now these saints are said to

live and reign with Christ a thousand years; that is, say some, in heaven, in a blessed state of glory, while the militant church upon the earth enjoyed great rest and quiet on earth. Others have thought that these should be raised from the dead, and live with Christ on earth these thousand years. Which notion (if true) will solve a great phenomenon, and render it not improbable, that the number of the saints on earth will, during these thousand years, be enough to rule the world, and overbalance the number of all the wicked of the earth. Those who think thus, judge there will be two resurrections; the first, of martyrs, which shall antedate the general resurrection a thousand years: but the Scripture no where else mentions more than one resurrection. For my own part, I shall freely confess that I do not understand this and the two next verses, nor shall I be positive as to any sense of them: for the spiritual resurrection, as to the martyrs, it was long since past, or else they had died in their sins. But of this see more in the next verse. {Revelation 20:5}

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

души обезглавленных Это мученики, пришедшие от великой скорби (ср. 6:9; 18:24; 19:2). Греческое слово, переведенное как «обезглавленные», имеет широкое значение – это казненные не обязательно этим способом.

начертания См. пояснение к 13:16. Мученики годины искушения будут казнены за отказ принять начертание зверя.

царствовали Верующие годины искушения, а также спасенные ветхозаветной и новозаветной эпох будут царствовать со Христом (1Кор. 6:2; 2Тим. 2:12) в период Тысячелетнего Царства.

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Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Thrones, and they sat upon them; representing the exalted and favored state of the friends of God.

The souls of them; that were put to death for their attachment to Christ.

They lived; best understood figuratively as meaning that they lived in the persons of their successors, as Elijah came and lived in the person of John. Malachi 4:5; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13. The men who lived during the thousand years were men of like spirit with those martyrs who suffered for the cause of Jesus, as John was of like spirit with Elijah.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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 testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them ... This is another proleptic vision of the blessed state of the dead in Christ, introduced for the encouragement and support of suffering and persecuted Christians. It was by this device that this prophecy "strengthened the faith of those who were suffering persecutions by giving them a vision of the final triumph of Christ and of the blessedness of his followers."[21] Some millennial theories place these thrones upon earth, but there is no more reason to do this than to suppose that the "twelve thrones" occupied by the apostles during "the times of the regeneration" (Matthew 19:28) are actually upon earth. In fact, those thrones are exactly like these.

And judgment was given unto them ... It is wrong to think that this means only the martyrs received judgment and sat upon thrones. "The thrones are occupied by the living, reigning saints, who have either suffered martyrdom or refused to worship the beast."[22] It is also easy to miss the meaning of "the judgment" that was given unto them. It means that God's judgment was given in their favor, and not that the prerogative of judging other people was to be exercised by them. The New Testament makes it absolutely clear that that prerogative belongs to the Son of God alone (John 5:27). Another view is advocated by some who appeal to 1 Corinthians 6:2,3 for support; but that passage also is devoid of any thought that judgment will ever be the prerogative of Christians. Judgment belongs to the Son of God alone. For further discussion of Christians "judging," see in my Commentary on 1,2Corinthians, pp. 82-85.

And I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded ... Not these alone, but including these, is the thought. Even those who were beheaded are shown by this vision to have been favorably judged by the Lord and granted the right of glorification at the last day. "This assurance was of importance for the Christians of John's day ... even if they were called to yield up their lives, their sacrifice would issue in God's vindication of them."[23]

And such ... "In the Greek, this is literally and those who, a second class of persons who had not necessarily been beheaded."[24] This forbids limiting this passage to the martyrs.

Worshipped the beast ... Glorious indeed as were the martyrs, God also loves those who are faithful throughout life, regardless of the time or manner of their death. One may only deplore the over-emphasis upon "the martyrs" by so many commentators, as if the blessed promise of a passage like this pertained only to martyrs.

And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years ... Again, this is exactly the same promise Christ made to the Twelve (Matthew 19:28), where he defined the period as "the times of the regeneration," a reference to the whole Christian age; and it is absolutely imperative so to understand it here. Neither did any of the apostles, nor any of those in view here, actually live a thousand years; but what is taught is that the reign of Christians with Christ will be a perpetual phenomenon throughout the whole Christian age (the thousand years).

And the souls of them that had been beheaded ... "John sees souls, not bodies."[25] The reigning here is not that of people who have been bodily resurrected from the dead. The thrones also are not upon the earth, but in heaven where this vision is centered.

And how do they reign with Christ? They do this in the spiritual sense of their victory over sin and temptation, doubt, fear, suffering, and persecution.

And they lived ... Ladd read this as meaning "They came to life again";[26] but that is neither what this says nor what it means. It means that the righteous dead do not really die, in the sense of perish; they pass through death but continue to be "with the Lord." "Although they die, yet their souls will live and reign with Christ."[27] "The selection of the term souls in this passage could not have been accidental, and it certainly indicates that the 'resurrection' in this place is not that of bodies."[28]

And they lived ... is described in Revelation 20:5 as "the first resurrection." "This can only be referred to that first awakening from sin to the glorious life of the gospel."[29] For more on the first resurrection, see under next verse.

[21] James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 651.

[22] Michael Wilcock, op. cit., p. 192.

[23] G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Greenwood, South Carolina: The Attic Press, 1974), p. 293.

[24] Ralph Earle, Beacon Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 610.

[25] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 230.

[26] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 265.

[27] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1089.

[28] John T. Hinds, op. cit., p. 284.

[29] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 472.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And I saw thrones, and they sat on them and judgment was given to them, and I saw the persons of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and such as did not worship the beast or his image, and did not receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection, over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.’

‘I saw thrones.’ The Bible does previously speak of a time when thrones were placed and sat on by those who participated in judgment, where nothing more is said of their participation, and that is in Daniel 7 where we read, ‘and I beheld until thrones were placed’ (Daniel 7:9), and nothing more is said of their occupants. It could be that these were for the twenty four elders in Revelation 4:4, who did sit on thrones and represented the people of God before the One on the throne. But if so why are they not mentioned?

But the more likely explanation is that they were for the Ancient of Days, and for ‘the son of man’ who approached to receive his/their kingdom. There the One on the throne is described as ‘the ancient of days’ (the eternal One), and ‘the son of man’ (who signifies both the true Israel and especially Israel’s King, i.e. Israel receive kingship in the person of their king - Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27) approaches the Ancient of days to receive the kingdom. It is a time when judgment is being given (Daniel 7:10). The thrones are thus for the ‘son of man’, i.e. the people of God and their king.

Just as the beasts previously described had represented both kings and their kingdoms, so this son of man represents the people of God and their messianic leader. He would receive the kingship and worldwide dominion (Daniel 7:14), and they would receive the kingship and worldwide dominion in him (Daniel 7:27). They too will judge with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27).

That is why Jesus came into the world declaring Himself to be ‘the Son of Man’. Under such a heading He claimed the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:10), and to reinterpret the law of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). As the Son of Man He would serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). And as the Son of Man He would suffer and die (as the son of man in Daniel in the person of His people would also suffer and die - Daniel 7:25), and would rise again (Mark 8:31).

He was then carried up into Heaven and came into the presence of God where He was given ‘all authority in Heaven and earth’ (Matthew 28:18), sitting in the place of supreme authority at God’s right hand and being declared both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:33-36). Thus the Son of Man received His kingdom and His dominion on His own behalf and on behalf of His people. And it is as the Son of Man that He will one day return to the earth in glory to exercise judgment (Mark 13:26).

So there is a distinction, and a considerable period, between His coming to the throne of God to receive His kingship, and His return to earth to exercise judgment. One happens at His resurrection, the other at a considerably later time.

However, as we have already stressed, the son of man in Daniel represents not only the King but also His people (just as the beasts represent kings and peoples). They too receive the kingdom, the dominion and the power. They share His throne.

Therefore the mention of the thrones, and those who sat on them, and the giving of judgment, refer to the time when the Son of Man comes to the throne to receive His kingship on behalf of His people, that is, to the time of His resurrection, when He is exalted at the right hand of God and made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:33-36; Ephesians 1:20-21).

This is indeed the first resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus, along with a number of Old Testament saints who are raised with Him (Matthew 27:52). But it is also the time whenallHis people are ‘raised with Him’ to share His glory (Ephesians 1:19 to Ephesians 2:7). For there Paul clearly declares that all who are true Christians have been raised with Him and seated with Him on His throne, even while also being on earth. The throne is potentially ours and we can take our place there by faith. We have come with Him as the son of man to receive the kingdom.

‘They sat on them.’ That is, all the true people of God. They would share with their Lord in the judgment of the world and even of angels. The content of ‘they’ is now described.

‘Even the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and such as had not worshipped the beast --- and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.’ The description includes all God’s true people (it is ‘such as had not worshipped the beast’), but with special emphasis on the martyrs. They are all described as enjoying a great blessing ‘They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years’. It does not particularise when they reigned, or where they reigned, only that they did so through the period when Satan was bound, which as we have seen earlier dates initially from the time of His defeat when Jesus was here on earth.

‘Those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus’ describes who they are, not when they reigned. Now it is commonplace with some to assume that this must refer to the period after their resurrection at the end of the age, but this is by no means necessary. Indeed on this interpretation this passage has no place for the raptured people of God. But that would be to overlook the glorious and wonderful truth that we have just drawn attention to, and that is that, in the eyes of the Apostles, Christians wereraised from the dead and began to live and reign with Christ as soon as they became Christians. And they no doubt continue to do so in the after-life.

These martyrs, and those who refuse to wear the mark of the beast, began their reign the moment they became Christians, a fact which continued on through their martyrdom, at which point they reigned with Him in Heaven. This is in direct contrast to what had happened to Satan. They were crowned in Christ, he was bound by Christ.

Jesus spoke of this first resurrection and the second resurrection in John 5:25-29. In John 5:25 He says, “in very truth I tell you, the hour is coming andnow is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Here is the first resurrection when the spiritually dead hear the voice of the Son of God and respond, receiving new life pictured in the form of a resurrection. That this is the picture comes out by comparison with John 5:28-29. “The hour comes in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done ill to the resurrection of judgment.” The reception of new life, eternal life, is pictured in terms of the resurrection, and will later finally result in a physical resurrection, the second resurrection.

Paul also declares that we have been buried with Him in baptism ‘wherein you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead’ (Colossians 2:12). Indeed he says that we have been “raised together with Christ” and should therefore “seek those things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God”, a position which true Christians share with Him (Colossians 3:1).

More emphatically, in Ephesians 1:20 to Ephesians 2:6 Paul describes Christ’s effective work when he declares that He was ‘raised from the dead and made to sit in Heavenly places, far above all rule, authority, dominion and power, with all things in subjection under His feet’. Then he adds, “And you --- ” (no verb in the Greek), which means - ‘and you also were, in Him, raised from the dead and made to sit in heavenly places, far above all rule, authority dominion and power, with all things in subjection under your feet’.

If this seems too much it is confirmed in Revelation 2:4-6, “But God Who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. Thus Paul sees us as living and reigning with Him even now.

So in Paul’s eyeswe have already partaken of the First Resurrectionalong with Jesus Christ. This he continually stresses. As he says in 2 Corinthians 5:5, because of this we have been given the foretaste and guarantee (an earnest) of the Spirit, until the day we experience it in bodily form. It is through His resurrection life that, having been reconciled to God, we are saved (Romans 5:10), so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). That is why we should be “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). Thus we should be “giving thanks to the Father Who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us (past tense) into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:12-13), which means that we are seated above with Him (Colossians 3:1).

The Bible therefore constantly describes Christians asalready‘raised’ with Him, and as already reigning with Him. It also tells us that as He took His place in Heaven, and judgment was given to Him, so it was also given to us, a judgment we exercise ‘in Him’ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and will exercise in the future at the final resurrection. So the First Resurrection, not otherwise specifically so-called in Scripture, is that which we share with Christ. And that is what is pictured here.

But, it may be asked, what of those who have died, and especially those who have been martyred. Have they lost this privilege? John is concerned to encourage God’s people in the face of coming persecution and emphasises that they also continue to reign with Him. Death does not rob them of this glorious privilege. The ‘souls’ of the martyrs (which might be seen as suggesting that there has been to this point no literal resurrection) are also seen as sharing His reign (Revelation 20:4. Compare the use in Revelation 6:9). It began when they became Christians and it continues on after their martyrdom. And this is in contrast with ‘the rest of the dead’, for the world is still dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).

This incidentally also shows that the passage is confirming that in their rest and their ‘sleep’ before the resurrection (it is their bodies which sleep), the people of God are conscious of and enjoying the presence of Christ, and are also reigning with Him. That is why Paul could say, ‘to me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).

When the final bodily resurrection is mentioned in Scripture it is always in such a way as to suggest that the resurrection of both righteous and unrighteous takes place at the same time (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). But here from Paul we have learned of a different kind of resurrection which precedes the general resurrection, a pre-resurrection, a ‘first resurrection’ along with the One Who first rose. This is the situation John has in mind here.

‘And the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished’. The general resurrection will not take place until the end of this period, until Christ’s second coming. Then all will be raised physically to face God’s final judgment.

“And they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). The Bible tells us that we are already a royal priesthood ( 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9), and that through His blood we have been made kings and priests unto God and His Father (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10). Note the past tense. It is already true. Thus we and the martyrs, together with all who have died free from the mark of the beast, are priests of God and reign with Him at this present time, and will do so ‘for a thousand years’, that is for an unknown length of time until the end.

“We reign (or shall reign) on the earth” (Revelation 5:10) stresses that, in spite of appearances, because we are such kings and priests we will triumph over all obstacles, however powerful they may seem, and currently demonstrate Christ’s sovereignty, and this is again asserted here. We reign on earth and after death we reign in Heaven. Nothing, not even death and martyrdom, can prevent it. Man’s violence cannot take away the Christian’s privileged position for it is inviolate.

‘And they lived and reigned with him a thousand years’. As in Revelation 20:3 the period of ‘a thousand years’ indicates that unknown period between Christ’s first and second coming. It is also a round number and can be seen as indicating an ‘ideal’ period of time. Adam, because of his sin, died ‘seventy’ years short of a thousand years. He failed to achieve the ideal. Even Methuselah could not achieve the thousand. For a thousand years indicated life to the full. It was the equivalent to the New Testament idea of eternal life. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes sees ‘a thousand years’ as indicating an ideal length of life (Ecclesiastes 6:6), and even speaks of two thousand years. We can compare the usage in the words, ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’ (Psalms 50:10). This did not mean that God only owned the cattle on a thousand hills. The thousand hills indicated all hills. Thus it is not to be taken literally but as meaning ‘the perfect time that God has planned’.

It is therefore quite clear from careful comparison with Scripture that this vision described in Revelation 20:4-6 reveals the present state of Christian believers ‘in Christ’ and not some future ‘millennium’.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

John saw a new scene. The purpose of the thrones that John saw was twofold: ruling and judging (cf. Daniel 7:9-10; Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28). Those sitting on them are probably the faithful saints who have returned with Christ to the earth ( Revelation 19:7-8; Revelation 19:14; Revelation 19:19; cf. Revelation 2:26-28; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21). [Note: Seiss, pp457-58; Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p414.] Other views are that they are the24elders viewed as representatives of the church, [Note: Smith, A Revelation . . ., p270; Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p296.] Tribulation saints, [Note: Charles, 2:182-83; Caird, p252.] or the apostles and perhaps some other saints. [Note: Swete, p261; Beasley-Murray, p293; Beale, p991.] They receive authority from God to take charge of the earth, the beast"s domain, under Christ"s rule.

John also saw the souls of some people not yet resurrected. These are quite clearly Tribulation martyrs who died because they held steadfastly to the testimony that Jesus bore and the word of God (cf. Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2). [Note: Ladd, p263; Herman Hoeksema, "The Reign of the Saints," The Researcher20:4 (Winter1990):20-21.] They refused to take the mark of the beast or to worship his image and had died for their faith ( Revelation 13:15). John saw them come back to life; that Isaiah, they experienced bodily resurrection (cf. Revelation 20:5; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 13:14; John 11:25; Acts 1:3; Acts 9:41). [Note: See Richard S. Yates, "The Resurrection of the Tribulation Saints," Bibliotheca Sacra163:652 (October-December2006):453-66.] Moreover these martyrs will reign with Christ on earth during the Millennium (cf. Revelation 5:10). The name "Christ" (Anointed One) looks back to Psalm 2:2 here, as it does wherever it occurs in Revelation ( Revelation 11:15; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 20:6), tying this reign to Old Testament expectations of God"s kingdom on earth.

"They who were once judged by earth"s courts to be worthy of death are now the judges of the earth under Christ." [Note: Johnson, p582.]

Many amillennialists believe this reign of Christ refers to His spiritual reign over the hearts of His people or the triumph of the martyrs in a symbolic sense. There are four good reasons why Jesus Christ"s reign will be a physical, earthly reign rather than a spiritual, heavenly one. First, Christ will be on earth after He returns ( Revelation 19:11-16). Second, at the end of His reign the saints, who reign with Him, will still be on the earth ( Revelation 20:9). Third, God promised the saints an earthly reign ( Revelation 5:10). Fourth, the Old Testament Messianic prophecies anticipated an earthly kingdom (e.g, 2 Samuel 7:10-16; Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 65:17 to Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 7:27; et al.).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 20:4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them. A new vision, or rather a further unfolding of that with which we have been occupied, is presented to us. We have first to ask what the ‘thrones’ are. Are they simply places of exalted dignity, or are they seats for judgment? The two ideas might be combined were it not that reigning, not judging, is the prominent idea both of this passage and of Daniel 7:22 upon which the representation in all probability rests. The thrones before us are thrones of kings (chap. Revelation 3:21). Those that ‘sat upon them’ are certainly neither angels nor God; nor are they the twenty-four Elders, for it is the invariable practice of the Seer to name the latter when he has them in view. They can be no other than all the faithful members of Christ’s Church, or at least all of whom it is said in the last clause of the verse that they ‘reigned’ with Christ.

And judgment was given unto them. These words cannot mean that the righteous were beheld seated as assessors with the Christ in judgment, for the word of the original used for judgment denotes the result and not the act of judging; and, so far as appears, there were at this moment none before them to be judged. The use of the word ‘given’ leads to the thought of a judgment affecting themselves rather than others. If so, the most natural meaning will be that the result of judgment was in such a manner given them that they did not need to come into the judgment. As they had victory before they fought (1 John 5:4; see also on Revelation 20:9), so they were acquitted before they were tried.

And I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not his mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. What the Seer beheld was ‘souls,’ and the analogy of chap. Revelation 6:9, a passage in many respects closely parallel to this, makes it clear that they were no more than souls. They had not yet been clothed with their resurrection bodies. The word ‘beheaded’ is very remarkable; nor does it seem a sufficient explanation when it is said that beheading was a Roman punishment. It was certainly not in this way alone that the earliest witnesses of Jesus met at the hands of the Roman power their martyr fate. There must be some other reason for the use of so singular a term. It would seem that the bodies of Jewish criminals were usually cast out into the valley of Hinnom, ‘the beheaded or hanged in one spot, the stoned or burnt in another’ (Geikie’s Life of Christ, ii. 575). May the Seer have in his mind the thought present to him in chap. Revelation 11:8-9, when he spoke of the dead bodies of the two witnesses as lying in the street of the great city and not suffered to be laid in a tomb? These were the ‘beheaded.’ The exposure to which they had been subjected, and the contumely with which they had been treated, are thought of more than the manner of their death. And who were they? Are they no others than those described in the next clause as ‘not worshipping the beast,’ etc., or are they martyrs in the more special sense of the term? The particular relative employed in the original for ‘such as,’ together with the grammatical construction, favours the former idea. In all the clauses of the verse only a single class is spoken of, that of Christ’s faithful ones, and they are described first by their fate and next by their character (comp. chap. Revelation 1:7, and see on chap. Revelation 14:12). If we suppose them to be martyrs in the literal sense we must think of that very small class which suffered by decapitation, excluding the much larger ‘army of martyrs’ who had fallen by other means. Besides which, we introduce a distinction between two classes of Christians that is foreign to the teaching of Christ both in the Apocalypse and elsewhere. God’s people without exception are always with their Lord; the promise that they shall sit upon His throne is to every one that over-cometh (chap. Revelation 3:21); and in Revelation 20:6 nothing more is said of these beheaded sufferers than may be said of all believers. We have already seen that St. John recognises no Christianity that is not attended by suffering and the cross. Every attempt to distinguish between actual martyrs and other true followers of Jesus must in the very nature of the case be vain. How often has there been more true martyrdom in bearing years of pining sickness or meeting wave after wave of sorrow than in encountering sword or axe or fire!

And they lived, and reigned with the Christ a thousand years. The word ‘lived’ must, by every rule of interpretation, be understood in the same sense here as in the following clause, where it is applied to ‘the rest of the dead.’ In the latter connection, however, it cannot express life spiritual and eternal, or be referred to anything else than mere awaking to life after the sleep of death in the grave is over. In this sense we must understand it now. The word might have been translated ‘rose to life’ as in chaps, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 13:14. At this point, therefore, the resurrection of the righteous comes in—they ‘lived.’ But they not only lived, they ‘reigned.’ The word denotes only that condition of majesty, honour, and blessedness to which the righteous are exalted. There is no need to think of persons over whom they rule.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

A Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scriptures


Revelation 20:4.

"And they lived and reigned with Christ a THOUSAND YEARS."

That there is to be a period of a1000 years during which Satan shall be bound and Christ shall reign on this earth, is plainly stated in the New Testament. This period is mentioned6 times in Revelation 20:1-7, and is generally called

"The Millennium,"

from the Latin words "Mille" (1000) and "Annum" (year). It is to be regretted, however, that the word "Millennium" ever supplanted the Biblical word "Kingdom," for it is this period that Christ taught His Disciples to pray for in the petition--"Thy Kingdom Come."

Let us drop then for the present the word "Millennium" and look at the word "Kingdom." In the Book of Daniel we learn that there were to be "Four World-wide Kingdoms" that were to succeed each other on the earth and that they were to be destroyed in turn by a Kingdom called the

"Stone Kingdom."

As those "Four Kingdoms" were "literal" Kingdoms it follows that the "Stone Kingdom" must be a "literal" Kingdom, for it takes the place of those Kingdoms and "fills the whole earth." This "Stone Kingdom" is the "Millennial Kingdom of Christ."

The time when this "Stone Kingdom;" shall be set up is at the "Revelation of Christ," when He shall come with the "armies of Heaven" and destroy Antichrist ( Revelation 19:11-21) and judge the Nations.

"When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the

"Throne of His Glory";

and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, and He shall set the Sheep (Sheep Nations) on His right hand, but the Goats (Goat Nations) on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom Prepared for You From the Foundation of the World." Matthew 25:31-34.

This Kingdom is an earthly, visible Kingdom, and is the "Millennial Kingdom" of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The Form of Government.

It will be a "Theocracy." God will rule in the person of the Lord Jesus, Christ.

"And the angel said unto Mary, thou shalt bring forth a son and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the "Son of the Highest," and the Lord God shall give unto Him the Throne of His Father David; and He shall reign over the House of Jacob FOREVER, and of His Kingdom There Shall Be NO END." Luke 1:30-33.

There are7 of God"s "shalls" in this passage. Four of then have been fulfilled, for Mary did bring forth a " Song of Solomon," He was called "Jesus," He was "great," and was called the "Son of the Highest"; the other three must and will be fulfilled.

Daniel the Prophet describes the event.

"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the "Son of Man" came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the "Ancient of Days" (God), and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him Dominion, and Glory and a KINGDOM that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him; His Dominion is an Everlasting Dominion, Which Shall Not Pass Away, and His KINGDOM that which Shall Not Be Destroyed."

Whether Christ shall sit in person on the Throne at Jerusalem, or whether He shall rule through another is not so clear. There are several passages of Scripture that seem to teach that King David will be raised and placed on the throne again, and that the Children of Israel will seek him, or it may mean that the new King shall be named David.

"Afterward shall the Children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David Their King; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the Latter Days." Hosea 3:5.
"They shall serve the Lord their God, and David Their King, whom I will Raise Up Unto Them." Jeremiah 30:9.
"And David, my servant, shall be King Over Them." Ezekiel 37:24.
"I Jehovah will be their God, and my servant David a Prince in Their Midst." Ezekiel 34:24.
"My servant David shall be their Prince Forever." Ezekiel 37:25.

As the "Lord of Hosts" shall reign in Mt. Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients "gloriously" ( Isaiah 24:23), the inference is that King David will reign simply as "Regent," and will be called "King" or "Prince" as circumstances may require. It is very clear from Ezekiel that the "Prince," whoever he may be, is not perfect, and has to offer sacrifices for himself. Ezekiel 45:22.

We have a hint of the manner of government in the Parable of the Pounds. That Parable was spoken to show what Jesus will do to His servants (the Jews) when He shall have "received the Kingdom and returned." The man whose Pound shall have gained "Ten Pounds" will be rewarded by being placed in authority over "ten cities." The man whose Pound shall have gained "Five Pounds" will have authority over "five cities." The man who failed to use his Pound is simply deprived of it and loses all opportunity of authority. Luke 19:11-26.

The promise that Jesus made to His Disciples that

"In the Regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the Throne of His Glory, ye also shall sit upon Twelve Thrones, Judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel." Matthew 19:28.

in all probability does not refer to the "Millennial Age," but to the "Perfect Age," the "Age" that is to follow the renovation of the Earth by fire. The use of the word "regeneration" suggests this, as it refers to the time when the present earth is to be " Revelation -created" and made "new." It has occurred to the writer that we have not as yet the proper perspective as to all the Old Testament prophecies, and that we are putting in the "Millennial Age" some things that belong to the "Perfect Age." The one just mentioned for example.

Some object to the "visible reign" of King David, or the Disciples on the earth during the Millennium because it involves the anomaly of intercourse between men in the flesh and those who are clad in resurrected and glorified bodies. But why should this be an objection? Did not Jesus appear "eleven" times "after His resurrection," during a period of "forty days," to His disciples? Did He not "eat" and "drink" with them during that period? Did they not "walk" with Him to the Mount of Olives and see Him go up in that Same Resurrection Body? Did not angels appear in human form and "eat" and "drink" with men in Old Testament times? Genesis 18:1-8.

We must not forget that they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain "That Age," and the "Resurrection From Among the Dead," shall be "Angel like" ( Luke 20:35-36), and like the angels can mingle with earth"s inhabitants, having visible bodily forms, can eat and drink, and there is probably more truth than poetry in the Prophet"s utterance that in those days,

"They that wait upon the Lord (as messengers) shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles (Angels); they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." Ira.

This can be said of only those who have been "Raised in Power." 1 Corinthians 15:42-43.

2. The Seat of Government.

The Seat of Government will be at Jerusalem. Jerusalem is to be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the "Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Luke 21:24. Then it will be rebuilt. The Prophet Ezekiel gives us a detailed description of the restored Land and City in Ezekiel 48:1-35.

The "Royal Grant" of land that God gave to Abraham and his descendants extended from the "River of Egypt" unto the "Great River," the river Euphrates. Genesis 15:18. Ezekiel fixes the Northern boundary at Hamath, about100 miles north of Damascus ( Ezekiel 48:1), and the Southern boundary at Kadesh, about100 miles south of Jerusalem. Ezekiel 48:28. This "Royal Grant" was not conditional and was never revoked. It Isaiah 8 times as large as that formerly occupied by the Twelve Tribes.

This "Royal Grant" is to be divided among the restored Twelve Tribes in parallel horizontal sections, beginning at Hamath on the North with a section for Daniel, next comes Asher, then Naphtali, Prayer of Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah. Then comes the

"Holy Oblation,"

a square tract on the west of Jordan, 25,000 reeds, or50 miles on a side. A "Reed," according to Ezekiel 40:5, Isaiah 6 cubits long, the cubit being an ordinary cubit18 inches long plus a hand-breadth, 3inches, making the "reed cubit" 21inches. Six of such cubits make the "reed" 10 feet long. South of the "Holy Oblation" will be the Tribes of Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon and Gad.

The "Holy Oblation" is divided into three horizontal sections. The section Isaiah 25,000 reeds long, from East to West, and10,000 reeds wide. It is called the "Levites" Portion." South of it is the "Priests" Portions" of equal size. South of the "Priests" Portion" is the section for the "City" with, its suburbs and farming sections. This section Isaiah 25,000 reeds long, from East to West, and5000 reeds wide. Ezekiel 48:15-19.

In the centre of this section the City (Jerusalem) is located. This helps us to map out the whole of the "Holy Oblation," as the "New City" is to be located on the site of the Old. The "New City," however, is to be much larger than the Old. It is to be9 miles square, and with its suburbs, mile on a side, 10 miles square. It will have a wall around it with3gates on each side like the New Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 48:15-18; Ezekiel 48:30-35), these gates being named after the12sons of Jacob.

The "Temple," or "Sanctuary," will not be rebuilt in the "New City," but in the "midst" or middle of the "Holy Oblation." Ezekiel 48:10; Ezekiel 48:20-21. This will locate it at or near Shiloh, where the Tabernacle rested after the Children of Israel conquered the Land, and where it remained until the Temple of Solomon was finished. A "Highway" shall lead from the "Sanctuary" to the "New City." Isaiah 35:8. It will be a magnificent boulevard, 12miles long, lined with beautiful shade trees.

The "New Temple" or "Sanctuary" will occupy a space of500 reeds on a side, or nearly a mile square. Ezekiel 42:15-20. The old Temple was not a mile in circuit.

The Prophet Zechariah tells us ( Zechariah 14:8), that in "That Day" (the Millennial Day)

"Living Waters Shall Go Out From Jerusalem," half of them toward the Former Sea (Red Sea) and half of them toward the Hinder Sea (Mediterranean); in summer and in winter shall it be."

But those "Living Waters" will not have their "source" in Jerusalem. The life-giving spring from which they flow will be located under the "Sanctuary." Ezekiel tells us how he saw in vision the "New Temple" or "Sanctuary" and how the Lord took him to the eastern door of the "House" or "Sanctuary," where he saw the waters come forth from under the Threshold of the door, and flow past the "Altar of Burnt Offering" on the south side eastward until the stream was deep enough to swim in.

"Then said he unto me, These waters . go down into the desert (by way of Jerusalem) and go into the sea (Dead Sea), which being brought forth into the sea, the waters (of the Dead Sea) shall be healed (lose their saltness). . And everything shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it (Dead Sea), from Engedi (on the west shore) even unto Eneglaim (on the east shore); they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the Great Sea (Mediterranean) exceeding many. . And by the River upon the banks thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed; it shall bring forth new fruit according to its months, because the waters they issued out of the "Sanctuary"; and the "Fruit" thereof shall be for meat and the "Leaf" thereof for medicine." Ezekiel 47:8-12. Compare Revelation 22:1-2.

The size of the "New City," the location of the "New Sanctuary" and the elevation of the Dead Sea, which is now1200 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, call for great physical changes in the land surface of Palestine. How are these changes to come about?

When Christ comes back it will be to the Mount of Olives from whence He went up. Acts 1:9-12. The Prophet Zechariah describes what will then happen.

"His (Christ"s) feet shall stand in That Day (the day of His return) upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives shall Cleave in the midst Thereof Toward the East and Toward the West, and There Shall Be a Very Great Valley; and Half of the Mountain Shall Remove Toward the North and Half of It Toward the South. . . . "All the Land Shall Be Turned as a Plain From Geba to Rimmon South of Jerusalem; and it shall be LIFTED UP AND INHABITED." Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:10-11.

These great changes will probably be brought about by Earthquakes or volcanic action.

"Behold, the Lord cometh forth out of His place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be Molten Under Him, and the valleys shall be Cleft as Wax Before the Fire, and as the Waters That Are Poured Down a Steep Place." Micah 1:3-4.

These great physical changes will level the land surface of Palestine, and make room for the "New City," and raise the Dead Sea, so its waters can flow into both the Red and Mediterranean Seas. Ezekiel tells us that the name of Jerusalem in that day shall be "Jehovah-Shammah," the Lord Is There. Ezekiel 48:35.

3. The Temple and Its Worship.

As we have seen the Temple or Sanctuary will be located in the centre of the "Holy Oblation." A full description of the Temple and its courts is given in Ezekiel 40:1; Ezekiel 44:31. No such building as Ezekiel so minutely describes has ever yet been built, and so the prophecy cannot refer to either Zerubbabel"s or Herod"s Temple, and as there is to be no Temple in the New Jerusalem, it must be a description of the Temple that is to be on the earth during the Millennium. That it does not belong to the New Earth is also clear, for the land in which it is located is bounded by the Sea, and the waters that flow from it, flow "into the Sea," but in the New Earth there is "no more sea." Revelation 21:1. This is still further confirmed by the Prophet"s mention of the "desert," the "River Jordan," the "Mediterranean Sea," and other localities that will not be found on the New Earth after its renovation by fire.

The "Aaronic Priesthood" will be Revelation -established, and the sons of Zadok shall officiate and offer sacrifices. Ezekiel 44:15-31. The New Temple, however, will lack many things that were the features of the old Temple. There will be no "Ark of the Covenant," no "Pot of Manna," no "Aaron"s Rod" to bud, no "Tables of the Law," no "Cherubim," no "Mercy Seat," no "Golden Candlestick," no "Shew Bread," no "Altar of Incense," no "Veil," no unapproachable "Holy of Holies" where the High Priest alone might enter, nor is there any "High Priest" to offer atonement for sin, or to make intercession for the people, unless a rather obscure passage in Zechariah 6:12-13 means that Christ (The Branch, Jeremiah 23:5-6) shall be a "King-Priest," and perform the duties of High Priest conjointly with His Kingly office.

While the Levites as a class shall perform Temple service they shall be barred from Priestly duties for their past sins. Ezekiel 44:10-14. There shall be a daily "morning" sacrifice, but no evening sacrifice. Ezekiel 46:13-15. The offerings will be the "Burnt," the "Meat," the "Drink," the "Sin," the "Peace" ( Ezekiel 45:17), and the "Trespass" offering. Ezekiel 42:13. Two Feasts are to be observed, "The Passover," but no Passover Lamb will be offered as Jesus fulfilled that Type ( Ezekiel 45:21-24), and the "Feast of Tabernacles," Zechariah 14:16-19. This Feast is to be observed by all the nations under penalty of "Drought" or "Plague."

The "Feast of Pentecost" will be done away with on account of its fulfillment. The "Day of Pentecost," recorded in Acts 2:1-4, was only a partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32. No such wonders in the heavens and the earth as "blood," and "fire" and "pillars of smoke," the "Sun turned to darkness," and the "Moon into blood," occurred at Pentecost. But all those things will happen before "The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord."

The conversion of the Jewish Nation will be sealed with a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Whether this shall be universal, or only upon Israel is not clear. The original prophecy in Joel was given to Israel, and its partial fulfillment at Pentecost seems to have been limited to them. The knowledge of the Lord, however, will be world-wide, and "it shall come to pass that ten men of all languages and nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you." Zechariah 8:22-23. There will be one "universal religion" in that day. Malachi 1:11. The "Shekinah Glory" that departed from the Temple at the time of the Babylonian Captivity ( Ezekiel 10:18-20; Ezekiel 11:22-23), will again take up its residence in the "New Temple." Ezekiel 43:1-5.

4. The Character of the Millennium.

(1.) Satan Bound. Revelation 20:1-3.

That man may be "without excuse" God is going to subject him to a final test under the most favorable circumstances. Man has charged his fall and continuance in sin to Satan. "Take him away," he cries, "paralyze his power; cripple his malignant activity; bind and imprison him and deliver us from his dominating influence, and then you will see that man is radically good and virtuous and is simply the victim of an unfavorable environment."

God answers it shall be done. Satan shall be bound and imprisoned so that he can no longer deceive men, and lest man shall say that sinful habits are too deeply rooted to be soon eradicated the test shall last for a Thousand Years, and man shall have during that period of probation all the blessed influences of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ Himself.

Man has never known and therefore cannot conceive what this world would be like free from Satanic influence. It would certainly be a marvelously different world. There would be no one to stir up hate and passion, and engender strife and turmoil. True, man would still have an evil heart of unbelief to contend against, but it would be like a magazine of gunpowder without a spark to ignite it. That the evil heart of man has not been eradicated will be evident when at the close of the Millennium Satan is loosed and finds no difficulty in deceiving the nations. Revelation 20:8.

During the Millennium the "Prince of the Powers of the Air" will be "dethroned" and the "Prince of Peace" "enthroned." When the "Great Red Dragon" (Satan) is cast out of the Heavenlies there will be cast out with him all the "Principalities and Powers" and "Age Rulers of Darkness" ( Ephesians 6:12), and the Heavens which now are "not clean" in His sight ( Job 15:15), will be "cleansed" of all Evil Powers.

There will be no universal peace until the Lord comes back. Then the nations will beat their swords into "plow-shares" and their spears into "pruning-hooks" (Mich, 4), and shall be no longer impoverished by the enormous tax on their revenues for the support of armies and navies and the building of "Dreadnoughts." Then ships of war and armorclad vessels will rust and rot in the navy yards and guns and cannon will be recast into implements of agriculture. The great armies of earth will be disbanded, and in the pursuits of peace and the tilling of the soil, the depleted treasuries of the world will be replenished. There will be little if any political graft. Corporations and combines will not be run in restraint of trade, and there will be no entailed estates if the law of the "Year of Jubilee" is Revelation -established. Leviticus 25:8-17. Numbers 36:4.

(2.) The Revival of the Land of Palestine.

The Land of Palestine when it was first occupied by the Children of Israel under Joshua, was a land of "milk" and "honey" and of "all manner of fruits," and its soil brought forth "abundantly," and this continued as long as the Children of Israel kept its Sabbaths. But God had warned them that if they did not obey Him and turned aside to worship other Gods He would shut up the heavens and the harvests would fail. Deuteronomy 11:13-17. Palestine today has the same fertile soil it had in Joshua"s time, but it lacks rain and irrigation. God has withheld the "early" and "latter" rain, but they are now becoming more frequent and copious. The "early" rain falls in October and November, and prepares the land for ploughing and sowing; the "latter" rain falls in April and May and insures a good crop.

In the Millennium the Land of Palestine will be restored to its former fertility. This will be aided not only by the rains, but by numerous rivers and streams that shall flow from the "New River" that shall have its source in the Sanctuary.

"It shall come to pass in That Day (Millennium) that the mountains shall drop new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the Rivers of Judah (where the New River will be) shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the House of the Lord, and shall water the Valley of Shittim," the country about the Dead Sea. Joel 3:18.

The "mountains dropping new wine," and the "hills flowing with milk," are figures of speech declaring that the mountain sides will be covered with vineyards from which an abundance of wine shall be obtained, and that the pasture lands will be so productive that they will sustain vast herds of milk cattle.

The harvests will be so great and abundant that the ploughman will "overtake the reaper," and the treader of grapes him that "soweth seed." Amos 9:13.

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." Isaiah 35:1.

"Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." Isaiah 55:13.

"Then shall the earth yield her increase." Psalm 67:6.

"And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God that hath dealt wondrously with you; and My People (the Jews) shall never be ashamed."" Joel 2:24-26.

(3.) There Will Be Changes in the Animal Kingdom.

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice"s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Jerusalem), for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:6-9.

We cannot spiritualize these words. This was the character of these animals in Eden before the Fall, and in the Ark. The ferocity of the brute creation is the outcome of the "Fall of Man." While the context seems to imply that this change in the brute creation has reference to the "Millennial Earth," where it may be partially true, yet the fact that the Edenic condition of the earth is not to be restored until the appearance of the New Earth may postpone the fulfillment of this prophecy until then.

The Apostle Paul says--

"We know that the Whole Creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. . . . Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the Redemption of Our Body." Romans 8:23.

That Isaiah, until the human race is redeemed from the results of the "Fall, and fitted to occupy the New Earth, Creation must wait for its restoration to "Edenic conditions"."

(4.) Human Life Will Be Prolonged.

"There shall be no more thence an infant of days, for the child shall die a hundred years old." Isaiah 65:20.

That Isaiah, a person dying100 years old shall be considered only a child. Therefore a Prayer of Manasseh, to be called a Prayer of Manasseh, must live for several hundred years.

"For as the days of a Tree (oak tree) are the days of my people." Isaiah 65:22.

"Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: There shall yet Old Men and Old Women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand For Very Age." Zechariah 8:4.

Patriarchal Years will be restored, and men shall live as long as they did before the Flood. This may be due to some climatic or atmospheric change, or to the healing or life-giving qualities of the water of the "New River" that shall flow from the "Sanctuary," and the leaves of the trees that line the banks of the River, which shall be for "Medicine." Ezekiel 47:12.

(5.) There Will Be a Sevenfold Increase of Light.

"Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be SEVENFOLD as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." Isaiah 30:26.

The "atmosphere" of the Millennial Earth will be of such a character as to make moonlight nights as bright as day, and the days seven times as bright.

"The sun shall be no more thy light by day: neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto; but the Lord Shall Be Unto Thee An Everlasting Light, and Thy God Thy Glory." Isaiah 60:19-20.

This may refer to that part of the Holy Land that shall be illuminated by the "Shekinah Glory," where it will make no difference whether the sun shines or not. It will have its complete fulfillment when the nations of the New Earth shall walk in the Light of the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:23-24.

Israel"s Mission during the "Millennial Age" will be that of "blessing" to the Gentile nations. Of the nation of Israel, that has never as yet been a leading nation. God says--

"I will make thee the Head, and not the Tail." Deuteronomy 28:13.

The nations today are a "Headless" body. There is no "Chief Nation" today. In that day Israel shall be the "Chief Nation," and the nation that will not serve her shall perish. Isaiah 60:12.

But those nations will only be kept in subjection by the "Iron Rule" of Christ. This is brought out in the "Messianic Psalm," Psalm 2:6-9. It is very clear that during the "Millennial Age" the "will of God" will not be done on earth as it is done in heaven. The peace among the nations will be more superficial than real. It will only be feigned obedience, more the result of fear than of love. As the "afternoon" of that long "Millennial Day" draws to a close the shadows deepen.

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Larkin, Clarence. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". A Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The reigning of this verse is on thrones, which have been in heaven throughout this book. Jesus will actually lay down his reign after the resurrecton. (1 Corinthians 15:23-25) Those John sees in this verse have received God"s favorable judgment. John saw the souls of those beheaded for their faith in Jesus (Revelation 6:9-11) and those who remained faithful in life by refusing to worship the beast or bow to his authority in any way.

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

they. i.e. the Father and Christ (Revelation 3:21), and the heavenly beings associated with them as assessors (Revelation 1:4; and compare Matthew 25:31. 1 Timothy 5:21).

upon. App-104.

judgment. App-177.

was given. i.e. not judging or ruling authority, but sentence, or pronouncement, or award in their favour.

unto = for. No preposition. Dative case.

them. i.e. those who had been beheaded.

and = even.

I saw. Omit.

souls. App-110. Figure of speech Synecdoche (of Part). App-6.

were = had been.

witness = testimony. See Revelation 19:10 and p. 1511.

Jesus. App-98.

word. App-121.

which = whosoever. Greek. hoitines, as Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:41.

had, &c. = did not (App-105) worship (App-137)

neither. Greek. oude.

neither . . . received = and received (See Revelation 13:16) not (App-105).

his = the.

or in = and upon(as above).

hands = hand.

lived. i.e. lived again. App-170.

Christ. App-98. The resurrection of these not mentioned but necessarily implied.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

They sat - the twelve apostles, and the saints in general.

Judgment was given unto them (note, Daniel 7:22) - the office of judging, (2 Corinthians 5:1-21.) Though having to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), yet they 'do not come into judgment (condemnation) but have already passed from death unto life' (John 5:24).

Souls. This term is made a plea for denying the literal first resurrection, as if the life and reign of souls were raised in this life from the death of sin by vivifying faith. But "souls" expresses their disembodied state (cf. Revelation 6:9) at first; "and they lived" implies their coming to life in the body again, so as to be seen by John, as Revelation 20:5, "This is the first resurrection," proves: for as "the rest of the dead lived not (again) until," etc., must refer to the bodily general resurrection so must the first resurrection refer to the body. If the first resurrection be not corporeal, then the saints do not rise at all; for they do not rise with "the rest of the dead." This also accords with 1 Corinthians 15:23. Compare Psalms 49:11-15. "Souls" is in counting used for persons dead." This also accords with 1 Corinthians 15:23. Compare Psalms 49:11-15. "Souls" is in counting used for persons (Acts 27:37; 1 Peter 3:20 : cf. Septuagint; Leviticus 22:4): 'a dead body.'

Beheaded, [ pepelekismenoon (Greek #3990)] - 'smitten with an axe:' a Roman punishment, though crucifixion, casting to beasts, and burning, were the common modes. The guillotine, in revolutionary France, still continued in imperial France, is a revival of the capital punishment of imperial Rome. Paul was beheaded, and shall share the first resurrection, in accordance with his prayer that he 'might attain unto the resurrection from out of the rest of the dead' [ exanastasis (Greek #1815)] (Philippians 3:11).

For ... for, [ dia (Greek #1223)] - 'on account of.'

And which - `and the which:' and prominent among this class (the beheaded), such as did not worship the beast, etc. So Revelation 1:7. The extent of the first resurrection is not spoken of here. In 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, we find, all "in Christ" shall share in it. John himself was not "beheaded;" yet who doubts he shall share in it? The martyrs are put first, because most like Jesus in suffering and death, therefore nearest Him in life and reign; for Christ implies there are relative degrees and places of honour in His kingdom, the highest being for those who drink His cup of suffering (Matthew 20:22-23; Luke 22:28-30). Next, those who have not bowed to the world-power, but looked to the things unseen and eternal.

Neither - `not yet.'

Foreheads ... hands - `forehead ... hand.'

Reigned with Christ - over the earth.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers


(4) And I saw thrones, and they sat . . . There is a prominence given to the thrones, because the thought of the reign of the saints is uppermost in the mind of the seer. The thrones are seen, and those who sat on them. It has been asked, “By whom are the thrones occupied?” The answer is supplied in the latter part of the verse. Those who are in the latter part said to reign with Christ are clearly those who sit upon the thrones which first caught the prophet’s eye; these are all the real servants of God. They appear before the seer in two great classes:—First, the martyrs who have been faithful unto death; for he speaks first of seeing the souls of those who have been beheaded (strictly, “slain with the axe,” but clearly the special class of beheaded martyrs is to be taken as representing all), because of the testimony of Jesus, and because of the word of God. The number of the martyrs is now complete (comp. Revelation 6:11); these form the first class mentioned. Secondly, those who have been faithful in life occupy these thrones. The prophet sees these, even whosoever did not worship (during life) the wild beast, nor yet his image, and did not receive the mark (comp. Revelation 13:10) on their forehead and upon their hand. The triumph and sovereignty, whatever they be, are shared by all the faithful. These things are stated as constituting their privileges. They lived, whereas the rest of the dead lived not; they reigned, and judgment was given them. This last has been felt to be a difficulty. What sort of judgment is intended? The passage in Daniel (Daniel 7:22) is clearly suggestive of the present one. The phrase (judgment was given) is not there to be understood as meaning that right was done them (see Note in Speaker’s Commentary on Daniel), neither must it be so understood here. Judicial powers are given to the saints as to those who occupy thrones; “the chief power in governing” (Gebhardt) is given them (comp. Matthew 19:28, and 1 Corinthians 6:2-3); they reign, they judge, they live; the true and full powers of life are seen to be theirs. And is not this the case always? Who, next to Him who knows the secrets of our hearts, exercises judicial powers over men? Do not those whose lives, as we read them, rebuke our own? Truly, those who lived for God, and refused the mark of earthliness, reign and judge us in our worldliness and weakness. This is their sovereign honour here, besides the glad reign in the unseen world.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

3. The souls on the thrones. "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 words 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"--20:4.

These souls were not bodies and were not embodied. They were souls. And a resurrection was not necessary for souls to live. These souls lived--they did not begin to live. They lived. These souls were under the altar in chapter six; they were on thrones in chapter twenty. In the first scene a cause had suffered in defeat; in the second, a cause has been crowned with victory. They lived and reigned-- taking the souls out from under the altar and elevating them to thrones is referred to as a resurrection; the resurrection of a cause. They lived in the cause for which they died. They reigned in the persons of their successors, and like characters of like spirit. As John came in the spirit and power of Elijah; as the spirit of Huss lived after his martyrdom; a cause survives the death of its advocates and they live in the spirit of its torchbearers.

Judgment was given unto them--that is, the avenging for which the souls under the altar had pleaded was now received. In chapter 6:10 John heard the martyrs crying for judgment: "How long, 0 Lord, holy and true dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" Meaning their persecutors. In chapter 20:4 John saw them receiving the judgment for which they had called.

Lived and reigned--if "reigned" is limited by a literal thousand years, "lived" is also thus limited. So if the reigning ends with the thousand years, the living ends with a thousand years, which ending would upset all the glory of a millennium.

Thrones--not literal and earthly, but the exalted state of those who had overcome their persecutions.

Beheaded--John saw the "souls" of the beheaded; they did not live in an earthly state. If literal, only those who are literally beheaded could enter the millennium. If figurative, there is no millennium, which is the fact of the matter.

With Christ--the text says nothing of the reign of Christ, but specifies a reign of the martyred saints with Christ. Reigning with Christ is a state. In 1 Corinthians 4:8, Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they "reigned as kings" in wealth and worldliness; and he wished that they reigned in righteousness with the apostles. In Romans 5:17, Paul referred to the time under the law when death reigned, but under grace the righteous reign in life by Jesus Christ. So these martyred saints reigned with Christ in a state of complete victory over death and in felicity of the beatitude blessed of verse six.

Thousand years--the vision of victory, complete victory. It stood for infinity; it was not a cycle of time nor a period of time, and had no reference to time. God remembers his covenant to a thousand generations, and one day with the Lord is as a thousand years--that is, God's memory of his covenant is infinite; and in God's infinite world days and years are not reckoned. The term denoted completeness, perfection, infinity. Their victory was complete, their triumph full, and their reign infinite.

The fundamental principle of exegesis forbids that the thousand years be interpreted literally here, and the word year symbolically in all the book elsewhere. So, if it is literal, the reign of Christ was for one thousand years only, not one day more or less. And, if literal, since both verbs "lived" and "reigned" are modified by the thousand years, when they shall cease to reign, they shall cease to live also. Furthermore, if literal, only the beheaded lived and reigned. And, finally, the third personal pronoun, they cannot be changed to the first personal we; and the verbs of past tense lived and reigned cannot be changed to verbs of future tense shall live and reign. The conclusion is that there are too many difficulties in the way of the literal application.

[NOTE: the following is taken from the writer's comments overviewing the chapter, and can also be found in the "chapter" section of this module]

It is a common expression, we hear it on every hand; that the Bible plainly says that Christ will reign on the earth a thousand years. That is something that the Bible nowhere says, plainly or vaguely. Like the battle of Armageddon notion, the millennium imagination is not in the Bible. Armageddon is mentioned in the Bible but the "battle of Armageddon" theory is nowhere found in the scriptures. The Bible has something to say about "a thousand years" but nothing about a thousand years reign on the earth. Christ reigns, but the reign of Revelation 20:1-15 was not the reign of Christ. It was rather a peculiar and special reign of certain souls with Christ. It does not mention or refer to the reign of Christ. The ones mentioned were reigning; it was a special use of the word, applied to a special incident of the Revelation vision. The text says they lived and reigned. Where did they live and reign? They lived and reigned with Christ. John saw souls out of the body, not in the body. It was a vision of the souls of t h e martyrs living and reigning with Christ in a particular and peculiar sense.

In a conversation with any group of denominational preachers one will invariably be heard to say that the Bible plainly says that we shall reign with Christ on earth a thousand years. When the asserter is asked for the passage that so plainly says it, he will just as invariably and confidently refer his listeners to Revelation 20:1-15, verse 4. It is in order, in time and in place now to dissect this misunderstood and misapplied passage of scripture.

This is the way its reads: 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.

The passage is almost universally believed to actually say that we shall reign with Christ on earth a thousand years. The text says, they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The pronoun we is a personal pronoun of first person, but they is a personal pronoun of the third person; the verbs lived and reigned are verbs of past tense; but shall live and reign are verbs of future tense. No man can claim the right to change the sentence of this text from the third personal pronoun they to the first personal pronoun we, nor to change the verbs lived and reigned of the past tense to shall live and reign of future tense. That is too much change for any man to make who has an ounce of respect for the word of God.

John said, "they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." The passage says nothing about "the thousand years reign of Christ." There is a great difference in the two expressions. Revelation 20:1-15 says, "they lived and reigned with Christ." They who? Lived--lived where? Reigned --how, with whom and where? "Lived and reigned"--with whom, in what place? It is not the reign of Christ, but the reign of souls "with Christ," that is mentioned in Revelation 20:1-15. There is a vast difference between living and reigning "with Christ" and a millennial reign "of Christ."

So let us be true to the facts in the case. It does not mention the reign of Christ, but the reign of souls "with" him. They not only "reigned" with him, they "lived" with him. They "lived and reigned" with Christ a thousand years. The two verbs "lived" and "reigned" are both limited by the thousand years. If the expression denotes time, then when the reign is over, and they ceased to reign; the living would be over and they would cease to live.

Revelation 20:1-15 : l-6 does not mention the second coming of Christ. That is not the subject of it. It does not mention a bodily resurrection, and that is not the subject of it. It does not mention a reign on the earth, nor does it mention the "reign of Christ"--and neither is the subject. Is it not possible for souls to live and reign "with Christ" without Christ being on earth? Furthermore, it does not mention the throne of David or any other throne on earth. And it does not mention either Jerusalem or Palestine, nor does it mention Christ on earth.

Jesus said that Jerusalem is not the place where men should worship (John 4:21), but they want to put it there. He said that his kingdom is not of the world (John 18:36), but they want to put it here, and make it of the world. Can millennialists consistently say that though it mentions none of these things, it teaches all of them? It is altogether possible and consistent for all the things mentioned to exist without being on the earth.

(2) The thousand years reign with Christ.

There are twenty figures of speech in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters alone. In a series of symbols such as these, it is not reasonable to make a literal application of the thousand years and a figurative application of all the rest of the symbols, without a contexual or historical reason for doing so. The thousand years, like the other parts of the vision, is a figure of speech--a symbol of something else.

It is said in Deuteronomy 7:9 that God keeps his covenant and his mercy unto a thousand generations. God does not count a literal thousand generations, then quits remembering his covenant. It means God's memory of and faithfulness to his covenant are perfect and complete. The term thousand was a figure of completeness. It does not denote a cycle of time.

Then what about the millennium? Nothing was said of a millennium. The thousand years did not mean a millennium. There is no millennium. There never was a millennium. There never will be a millennium. The twentieth of Revelation did not refer to a millennium. The thousand years was not literal, therefore was not a millennium and has no reference to a millennium. There is no connotation for the notion. The magic word millennium is not in the text.

In this vision John "saw thrones" and the ones that "sat on them." And those whom he saw were the souls of the beheaded. They had not "worshipped" the beast. They had not "received" his mark, and they "lived" and "reigned" with Christ.

First: They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. It does not mention the second coming of Christ, a bodily resurrection, a reign on the earth, or a literal throne in Jerusalem or elsewhere. It does not mention us, and it does not mention Christ on earth. Revelation 20:1-15 mentions none of those things, and a curse was pronounced on the one who adds to the words of the book.

Second: They lived and reigned with Christ. It says "they"--the souls of the martyrs, those who were beheaded. The beheaded souls lived and reigned with Christ. Only those who were beheaded entered into that thousand years.

If that thousand years is literal, then the beheading is literal, and only those literally beheaded get into the millennium. If the beheading is figurative, the thousand years is figurative, and that cuts us out; for there could be no literal millennium. If it is a literal thousand years, it is a literal beheading. If it is a figurative beheading, it is a figurative thousand years, and either way there is no millennium for us.

Third: They lived and reigned. If the term "reigned" is limited by a thousand years, the verb "lived" is also limited by a thousand years. If the reigning ends with the thousand years, the living ends with a thousand years, and the millennium will end with everybody in it ceasing to live. That would be quite a hopeless millennium.

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Bibliographical Information
Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". 1966.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
Daniel 7:9,18,22,27; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Corinthians 6:2,3
the souls
6:9; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:11; Luke 1:17; 9:7-9
Matthew 24:10; Mark 6:16,27; Luke 9:9
the witness
1:9; 11:3,7; 12:11
and which
13:12-17; 14:11; 15:2; 17:8
and they
5:9; 11:11,15; Daniel 2:44; 7:18,27; Romans 8:17; 11:15; 2 Timothy 2:12
Reciprocal: Leviticus 19:28 - print;  Deuteronomy 4:4 - GeneralDeuteronomy 11:16 - your heart;  Psalm 49:14 - upright;  Isaiah 2:2 - the mountain;  Isaiah 65:16 - because;  Ezekiel 9:4 - set a mark;  Ezekiel 37:10 - the breath;  Daniel 7:11 - the voice;  Daniel 12:12 - GeneralObadiah 1:21 - to judge;  Micah 4:1 - the mountain;  Zechariah 14:5 - the Lord;  Matthew 6:10 - Thy kingdom;  Matthew 11:14 - this;  Luke 1:33 - he;  Luke 11:2 - Thy kingdom;  Romans 5:17 - shall reign;  Hebrews 4:12 - the word;  Hebrews 13:7 - word;  Revelation 2:26 - to him will I give;  Revelation 4:4 - were four;  Revelation 7:3 - in their;  Revelation 11:18 - and the time;  Revelation 12:17 - and have;  Revelation 13:14 - they;  Revelation 13:15 - cause;  Revelation 13:16 - a mark;  Revelation 20:6 - and shall

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation


(Verses 4-6).


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).


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).


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.


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.


. — "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!

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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation".

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

And I saw thrones . . . given unto them. This is the same vision that is described at Revelation 17:12 and the reader should see the comments at that passage. The pronoun they means the kings who had occupied their thrones in form only, but who really had not been free to use their own judgment in their ruling. Sat upon them denotes that they were occupying their thrones in fact and not merely in name. Judgment was given unto them signifies they were allowed to render their own judgment in matters pertaining to their kingdoms. Saw the souls . . . a thousand years. Before reading further at this place, let the reader reexamine very carefully the first paragraph of the note referred to previously. That is especially necessary to get the significance of the thousand years of reign with Christ. The souls John saw were of those who were beheaded by Papal Rome because they refused to submit to her false demands. Their death recalls a like experience recorded in Revelation 6:9 of those who had been slain by Pagan Rome. These whom John saw in our present verse resisted the beast (Babylon), his image (those who imitated the beast) and the inark (those who brought upon themselves the guilt of doing the things originally incited by Nero.)

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 20:4

Revelation 20:4 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.



here we are to understand the kingdom and dominion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of his suffering, conquering and overcoming saints. Revelation 11:15; Daniel 7:27; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 12:11

And judgement was given unto them.

That Isaiah, to the righteous, { Ezekiel 23:45} to the saints, { 1 Corinthians 6:2-3}

And I saw the souls (animas, not the bodies) of them that were beheaded,

that Isaiah, suffered death

for the witness of Jesus,

Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 11:7 and for the Word of God, the holy scripture;

And which had not worshipped the beast:

that Isaiah, had not taken the oath of supremacy to the beast;

neither to his image:

popish kings, as head of the church, are refused to swear away the headship of our Lord Jesus Christ, { Colossians 1:18}

Neither had received his mark in their foreheads or in their hands.

See Revelation 13:16-17

And they lived and reigned with Christ these thousand years.

Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:11-12

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Harold Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

II. THREE MAIN THEORIES-- Revelation 20:1-15

There are three main theories of interpretation.

Each has its difficulties. Each has endless variations. Each has its firm advocates. We must never presume to claim that our view is God"s view. We must never condemn those Christians who hold different views from our own particularly as regards this chapter of scripture.

We must observe that the second coming of Christ is not expressly stated in Revelation chapter20. It is possible to fit it in before the millennium, after the millennium, or after the "little while" of verse3.

Whatever interpretation we make of Revelation 20:1-15 we must be cautious, humble, scriptural and loving.

This chapter does not state when Christ will come in relation to the millennium. The chapter leaves this to be a matter of opinion. We should do the same. We repeat--If the Lord meant us to know, or if our salvation and growth in grace depended upon our knowing, He would have made it plainer.

Whichever of the three main theories of interpretation we accept we must accept that other sincere Christians will differ from us. We must always be ready to grant liberty of opinion and not be critical of each other.



In general this view believes that the millennium is still future, and that Christ will (1) come BEFORE THE Millennium to bind Satan and to reign for a1000 years () ("PRE" means BEFORE). (2) During the period of the millennium the saints will reign with Christ (20:4-6). (3) After the millennium Satan will be loosed and then judged and punished (20:7-10). (4) Then the resurrection and judgment of the wicked will take place (20:11-15). The pre-millennial view is based on this chapter, and when it is accepted here it can then be read into many other passages of scripture. Acceptance of the pre-millennial view in Revelation chapter20 will also determine one"s interpretation of the whole book of Revelation. Most premillennialists see almost the whole of the book as referring to judgments, plagues, events still in the future. (chapters4-22). Most premillennialists see the vision of the seven churches in chapters2,3as successive periods of church history and interpret this present age as "The Laodicean period" ( Revelation 3:14-22). Most premillennialists adopt a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation except in those verses in which a literal interpretation is plainly impossible. This view is widely held among Christians.



This view believes that the millennium is a period of time ( 2 Peter 3:8) which is usually identified as the present whole Christian age. In this view Satan was bound when Jesus died on the Cross and rose again (20:1-3). Colossians 2:15 --"Having spoiled principalities and powers--triumphing over them in it." The saints are at present living and reigning with Christ (20:4-6; Ephesians 2:6). This view sees Christ"s victory on the Cross as a real victory which gives to Christians the promise of victory over Satan. The defeat of Satan (inflicted by redemption) is described as "a fall from heaven" ( Luke 10:18), as "a casting out" ( John 12:31), as "a Judgment past," "The prince of this world has been judged" ( John 16:11). But the rejection of Christ"s power and victory by unbelievers postpones the realisation--The refusing of the King"s Son ("We will not have this man to reign over us") interposes a barrier against the immediate fulfilment of the vision of Christ"s victory. AFTER the millennium (or Christian age) Satan will be loosed and Christ will then come and cast him into the lake of fire (20:7-10). In this view, the second coming of Christ is AFTER the millennium (POST means AFTER). Then will come the general resurrection of the good and the wicked at Christ"s second coming. The wicked will be judged and Christ will reign forever. (20:11-15). This view also is widely held among Christians.



(which we have adopted in these study notes) is that "the1000 years"--the millennium--mentioned in Revelation chapter20 is A SYMBOL, not of a period of time but OF COMPLETENESS. Satan is bound for a1000 years, that Isaiah, he is completely bound. The saints reign with Christ for a1000 years, that Isaiah, they reign in complete victory. Numbers are always used as symbols of ideas in the book of Revelation (e. g, "666") "10" (the complete) X:10 X:10 (1000) a symbol of "complete" as definite as John can make the symbol. This view believes in the millennial reign of Christ. But this interpretation believes that the millennium describes, not the duration but the PERFECTION of Christ"s reign. It means the complete and perfect reign of Christ over and with those whose lives are completely surrendered to Him. Those who hold this view recognize that not all the difficulties are solved, but this view enables them to read the whole book of Revelation seeing in its visions symbolic pictures of principles active in the present daily lives of Christians and not only of future events. For to them this book describes the present victory of Christ in the lives of all who are yielded completely to Christ, and it becomes the most thrilling and hopeful book in the world as it pictures the certainty of Christ"s future and final victory. The use of this symbol of the millennium in this way is consistent with other scriptures. Wherever Christ"s servants give their lives entirely to Him, wherever they die for Him, either literally or in the life of each day, there the angel of the Lord binds the power of Satan. There it is that those who thus give their lives to Christ are "raised up" into newness of life, the "first resurrection" where they experience the joy of being victors with their Lord. They know the meaning of triumphant life as no other can. In their lives, and as far as their lives extend, the devil is completely bound, (bound a1000 years). 10 X:10 X:10, the most complete binding that John can express in figures.

These are the three main alternative views. We are free to choose between them.

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Whedon's Commentary on the Bible


4.I saw thrones—An inauguration of a new and better regimen over the world. The infernals being cast out, the celestials, with benign influences, are crowned as kings. Where John saw the thrones he does not say; but, apparently, they should be in the firmamental heaven, where once (chap. xii) the dragon reigned. And this would represent the place of spiritual natures. Notes on Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 4:9.

And they sat upon them— Namely, those who reigned in the latter part of the verse, the souls of the martyred in the battles with antichrist.

Judgment—The authority to judge, or, according to Scripture sense, to rule, was given them. Herein is more completely fulfilled the symbolic promise to the twelve that they should sit on twelve thrones, judging, that is, ruling, the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28. But we see no judging of angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, where see note) here.

The souls—Not bodies. As it was antichristic spiritual beings who have been dethroned, so it is Christic spiritual beings who are now enthroned. Satan and his angels have heretofore ruled; Christ and his saints shall rule now. In both cases the rulers are spiritual, in the spiritual region, that is, in the spiritual atmosphere overlying the earth, and ruling its populations with spiritual influences and sway.

It was these same martyred souls whom the seer beheld, under the fifth seal, (Revelation 6:9,) lying under the altar, in sad suppression beneath the despotism of the persecutor, calling for retribution and bidden to wait awhile. They have waited; their number is fulfilled, and their regal time has come. This exaltation is the glorious reversal of that humiliation. They were victims then—they are kings now. The order of strata is reversed; those who were then underlying are now overlying. But in both cases they are souls, not bodies. In other cases, where the soul signifies the whole person, the idea of disembodied soul is excluded by the narrative, as in Acts 27:37. But here, and in Revelation 6:9, they are the souls of dead men; of persons beheaded with the axe. And the Greek word for beheaded is not in the aorist tense, which would imply that the fact was transient, but the perfect, which implies the continuance of the dead condition of the body. Whatever the soul of a living man may be, the soul of a dead man must be a disembodied soul.

We trace the souls under the altar of Revelation 6:9, through their history to this verse. We find them among the hosts on Mount Zion with the Lamb, in Revelation 14:1-4, where they are in the Lamb’s retinue, following him wherever he goeth, chanting a future victory over Babylon, but not yet reigning. We find them in the armies of heaven, Revelation 19:14, (where see note,) who fight the great battle. We find them here, the exalted, inaugurated trophy of that victory, reigning with the Great Victor.

They lived—They were endowed with the element of glorified vitality; by which they surmount and overcome the power of the second death, Revelation 20:6. This is the true resurrection of souls. What is the nature of this life? It is the same life as occurs constantly in these last chapters of Revelation in the phrases book of life, tree of life, water of life, river of life, word of life, eternal life, life. It is the paradisiac life; by which, over and above the mere conscious existence of the soul, or even its regenerate life in this world, it glows with bliss, and expands into an immortal growth and beauty; the principle of celestial life implanted by Christ in the glorified spirit.

The primal sentence, thou shall surely die, included the fulness of death upon the whole man, and upon his everlasting being. That “die” manifests itself, indeed, in the body, by decay and dissolution, which is the first death; it manifests itself in the soul by spiritual depravity and eternal destruction in the world to come, which is the second death. By Christ both these deaths may be reversed; first, by a revival of the soul to a prospective celestial life here, to be exalted and continued in a glorified spiritual state hereafter, which is the first resurrection; and by a revival and reorganization of the body to an eternal union with the soul, which is the second resurrection. Thus, the first resurrection is a resurrection of souls, the second a resurrection of bodies.

Nor are we quite alone in this interpretation. Grotius, in his commentary upon the passage, says, “The souls which are in hades are not all said ( ) to live; but those only which are translated to beneath the throne of glory, as the Jews say; for so they call the perfected state of souls before the universal resurrection.” Upon the words , they lived not, he remarks, “That is, they remained in hades in that state which was according to the life which they had lived on earth.”

That the blessed souls were said by the Jews to live this paradisiac life in this intermediate state (located by them as under the throne of glory) the following beautiful passages from eminent doctors of the Jewish Church will show, for which we are indebted to Schoettgen’s Horae Hebraicae.

Midrasch Coheleth, (fol. 90:4,) commenting upon the biblical words, “for the living know that they must die,” says: “They are meant who, even in death, are called living. ‘But the dead know not any thing.’ The impious are meant, who, even while active in life, are called dead. Whence we prove this: that the just, even in death, are called living.” Jalkut Simeoni, (part ii, fol. 109:3:) “No difference is there between the just, living or dead, except that they differ in name.” Synopsis Sohar, (p. 138, n. vii:) “Jacob our father, and Moses our teacher, upon whom be peace, are not dead; and so all who are in their perfected state, because the true life consists of this. Although it is written of them that they are dead, this is to be understood in respect to us, not to them.”

That the blessed intermediate state is called under the throne of glory appears as follows: Schoettgen, upon Revelation 6:9, “Souls under the Altar,” quotes Sohar Chadasch, (fol. 22, 1.) Said Rabbi Jacob, “All the souls are taken from under the throne of the glory of God, that they may (at the resurrection) resume their body, as a father takes his child.”

The same upon Sol. Song of Solomon 8:1: “By vine is meant the righteous soul, which in heaven is planted under the throne of glory.” In another place, “How loved by God is that soul which is taken from under the throne of God’s glory—from the holy place—the land of the living.”

Schoettgen also shows that the same throne of glory was the place of the Messiah in his exaltation. “Messiah was to be descended from the fathers, and in human flesh to redeem us; then he was in the same to occupy the throne of glory.”—Vol. ii, p. 439.

From these extracts the meaning of this language from an ancient Jew is plain. The disembodied spirits of the saints, being in the perfected state, are said, in contradistinction to the wicked, to LIVE, and to live with the glorified (Christ) Messiah. This is the same with the abode of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom; the same as the “being absent from the body” and the “being present with the Lord” of St. Paul; the same as the being in paradise with Christ of the penitent thief; and the same as the life and reign of souls of St. John.

Reigned—Became the overlying, controlling, spiritual power over the nations of the earth, as Satan and his angels once were.

With Christ— Yet all their victory and reign is in unification with the Redeemer. As they fought his last battle through his one sword, so they reign through his one sceptre.

This picture of living and reigning souls, however, is given (like the mountains of Revelation 17:9) as a double symbol, or more properly, as a symbol and a specimen. As a symbol the souls stand to represent the victory over antichrist. Hence only those who are martyred in that war seem to be made visible. As a specimen they serve to show the true nature of the first resurrection; that is, the glorified triumphant state of the imparadised disembodied spirits, in the glorified side of hades, who have won the battle of life, and await in bliss, incomplete yet wonderful, for the second resurrection. Hence, as a specimen of the nature of the first resurrection, though these alone are in the foreground and visible, yet all the spirits of the departed just, though in the background, are by right and just implication there. Hence, we look to this passage as describing the blessedness of all our departed brethren who have passed through the portals of death to the land of blessed spirits. It is to this blood-washed throng that we hope to go from our death-bed in Christ. See our article, on “The Millennium of Revelation 20,” in the “Methodist Quarterly Review” for January, 1843, for a full discussion of this whole subject.


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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 20:4. , tribunal-seats for the assessors of the divine judge (as in Daniel 7:9-10; Daniel 7:22, of which this is a replica). The unnamed occupants (saints including martyrs? as in Daniel) are allowed to manage the judicial processes (so Daniel 7:22, where the Ancient of days to ) which constituted a large part of Oriental government. But no stress is laid on this incidental remark, and the subjects of this sway are left undefined; they are evidently not angels (Jewish belief, shared by Paul). Such elements of vagueness suggest that John took over the trait as a detail of the traditional scenery. His real interest is in the martyrs, for whom he reserves (cf. Eus. H. E. vi. 42) the privilege assigned usually by primitive Christianity either to the apostles or to Christians in general. They are allotted the exclusive right of participating in the messianic interregnum.— , beheaded by the lictor’s axe, the ancient Roman method of executing criminals (cf. Introd. § 6). Under the empire citizens were usually beheaded by the sword. The archaic phrase lingered on, like our own “execution”. Here it is probably no more than a periphrasis for “put to death”. Even if meant a second division, it must, in the light of Revelation 11:7, Revelation 13:15, denote martyrs and confessors (who had suffered on the specific charge of refusing to worship the emperor).— , tenfold the normal period of human life (Plato, Rep. 615), but here = the cosmic sabbath which apocalyptic and rabbinic speculation (deriving from Genesis 2:2 and Psalms 90:4) placed at the close of creation (cf. Drummond’s Jewish Messiah, 316 f.; Bacher’s Agada d. Tann.2 i. 133 f.; E. Bi. iii. 3095–3097; Encycl. of Religion and Ethics, i. 204 f., 209). John postpones the till this period is over (contrast Matthew 19:28). He says nothing about those who were living when the millenium began, and only precarious inferences can be drawn. Does Revelation 20:6 contain the modest hope that he and other loyal Christians might participate in it? or does the second ( ) class represent (or include) the living loyalists (so, e.g., Simcox, Weiss, Bousset)? The latter interpretation involves an awkward ambiguity in the meaning of (= came to life, and also continued to live), conflicts with . . (5) and (4), and is therefore to be set aside, as 5–6 plainly refer to both classes of 4. A third alternative would be to suppose that all Christians were ex hypothesi dead by the time that the period of Revelation 20:1 f. arrived, the stress of persecution (cf. on Revelation 13:8 f.) having proved so severe that no loyalist could survive (cf. below, on Revelation 20:11).



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.