The millennium as is taught in the Bible is a thousand year reign of Christ. As chapter 20 goes deeper we get a whopping 3 verses on this subject, but 3 verses can say a lot.
Even Mayberry needs Andy
Mayberry, North Carolina may be a small town with many well meaning people, but are they one happy family? Sometimes. Aunt Bee, Opie & Andy were a marvelous family, but even marvelous families have squabbles. They had a lot of happy times, but Andy’s presence was always important. Let’s look verse 4.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. (Revelation 20:4a–ESV)
After Satan was locked up the vision shown to John was of thrones. These are not thrones of kings but thrones of a God authorized judiciary.
So in this Satan-less world a judiciary will be put in place from the earliest days. Why will a judiciary be needed? The world will still be populated with people and people squabble. The sin nature at this time will not be gone. The world will not have been advanced to that final stage. The world will be Satan-less, but not yet sin-less.
In this unique millennium, this run-up to eternity of the earth, God will be the chief administrator. There will be no corruption in the government God establishes: No shutdowns, no graft, no blackmail, no Tammany Hall1. That is what we are seeing unfold here; the judiciary is the first part John noted.
Judiciaries. Not something new.
- When Israel was in its infancy Moses became overextended. He came to a point where he was trying to fill all the roles from judge to legislator to priest. His father-in-law came alongside him and suggested he appoint capable men. He did and things eased. (Exodus 18:13-27)
- What about the early church? Remember the disagreement which broke out in the widows ministry? It became troublesome enough that it reached the level of the apostles. What did they do? Called a council and appointed capable men to judge over the squabbles. (Acts 6)
- Paul instructed Timothy to pass on what he had learned who in turn would pass this on to others (2 Timothy 2:2)
So when we come to this new era on the earth a similar pattern is clearly established. God is going to do something new on the earth.
More than a judiciary
4b Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4b-6–ESV)
Here is the first resurrection. Jesus was the firstborn from among the dead. Second born is the group of people who lost their lives in the cause of the gospel. All through the Bible we have seen the assembly of this group: remember Abel?2 Even in our day we can call to mind those who have fallen from this life as a result of their testimony for Jesus Christ. These will be the first to follow Christ from death to newness of physical life. They are first beyond Jesus to receive a renewed body.
They reign with Christ and verse 6 adds some insight into their roles. They will be alive and well back on the earth, a fallen earth for sure, but out and about serving and helpful among those who have yet to face the first death.
The pursuit of God
Before preparing this lesson I don’t think I had a useful grasp of these verses. I always parked it in the “millennium” basket and left it there. But having studied it I am pleased to have found it to mean so much more. Really these thousand years are all about God’s beckoning to men. Has not God been pursuing people since the start? He never forces people into his household. He offers and leads.
Satan deceives but God invites; God pursues. Same story throughout the scripture.
Who better to hold out the offer of Jesus to other people than those who faced persecution all the way to their own death?
No man can come to me unless God draws him. Those are the words of Christ. We are so nearsighted if we think that God does not draw. Even in the millennium he sends out his offer. Satan is parked out of the picture. His evil influence is not able to go pick up the seeds that are sown as in another of Jesus’ parables. Brought into the picture are those who will be out sowing seed and helping, sharing and inviting. People must always choose. They get no free pass, but here in this last great push the way into the kingdom of God is right there. It is wide open. “Come,” says Jesus and his fellow martyrs. They say this the world over … for a long, long time.
We should be sowing seeds too
In these thousand years of Satan-less life Jesus is king, and accompanying him is a judicial element and an administrative one. Wonderful to look at it is. We must make sure that we do not merely marvel. If one merely looks at the scriptures, but does not do as it says what good is it? We need to do what the martyrs will do: share, offer, help. The lesson on the first three verses in this chapter was about angels as God’s agents. From there I branched to ourselves as God’s agents. God’s agency is an agape agency and we need to fully engage it. No mere glance at God and gone, but a full in-gear for God is the way I want to live. How about you?
A word (or 5) about resurrection(s)
Some technical details on resurrection are divulged here. Before jumping on those details let’s hash through some other details.
First, what is a resurrection? It means to receive a new body, a physical one. The manner of it is somehow connected to the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. I do not extrapolate Jesus’ abilities, e.g. appearing and disappearing, passing through walls, etc., to the resurrection body in general. People are not to be classified as God.
Second, believers who are at home with the Lord, that is, in heaven, have not been resurrected. They do not have their new bodies. Heaven is a very real place and they currently have a very real experience of joy, happiness, togetherness, fulfillment, etc. that being with the Lord entails. Heaven is not the ultimate abode of man, earth is.
Tying these together resurrection is the process whereby human spirits existing in heaven are reunited with a physical body and placed back on the earth.
Third, recall Jesus’ place in all of this. He was the first to be resurrected that happening long ago. This real event is commemorated the world over by Easter celebrations. Paul gave us a meaningful way of considering it when writing to the Colossians he said Jesus was firstborn from among the dead3.
Fourth, consider this passage. In it John sees a group of souls depart heaven to reign and be priests with Jesus on earth. Have you heard the phrase kings and priests? Well, here is part of the scripture where that is taught. This resurrection is a limited one. Heaven is not emptied of human spirits only of those who gave their lives in the cause of the gospel. Martyrs will be given a very special place in God’s kingdom.
Fifth, eventually a second resurrection will happen. That facet is understood from verse 5. In this second resurrection human spirits, people without bodies, will be given their new bodies. This is the second resurrection.