Today’s reading is controversial; many intelligent, wise, and thoughtful biblical scholars who love and take Scripture seriously have different interpretations of the millennium—the thousand-year reign of Christ. Some believe that Christ will return before the millennium and that all believers will reign with Him during this period (premillennialists); others believe that Christ will return after the millennium, after the world has been transformed by the spread of the gospel (postmillennialists); still others believe that the millennium is a figurative period of time we are living in now—Christ is reigning with those who have died in Him and one day will return (amillennialists).
One of my fears in reading Revelation is that sometimes we can get so caught up in the details and prophecies, trying to figure out what it all means and how everything’s going to happen, that we miss the main point. It’s helpful for us to take a step back and be reminded that Scripture is God-breathed, and that we are not God. His ways are not our ways, and sometimes His plan is a mystery to us. Regardless of where a scholar might fall in the “millennium” camp and in how all of these things will take place, there are three truths we can remember from these verses:
- Satan will not have the last word (Revelation 20:10). At last, we see that the power behind the serpent, the dragon, and even the great prostitute has been overthrown. This is part of God’s sovereign plan: “although [Satan] tempts, accuses, and tries to deceive now, his time is limited and his doom is certain” (Duvall, Teach the Text: Revelation).
- We will all stand before the Lord (Revelation 20:11–12). Some will stand before God and be judged on their deeds found in the books, according to what they have done. Unfortunately, these people will face judgment because of their sins, for all have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Others will stand before God in hope—not because of anything they have done, but because their names are written in the book of life. These are the people who put their hope in Christ; when God looks upon them, He will not see their lacking deeds or shameful sin, but instead will see the blood of Christ and His righteous record.
- Death itself, the final enemy, will be forever destroyed (Revelation 20:14). The cycle of death that began after the Fall will be reversed. We will experience true resurrection and be given glorified bodies. Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of children of God (Romans 8:22).
For some, this is a hard word. There is a coming a day when it will simply be too late to repent. Even now, repent of your sins and believe God’s Word and what His work of salvation accomplished for you on the cross of Christ. For others, this is a word of hope. There is a coming a day when sorrow, sin, and death will be no more. God’s people will dwell with Him in a land where there will be no more need for tears or grief. Death itself will die on that day.
Revelation 20 (ESV):
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. 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.
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.