As we move into chapter twenty and the period known as premillennialism, here are five key points to keep in mind:
People Who Are Without Christ Are Lost Forever.
Jesus Christ Will Return.
There Will Be A Final Judgment.
All Wickedness Will Be Removed.
There Will Be The Splendor Of The Eternal State.
Here's a quick summary of what those five points add up to.
The Bible tells the story of redemption. As firmly established in The Book of Revelation, before the foundation of the world, God wrote the names of those who are saved in The Lamb's Book of Life. The Bible tells the story of God's plan for redemption. Beginning with creation, it runs from humanity's fall into sin through Jesus coming back in judgment, and then judging the world, and then setting up his kingdom, and then his kingdom lasting for one thousand years in a renewed and renovated world, and then the entire universe as we know it destroyed to make way for the new heaven and new earth untouched by sin and wickedness. God's redemptive plan reaches its final expression, after the millennial, in the fullness of God's eternal paradise.
Here's the flow, chapter-by-chapter, of the story of redemption:
Chapter 19 - Jesus Returning.
Chapter 20 - The Thousand-Year Kingdom.
Chapter 21 - The Creation Of A New Heaven And A New Earth.
These three chapters are the culmination of what started back in chapter six. From chapter six to chapter eighteen, we saw what is known as the tribulation. These were the warnings God sent to get people's attention and give them an opportunity to repent. After that, Jesus returns. The time for repentance is over. He will judge wicked sinners. After the judgment comes the one thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. Finally, after his kingdom rule, Jesus Christ creates a new heaven and a new earth.
This, then, is the simple, clear chronology of The Book of Revelation.
Let's read Revelation 20:1-10:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 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.
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. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 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.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 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. 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, 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.
Our first point of contact is with the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
I love how Ephesians 1:3-10, written before God revealed His redemptive truth to John, makes the case for God's redemptive plan:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The consistency of God's Word is such a beautiful thing. We could spend several weeks touching on all the passages…Old and New Testament… speaking of God's sovereignty and His kingdom rule. It is a major theme in Scripture. Here's something you might want to write down:
HISTORY IS HEADED TOWARD THE REIGN OF GOD.
Now, before we get into the meat of verses four through six, we're going to look at three distinct ways to understand the thousand-year reign of Christ. After a brief summary of the three, I'll share what is the Biblically correct one.
First, there's the premillennial view. What that means is Jesus returns before the new heaven and new earth are established. He will come to mark the end of God's wrath and judgment on the world. Satan is bound so he can no longer deceive the nations. God rules in the hearts of those
who know Him by faith. This is a literal earthly kingdom, occupied by those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Specifically, this thousand-year reign is for the martyrs of chapter six who paid the price for their opposition to the Antichrist with their lives. It is going to be a beautiful thing for those who live through it.
Second, there's the postmillennialist view. What that means is the world is going to get better. People get better. Things are going to get better. Jesus is ruling now. People participate with him in building a better world. With the work of our hands and hearts, we are heading into a big, bright, beautiful tomorrow. And it is shining at the end of every day. We contribute to the timing of the creation of the new heaven and new earth.
Third, there's the amillennialist view. There is no millennium. They believe in a figurative time of peace and righteousness. The world is what we make of it right now. None of the things spelled out in Revelation 20 are going to happen literally. Peace and justice are what we make of them. They are in our hearts and minds.
So, here's how they stack up:
Amillennialist…no kingdom…things are going to stay the same.
Postmillennialist…things are going to get better.
Premillennialist…things are going to get worse.
Since we hold to the literal view of chapter twenty and maintain Biblical integrity, we are premillennialists.
Bottom line, we believe, as premillennialists, that things get worse before
the return of Christ. But then, when Christ returns for his one thousand-year reign, it begins a golden age. Paradise is regained. This is not a fantasy. It is a promised reality from the Word of God. For one thousand years, those who were martyred for their faith will reign with Christ. Satan and his minions will be kept away from the people who remain. Until finally, at the end of the one thousand-year reign, they are cast into the lake of eternal torment.
So as we move through this passage, and into chapter twenty-one, the
golden age arrives. We begin to see it in verses eleven through fifteen:
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. 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. 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. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The temple has been built. The nations of the earth are coming there to worship the true God and His Christ. Prosperity, not in riches or material things, but instead in freedom from want, reigns. People have what they need, not what they think they want or desire. Poverty is unknown. So is injustice. Everyone's heart is aligned with God's plan and purpose. It's an amazing time.
We don't know exactly what it will be like. It will be a reality too glorious for our boxy little brains to begin to understand. The best we can do is glimpses and parameters.
The lion will lie down with the lamb. The child and the scorpion are at peace. Spears have been turned into pruning hooks. The golden age has dawned. The earth is filled with knowledge of God. Jesus rules the nations as Lord and Savior.
The nations obey Jesus. Remnants of sin are met with swift and certain punishment. It's everything we've hoped and dreamt about, and more. That is the promise of chapter twenty, transitioning into chapter twenty-one. What a beautiful thing.
Finally, we arrive at the judgment before the Great White Throne. Books are opened and the dead are judged on the basis of what they have done. Paul affirmed this in Romans 2:6-8, "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury." Don't misunderstand. The issue is not salvation by works. It is that works act as irrefutable evidence of a person's actual relationship with God. Here's the last thing you might want to write down:
SALVATION IS BY FAITH, BUT FAITH IS INEVITABLY REVEALED BY THE WORKS IT PRODUCES.
This final accounting ends the tale of the wicked city. The great prostitute who seduced the world with her wickedness is no more. She is nothing but smoldering ash. Those who followed her are doomed. Heaven is filled with Hallelujahs. Those who remained faithful are with Christ in his one thousand-year rule. Those who carried the mark of the beast have been utterly destroyed. Meanwhile, the church, the Body of Christ, reigns triumphant with the Lamb. Satan and his henchmen will burn forever in the lake of fire. And now we await the new heaven and the new earth.
Let us pray:
MARANATHA…COME LORD JESUS! THANK YOU THAT WE, TOO, WILL LIVE IN THE RESTORED AND REGENERATED WORLD, IN THE GLORIES OF YOUR KINGDOM ON EARTH. AND THEN ON INTO THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH. WHAT A BLESSED HOPE, FOR WHICH WE GIVE YOU ALL THE GLORY AND HONOR AND PRAISE. IN JESUS' NAME. AMEN.