Chapter 20

2 Satan bound for a thousand years. 6 The first resurrection: they blessed that have part therein. 7 Satan let loose again. 8 Gog and Magog. 10 The devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. 12 The last and general resurrection.

1. I saw. The events described in ch. 20 follow immediately upon those portrayed in ch. 19.

Come down. Literally, “coming down.” John saw the angel not already on the earth, but in the act of descending.

Key. The fact that an angel carries the key shows that Heaven has complete control of events. The dragon will be unable to avoid being cast into the pit.

Bottomless pit. Gr. abussos (see on ch. 9:1). This is a symbolic vision. The bottomless pit is not some subterranean cavern or some yawning chasm elsewhere in the universe. John is describing the prophetic picture that unfolded before his wondering eyes. In vision he saw an actual pit, but the shutting up of the dragon in the pit was merely a symbolic way of showing that Satan’s activities would be brought to a halt. This is made clear by the statement showing the purpose of his confinement, “that he should deceive the nations no more” (ch. 20:3).

How Satan’s activities will be brought to a halt is clear from the context and from other scriptures, which show that the earth will be utterly depopulated at the second coming of Christ. According to ch. 19:19–21 the wicked are all destroyed in connection with the coming (see comment there). At the same time the righteous are “caught up … in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). Paul’s language shows that at His second coming Christ does not establish His kingdom on earth; else why would He remove the saints from the earth? Its establishment takes place after the close of the millennium, when the New Jerusalem comes down (Rev. 21:1–3). That Jesus removes the saints from the earth at His coming is further implied in John 14:1–3. In comforting His disciples in their sorrow concerning His departure, Jesus informed them that He was going to His Father’s house, where He would prepare dwellings for them. Then He would return and take them to be with Him. Compare John 13:36; 17:24. The dwellings are doubtless in the New Jerusalem, which is not transferred to this earth until the close of the millennium (see on Rev. 21:1–3).

The group that is caught up to meet the Lord in the air includes both the righteous dead, who are raised at the time of the advent, and the righteous living, who are “changed” (1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). The company of resurrected saints thus includes all the righteous who have ever lived upon the earth. There are but two main resurrections, the “resurrection of life” and the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29; Acts 24:15). At these resurrections, “all that are in the grave … shall come forth” (John 5:28, 29). Some have insisted that the phrase “dead in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:16) includes only the Christians who have died, and that the OT saints are not included. But the above scriptures show that all the righteous come forth in the resurrection of the just. The phrase “dead in Christ” need not exclude the OT saints, for they died with their hope fixed on a Messiah to come. Their resurrection is dependent upon the resurrection of Christ, for only “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). The resurrection of the righteous is further described as the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5, 6).

Much confusion has been brought into the millennial doctrine by those who fail to recognize that promises to ancient Israel were conditional on obedience. Many fanciful theories are advanced by those who attempt to fit a fulfillment of these ancient promises into the eschatological picture of the NT. This is more than the NT writers attempt. Inspired by the Spirit of God, they present a consistent picture of last day events. They show how events that might have met a different fulfillment had the Jewish nation accepted their divine destiny, will be fulfilled with respect to the NT church. They show the true position of the Jew in NT times and accord no special place to the Jews as a nation. In one of His parables Jesus clearly revealed that when the Jewish nation rejected Christ “the kingdom of God” was taken from them “and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (see on Matt. 21:43). The Jew now stands in the same relationship to God as the Gentile (see on Rom. 11). For an extended discussion of the role of the Jews in Bible prophecy and of the conditional nature of the prophecies made concerning them see Vol. IV, pp. 25–38. A careful survey of all the evidence shows that the Jews as a nation play no special role in millennial events. As individuals, those who through the centuries of the Christian Era have accepted Jesus Christ are saved as members of the Christian church. Along with other saints they rise in the first resurrection and are translated. Those who persist in their rejection of the Messiah rise in the second resurrection (see on Rev. 20:5).

The removal of all the saints to heaven and the destruction of all the living wicked (see above) leave the earth totally depopulated. Furthermore, the fearful convulsions of nature connected with the seven last plagues (see on ch. 16:18–21) leave the earth a scene of utter desolation. Dead bodies lie strewn over its surface (see on ch. 19:17–21). It is not unreasonable to see in the abussos a symbol of the desolated earth to which Satan will be confined during the millennium. In the LXX of Gen. 1:2 abussos translates the Heb. tehom, “deep,” the word that describes the surface of the earth as it appeared on the first day of creation, “without form, and void.”

Chain. A symbol of restraint. No literal binding with a literal chain is here prefigured.

In his hand. Or, “upon his hand,” perhaps indicating that the chain was hanging from the angel’s hand.

2. Laid hold. Gr. krateoµ, “to seize,” “to hold fast.”

Dragon … Satan. This refers back to ch. 12:9, where the same list of names appears (see comment there).

Bound. The binding of the dragon is symbolic of the restrictions placed upon Satan’s activities. The wicked will have been slain at the second coming of Christ. The righteous will have been transported to heaven. Satan and his evil angels will be confined to the desolated earth; so there will be not even one member of the human race left alive on earth upon whom Satan can exercise his deceptive powers. It is in this that his binding will consist (see on v. 1).

Thousand years. Some commentators take this to be prophetic time, that is, 360,000 literal years, basing their interpretation on the fact that these verses are symbolic, and that therefore the time period must be symbolically interpreted. Others point out that this prophecy contains a mixture of literal elements, and that therefore it is not necessary to understand the expression symbolically. This commentary takes the position that the thousand years are literal.

3. Bottomless pit. See on v. 1.

Set a seal. Gr. sphragizoµ, “to seal.” For the function of ancient seals see on ch. 7:2. The present seal may be compared with that placed on the tomb of Jesus (Matt. 27:66). The sealing symbolizes that Satan will be effectively restrained for the period indicated.

Deceive the nations. Satan’s work of deception will be cut short by the depopulation of the earth. There will be no one whom he can deceive (see on v. 1).

Must. Gr. dei “it is necessary.” Dei suggests necessity based upon moral and ethical reasons. Here it is a necessity because God wills that it shall be so, as a part of His divine plan.

Loosed. This represents the reverse of the binding of the devil at the second coming of Christ. Satan is again to be in the position to deceive men, to work his will with them in opposition to God. It was the depopulation of the earth that terminated his deceptive work. His loosing will therefore be accomplished by a repopulation of the earth, an event brought about by the resurrection of the wicked at the close of the thousand years (see on v. 5). These newly resurrected ones will be subject to his deceptions as he plans his final test of strength with Jehovah.

A little season. Or, “a little time.” How long this “little” time will be, we are not informed. It will be time enough for Satan to organize the resurrected wicked for an assault upon the New Jerusalem.

4. Thrones. Symbols of authority to exercise rule as a king (ch. 13:2), or as a judge (Matt. 19:28).

Sat. Or, “took their seats.”

Judgment. Gr. krima “sentence,” “verdict,” “a decision rendered.” Here krima seems to mean the authority to pass sentence. The passage does not refer to a verdict in favor of the righteous. The saints sit upon thrones, which fact indicates that they are the ones who will pronounce sentence. The passage is doubtless an allusion to Dan. 7:22, where the prophet notes that “judgment was given to the saints of the most High.” For “judgment” the LXX of Daniel reads krisis, “the act of judging,” whereas Theodotion’s Greek version reads krima.

The work of judgment referred to by the revelator is doubtless that spoken of by Paul: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? … Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2, 3). The work of judgment will doubtless involve a careful investigation of the records of evil men, so that every man will be convinced of the justice of God in the destruction of the wicked (see DA 58). See GC 660, 661.

Souls. See on Rev. 6:9; cf. on Ps. 16:10.

Beheaded. Gr. pelekizoµ, literally, “to cut off with an ax,” specifically, “to behead.” The word comes from pelekus, “an ax.” The ax was the usual instrument used in executions in ancient Rome. Later it was replaced by the sword.

Witness of Jesus. Or, “testimony of Jesus” (see on ch. 1:2, 9), here, the witness borne about Jesus.

Word of God. See on ch. 1:2, 9.

Which had not worshipped. In other words, they heeded the warning of the third angel (ch. 14:9–12) and refused to render obeisance to the power represented by the beast, even though threatened with boycott and death (see on ch. 13:15–17). Only two classes of saints are mentioned in this verse, martyrs and victors over the beast. This does not mean that they are the only ones to share in the millennial reign, for it has already been shown that all the righteous dead (not only the martyrs) come forth in the first resurrection (see on Rev. 20:1; cf. on Dan. 12:2). Perhaps the martyrs and the victors over the beast are singled out because they represent those who have suffered most. See Additional Notes at end of chapter, Note 2.

Lived. The Greek may be translated either “lived” or “came to life.” The context seems to favor the latter translation, otherwise the declaration, “This is the first resurrection” (v. 5) is without proper antecedent. However, the victors over the beast are alive in the time immediately preceding the coming of the Son of man, and the majority, if not all, will require no resurrection (see on v. 1) Hence, some suggest that “lived” should be given the ingressive idea, and “and” be understood as an explanatory term thus: “They began to live, that is, to reign with Christ.”

Reigned. The question is raised, over whom will the saints reign if all the wicked have been destroyed? They are said to reign “with Christ.” When the seventh angel sounds, “the kingdoms of this world … become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ” (ch. 11:15). Daniel speaks of the “kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom” being “given to the people of the saints of the most High” (ch. 7:27). The saints have been under the oppressive rule of kings who had drunk of the wine of Babylon’s fornication (see Rev. 18:3). Now the tables have been turned.

True, the wicked are dead (see on ch. 20:2), but they will return to life at the end of the millennial period (see on v. 5). They are shut up, as it were, later to receive their punishment. In the meantime the saints assist in the work of judgment that determines the punishment to be meted out. After the wicked return to life they go down in utter defeat, receive their punishment, and are annihilated (see on chs. 14:10; 20:9).

With Christ. The millennial reign is with Christ in heaven, not on earth as many Bible interpreters assert (see on v. 2; see Additional Notes at end of chapter, Note 2).

Thousand years. See on v. 2.

5. Rest of the dead. This obviously refers to the wicked dead, those who from the beginning of time have gone into Christless graves and those who have perished at the second coming of Christ. This is clear from the fact that all the righteous dead arose in the first resurrection. Therefore “the rest of the dead” must refer to the wicked dead (see on v. 2).

Textual evidence may be cited (cf. p. 10) for the omission of the sentence, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” though it is generally held that the preponderance of evidence is in favor of retaining it. The doctrine of the second resurrection is not, however, dependent upon this statement. It is clearly implied in the chapter. If the nations are to join Satan in his assault upon the Holy City (v. 9), they must be brought back to life. The term “second resurrection” is derived from the observation that there are only two main resurrections (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) and that the resurrection of the righteous is called the “first resurrection” (see on Rev. 20:2, 4).

The passage, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” is parenthetical. The sentence that follows, “This is the first resurrection,” is connected directly with the resurrection referred to in v. 4.

For a discussion of the textual aspects of the problem of v. 5 see Additional Notes at end of chapter, Note 1.

Lived not. Rather, “came not to life” (see on v. 4).

Were finished. The phrase may literally be translated, “until shall have been completed.”

First resurrection. That is, the one mentioned in v. 4 (see comment there).

6. Blessed. Gr. makarios (see on Matt. 5:3).

Holy. Gr. hagios (see on Rom. 1:7).

Second death. This is, the death that comes to the wicked after their resurrection at the close of the 1000 years (v. 14; ch. 21:8). The first death is the death that comes to all (1 Cor. 15:22; Heb. 9:27). All, both the righteous and the wicked, are raised from this death (John 5:28, 29). The righteous come forth from their graves immortal (1 Cor. 15:52–55). The wicked are raised to receive their punishment and to die an eternal death (Rev. 20:9; 21:8). God destroys them, both body and soul, in hell (Matt. 10:28). This means annihilation. The “second death” is the exact opposite of an endless life under torture, which some teach will be the fate of the wicked (see on Matt. 25:41).

Power. Gr.exousia, “authority.” The second death will not touch the redeemed.

Priests. See on Rev. 1:6; cf. Isa. 61:6.

Of God. That is, in company with God. In the same way, “of Christ” means in company with Christ. Or, the expressions “of God” and “of Christ” may signify respective, serving God and serving Christ.

Reign. See on v. 4; see Additional Notes at end of chapter, Note 2.

7. Loosed. The confinement resulted from the removal of the righteous to heaven and the slaying of the living wicked (see on v. 2). The loosing will be accomplished by the resurrection of the wicked, which will provide Satan with subjects upon whom to practice his deceptive guile.

Prison. The prison is the “bottomless pit,” the earth desolated at the second coming of Christ, where Satan had been confined during the 1000 years (see on v. 1). Satan is to be free to organize the resurrected wicked. This will be his final attempt against God before his destruction.

8. Nations … Gog and Magog. These terms represent the hosts of the unsaved of all ages who come forth in the second resurrection. For a discussion of the names “Gog” and “Magog” and the application of these symbols in OT prophecy and in the present passage see on Eze. 38:1, 2.

To battle. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading “for the battle.” The definite article lays stress on a particular battle, the last conflict between God and those in rebellion against Him. See GC 663–665.

Sand of the sea. That is, beyond computation (cf. Gen. 22:17). This host is composed of all the unsaved from the foundation of the world.

9. Breadth of the earth. Compare a similar expression in Hab. 1:6. The wicked, under the leadership of Satan, march against the camp of the righteous.

Compassed. That is, “encircled.”

Camp. Gr. paremboleµ, “camp,” a compound of para, “beside,” and ballo, “to put,” “to place,” “to cast.” Paremboleµ is used of a soldiers’ barracks or fort (Acts 21:34, 37), of armies in battle array (Heb. 11:34), of an encampment of people (Heb. 13:11, 13). Here paremboleµ describes the New Jerusalem.

And the beloved city. Or, “even the beloved city.” The beloved city is the New Jerusalem (ch. 21:10). Some scholars distinguish between the camp and the city. This much seems clear, however, that the saints are inside the city during the siege (see EW 292, 293). The fact that the “beloved city” is being surrounded shows clearly that it has descended, although the actual descent is not described until ch. 21:1, 9, 10. One of the significant events following the close of the 1000 years is the descent of Christ, the saints, and the Holy City. The narrative is told with extreme brevity, but the sequence of events is clear when the entire context is examined.

Fire. This doubtless refers to literal fire as the means of destruction.

Devoured. Literally, “ate down.” The form of the Greek verb denotes action completed. The wicked are annihilated. They suffer the “second death” (see on v. 6). There is no hint here of endless torture in an ever-burning hell (cf. Jude 7).

10. Lake of fire. See on ch. 19:20. Here the lake of fire is the surface of the earth turned into a sea of flames, which both consumes the wicked and purifies the earth.

Are. This word is supplied. The context suggests supplying the words “were cast.” See on ch. 19:20.

Shall be tormented. The Greek verb is in the plural. The subject of the verb is the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. It should be noted that the beast and the false prophet are not literal but symbolic creatures.

For ever and ever. Literally, “unto the ages of the ages” (see on ch. 14:11).

11. Throne. A symbol of authority, in this case authority to carry out a judgment. The throne is “white,” suggesting probably the purity and justness of the decisions arrived at. It is also described as “great,” perhaps with reference to the momentous decisions arrived at.

Him that sat. The identity of the person seated on the throne is not stated, unless the phrase “before God” (v. 12) gives his identity. However, textual evidence attests (cf. p. 10) the reading “before the throne” in place of “before God.” Hence the identity remains uncertain.

The Scriptures present both Christ (Rom. 14:10) and the Father (Heb. 12:23) as sitting in judgment. In Rev. 4:2, 8, 9; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4; 21:5 it is the Father who is seated on the throne, as the divine judge. The two work in closest unity (see on John 10:30). The official acts of one become the official acts of the other. Here it is doubtless Christ who leads out (see GC 666).

Fled away. An indication of the absolute power of the One sitting upon the throne and of the transitory existence of this present world (Ps. 102:25, 26; 104:29, 30; Isa. 51:6; Mark 13:31; 2 Peter 3:10). The eternal order of things is to be of an entirely new kind (Rev. 21:1–5).

12. The dead. This obviously refers to those raised in the second resurrection (see on vs. 5, 7).

Small and great. Station in life has no weight in this meeting with God. Many of high position in the world escaped, while alive, the fitting reward for their evil deeds. In this final accounting with God there will be no evasion of full justice.

Before God. Textual evidence attests (cf. p. 10) the reading “before the throne” (see on v. 11).

The books. Literally, “books.” The Greek has no definite article. These are the books containing the record of the lives of men. No sentence passed upon any wicked person will be arbitrary, biased, or unfair. For a classification of these books see on Dan. 7:10.

Another book. That is, “one more book.”

Book of life. See on Phil. 4:3; cf. on Luke 10:20.

According to their works. See on Rom. 2:6. The evidence that stands open for all to see and evaluate.

13. Sea … death … hell. These words set forth the universality of the second resurrection implied in v. 12. No man can avoid appearing in person before God on His throne. Death and hell are found together in chs. 1:18; 6:8. For a definition of “hell” see on Matt. 11:23.

14. Death and hell. Death and hell are here personified. Their being cast into the lake of fire represents an end of death and of the abode of the dead. Never will they have part in the new earth; they are mortal phenomena that belong only to this world. Death is the final enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26, 53–55).

Lake of fire. See on v. 10.

Second death. See on v. 6.

15. Whosoever. Only the names of the faithful will be retained in the book of life. The names of those who do not endure until the end will be blotted out (ch. 3:5). Many never had their names recorded there, for the book contains only the names of those who at some time in their lives professed faith in Christ (see on Luke 10:20).

Lake of fire. See on v. 10. Compare Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 21:8.

additional notes on chapter 20

Note 1

Rev. 20:5 presents a certain textual problem. The clause, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” is not found in certain manuscripts. This has raised a question as to the genuineness of this passage. Following is an examination of the textual evidence that bears on this problem.

There are six principal uncial witnesses for the book of Revelation: (1) the Chester Beatty Papyri from the 3d century, designated P, our oldest substantial witness to the book, and a few papyrus fragments, (2) the Sinaiticus (designated a

) from the 4th century, (3) the Alexandrinus (designated A) from the 5th century, (4) the Ephraemi Rescriptus (designated C) from the 5th century, (5) the Porfirianus (designated P) from the 9th or 10th century, and (6) a Vatican manuscript sometimes designated B, but to be distinguished from the Codex Vaticanus of the 4th century consistently designated B. The book of Revelation has been lost from the Codex Vaticanus, so the deficiency has been supplied by substituting an 8th-century manuscript variously designated, Vatican gr. 2066, 046, or a 1070.

Besides these uncial witnesses are a host of minuscule manuscripts of comparatively late date.

It should be noted that these ancient manuscripts are not all complete. Some of the leaves are entirely missing and others have become mutilated. Sometimes whole sections are missing. For example, as just noted, the whole of the book of Revelation has been lost from the Codex Vaticanus. The Chester Beatty Papyri of Revelation contain only the section from chs. 9:10 to 17:2, with certain lines missing in the extant leaves. The witness of these important uncials as far as ch. 20:5 is concerned is therefore unknown. The same is true of the witness of Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) and that of Porfirianus (P), for the entire twentieth chapter is missing form C, and the first nine verses of the chapter from P. This section of Revelation is also missing from certain minuscules.

The Peshitta version—early 5th century—never contained the books of 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, or the Revelation, because the Syrian church did not recognize them as canonical. The text of the Revelation appearing in modern printed editions of the Peshitta since 1627 was borrowed from a later Syriac translation known as the Harkleian.

Therefore, the genuineness of the clause in question must be evaluated on the basis of the remaining witnesses, which are comparatively few in number. In fact, the ancient witnesses to the book of Revelation are much fewer in number than those of the Gospels, Acts, or Pauline epistles.

Of those manuscripts that contain this section of Revelation the clause, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,” is omitted in the Sinaiticus (a

), a number of minuscules, and the Syriac versions. It is found in the Alexandrinus (A) and in 046, and in a large number of minuscules. The process whereby the genuineness of a reading is determined is too complex to be here discussed, but on the basis of the evidence available scholars generally accept, as genuine, the clause here under discussion. For this reason it appears in the majority of the translations. The fact that some translators place the passage in parentheses does not mean that they necessarily doubt the genuineness of the reading; they may simply regard it as parenthetical.

It is pointed out that the entire passage reads along coherently if the clause in question is omitted, especially if the last part of v. 4 is translated, “they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years,” which translation the syntax of the Greek permits. However, such a consideration alone is not the basis for deciding the genuineness of a particular passage. An author must not be denied the privilege of introducing a parenthetical idea into an otherwise smoothly flowing line of thought.

There is no contextual problem in the disputed clause, for what is said in this clause is clearly implied in the context, especially when related scriptures are studied. The Bible speaks of two main resurrections—that of the just, and that of the unjust (see John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15). That of the just is clearly set forth as occurring in connection with the second coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13–17). In Rev. 20:4 the statement is made concerning certain classes that they “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” This clause should be translated as noted above, “they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Thus translated, the clause “this is the first resurrection” (v. 5) connects logically with v. 4. When the author calls this the “first” resurrection, he clearly implies a “second.” Since the wicked are all slain at the second coming of Christ (ch. 19:21), and since they are represented as attacking the city at the end of the millennium (ch. 20:8, 9), it follows that they must have been raised. Thus the second resurrection at the end of the thousand years is clearly implied in the context.

Note 2

The thousand-year period commonly called the millennium is mentioned in the Bible only in Rev. 20. The word “millennium,” which means simply, “thousand years,” is not a scriptural term, but the expression “thousand years” occurs six times in vs. 1–7. Commentators differ widely in their understanding of the millennium.

This Additional Note proposes to set forth Bible reasons for the position held by Seventh-day Adventists and to show why Adventists regard as untenable certain other positions that have been advanced.

The Second Advent of Christ Prйcedes the Millennium.—That the second advent precedes the millennium is clear from the fact that the narrative of Rev. 19 and 20 is continuous. The second advent is symbolically portrayed in ch. 19:11–21, and the narrative is carried on without a break into ch. 20, which discusses the millennial period. The continuity of narrative is clearly demonstrated by the interrelation of events. The three great powers that will oppose the work of Christ and gather the kings of the earth to battle immediately prior to the advent are identified as the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (ch. 16:13). According to ch. 19:19, when “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies” assemble to make war with Christ at the time of His advent, the beast and the false prophet are taken and cast alive into a lake burning with fire and brimstone (vs. 20, 21). The narrative of ch. 20 proceeds to show the fate of the third member of the trio, the dragon, who is seized and cast into the bottomless pit, where he remains for 1000 years.

Any definition or description of the millennium must be based on the framework of the millennial doctrine set forth in chs. 19 and 20, for this is the only Scripture passage that deals directly with this doctrine.

Christ’s Enemies Slain at the Second Advent.—When the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20), “the remnant” (v. 21), or “the rest,” of their followers are slain by the sword of Christ. These are the kings, captains, mighty men, and “all men, both free and bond” (v. 18). The same classes are mentioned under the sixth seal, as seeking to hide from the face of the Lamb (ch. 6:14–17) when the heavens depart as a scroll and every mountain and island is moved. Obviously these scriptures depict the same earth-shattering event, the second advent of Christ.

How many are involved in the death of “the remnant” (ch. 19:21)? According to ch. 13:8 there will be only two classes on earth at the time of the advent: “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life.” It is evident, therefore, that when “the remnant” are “slain with the sword” (ch. 19:21), there are no survivors except those who have withstood the beast, namely, those who are written in the book of life (ch. 13:8). Before mentioning that this group enters upon its millennial reign (ch. 20:4), John relates how the third great enemy, the dragon, will begin to receive his retribution (vs. 1–3).

The Righteous Dead Raised at the Second Advent.—The Bible sets forth two resurrections, that of the just and that of the unjust, separated by a period of 1000 years (see on Rev. 20:1, 4, 5). There cannot be one general resurrection, for there is a resurrection to which apparently not all attain (Phil. 3:11; cf. Luke 14:14; 20:35. The just are elsewhere described as “they that are Christ’s at his coming” 1 Cor. 15:23). Some hold that Rev. 20:4 describes only the Christian martyrs. However, a comparison with other scriptures shows that all the righteous, including the OT saints (see on Rom. 4:3; 1 Cor. 15:18) and the living righteous, immortalized at the time (1 Cor. 15:51–54), ascend to be with Christ at the second advent (see on 1 Thess. 4:16, 17).

There is no valid scriptural basis for separating the “blessed and holy” ones, who have withstood the persecution of the beast, from the immortal saints mentioned in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15.

The Unity of the Second Advent.—The various Biblical references to the second advent combine to portray as a single event the coming of Christ to gather up His saints and to destroy their persecutors. The main references may be summarized as follows:

1.  Matt. 24:29–31. The coming of Christ will be visible, “in the clouds of heaven,” “after the tribulation.” Jesus will send His angels “with a great sound of a trumpet” to “gather together his elect.”

2.  1 Cor. 15:23, 51–53. They “that are Christ’s at his coming”—both resurrected dead and living—receive immortality when “the trumpet shall sound.”

3.  1 Thess. 4:15–17. The Lord descends “with the trump of God” to resurrect and catch up “the dead in Christ,” together with those who “are alive and remain” until the day of His coming. They are caught up “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air,” to “ever be with the Lord.”

4.  2 Thess. 1:6–8. The church’s “rest” from persecution comes when Christ is “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire”to punish those who “obey not the gospel.”

5.  2 Thess. 2:1–3, 8. The “gathering together unto him [Christ],” concerning which the Thessalonians were troubled, will not come until after the “falling away” and the revealing of “that Wicked [the Antichrist]” who will be destroyed “with the spirit of his [Christ’s] mouth” and “the brightness of his coming.”

6.  Rev. 1:7. His coming will be “with clouds,” and visible to “every eye.”

7.  Rev. 14:14–20. When Christ comes He will reap a double harvest—the righteous and the unrighteous.

8.  Rev. 19:11 to 20:6. At His coming, symbolized as a warrior accompanied by the armies of heaven, Christ casts the persecuting “beast” and “false prophet” into the lake of fire, and slays the rest of His enemies with the sword “out of his mouth.” An angel binds Satan. The faithful—resurrected dead and living—are rewarded; they reign “with Christ a thousand years.”

These Scripture references agree in picturing the glorious return of the Lord as one single, visible event. They show that this one event will accomplish (1) the gathering up of the saints immortal from the earth to be with Him, obviously in the heavenly “mansions” in the place that Christ has gone to prepare for them (John 14:2, 3), and (2) the slaying of the persecutors of the last generation, with all the unrighteous, by the consuming glory of His coming.

Thus it is evident that when the millennium begins, all human beings have either been taken to heaven in immortality or have been left dead on the desolated earth. It is this depopulation of the earth that binds Satan (see on Rev. 20:1, 2). He is unable to reach the redeemed and powerless to deceive his own human subjects until they live again at the end of the “thousand years” (v. 5).

Mistakenly Basis of Belief in Earthly Millennium.—Some hold that the millennium will be a period of righteousness, peace, and prosperity on earth. They arrive at this concept largely from applying to the millennium, either literally or figuratively, the prophecies of restoration and of the kingdom given to ancient Israel in the OT. The premillennialists belonging to this group apply these prophecies literally to either a churchly or a Jewish world kingdom in a future millennium after the second coming. The postmillennialists apply these same predictions to a future churchly golden age before the second advent. A third group, the amillennialists, reduce the OT portrayals of the kingdom offered to ancient Israel to mere allegories of the victories of the church in the gospel dispensation.

The fallacy of these three positions is twofold: (1) None of these positions fits the specifications laid down in Rev. 19:11 to 20:15, the primary Scripture passage dealing with the millennium. This passage shows plainly that there will be no living human being on the earth during that period (see above; cf. on ch. 20:1). Hence, the millennium cannot be a period of righteousness, peace, and prosperity on earth. (2) These positions are based on a false concept of the nature of OT prophecies.

For example, many premillennialists hold the view that these kingdom prophecies are literal and unalterable decrees that must yet be fulfilled to literal Israel, that is, to the Jews (for the term “Israel” as applied to Jews of any tribe see on Acts 1:6). This mistaken belief has resulted in a system known as futurism (see p. 129), which, instead of regarding the Christian church as the inheritor of the promises made to Israel, considers the Christian age a “parenthesis” in prophecy, that is, as filling up the gap until the ancient prophecies concerning Israel will in the future be literally fulfilled (cf. p. 129).

Interpreters of this school apply the greater part of the predictions of Revelation principally to the Jews, and believe that these predictions will be fulfilled in what they call the “end time.” They expect the OT kingdom prophecies given to Israel to be fulfilled during the millennium. They divide up sacred history into dispensations, or periods, in which the “church age” is regarded as an interim dispensation of grace between past and future Jewish ages of law. This division into dispensations logically requires a “pretribulation rapture” (see on 1 Thess. 4:17) in order to remove the Christian saints from the earth before the Jewish “tribulation period.” These interpreters hold further that the surviving Jews will accept Christ when He appears in the clouds after the tribulation; then, with the surviving “nations” they will enter the millennium, and while still mortal, will live on a partly renovated earth. At this time, according to this view, the Jews will enjoy not only material prosperity and long life but also the restored Davidic kingdom, a restored temple and “commemorative” sacrificial system, the law, the Sabbath, political world dominion, enforcement of Christ’s “rod-of-iron rule” over submissive but finally rebellious nations—all this in an earthly millennial kingdom, while the Christian saints are reigning with Christ in immortality.

Following are some of the principles of OT prophetic interpretation overlooked by those who reserve the OT kingdom prophecies for the Jews of a future age (see Vol. IV, pp. 25–38; see on Deut. 18:15).

1.   The promises to ancient Israel were conditional. God said, “If ye will obey …, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people” (Ex. 19:5; cf. Deut. 7; 8; 27–30; Jer. 18:6–10; see Vol. IV, p. 34).

2.   National Israel failed to meet the conditions, hence lost the kingdom and the promises. When Christ, the Son of David, came, and the Jewish nation rejected her King, she lost the kingdom (see on Matt. 21:43; cf. on Rev. 20:1).

3.   The Christian church, “spiritual Israel,” is now the inheritor of the promises. The failure of literal Israel does not mean that “the word of God hath taken none effect” (Rom. 9:6). When national Israel was cut off, like dead branches, from the true stock of Abraham, the true Israel was then the faithful Jewish remnant that accepted the Messiah (see on Rom. 11:5), and to these Jewish Christians were added the Gentile Christians, grafted into the original stock. Thus the tree now includes the spiritual children of Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 26–29), namely, the Christian church.

Paul says that “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26), but he makes it abundantly clear that “all Israel” does not mean all the Jews (see comment there). He excludes the mere “children of the flesh” and includes only “the children of the promise” (Rom. 9:6–8). To these he joins those Gentiles that have the true, spiritual circumcision, which comes from Christ (Rom. 2:26, 28, 29; Col. 2:11; see on Rom. 11:25, 26; Phil. 3:3). He says specifically that non-Jews saved by the grace of Christ are no longer strangers and foreigners to “the commonwealth of Israel” and “the covenants of promise,” but are “fellowcitizens with the saints” (Eph. 2:8–22). In spiritual Israel “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” but in Christ all are one (Gal. 3:28).

Paul applies to “all the seed,” Jewish and Gentile Christians, the promise of the kingdom (see on Rom. 4:13, 16). Peter quotes, almost verbatim, the key passage (Ex. 19:5, 6) that promises Israel the status of a chosen people, a holy nation, a “kingdom of priests,” and applies it to non-Jewish Christians. This shows that he regards the Christian church as heir of the special status formerly held by disobedient Israel (see on 1 Peter 2:5–10). John twice uses a phrase that seems to allude to this same Exodus passage: “a kingdom, priests,” “a kingdom, and priests” (see on Rev. 1:6; 5:10), showing that he makes a similar application of that kingdom promise to the church—not only to the future church triumphant but also to the Christians of Asia Minor. For other examples of inspired NT applications of some of Israel’s promises and prophecies to the church in apostolic times see Acts 2:16–21; 13:47; 15:13–17.

4.         Prophecies originally literal may be fulfilled spiritually to “spiritual Israel” in this age and transcendently in the world to come. The NT applications show that prophecies given literally to ancient Israel may have a nonliteral fulfillment for the church under the new conditions in the Christian age and a final fulfillment, without the elements of mortality, in the eternal kingdom.

Ellen G. White comments

1–3GC 658

1–151T 67–71

2–4EW 290

4     EW 52

4–6GC 661

5     EW 52, 89

5, 6 EW 292

5–9EW 53

6     EW 51; GC 544, 673; SR 429

7–9EW 293; GC 664

9     EW 52, 54, 294; GC 672, 673

11   GC 665

11, 12  COL 318; CS 314; FE 261; GC 666; SR 422; 8T 28

12   GC 480, 486, 549; PP 326, 357; TM 224; 4T 453; 6T 310

12, 13  EW 52

13   4T 116

13, 14  GC 544

14   EW 295; PP 461