(d) Victory with the Martyrs, 20: 4-6
(Also below is (e) Victory Complete: The Overthrow of Satan, 20:7-10
What did John and the Christians see in the scene which had to do with the saints reigning
with Christ a thousand years?
They saw the triumph of the martyrs who had died as a result of the work of the devil,
the first beast, and the second beast.
Just as the devil was completely bound, the martyrs were completely victorious.
The thousand-year-period is not to be taken literally.
The martyrs are not under the throne crying for vengeance as they were in chapter 6.
They are on thrones reigning with Christ.
The cup of God's retributive wrath has been filled.
It has poured over the sides upon the oppressors of his people.
The oppressors are defeated.
The oppressed are glorified.
They reign with Christ a thousand years -- a picture of perfect blessedness.
There is no question but that these are the martyrs of the Domitianic persecution.
They were those who refused to worship the beast and his image.
They did not receive his mark on their forehead.
They were the ones who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.
Only by twisting the Scriptures can the symbol be made to fit anyone else.
The martyrs who had suffered so much are completely victorious with Christ.
This was the message which would bring consolation to the bereaved saints in Asia Minor.
This was a message which assured them of the fate of their loved ones who had fallen
under the axe of the persecutors.
This triumph of the martyrs is called the " first resurrection."
The " second resurrection," which is not mention but implied,
must be the general resurrection discussed so often in the New Testament.
The "first death," which is not mentioned but implied, must be physical death.
The "second death" which is mentioned here is symbolical
of eternal separation, eternal punishment in the lake of fire.
The martyrs who are pictured triumphant are blessed because they have passed
the first death (physical), and the second death (eternal separation from God)
has no jurisdiction over them.
Their cause triumphs with them.
They are victorious with the Christ for whom they died.
No basis is found in the symbolism for a literal reign of a thousand-year reign of the saints
with Christ on earth either before or after His second coming.
No basis is found in the symbolism for multiple resurrections and judgments.
Theological systems which have majored on a literal interpretation of these verses
and have interpreted the clear teachings of the New Testament in the light of the obscure
have found several resurrections and several judgments taught.
They find a resurrection of believers at what they call the " rapture,"
when Christ comes to call His people out of the earth before the great tribulation
which is also interpreted as future.
Seven years later, at the "revelation" (the second stage of the program
of the Lord's second coming), they find a resurrection for those who have become believers
and died during the period between the "rapture" and the "revelation."
According to their system, people are converted and die during the millennium
which is set up at the " revelation."
So, there must be a resurrection of this group at the close of the earthly millennium
when the heavenly order is set up.
If the wicked dead are raised at a separate judgment, the system has at least
four (perhaps more) resurrections.
In similar fashion they find multiple judgments ranging from two (one before and one after
the millennium) to seven, according to the particular interpreter.
This is pure fantasy read into a literal interpretation of these highly symbolical verses.
By the " proof-text" approach one can prove practically any proposition
by the perverted use of Scripture passages.
When the entire New Testament is studied, it teaches one general resurrection
(of both good and evil) and one general judgment (of both good and evil),
both of which are directly related to the second coming of Christ which brings to an end
this world order and ushers in the eternal heavenly order.
(e) Victory Complete: the Overthrow of Satan, 20: 7-10
In verses 1-3 of this chapter, a picture was presented of the binding of the devil
so he could not deceive the nations into believing that the emperor was divine
and was to be worshipped.
But the Christians were not to expect that he would give up without a struggle.
Just when he appears to be forever bound, he breaks out in a new effort at deceiving the nations
into lining up with the emperor rather than the Christ.
The nations are given under the term Gog and Magog.
These names recall ancient enemies of God's people.
They were much discussed an apocalyptic writings, and the Talmud speaks of them
as the enemies of the Messiah.
In Ezekiel 38, Gog is a name for Antiochus Epiphanes, and Magog is a name for the nation
over which he was prince.
He was the hated enemy of the people of God in the interbiblical period.
He polluted their temple by having swine flesh sacrificed upon the altar.
His evil work was finally put to an end by the revolt which gave Israel her only taste
of national freedom from the Babylonian captivity to the present day.
The terms Gog and Magog serve well as symbols for the barbarous people who rally
with the devil about the camp of the saints.
The devil's efforts are unsuccessful.
Lightning falls from heaven to destroy his evil work.
So it is not worldly power but heavenly power which finally brings to an end
the evil work of this archenemy of God's people.
He is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to writhe with Domitian and the leaders
of the state worship.
Eternal, ceaseless torment is their lot.
Thus do the cause of righteousness and the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor triumph.
The forces of evil and the forces of good have met.
The battle has been fought.
The forces of good have won.
God with his two allies (the redeeming Lamb and eternal Judgment) has triumphed over the devil
and his two allies (the emperor and the emperor worship committee).
These three enemies have been cast into the lake of fire.
From a study of the Scriptures alone, without the aid of preconceived systems of eschatology,
it appears that John knew nothing about a " millennium" in any sense
in which the word is used as a theological term.
Premillennialists say that Christ will come and usher in a thousand-year period of Utopian peace
Postmillennialists say that the gospel will usher in a thousand-year period of peace
and righteousness, at the end of which Christ will come.
A-millenialists say that there is no such thing as a millennium taught in the New Testament.
Preterists say that the millennium began when Christianity was made free of danger
from heathenism about A.D. 300 (some place its beginning with the death of Christ)
and that we are in it now.
Because of a conflict between these views, many evils have resulted in Christian history.
Fanatical zeal has been generated which has caused communities and churches
to be torn asunder and fellowship and friendship destroyed.
The cause of the kingdom of God has often been retarded because of an insistence
on a literal meaning for a passage which is highly symbolical.
Altogether it has been largely an unprofitable experience.
It appears that the best thing to do is to study the passage in its context
and against its background and thus determine its meaning for John
and those for whose benefit it was first given -- the persecuted Christians of first century Asia Minor.
This has been the purpose of this study of Dr. Ray Summers book called " Worthy Is The Lamb."
Perhaps the solutions suggested do not explain all the little details.
Unanimity of opinion can never be reached on these details.
Dr. Summers says, " In spite of this, I believe this interpretation comes close to the truth
which Christ wanted the broken, persecuted, discourage Christians to see."
"Revelation is a series of apocalyptic images given for the assurance of the people of God
that Christ is going to be victorious over all opposition.
For the Christians of John's day, the assurance was given by showing the victory of Christ
over the system of emperor worship because that was the greatest enemy of Christ in that day.
The same assurance is given to Christians in every age.
Find the greatest enemy of Christ (whether corrupt religion, goddess government, social anarchy,
or any other), put it in the place of emperor worship, and see its eventual failure
as the living Christ, the redeeming Lamb, marches to victory over chaotic world conditions
-- Worthy Is The Lamb." Dr. Ray Summers.
Next: The Lamb and Eternal Destiny, 20:11 to 22:5
and The Destiny of the Unredeemed, 20:11-15; 21:8, 27; 22:15