Chapter 20 deals with the glorification of the saints who suffered at the hands of the beast Rome, and the eventual judgment of Satan. It introduces us to the vision of the saints who reign with Christ. The 1000-year reign is another misused portion of the book. It is the source of all advent and millenialists doctrines concerning Christ’s return. Yet, a careful reading of the text will dispose of those notions. They have no textual foundation.
Verse 1 states that Satan is taken and bound for “one thousand years.” Once more, the time signs in this book should be viewed as symbolic of a complete time – and its length is not assigned by anyone here. One thousand years is the longest of the numerological time signs in Revelation. So, we should conclude that Satan is bound for a very long time, all set by God and not from some pulpit, in a book, DVD or off someone’s computer.
During the time of Satan’s captivity, there is a reigning with Christ of those “who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” These had been faithful to death. No one who reads this, or who may ever read it, has “been beheaded for the cause of Christ,” to put it flatly and succinctly, so that it cannot be overlooked or obscured. Nor are any of us among those who stood against worshipping the pagan Roman gods and rulers. Then this is identifying a very select and thankfully, a very small set. Neither you, nor I, not anyone I know, that you know or may know, no one living now, and not anyone in the last 1,600 years or so, have been “beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God” or marked for that end while here. So, we know that no one today qualifies to be counted with this godly and noble group. A simple reading of this passage has stopped some of my friends and acquaintances stone-cold-still in the middle of rejoicing over these easily accepted but flimsy notions. It is wrong for any of us to consider that we have or might want to have any part in anything like this. The mentioned martyrs are all long dead and gone, are not now living, as they had been killed and are here honored for giving their lives for Christ in the early years of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, this passage does not refer to any saints now or in the future (and we ought to pray it remains that way), and not to any out of the recent past. Verse 5 confirms this view by noting the rest of the dead are not raised with this righteous group. These are truly set apart by having given their lives to God against the institutional killers of Rome.
As stated earlier, there is no mention of Christ establishing a kingdom or empire on the earth in Revelation (or anywhere else). In fact, as stated at the outset of the notes, the scriptures never state (anywhere) that Jesus will ever set foot on the earth again. The angels told His Apostles that he would return as he left: “…in the clouds” (Acts 1:11). So, that all amounts to speculations without any foundation in the Word of God. These who are “raised” here, are those who suffered at the hands of the Roman government in the centuries following the birth of the Church reaching perhaps right up to the end of the Roman sanctioned persecutions in 325 AD. That is, if indeed you conclude that large scale persecutions of the saints ended at that juncture and not at some earlier or perhaps later point. But, we do not need the answer to that notion. The Lord and His Christ know where it began and when it ended. That is what this book is all about; and this is made clear by the description in verse 4. Those who suffered at the hands of the Roman persecutors (and the Empire fell in 476 AD), without denying Christ or his Word, were granted that they might be able to join Christ and are not amenable to the pending judgment of the rest of mankind. The record states “… blessed and holy (that means “set apart” doesn’t it?) is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death (explained in verses 12 through 15 as the final Judgment Day of God the Father and of His Christ), has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” That is the very precise purpose of the language.
It has been longer than a thousand years since these things took place – by more than half again. So much for the exact accounting of some of the signs. Friends, it nowhere adds Catholic churches to this group or transfers these warnings to any other martyrs, manmade entities, denominations or even countries (for our own or anyone else’s consideration). It is God and Christ’s special reward to those early faithful martyrs – Blessed of God and of His Christ. It is also obvious that the vision: 1.) is not talking about future times, 2.) that it refers to those Christians – the martyrs crying out from beneath the altar, first mentioned in Chapter 5. Those who had been killed by the agents of Rome. 3.) So, it does not pertain to any establishment of another kingdom of any sort on earth, anywhere else, or at any time; and finally, 4.) it is not talking about Christ coming back to earth and setting up a temple and ruling out of Jerusalem.
One judgment is complete – only one remains. No reference can be found for any other instructions and notions: not here or anywhere else in the Word of God. The rest is all mists and vapors issuing contrary to the Word of God and fanciful theories from people who have no warrant or authority, and no business delving into the dealings of God and His Christ. God releases Satan prior to his eventual defeat, after the “1000 year” binding.
Worthy of note: Satan and his deceived forces encompass the saints on all sides (v. 9); and God Almighty finishes them off, not some army led by men. Once again, this is not identifying a literal encompassment of some broken down piece of real estate and setting up battlements and forts. The reference is to the final Judgment when God and Christ shall come to collect those in the camp of the saints, and those living in “the beloved city.” This is one of the few signs that makes an appeal and speaks to us now exactly as it did to those before whom it was initially published. If we are faithful and not overcome by the enticements from the God of this world, we will live forever with Christ and the God and Father of both Heaven and Earth. The record states “and fire came down from heaven and devoured them…” (the agents of Satan, the deceived of the nations). As was stated earlier, this is the only thing comparable to a battle. However, God has the only weapon (“fire from heaven”). So, the fight will be overwhelmingly one-sided.
I will offer, and it should be noted, that Christ said that in Judgment, he will return “in flaming fire.” Remember the phrase “baptism of fire”? Some folks teach and believe a baptism of fire is a wonderful and very desirable thing – a must have on the list of good things for believers. Unfortunately, I know people who have been taught that either they have already had or now greatly desire to have “a baptism of fire.” Some of my denominational friends and acquaintances have said things like this to myself and others. On my part: I’m not interested… How about you? Does an “immersion in fire” sound good to you? What do your senses tell you? They ought to be screaming at you when you read this. People who teach others that a baptism of fire is a good thing are contrary to both reason and to what the Scriptures portrays here and everywhere else.
I attended fire academy and worked as a volunteer fireman for a couple of years and had the extreme displeasure to work two industrial fires. I know an immersion in fire is always deadly. It is one-hundred percent fatal. Ask any fireman. So, this skewed interpretation is not-at-all what this passage is portraying. A baptism of fire is as bad as it will ever get.
The point is that the camp of the faithful, those Christians and ALL who have been faithful despite any situations or conditions, will be surrounded by ever increasing wickedness until Christ’s Judgment comes – “the Day of the Lord” – exactly as had been prophesied earlier of Jerusalem in these visions in Revelation and everywhere else in the NT. Then it will be time’s up and game over. The clock will have run down; and the reward for ignoring God’s Word or getting it wrong will be an eternity long dunking in “the lake of fire.” That is where you will be “baptized” or “immersed in fire.” The transliterated Greek word “baptism” means – to whelm, to sink, to immerse. So, this is not some white-robed, smiling, hand clapping initiation rite into some new level of everlasting peace; and it is not meant to depict anything glorious, calming or soothing. It is a solemn warning.
The Word states the “lake of fire” will never end; and it will never need refueling. Dear reader, this is exactly what John the Baptist/John the Immerser stated in his answer to a question by those who sought Christ. The people who were standing right in front of him when this statement was first recorded. In this vision in Revelation, the angel told John the Apostle, and all who are paying any attention, to hear the prophecy left for us as Christians, that the choice is ours alone to make. Christ brought both baptisms “with Him” when he came to earth. You must be “immersed with the Holy Spirit,” as both the only Baptist ever mentioned in the Bible (as the word Baptist never occurs this way in plural form), and as the Apostle John said, or (the single other option provided), you will be immersed in the “lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” Choose one while you have the means and opportunity, or the choice will be made for you. Like it or not, that is exactly what is stated and what is being taught in this passage; and it is in keeping with everything else taught in the NT. Satan will receive his reward and he will cast in “the lake of fire” (v.10). The beast and false prophet have already been there for the “thousand years.” Again — the defeat is in the very capable hand of God and Christ, and is not left off to some special class of warriors. Furthermore, it will be accomplished on God’s schedule, and not ours.
These passages all have had to do with the end of days and Judgment (v.11-15). There is no mention of the living, for the narrative has been dealing all along with the state of the dead. It tells us flatly that these are to be judged out of “the Book of Life,” and all whose names are “not found written therein,” will be “cast into the lake of fire.” That is the second baptism. John the Baptist had prophesied that Christ would bring the two baptisms along with him when he came: one – a baptism of “the Holy Spirit,” and the other – a “baptism of fire.” You can read this in Matt. 3:11,12, and elsewhere. Jesus said it too. Well here it is. This is what was being taught with these final warnings. John had said people would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” However, I repeat: what that meant is that everybody must receive one baptism or the other. It is not like a supermarket “two for one” deal. Either you believe in Christ and bury yourself in baptism by “the Holy Spirit,” which means through hearing the Word of God… accepting what was charged and being obedient to Christ and to “put on Christ.” Or, the only remaining option will be yours by default: You will receive a burial in the lake of fire. One final time, you know the last one mentioned cannot be good. I know some people have trouble with things like this, because they have been taught and have participated in “gospel lite” all their lives. But, are we able to use our senses to discern what is stated in the instructions and the warnings that appear on the page and throughout the NT? Can we distinguish one thought from another and decipher what is being described? Are we able to understand the picture being “painted and posted” here and elsewhere in the Word of God?
“What must I do to be saved?” That was the question the jailor asked Paul and Silas as recorded in Acts 16. What did the Philippian jailor and his family do? Has the formula changed? Or, will we continue to heed bad instruction and contrary theories? I am a simple man and I do not need to be told that an immersion in fire is a good thing, when I know it clearly is not.