The Thousand Year Reign, from Revelation chapter 20
Our previous lesson was called, “Does The Bible Teach A Thousand Year Reign”. In that lesson we learned that the thousand years isn’t a literal period of time, but that it represents the fullness of the reign of Christ in His kingdom, before He delivers up the kingdom to the Father in heaven. Go ahead and review that lesson now if you need to, before we get into more information in this lesson.
The text that we are going to study, is from Revelation 20, verses 4 thru 6. What is described in these verses is a part of a vision that was shown to the apostle John. And since it’s a vision, we know that it’s not describing a literal occurrence, but that the things described are symbolic, and they represent something.
As I’ve already said, the time period spoken of as a thousand years, represents the entire period of the reign of Christ in His kingdom. Let me read Rev 20:4 thru 6; “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus, and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
The souls that were seen in this vision, are put in two classifications. First there are the souls of “those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and because of the world of God”. In other words, the souls of people who had been put to death because of their faith in Christ. And secondly, there were the souls of “those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand.” So, these two classifications of souls, make up all of the souls who have been faithful and obedient to God.
Verse 4 says that these souls “lived and reigned with Christ”. And verse 5 says; “This is the first resurrection.” So then obviously, these are souls who had been dead, but now they have been resurrected to live again. Remember in the parable of the prodigal son, in Luke 15? Well, verse 32 says; “But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead, and is alive again, and was lost, but now is found.”
That phrase, “is alive again”, comes from the very same word used in Rev 20:4, where it says; “..and they lived..” The words “they lived”, actually mean, “they are alive again”, or “they came to life again”. That’s why it’s called “the first resurrection”. Now who is it that dies, and then comes to life again? Or in other words, who is it that is “born again”? The answer is; Everyone who believes in God, and obeys God, is “born again”. So then the souls seen in the vision of Rev 20, are those who have been “born again”. That’s what the bible is referring to, when it says; “This is the first resurrection.” The second resurrection will be at the judgment, when ALL souls will be resurrected.
Now it says in verse 6; “..but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him a thousand years.” Those who are “born again” will be priests of God and of Christ.
That statement represents the fact, that all faithful Christians, throughout the entire Christian era, are a part of the “royal priesthood” just like we read about in 1 Peter 2:9.
Here’s that verse says, 1 Peter 2, verse 9; “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness, into His marvelous light.” That’s our purpose as Christians; To “proclaim the excellencies” of God and of Christ.
All of us, as Christians, are “priests” of God, and we “reign” with Christ.
And the manner in which we “reign with Christ”, is explained to us in Romans 5:17. Here’s what it says; “For if by the transgression of the one, (that’s referring to Adam) death reigned through the one, much more, those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, will reign IN LIFE, through the One, Jesus Christ.” We will reign “in life” because we have overcome the death that used to reign over us, and now we reign over it.
Death “reigned” through Adam, because it was Adam who first introduced sin into the world. We’re told in Romans 6:23, that “the wages of sin is death”. According to Genesis 3:6, it was Eve who first sinned, but Adam is used here as the “representative”, of both Adam and Eve. Once we sin, then death “reigns” so to speak, because death then has control of our eternal destiny. That’s how death reigns, by having the control of our eternal destiny.
But when we overcome spiritual death, by being resurrected out of baptism, then WE have the control over death, and over our eternal destiny. It’s actually LIFE that reigns. Just like death controls the eternal destiny of those who are in sin, Life controls the eternal destiny of those who are in Christ. Romans 5:17 says that; “..those who receive the abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness, will reign IN life.” So then if we are “in life”, which is the same thing as saying that we are “in Christ”, then WE will reign, along with the life.
That’s how “we reign with Christ”. Christ reigns, because He was resurrected, and we reign, because we have also been resurrected, and in our resurrection, we have been granted life. And we’ll reign with Him for “a thousand years”.
But let me say just one more thing about how we serve as “priests” in Christ’s kingdom. We are a “royal priesthood” right? Well, what exactly does a priest do? I think that we’d have to say that a priest’s main duty, is to offer sacrifices to God. For example, the book of Leviticus begins by describing all the offerings that were to be made to God. Leviticus 1:7 & 8 says; “And the sons of Aaron, the priest, shall put fire on the alter and arrange the wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet, over the wood which is on the fire, that is on the alter.”
Those priests, including Aaron the high priest, were offering animal sacrifices, to atone for sin. But we have a high priest who has offered one sacrifice, which is sufficient for all time. Listen to Hebrews 7:26 & 27; “For it was fitting that we have a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens, who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did, once for all, when He offered up Himself.”
So then there’s no sacrifices for sin left to offer anymore. Then what is it that we offer as priests of God? There’s only one thing that we can offer to God, and that is ourselves. Romans 12, verse 1 says; “I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies, a living and holy sacrifice, well-pleasing to God, the divinely reasonable service of worship.”
The KJV simply says; “.. your reasonable service.” But that doesn’t quite convey the full meaning here. We are to present our bodies, as the means of serving God. We can’t really “serve God” just with our mind. We can have the desire in our mind to serve God, but to really accomplish that service, we need to get our bodies involved in doing what the Lord wants us to do. We need to “carry out” our desire, with our actions.
Every morning when you wake up, just repeat these words from Isaiah 6:8; “Here I am, send me.” “Here I am, send me.” Every day we need to say that, and do that. Here’s that whole verse; “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying; “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said; Here I am, send me.”
But now, getting back to “your reasonable service”. The word “reasonable” in this verse really refers to what is reasonable according to God. Not just what seems reasonable to us, but what is reasonable considering what God has told us in the bible. It really refers to, what is “divinely reasonable”. A lot of people think that it’s “reasonable”, to serve God, by attending a worship service, for one hour a week, every few weeks. In other words, that’s all they do in service to God. But when we read about what God has expected from other people, throughout history, as recoded in the bible, I don’t think that we’ll find that to be very reasonable at all.
So then it’s like so many other things pertaining to religion, we read the bible, and we conclude what sounds reasonable to do, considering what God has said.
And let’s consider what the word “service” refers to. Does it simply refer to attending worship service? The word “service” actually refers to “sacred service”. Some say that since the word “service” refers to “sacred service”, that it really simply refers to our worship assembly. But that’s kind of like God telling us; Here’s what I want you to do as a Christian; Just assemble for the worship service at the prescribed time, and you will have fulfilled My law. Well, that doesn’t sound very reasonable does it? It’s not reasonable considering all that the bible has to tell us about doing the will of God. Like Luke 6:46; “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”
And even at the judgment, God will be looking at a lot more than just whether or not we attended the worship service. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us that at the judgment, we’ll be recompensed for “the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.” There are a lot more “deeds” that we do in our bodies, than just the “deed” of assembling for worship.
That word “service” is used five times in the new testament. In Hebrews 9:1 & 9:6, it directly refers to services rendered in the tabernacle, no doubt by the priests. In Romans 9:4, however, the word is used regarding things in general, that the Israelites were told to do. Paul was speaking about his kinsmen, and here’s what he says; “My kinsmen.. Who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the services, and the promises.”
So then the people of Israel, were adopted by God, and glory was bestowed on them by giving them the covenants of God. Now listen to those next three things that they were given; They were given “the law, and the services, and the promises”. Those things were all a part of “the covenants” that God gave them.
The Israelites were given the laws of God, which spelled out what services they were required to perform. Those laws and services had to do with their worship, and with their treatment of one another, and their treatment of foreigners, and their conduct in business. It involved how their families were to be organized, and what they were to teach their children. So then the laws and the services that they were given pertained to every aspect of their lives, not just to their worship assembly.
Now, the “promises” that they were given, which of course were also a part of the covenant, refers to the “reward” that they would receive, if they fulfilled the services as stated in the law. Do you see how similar that is, to the laws and the services and the promises that are given to us under the new covenant?
If we will sacrifice our bodies, in using them to do God’s will, like we’re urged to do in Romans 12:1, then we’ll be fulfilling all that the new covenant laws tell us to do. And then, we will receive the promises of God. If we will do that, then we will be giving God our “sacred service” to Him. It’s “sacred” because it’s God’s word. And by obeying all that His word says, then the life that is given to us in Christ, will have control of our eternal destiny, and we will reign with Christ, in life.
That’s how we “reign with Christ”, as “priests” in His kingdom. But we’ve got to fulfill our duty as priests. We’ve got to keep make the sacrifice of ourselves, to God.