Reign of the Saints

Matterhorn - Photo by Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash
In the next paragraph, only two events that occurred during the “thousand years” are described - The 
imprisonment of Satan, and the reign of victorious saints. Ironically, the text declares that the “rest of the dead” did not live until the “second death” at the time of their judgment before the “Great White Throne.” Behind the image of the reign of the saints is Daniel’s vision of “one like a Son of Man” who received the “kingdom” from the “Ancient of Days” - [Photo by Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash]:
  •  (Revelation 20:4-6) – “And I saw thrones and they sat upon them, and judgment was given for them; and I saw the souls of them who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and such as had not done homage to the beast or to his image, nor had received the mark upon their forehead or upon their hand; and they lived and reigned with the Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: upon these, the second death has no authority; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him for the thousand years.”
  • (Daniel 7:9-14) – “I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days sat…I saw in the night-visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him…I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”
I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given.” The Greek clause states that “judgment was given for them.” The sentence alludes to the vision of Daniel - the judgment scene he saw before the “Ancient of days” when one “like a Son of Man” appeared before the Throne.

In Daniel, precisely who was sitting on the “thrones” was not stated. In Revelation, most likely, it was the overcoming saints who sat on them:
  • (Revelation 3:21) - “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne.”
The judgment made “for the saints” means either a judicial sentence in their favor or the bestowal of judicial authority on them.  Considering the emphasis on “reigning,” the latter is the more likely sense. Likewise, in the vision of Daniel, judgment made “for the saints” resulted in their “possession of the kingdom.”

I saw the souls of them who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God.” This statement identifies the group for whom judgment was made with the “saints” who were persecuted for their “testimony of Jesus,” as follows:
  • (Revelation 1:9) – “I, John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
  • (Revelation 6:9) – “And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.”
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.”
  • (Revelation 12:11) – “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.”
  • (Revelation 12:17) – “And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
This does not mean only martyred saints reign on the “thrones.”  The company included “such as had not done homage to the Beast.” For many, refusal to give allegiance to the “beast” resulted in suffering and economic deprivation, if not actual martyrdom.
Elsewhere, overcoming “saints” were the men and women who followed the “Lamb wherever he went,” and consequently, they “came off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name” - (Revelation 14:1-4, 15:1-4).
And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” So, also, Jesus was the “first and the last, who was dead, and lived” - (kai ezésen). Likewise, the overcoming saints - “They lived” (kai ezésan). The verse includes verbal and conceptual links to the letter to Smyrna with its warning that believers would suffer “tribulation ten days”:
  • (Revelation 1:18) – “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
  • (Revelation 2:8-11) – “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived. Fear not the things which you are about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life…He that overcomes will not be hurt of the second death.”
The figure of “ten days” is the source for the thousand years.” Numbers in Revelation are figurative, often doubled and even tripled for effect. Elsewhere, overcoming believers qualified to sit on the throne, and to reign with Jesus - “Even as I, also, overcame and sat down on my Father’s throne – In the same manner as Christ - By persevering through tribulations and martyrdom.

The “first resurrection” means that victorious saints will not participate in the “second death” - (“Blessed and holy is he that participates in the first resurrection: over these the second death has no power”). There is no mention of any “second resurrection” or “first death” – The passage has juxtaposed “first resurrection” with “second death.” Thus, “saints” who persevere avoid the “second death,” but not necessarily physical death.

So, also, the members of the church at Smyrna who remain faithful “unto death” will not “be hurt of the second death,” and the “second death” is nothing less than the “Lake of Fire.” As for the “rest of the dead,” they will not be condemned to it until the judgment before the Great White Throne - (Daniel 1:14, Revelation 2:7-11, 11:15-19, 20:11-15, 21:8).

Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection.” This is the fifth of seven beatitudes in Revelation that define the happy results of perseverance for Jesus. These beatitudes summon believers to remain faithful through sufferings – (Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14).

Overcoming “saints” become a “kingdom of priests.” Elsewhere, this status is a present reality because of the shed blood of the “Lamb”:
  • (Revelation 1:5-6) – “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father.”
  • (Revelation 5:9-10) – “Worthy are you to take the book and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them for our God a kingdom and priests; and they are reigning upon earth.”
The saints “reign” with Jesus in their role as “priests,” the “servants of God” who mediate the “testimony of Jesus” to the nations. Not only are they “priests,” but also a “kingdom of priests” - Priesthood is what defines their reign and authority.

The rule of the “saints” in this life is paradoxical - They “reign” even while persevering through persecution and martyrdom. By means of their faithful “testimony,” they participate with the messianic “son” as he “shepherds” the nations - (Revelation 1:4-6, 2:27, 3:20-21, 5:5-7, 12:11).

The “thousand years” during which overcoming “saints” reign with the “Lamb” is a picture of the time between the coronation of the “Lamb” and the release of the “Dragon” for a “short time” in his final attempt to destroy the “saints.”

In the interim, the Devil persecutes the church, however, he is not yet authorized to deceive the nations into annihilating the church worldwide. For now, overcoming believers “reign with Christ” by persevering in their “testimony of Jesus” - Even “unto death.” In this way, they advance the “kingdom of God” and its sovereignty over the nations.


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