The word “Millennium” comes from a Latin term meaning “thousand years.” The concept of a millennium comes from Revelation 20: 1-6. Premillennialism is one of three basic types of millennialism. The other two are Postmillennialism and Amillennialism.
a. Premillennialism believes that Jesus will return prior to (“pre”) the millennium. There are different types of premillennialism and even within the types there are differences of opinion on some of the details.
b. Postmillennialism believes that Jesus will return after (“post”) the millennium. Although postmillennialism was once a popular theory, there are virtually no remaining postmillenialists.
c. Amillennialism believes that there will be no (“a”) literal millennium. There are varying views among a millennialists on the meaning of the “thousand years” but all agree that its reference is figurative.
Premillennialism (Dispensational) is by far the most widely accepted millennial position among Protestants. It is believed by most all the conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist groups. The most widely read religious book of all time (except for the Bible) is a treatise in support of the premillennialist doctrine. It is called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. We will refer extensively to this work throughout this study.
The differences between premillennialism and amillennialism is far more than an argument over Revelation 20. It involves a basic disagreement on our approach to Scripture. Premillennialists tend to view amillennialists as liberals. Lindsey:
“By the same principle of interpretation which the amillennialist uses to make the thousand year kingdom non-literal, I could say that the last judgment isn’t literal either.. This highly questionable method of interpretation has led some people down the primrose path to liberal theology.”
The basic problem with premillennialism is its insistence that all Scripture must be literally understood. This approach fails on several grounds:
a. It is not what the Bible itself teaches. Hebrews 1:1 tells us that God has communicated to us in different ways.
b. It fails the test of Biblical practice. Examples: Isa. 34:8-17; Mal.4: 5 àMatt 17:10-13.
c. It fails the test of consistency. Example: Daniel 9 speaks of “seventy weeks” with each “week” said (by Premillennialists) to mean not a week but seven years. Fire and brimstone becomes nuclear war; the locusts of Rev. 9 becomes helicopter gunships, etc.
The Premillennialist Overview
Premillennialists are convinced that God intended that the Jews be restored to Palestine and that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 marked the beginning of the “last days.” This is said to indicate that the return of Jesus and the setting up of His kingdom is imminent.
A. Premillennialists believe that the Bible teaches that several things will happen before the thousand year reign begins (from LGPE):
1) Four major world powers will emerge. Lindsey identifies them as Russia, China, an Arab confederation lead by Egypt, and a “United States of Europe.” This “U.S.E.” is said to be the revival of the Roman Empire. Notice that the United States, the unchallenged world power now, is not among these four major powers).
2) The “Anti-Christ” will emerge as a great dictator over this U.S.E. His emergence to power is due to him having been raised from the dead. He will be worshipped as a god.
3) The Rapture will occur seven years before the return of Christ. All believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving all others to wonder what happened to them.
4) During the seven years between the Rapture and the Second Coming, the great Tribulation will take place. During the first half of this seven years, God will miraculously convert 144,000 Jews, the Jews will rebuild the temple, and the Antichrist makes a treaty with Israel.
5) During the second half of the seven year period, horrible events occur that culminate in the Battle of Armageddon. Russia will invade Israel. The “Red Army” (never mind that it is now longer “red”) will set up headquarters on the temple area in Jerusalem. Suddenly they will be utterly destroyed by fire and brimstone (Lindsey guesses that this is a nuclear attack by the U.S.E.
6) Next, a two hundred million man Chinese army will march toward Israel and will engage the armies of the Anti-Christ. This is the Battle of Armageddon. The destruction is world wide and horrendous. Just in the nick of time, Jesus will return with the previously rapture saints and set up God’s kingdom on earth.
Notice that all of these events require a modern (20th or 21st century) fulfillment. These events could not have taken place in the first, or 10th, or 15th century but contain elements that are characteristic of (at least) the latter half of the twentieth century.
B. Premillennialists believe the following things will happen during the thousand year kingdom:
1) During this millennium, Christ will reign from the literal throne of David.
2) The Levitical priesthood will be restored along with circumcision, the law of Moses, and animal sacrifices.
3) Satan is loosed for a little while near the end of the thousand years. He and his followers are defeated by Christ,
4) The resurrection of the wicked and the final judgment.
5) Destruction of the world, creation of new heavens and new earth, the eternal state begins.
When is all this supposed to begin happening? According to Lindsey:
“Jesus said that this would indicate that He was “at the door,” ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matthew 24: 34 NASB). What generation? Obviously in context, the generation that would see the signs, chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place.” (LGPE p.43)
So, if Lindsey’s “deduction” is correct, “the Anti-Christ” should have come to power over a Revived Roman Empire, which includes the United States, by around 1988. Oops! Not even close.
The Errors of Premilliennialism:
I. The foundational error upon which Premillenialism rests is that Jesus has not yet established His kingdom.
Numerous Old Testament prophecies foretold that the Messiah would come and set up His kingdom. Examples:
1. Isa, 9:6-7
2. Daniel 2:26-45
a. Head of gold = Babylonian Empire
b. Breast and arms of silver = Medo-Persian Empire (5: 21; 6:28)
c. Belly and thighs of bronze = Grecian Empire (8:1-6à8:20-21)
d. Legs and feet of iron and clay = Roman Empire (historically, it followed the Grecian Empire) There is unanimous agreement that this is Rome. Lindsey:
“Then Daniel said there would arise a fourth kingdom, which would take over what was left of the Greek Empire. That was Rome.” (LGPE p.93)
Notice that this kingdom is singular, that is, it is one, the fourth, kingdom. The toes do not make ten kingdoms. The “kings” refer to the succession of kings of the fourth kingdom.
e. During this fourth (Roman) kingdom, God would set up a kingdom which
would never be destroyed (vs. 44). All agree that this kingdom is the Messianic kingdom. However, Premillennialists insist that Jesus did not set up this kingdom during the ancient Roman Empire and therefore see this Roman Empire of Daniel 2 as a 20th (or 21st) century Revived Roman Empire (U.S.E.).
The question for us is, was this prophecy fulfilled or did it fail? Jesus Himself indicated that those prophecies were about to be fulfilled. Mark 1:15: “...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (See also, Matt. 3:1; 4:7. ..”at hand.”).
Why was the kingdom at hand? Because the time was fulfilled. Jesus, like Daniel, indicated that there was a prophetic schedule; Jesus now says that the schedule is on the verge of being met. Premillennialists accept that Jesus intended to say here that the kingdom predicted by the prophets was ready to be set up. But they contend that it was not set up but had to be postponed. This is their “postponement” theory. They reason:
1) the kingdom was “at hand” in the first century;
2) but the kingdom has not yet been established,
3) therefore, the kingdom must have been postponed.
Daniel prophesied that the kingdom would come in the days of the Roman Empire. Jesus, during the days of the Roman Empire, said the time is fulfilled, the kingdom is at hand. This is a big problem for premillennialists. There are only two options:
1) Jesus was mistaken. Because of the ramifications of this option, this is “a hard pill to swallow.” This is tantamount to saying that Jesus was a fraud.
2) Jesus was correct and that the time was fulfilled BUT the establishment of the kingdom had to be postponed. Premillennialist opt for this one. Lindsey:
“Jesus was indeed the long awaited Messiah. Had the people received Him, He would have fulfilled the kingly prophecies in their day. But when the Jewish nation as a whole rejected Christ, the fulfillment of His kingship was postponed until the final culmination of world history.”
(There’s a New World Coming, p.30)
But the ramifications of this are pretty hard to swallow too:
1) This implies that the rejection of Jesus was unexpected. In fact, it was entirely expected (See Luke 24:43-47; Acts 2:23). If Jesus had not been rejected by the people, and if the O.T. kingdom prophecies had been fulfilled in a literal, physical sense, He would never have gone to the cross, and we would all be hopelessly lost.
2) The prophets said nothing about any postponement. So far this “postponement” has lasted almost 2,000 years. Premillennialists admit that the O.T is totally silent about this postponement. It is their position that the church age was entirely unpredicted.
3) A postponement would mean that Daniel and the other prophets actually spoke of a first century fulfillment, not a twentieth century fulfillment. If there was a 2,000 year (or more) postponement, the prophets were wrong. If they were wrong, they did not speak for God. Notice:
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” – Deuteronomy 18:22
4) If there was a 2,000 year (or more) postponement, Jesus did not tell the truth when He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Either the time was fulfilled, or it was not. If it was, Premillennialism collapses because it depends on a yet future fulfillment. If the time was not fulfilled, Jesus did not tell the truth. He either told a lie or didn’t know what He was talking about. It comes down to this: If Jesus was correct, Premillenialism is false; if Premillenialism is correct, Jesus was wrong.
Jesus said that the kingdom would come during the lifetime of the apostles. Mark 9:1 – “And He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.’” Notice:
1) The kingdom would come while some of the apostles were still alive. Either:
a. The kingdom came in the first century,
b. or, some of the apostles are still alive,
c. or, Jesus was incorrect.
2) The kingdom would come with “power.”
Later, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you...” (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 2:1-4) on the birthday of the church. At that time they received miraculous power. So, if the kingdom was to come with power, and the power was to come with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit came upon them at the beginning of the church, then the kingdom came with the beginning of the church.
We must conclude that the kingdom came in the first century, while some of the apostles were still alive, and on the day in which the Holy Spirit came upon and empowered them.
II. Premillennialism Distorts the True Nature of the Kingdom of Christ.
Premillennialism views the kingdom of Christ as a literal, physical, military type kingdom ushered in by Jesus intervening in the Battle of Armageddon. This is not the type of kingdom Jesus had in mind.
a. The kingdom is spiritual, not material. Luke 17:20-21
b. The kingdom “is not of this world.” John 18:36 à John. 6:15
c. The kingdom came without great fanfare. Luke 17: 20-21
The kingdom of Christ and the church of Christ are one and the same. The identifying charac-teristics of the kingdom and the church are the same.
Same: Kingdom Church
a. Owner Jn.18:36 Mt. 16:18
b. Ruler 1 Tim. 6:15 Eph. 5: 23; Col. 1:18
c. Terms of admission Jn, 3:3-5 Acts 2:38; Gal.3:26-27
d. Memorial Mt. 26: 26-29 Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23ff
e. Citizens Col. 1:13 Col.1:2
The kingdom and the church each began at the same time—on the day of Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2). Notice:
a. Prior to Pentecost the kingdom was “at hand” (Mt. 3:1-2; 4:17; 10:7; Mk. 1:15;9:1).
b. After Pentecost, never again do we read that the kingdom is at hand. Instead we read that the kingdom is now in existence:
· Col. 1:13. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love…” One cannot be placed into a kingdom that does not yet exist.
· Rev. 1:9. “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” Again, John could not be in a kingdom that has not yet been established.
Premillenialism teaches that Christ is not yet reigning over His kingdom. The Bible teaches that Jesus is now reigning.
· Eph. 1:20-21
· 1 Pet. 3:22
Premillenialism teach that Christ is not yet king, but will receive His kingdom when He returns to earth. The Bible teaches that Christ was to receive His kingdom, not when He returns to earth, but when he left earth to return to heaven:
· Daniel 7:13-14. Here, the “Son of Man” receives His kingdom when He returns to heaven.
a. Luke 19:11-27. In this parable, the nobleman (representing Jesus) went away “to a far country” to receive his kingdom. In his absence, some of his subjects would not accept his rule. When he returned, all received their due.
Premillenialism teaches that at Jesus’ Second Coming, He will raise the righteous (including David) from the dead and will reign with David from David’s literal throne. The Bible teaches that Jesus has already sat down on David’s spiritual throne:
a. Prophecies: Ps. 110:1; Isa. 9: 6-7 (“...throne of David...”); 2 Sam. 7:12-16. Notice:
1) God would “set up” someone of the seed of David to establish his throne forever.
2) This someone would also build God’s house.
3) This would be done “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers.” In other words, while David was dead and buried,
b. Fulfillment: Acts 2: 29-36 Notice:
1) First, Peter makes reference to the fact that David was then dead and buried. Why? Because that was part of the prophecy (2 Sam.7:12).
2) Then, Peter says that David, “being a prophet” had said that God “would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne.”
3) Peter then says of David that “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ.” That is, David, foreseeing that God would raise up Christ to sit on David’s throne, prophesied of the resurrection of Christ. The seating of Christ on David’s throne was to occur in conjunction with the resurrection of Christ, not the Second Coming. Peter is affirming that Jesus had been seated on David’s throne.
4) The “house of God” is the church (1 Tim. 3:15).
c. Christ is now on the throne:
1) Heb. 8:1
2) Rev. 3:21
Premillennialism teaches that Christ will return to establish a physical kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem. The Bible teaches that Christ cannot be reign from Jerusalem. Notice:
a. Christ cannot be king on earth:
1) Christ would be priest and king simultaneously (Zech. 6:12-13);
2) But He cannot be priest on earth (Heb. 8:4à Heb. 7:14). Since Jesus holds the offices of priest and king at the same time, and since He cannot be a priest on earth, He cannot be a king on the earth. He reigns from heaven.
3) Also, since He is priest now (Heb. 10:21), He is also king now.
b. Christ cannot rule from Judah – Jeremiah 22: 24-30.
1) This is a prophecy regarding Coniah (also known as Jehoikim and Jeconiah). Jeconiah was the last legal/official king of the nation of Judah. It is said of him that no descendant of his will “prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.
2) Jesus is a descendant of Jeconiah (Matt. 1:12-16).
3) Jesus was to sit on the throne of David (Isa. 9:6-7), BUT NOT IN JUDAH! Jesus is sitting on the throne of David, but in heaven, NOT in Jerusalem. According to prophecy, if Jesus does sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem, as Premillennialism teaches He will, HE WILL NOT PROSPER!
III. Premillennialism Distorts the Second Coming of Christ.
Premillennialists teach that there will be two separate resurrections and judgments: one for the righteous (at the Second Coming, 7 years after the “Rapture”) and another of the wicked after the 1,000 year reign is over. The Bible teaches that there will be only one judgment day for the righteous and the wicked.
1. Matthew 25:31-46
2. John 5: 28-29
3. Romans 2: 16
4. Acts 17: 31
5. Acts 24:15
The Bible identifies this judgment day as:
1. When Jesus comes in His glory. Matthew 25:31
2. The “last day.” Jn. 12: 48
3. “the day of the Lord.” 2 Peter 3:4-10
· “His coming” vs. 4.
· “day of judgment” vs. 7.
· “day of the Lord” vs. 10.
Notice what else will happen on this “last day”:
1. The righteous will be raised (Jn. 6: 39; 11:24; Thess. 4:15-5:4).
2. The righteous will be saved (1 Cor. 5:5; Phil. 2:16).
3. Everyone will be raised from the dead (Matt. 25: 31-31; John 5: 28-29; Rom. 2: 5-10).
4. The wicked will be destroyed (Matt. 25: 25: 31-45; 1 Thess. 5:3)
5. The earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3: 10-12; Matt 24: 35)
Summary: The premillennial notion that all these things will be scattered out over a thousand year period with two separate resurrections is false. And the notion of a secret “rapture” of believers seven years prior to the Second Coming of Christ is the figment of Premillennial imagination. The Bible clearly teaches that several things will happen on one single day:
1. Jesus will return.
2. All the dead will be raised. Those “in Christ,” living and dead, will be caught up to meet Him in the air.
3. Everyone will be judged. The “sheep” will be separated from the “goats.”
4. Everyone will be consigned to their eternal abode.
5. The earth will be utterly destroyed.
IV. Various Premillennial Errors
A. Premillennialism teaches that “the last days” refers to the period just prior to the Rapture/ Second Coming .
The terms “last days” and “latter days” are used throughout the Bible and have the general meaning of later on, sometime in the future. Never is either term used in reference to the period just prior to the Rapture/ Second Coming. The term “last days” can refer to the period of the Christian dispensation:
· Acts2: 16-17
· Hebrews 1:1-2
· 1 Peter 1:20
B. Premillennialists teach that a great dictator, the Anti-Christ, will arise over all of Europe prior to the Second Coming. There are only four passages in the Bible that contain the word “anti-Christ.”
· 1 Jn. 2:18
· 1 Jn. 2: 22
· 1 Jn, 4: 3
· 2 Jn. 7
In these passages John indicated that the there were many antichrists and that they were present then (1 Jn. 2:18; 4:3). The premillennial notion of “the Anti-Christ” requires a great deal of “eisegesis” (reading something into a passage that it doesn’t say).
C. Premillennialists teach that the establishment of the State of Israel was in fulfillment of prophecy and an act of God’s providential will, that the Jews are the objects of God’s special care, and that Palestine belongs to the Jews as a result of God’s promise. The truth is that God’s “land promise” for lsrael (Gen. 12:7; 13:5; 15:18) has long been fulfilled. Premillennialists insist that this promise was never completely fulfilled until 1948. This is false. The land promise was completely fulfilled:
· Joshua 21:43-45
· I Kings 4:21
· Nehemiah 9: 7-8
Premillennialists point out that the land promise was “forever” (Gen. 13:15). “Forever” is an imperfect translation of the original word. “Forever” is often used to mean the entire duration of a specific period of time (Gen. 17:13; Exod. 12:14). It should also be noted that the land promise was conditional (Joshua 23:15-16) and the conditions were not met.
D. Premillennialists claim that the prophets predicted a restoration of Israel. These prophecies of a restoration are said to have remained unfulfilled until 1948. Passages such a Ezek. 26:17-19, 26-28 and Jeremiah 29:14 are said to have been unfulfilled. But these passages speak of the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity (Jere. 29:10) and were fulfilled over 2,500 years ago.
The New Testament says nothing about a Jewish restoration. Actually, it indicates that there won’t be one:
· Jesus said Israel would no longer be God’s nation (Matt. 21:33-46).
· No physical nation has priority today (Acts 10: 34; Rom. 9:8).
· The Jews are not going to be miraculously converted and saved as Premillenialism teaches. If they were, Paul would not needed to mourn over their being lost (Rom. 9:1-8).
God’s only people today is the church. Only spiritual Israel is blessed by God.
· Rom 2: 28-29
· Gal. 3: 7-8
· Gal. 3:28-29
· 2 Pet. 2:9
V. Favorite Premillennialist Passages Considered
A. Matthew 24
Three days before Jesus was crucified, He sat down on the Mount of Olives and spoke to His disciples. what He said has become one of the most controversial sections of Scripture. Matthew 24-25 has become a breeding ground for several false teachings including Premillenialism.
There are three basic views concerning Mt. 24:
1. The entire chapter has reference to the final, visible corning of Jesus prior to the millennial kingdom.
2. None of chapter 24 or 25 refer to the Second Coming but refer exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
3. The third view (the correct one, I believe) is that Mt. 24 refers to two separate events: the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the final coming of the Lord and the end of the world.
Jesus pointed to the temple buildings and said, them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” The disciples were probably shocked. They asked three questions:
a. “Tell us, when will these things be?
b. And what will be the sign of Your coming...
c. and of the end of the age (“world” KJV)?”
It is likely that the disciples were thinking of just one event. They probably assumed that only the His return and the end of the world could cause the type of damage required to destroy the temple. It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that their premise was correct. When Jesus answers their questions, He discusses two comings, two judgments, and two ends of two ages.
The key to understanding the chapter is verse 34. These should be considered the “time text” of the chapter. This passage divides the chapter into two sections. The section preceding vs. 34 refers to events that would occur during the lifetime of the generation then living. The section after verse 34 refers to the second Corning of Jesus.
Premillennialist find support for their “great tribulation” theory in the first section (vs. 9) which they say pertains to a fixture time just prior to Jesus’ return. Many people have applied the signs mentioned in this first section to their own time and concluded that Jesus’ return was imminent.
The problem for premillennialists, however, is that according to Jesus, all those signs, including the tribulation, occur red during the generation then living and are therefore already fulfilled. History records that these earthquakes, famines, wars, etc. (vs.4-14) had occurred in the first century. Paul wrote in Col. 1: 23 that the gospel had already been preached to all the world. None of the things in this section are yet to be fulfilled.
The “abomination of desolation” (vs. 15-27) refers to the Roman armies (see Luke 21: 20). When you see the Roman armies, He says, flee to the mountains. Don’t stop to gather your possessions, just go. How this advice would be suitable when Jesus returns is difficult to grasp.
Verses 29-31 causes a great deal of confusion. Many wonder how the language here of falling stars and the sun and moon darkening, etc., can refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. It isn’t so confusing when we realize that such language was used extensively in the O.T. in reference to God’s judgment on various nations (See Isaiah 13:1-13; 34:4-5; Joel 2: 28-32> Acts 2:16-21). This is the language of judgment. It’s no wonder that this type of language is used to refer to God’s judgment of His own people.
Notice the parable of the fig tree (vs.32-33). You can look at a fig tree, according to Jesus, and see that summer is approaching. Likewise, He says, you can observe the sings that He had just given and know that the destruction of the temple is near.
Jesus’ use of the phrase “these things” (vs. 34), is noteworthy. Recall that the disciples had asked: “Tell us, when will these things be?” (vs. 2) in response to Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple. He also referred to “these things” in verse 8. Now, in verses 33 and 34, He again refers to “these things.” Evidently the “these things” of verses 2, 8, 33, and 34 all refer to the same things, that is, the events related to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Verse 36 represents a turning point in this discourse; it begins a discussion of His final coming, and the final judgment at the end of the world. There are two reasons to believe Jesus has now changed the subject from the judgment of the Jewish nation to the judgment of the world:
1. The language has changed. The word “but” connects this verse with what came before but it is a connection by contrast. That was one thing “but” this is something else.
Also, in the previous section, Jesus referred to the destruction of Jerusalem as “these things” and “those days” (vs. 19, 22, 29) The siege and destruction of Jerusalem (approximately two years) were properly called “those days.” But now He speaks of “that day and hour.” The final judgment will be accomplished in one single day.
2. With respect to the timing of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus had knowledge and said that others, if they heeded His words regarding the signs, could also have knowledge. But with respect to the timing of the final coming and judgment He had no knowledge, nor did the angels, but only the Father. Clearly, the subject has changed.
Verses 37-42 provide more evidence that the subject has changed. The days before the destruction of Jerusalem would be days of turmoil, wars, earthquakes, famine and tribulation. But the days prior to the Lord’s Second Coming will be characterized by normal activity just as before the flood.
To illustrate this point, Jesus relates a parable in verses 43-44. He compared His coming to that of a thief breaking into a house in the middle of the night. Thieves don’t give warnings. They don’t provide signs of their coming. The point is clear: There will be no signs prior to the coming of Jesus. In contrast to the many signs that would proceed the destruction of Jerusalem (which if heeded would allow Christians to escape), the Second Coming will be proceeded by no signs but will be sudden and unexpected.
Notice that the meaning of this thief parable is exactly the opposite of the meaning of the parable of the fig tree in verse 32. That parable is applied to the impending destruction of Jerusalem. The point there is that if they look for the signs, they can know what’s coming. In contrast, the point to the thief parable is: be ready at all times because you will have no warning of His coming. Clearly, the subject has changed.
In verses 45-51 Jesus relates another parable about His coming. Its point is clear: He will return at a time when he is least expected.
Chapter 25 contains two more parables (vs. 1-30) that have the same point as the thief parable: Remain ready, there will be no signs, His coming will be unexpected.
Notice that a common theme in these parables concerning His Second Coming is that of a possibility of a long delay (24: 48; 25:5; 25:19). Jesus, however, indicated that the destruction of Jerusalem was not far off (in fact, before that generation had passed away).
Jesus closes this discourse with a discussion of the final judgment. The judgment of Matt. 24: 4-34 was a local judgment effecting “those who are in Judea” (24:16). The judgment of chapter 25, however, is a universal judgment at which “all nations will be gathered before Him” (25: 32).
B. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9
In considering the meaning of this passage, it is important to know its context. Daniel had been reading the prophecies in Jeremiah regarding the seventy year captivity of the Jews (vs. 2). As he reads, the angel Gabriel appears (vs.20-23). Gabriel delivers his message in verses 24-27. This meaning of this message is the issue at hand.
First, I’ll present the premillennial interpretation:
a. Seventy weeks is said to be 490 years (70 weeks 490 days; each day is said to represent a year, thus 490 years).
b. The decree of vs. 24 is said to be the one issued in 445 BC (Nehemiah 2).
c. Sixty nine weeks (483 years) from 445 BC takes us to the cross (“Messiah shall be cut off’).
d. The prophetic clock stopped at 69 weeks and will resume at the at Rapture. The 70th week will encompass the 7 years of the Great Tribulation.
There are numerous problems with this view:
a. There is no reason to interpret each “day” as a year. Those who live by the literalist interpretation also die by the literalist interpretation. It says seventy weeks (490 days); it says nothing about 490 years.
b. It is extremely unlikely that the decree issued in 445 is the decree referred to. The decree of 9:24 is clearly the decree of Cyrus rebuild the city and temple, issued in 539 BC (more on this later).
c. Even if we accept the 445 BC decree, along with the day = year interpretation, we still miss the cross by about a “week.” The 69 “weeks” (483 years) from 445 BC takes us to 38 AD, at least 5 - 8 years off.
d. The biggest problem is the postponement. If God says that something is going to happen in 490 years (which is what the premillennialist insist He said here), then it will happen in 490 years. Not 491 years, or 492 years, or 2000 years, or 2400 years, but 490 years. By claiming the “clock” stopped, premillennialists are making a liar out of God (Recall Mark 1:15).
e. The premillenial view has the “Messiah cut off’ (crucifixion) DURING the 69th week. The text, however, says that this will occur AFTER the 69th week5 that is, in the 70th week, The problem for the premillenialism is that he sees the 70th week as yet future. He cannot, therefore, have the crucifixion in the 70th week (even though that’s what the text says).
We will notice some other problems with the premillenial view as we consider a non-premillenial interpretation. Let’s take a closer look at the text (Daniel 9: 24-27):
a. Notice first that certain things are “determined” or “decreed” to be finished:
1) “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and your holy city” (vs. 24)
2) “.. desolations are determined” (vs. 26)
3) “...the consummation, which is determined” (vs. 27)
This all speaks of the end of something. It speaks of the end of Daniel’s people (the Jews) as God’s people and of the holy city (Jerusalem) as God’s special city.
b. In connection with this “end,” certain specific things would happen:
1) “To finish the transgression…”
I believe this speaks of the effect of the death of Christ, which was that sin was effectively dealt with.
2) “To make an end of sins... and “To make reconciliation for iniquity…”
This is essentially the same as # 1. It was accomplished at the Cross.
3) “To bring in everlasting righteousness…”
This is simply the righteousness imputed to those who have faith in Christ Jesus.
4) “To seal up vision and prophesy…”
This refers to God completing His revelation to man, speaking through His Son (Heb. 1:1).
5) “to anoint the Most High…”
It is unclear whether this “Most High” refers to a Person or a place. It seems to me that the context favors a place. The old holy place is to be done away and a new holy place (God’s present temple, the church –1 Cor. 3:16) will take its place.
c. “... from the going forth of the command...” which Decree?
1) More than a century before Judah was carried away into captivity by the Babylonians, God announced the return of the Jews and the restoration of Jerusalem. He also announce the name of the king who would authorize this. His name was Cyrus (Isa. 44:26-28; see also 45:13). Cyrus’ decree to free the Jews and to restore Jerusalem was issued in 539 BC.
This is the same year that Daniel was reading the prophets regarding the 70 year length of captivity (Dan. 9: 1 -2) and received the vision that referred to the “command to restore and build Jerusalem” (vs. 25). The prophesied decree by Cyrus) issued about the time Daniel received his vision is clearly the decree of which he spoke.
2) But the premillennialist don’t use this date (539 BC) because to add 483 years to 539 BC only gets us to 56 BC, far short of what they need. So, they apply a decree issued by Artexerxes in 445 BC. This decree was at the request of Nehemiah (Neh. 2: 1ff) who asked for assistance in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Although this was a significant decree, it was of much less significance than Cyrus’ original decree that freed the captives and allowed them to return to Jerusalem.
3) If it were not for a preconceived “need” to make 70 weeks equal 490 years and to impose a premillenial interpretation on this passage, there would be no dispute about which decree is spoken of. Cyrus’ decree of 539 BC is clearly the “command” of Daniel 9: 25.
But even if 445 BC were the correct date, adding 69 “weeks” (483 years) to it still misses the cross by about a “week” (5-8 years). Close, but no cigar.
d “…until Messiah the Prince...”
This is Jesus. There are two princes mentioned in this passage. This one is the Christ.
So, how do we get “seventy weeks” as a period of time? We don’t!
First, there is no contextual reason to make days into years. The only reason to do this is to fit a preconceived interpretation.
Second, even if we did make years out of days, there is NO known decree from which we could begin this “clock” and get to the crucifixion and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem at the correct time. It just doesn’t fit.
Which leads us to the conclusion that it isn’t supposed to fit that way. The “seventy weeks” is not intended to be a chronology. Numbers are often used as figures of speech in the Bible to convey certain ideas. This is the case with the “seventy weeks.” To know what “seventy weeks” conveys, one needs to understand something of the meaning behind the number seven.
Seven: The number seven (and its multiples) carries the idea of totality, fullness or completeness.
Perhaps this is because the creation of the universe was completed in seven days (Gen. 2:1-3). In Gen. 4: 24, the number seven speaks of full and utter vengeance. Seventy elders are selected to represent the people of Israel (Num. 11:16). Zechariah 4:1-10 speaks of the seven “eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” In Matthew 18: 21-22, 70 times 7 speaks of complete and total forgiveness.
Revelation is full of sevens: seven churches, seven lampstands, seven angels, seven stars, seven Spirits, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls. There is clearly a symbolic significance attached to the number seven.
So, what are we to understand regarding the seventy weeks of Daniel 9? I believe that God is trying to convey the idea that this decree encompasses the completion of His relationship with the Jewish nation. That includes the Jews as His people, the law of Moses as the basis of His covenant with them, Jerusalem as His city, and the temple as the place of His presence. All of that would be totally and completely finished within the purview of this decree.
It is of course true that this would all come to a conclusion within the course of history and would therefore require time. But time is not the idea suggested by the seventy weeks. Completeness and totality is. The duration of these events is not important. What is important is that God had decreed the consummation of His relationship with the Jews and had instigated a plan by which He would have a new special people: those would by faith in Christ Jesus would become part of the church.
C. The Book of Revelation
As noted previously, the term premillenialism comes from a reference to the “thousand year reign” of Revelation chapter 20. Much of the premillenial error comes from a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of this book. If this letter is going to be understood, the guidelines for interpretation, given in the letter, MUST be applied. Those guidelines are clearly set out for us in the first verse:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”
This verse gives us two absolutely essential rules by which to correctly interpret this letter.
First, we must accept that this is a revelation of “things which must shortly take place.” The time element of this prophecy is here clearly stated. If we don’t get this, we will forever misunderstand this book. Many people just ignore this rule. Others notice it but argue that it can’t mean what it says. Many will acknowledge the statement but refuse to apply it consistently. Some will attempt to suggest that “shortly” means “quickly” or “suddenly,” anything but shortly. The fact is, the word “shortly” simply means shortly.
Chapter 1, verse 3. corroborates this statement: “...for the time is near.”
McGuiggan (The Book of Revelation) says of these two verses:
“The debate over the meaning of ‘shortly come to pass’ and ‘at hand’ is one which arises because of one’s overall view of the teaching of the book of Revelation, not from the words themselves. The translations are unanimous in their testimony as to the meaning of the words.”
In other words, the only reason to understand these words to mean other than “shortly” or “soon” is the “need” to make them conform to some preconceived interpretation of the book.
The time element of the Revelation is further reinforced by statements near the end of the book. Notice Rev. 22:6: “Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”
Then we are told, “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is a hand” (Revelation 22:10). It is interesting to compare this statement with that of Daniel 8: 26. Here, Daniel has also seen a prophetic vision. At the end of the vision, Daniel is told, “Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future.”
Notice the contrast. One vision is to be sealed because of a far off fulfillment, The other vision is to be left unsealed because the time for its fulfillment is near. The implication is that the time period in Daniel’s prophecy is longer than that of John’s. if one knows, at least approximately, the length of time for the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, one could surmise that the period of John’s prophecy would be somewhat less.
I agree with Keil and Deilitzsch ( Vol.9, p.317) and McGuiggan (Daniel, p.132) that Daniel’s prophecy in chapter eight predicts the emergence of the Seleucid conqueror, Antiochus Epiphanes. His desecration of the temple in Jerusalem occurred around 168 B.C. and is described in First and Second Maccabees. Daniel received this prophecy around 540 B.C., making the time from prophesy to fulfillment less than 400 years. The strong implication, therefore, is that the period of which John wrote was to be less than 400 years.
Consider also what these time statements of John must have meant to the first recipients of the letter. Imagine receiving a letter in which you are told in the first line the things of which you will read will “...shortly take place” (1:1). Then you are told there is a blessing for you in reading the letter, “...for the time is near” (1:3). Then, in the closing remarks, you read again that what you have read are “,,.the things which must shortly take place” (22:6). Once again the author reiterates, “...the time is near.” (22:10) Would you infer that the events described in the letter would be taking place two thousand or more years in the future? Would you assume the contents of the letter have no relevance to you? Of course not! Yet this is the meaning imposed on this letter by most people. 14 as the premillennialists claim, the events predicted and described in Revelation are yet to occur, these statements containing the time element were false and the message had no relevance to the first recipients of the letter.
The events prophesied in this book were fulfilled hundreds of years ago. There are eternal principles displayed in the book. There are valuable lessons for every generation here. But we should not wait for the events predicted here to take place. They already have.
The second rule of interpretation is also contained in the first verse. “And He sent and signified it by his angel to His servant John. “ This message was “signified”. The word “signified” is from the Greek word “semaino” which conveys the idea of “expressing by signs” (W. E. Vine, Vol. IV, p.30). The word is derived from “semeion” which is frequently translated “signs.” For example: “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16: 4).
We need to understand that most of the Revelation was conveyed in a highly symbolic form, known as apocalyptic language, and was never intended to be understood literally. The normal rule of interpretation is that language should be interpreted literally unless there is a compelling reason not to. In Revelation we must reverse this rule. We are told that the message is “signified.” Further, most of the language is obviously not plain and ordinary. The presumption must be, therefore, that we are dealing with highly figurative, apocalyptic language.
The “Plot” of Revelation
Obviously, this is not intended to be a verse by verse study of the book. However, I want to examine a couple of passages in order to accomplish two things:
1) I want to discover the overall “plot” of the book. identifying some of the main characters will help us to know what the book is all about.
2) I also want to reiterate the need to accept the time frame we are given. Many people have difficulty reconciling “...things which must shortly come to pass,” with what they have always thought about Revelation. For example, what about the battle of Armageddon and the description of heaven with its pearly gates and streets of gold, etc.? How could all of that have come about “shortly”?
A. The Scarlet Woman. (Revelation 17) She:
· is the great harlot that sits on many waters (17:1).
· sits on the scarlet beast having seven heads and ten horns (17:3).
· drunk with the blood of the saints (17: 6).
Who is she? Rev. 17: 7: “…1 will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her...”
· “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits,” (1 7’9)
· “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” (17:15)
· “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (17:18)
The composite picture is that of a city that sits on seven hills and rules over peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues, and that reigns over the kings of the earth. Several elements of this picture clearly point to Rome. Verse nine tells us that the seven heads refer to seven hills.
“The old legends say that Romulus founded the city in 753 B.C. when the settlements on the seven hills Palatine, Capitoline, Aventine,Viminal, Quarinal, Esquiline, Caelian) were united” (Compton’s Encyclopedia).
This is a clear reference to Rome. Add to this the fact that Rome was, at the time the Revelation was given, “the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” When we understand also that Rome was the persecutor of the saints, it becomes indisputable that Rome and its Empire are symbolically portrayed by the scarlet harlot. The early readers of this letter would have immediately recognized her.
The basic message of this book is that there is a war going on between Christ and Satan along with his beasts. That war will manifest itself on earth as a struggle between the Empire which belongs to Rome and the church which belongs to Christ. The saints are going to experience terrible persecution at the hands of Rome. The message to them is, “Hang on, don’t give up. Christ will win this war and we will win with Him”
From a human standpoint, it seemed that Rome would surely win this struggle. It looked hopeless for the church. It was for that reason this letter was written. It was to show Christians living then that trouble was coming and yet as bad as things would get, God was still in control and Jesus and his church would prevail. Consequently, it seems ridiculous to suggest that this letter is about things that are still in the future.
While its message is directed to a specific audience facing a specific struggle at a specific time, the general theme is applicable to any Christians facing persecution at any time. Jesus told them (and us), “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” (2:10)
B. The Holy City (Revelation 21)
This passage, with its description of a city with “golden streets” and “pearly gates,” etc., is usually understood to be a description of heaven following the Judgment. I wish I had a nickel for every sermon I’ve heard and for every song in our song books that reflects that view. Guess what? I do not believe this is about heaven in eternity! Reasons:
1) First, and perhaps foremost, is the fact that we would have to abandon the hermeneutical guidelines we have been given by the Holy Spirit for interpreting this letter. Remember that this letter deals with, “...things which must shortly take place.” Also, we must presume that this is symbolic, figurative language not intended to be taken literally.
2) Nowhere are we told it is heaven. In fact, we are told what it is and it isn’t heaven.
· Rev. 21: 2 “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Notice the city came “down out of heaven.” It isn’t heaven itself; it came down from heaven. This speaks of its origin. It is of Divine origin, rather than human origin.
· It is “New Jerusalem,” “... as a bride prepared for her husband.” Rev. 21: 9b: “...Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” This is a clear symbolic reference to the church (See 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph.5: 22-23).
· Rev. 21:10: “ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,...” Heb. 12: 22-23 helps us understand this language:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect...”
This passage says that Christians “have come to Mount Zion” and it identifies “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” as “...the church of the firstborn...” The heavenly Jerusalem (both in Hebrews and Revelation) is the church.
· Notice also in Rev. 21: 25, that the city is pictured as being left open for anyone who would enter. The “...gates shall not be shut at all by day...” This idea of continued access seems to fit the church much better than heaven. I don’t see that once heaven is inhabited on the judgment day, access will continue.
· Notice also that there is within this city a “pure river of water of life” (22:1). In verse 17 this water of life is offered by the Spirit and the bride to “whomever thirsts, Jesus used the same figure when offering this water to the Samaritan woman in John chapter four. It is water that one must drink in order to never thirst again. This thirst is not of the saved in heaven (for their thirst has been quenched) but of the lost on earth who hear the offer of the Spirit (through the Word) which is presented by the bride (the church).
· Rev. 22: 2 speaks of a tree of life whose leaves were for the healing of the nations. No one will enter heaven with the need for healing . Only the “healed” will enter heaven. There is a sense, however, in which the nations come to the church for spiritual healing
What we have in these two chapters is a highly figurative picture of the church, triumphant in its victory over Rome. It is referred to as a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). This speaks of a new environment, a new situation in which the church now enjoys peace after overcoming its trial. This is the victory that Christ had promised the church.
The church was victorious in that it bore the brunt of Roman power but survived, The official end of the Roman persecution of the church came in 313 A. D. This was a little over 200 years after this prophecy. In 410, the city of Rome was sacked and plundered by the Goths and by 476 the entire Roman Empire had fallen. It is significant that Christ’s church is still alive and well almost 2,000 years later while the Roman Empire has lain in the dust for many hundreds of years.
Understanding and consistently applying the hermenuetical rules given in the first verse of Revelation is crucial to understanding the letter. Failure to follow these rules leads to a legion of errors. Using them reveals a frightening, but then beautiful picture of God’s people under a terrible assault yet sustained by God and led to victory in Jesus.
The Thousand Year Reign (Revelation 20 6)
1) The general context:
Revelation is a message conveyed in figurative language, that is, in” signs” (1:1) concerning 1’things which must shortly take place” (1:1; 22:6). We must therefore maintain a predisposition to understand the thousand year reign of Rev. 20: 6 as a figure of speech with reference to circumstances that would occur not long after the Revelation was received.
2) The immediate context: The Battle of Armageddon.
We are introduced in chapters 14 and 15 to the thought that God is not going to allow the dragon and his beasts to continue to wreak havoc with the people of the Lamb. The vision shows “the bowls of the wrath of God” poured out in chapter 16. The 6th bowl involves the dragon and his agents (the beast and the false prophet) preparing for the battle of Armageddon (16:12-16). They send out messengers who appear “as frogs.” Comments on this:
a) These are figures of speech. We are told, for example, that the dragon is a symbol for Satan (20:2) Even the premillennialists, who insist on maintaining a literal interpretation, do not understand these “frogs” as literal or this “beast” as a literal beast. The beast and the false prophet refer to facets of the Roman Empire (represented by the Scarlet Harlot, who sits on the beast; ch. 17). The beast is a symbol of the civil/military power of the Empire. This is the facet of the Roman Empire that wields physical, military power and applies that power against God’s people. The false prophet is the religious facet of the Empire, the cult of Caesar. This is institutional religious error designed to deceive.
b) The battle of “Armageddon” is another symbol. It is inconsistent, to say the least, to pluck this one element out of a context of symbols (dragons, frogs, beast) and make it a literal physical battle. The word “Armageddon” literally means “mount Media.” Megiddo was the site of numerous O.T. period battles. To speak of Megiddo was to speak of war. Names such as Waterloo, Pearl Harbor, and Normandy conjure up similar thoughts of battle in our minds. And just as “Waterloo” can be used figuratively, Megiddo is used thus here. It symbolizes a spiritual battle between Rome and the church.
In chapters 17 and 18, “Babylon, the Great, the Mother of Harlots” is seen as doomed: “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore” (18:21). In chapter 19, the One whose name is “The Word of God” leads His army into battle (vs. 1 1ff). The beast and his armies “gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (vs. 19). The result of this battle: The beast and the false prophet were captured and thrown into the lake of fire (vs.20) and “the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (19:21).
It is important to note that this immediately precedes the passage in question (20: 1-6). In other words, chapter 20 describes the aftermath of the battle of Armageddon. Remember, the beast and the false prophet (agents of the dragon) have already been dealt with and their armies defeated. The question now is, what happens to the dragon and to those who died in the service of the Lamb?
First. the dragon is bound (but not destroyed) for a thousand years (20:14). It is crucial that we not abandon the symbolic rule of interpretation given in 1:1. We are not to understand a literal dragon or a literal binding with a literal chain. Nor are we to under-stand a literal bottomless pit with a literal seal. Nor should we understand a literal “thousand years.” It is a symbol.
Like many numbers in apocalyptic language, the number 1,000 conveys a meaning. It is a multiple of the number 10. Like the number 7, the number 10 (and its multiples) also suggests the idea of completeness. The difference between 7 and 10 seems to be that 7 is more closely associated with God, and 10 with humanity. Perhaps the connection of 10 to the concept of completeness comes from the fact that a “complete” baby has 10 fingers as well as 10 toes. The number 1000 (l0xl0xl0) emphasizes the point. (See Duet. 7: 9; 1 Chron. 16:15; Ps. 50:10; Ps. 105:8.)
The “thousand years” is not a time period at all. It symbolizes the completeness of the dragon’s defeat. To say that the dragon (Satan) is bound for a thousand years is to say that he is completely and utterly defeated with respect to his working with Rome. Rome (the beast and the false prophet) will never rise again (they are “cast into the lake of fire”) Satan will surface again (more on this later), but with respect to his working with Rome against the church, he is utterly defeated, finished.
Second, we learn what happens to those who died in the service of the Lamb. They “live (both the tense, aorist, and the context indicate that 91came to life” would be a better translation) and reign with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4). Again, this is not a literal time period. That they are raised to live and reign for a thousand years indicates their complete vindication and victory. Their side won!
So, the dragon is bound for a thousand years and the saints also come to life and reign for a thousand years. This is two different ways to say the same thing. It tells us, with emphasis added, that Satan and his team lost and Christ and His team won. Completely and totally!
Let me summarize: Try to imagine yourself watching a movie as you read this vision (I suppose for John, it was something like a movie). The army of the Lamb and the army of the beast gather on a vast battlefield called Megiddo. The battle rages; many are killed on both sides but the outcome is clear. The Lamb and His army utterly defeats the army of the beast. Bodies are strewn all over the battle field. But then, those who had died in the Lamb’s army are raised from the dead and join in reigning with the Lamb.
Meanwhile.., “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (vs.5). These are those who died in the armies of the beast. Remember that this is a word picture. Imagine the aftermath of a horrible battle in which the dead are strewn all over the battle field. In this picture, those who died in the service of the Lamb are raised to reign with Him. The rest, those who died in service of the beast, continue to lay dead. But then, after a thousand years, they are raised too. For what purpose? Have they somehow been vindicated? Has their defeat been revoked? Absolutely not! They are raised in order to be thrown into the lake of fire (20:11-15). This simply reinforces and emphasizes the picture of their complete and total defeat.
This rising (for the purpose of being thrown into the lake of fire) is the second resurrection. Although the words “second resurrection” are to found in the text, it is implied by reference to:
“...the first resurrection.” This “first resurrection” is not the literal final resurrection. It is not being “born again” to “walk in newness of life.” To adopt such an interpretation would be to completely pluck this passage out of its context. This “first resurrection” is the raising and reigning of those (in this picture) of those who were killed in the service of Christ. It speaks of the vindication and victory of those who fought and died in the struggle against the beast.
Premillennialists hold that this first resurrection will take place seven years after the Rapture, following the seven years of Tribulation. That places this resurrection at the beginning of the “millennial reign.” The problem is that their scenario calls for all the dead in Christ to be raised at the Rapture, that is, seven years before the “first resurrection.” In other words, “the first resurrection” takes place seven years before the first resurrection. It’s a house of cards.
The “second death,” which has no power over those who experience the “first resurrection” (vs. 6) is experienced only by those who took part in the second resurrection, that is, the “bad guys.” This second death is being thrown into the lake of fire (vs. 14). This is not literal hell; it’s just part of the picture and symbolizes total defeat. “Second death” implies an unstated first death. This first death is experienced by all who die in the battle of Armageddon, both in the service of the Lamb and in the service of the beast.
But let’s not forget that in this picture the dragon is released from his prison after the thousand years and is allowed to “deceive the nations” again (vs. 7-10). He gathers the armies of Gog and Magog, and attacks the saints again. Who is this Gog and Magog? Literally, no one in particular. The names are borrowed from Ezekiel 38 but are used differently (which tells us these are not literal persons or nations). In Ezekiel, king Gog of the land of Magog gathers a huge army to fight against Jerusalem. Of course, there was no literal Gog or Magog. In Ezekiel and Revelation, Gog and Magog are symbols for anyone who dared to raise their swords against the people of God. Rome is finished, but Satan, although bound completely in his use of Rome, will surface again Gog and Magog is a symbol for any power, in any age, that would rise against God’s church. what is its fate? Utter defeat (20: 9-10).
The Revelation was intended to encourage early Christians to remain faithful, even unto death, in the face of Roman persecution. It told them that no matter how terrible things got, Christ and his church would prevail. Its message would have had no relevance to them if these events would not take place for thousands of years.
By Steve Kissell
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