THE THOUSAND YEAR REIGN
We come now to the aftermath of that great turning point in Earth’s history when Christ fought the battle of Armageddon and returned again to Earth. Now, Revelation will take up the subject of Christ's long anticipated and prophesied thousand year reign. The theological term for this reign is the Millennium. This is a word that comes from the Latin word for one thousand. The Greek word is χίλια (chilia). It is used six times here in the first nine verses. Some theologians call those who believe in Christ’s literal thousand year reign on Earth, Chiliasts. There are three major theological positions in the Church today in connection with the millennial reign of Christ. They are as follows:
Post-millennialism is the view that says that Christ will return after the Millennium. This position originated with Augustine who felt that the Church would dominate the world for a thousand years and then, afterwards, Christ would return. Many people hold various forms of post-millennialism. For many years, liberal Christianity held a humanistic post-millennialism that taught that man would get better and better until man himself would bring the Kingdom of God on Earth. However, they didn't believe Christ would ever literally return. This position was popular early in the twentieth century but lost most of its adherents because of world wars I and II.
A-millennialism says that there will be no Millennium. A-millennialists do not believe that Christ will literally reign on Earth but they do believe in his return. They simply see Christ as coming one day, judging the wicked and then, everything simply moving straight on into the new heavens and the new earth.
Pre-millennialism says that Christ will return before the Millennium. It is based on the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture that interprets Scripture for what it says. It follows the basic hermeneutical principle that says, If the literal sense makes sense seek no other sense. Pre-millennialists believe that Christ's return to Earth will be followed by a literal thousand year reign just as the Bible predicts here in Revelation 20:4-5. The pre-millennial view is the correct view, in my opinion, since it alone strictly adheres to consistent principles of biblical interpretation. In other words, it is based on sound biblical hermeneutics. If you would like to read up on these very important principles of interpretation, you could begin by reading Bernard Ramm's book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation.
The Old Testament is replete with prophecies that predict the future millennial reign of Christ on Earth. Before we proceed with our study here, it would be profitable for us to look at a few from an Old Testament prophet that had a great deal to say about Christ’s millennial reign … the prophet Isaiah. He said,
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and he shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, nor decide by the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins, and faithfulness the belt of his waist. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek him, and his resting place shall be glorious. It shall come to pass in that day That the LORD shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth. Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west; together they shall plunder the people of the East; they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; and the people of Ammon shall obey them. The LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; with his mighty wind he will shake his fist over the River, and strike it in the seven streams, and make men cross over dry-shod. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who will be left from Assyria, as it was for Israel in the day that he came up from the land of Egypt. Isaiah 11
I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together, that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:18-20
For the LORD will comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody. Isaiah 51:3
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 55:13
As you can see from these words of Isaiah, the Old Testament scriptures speak in no uncertain terms about the future glorious and literal reign of Messiah on Earth. The Jewish people were, and still are, correctly anticipating it.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
Following the battle of Armageddon, Christ will literally set foot on the Mount of Olives. And, as he touches down there, he will cause huge topographical changes to the entire area. Then, he will proceed on into Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate and proceed on up to the temple. There, he will remain to govern and reign over all the Earth for one thousand years. As you have it in Zechariah 14:34,
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and the half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (KJV)
After that, Christ's next order of business will be to remove Satan from the earth and confine him to the Abyss for a thousand years. Back in chapter 12, you will remember that Satan was tossed out of Heaven and restricted to the earth at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. You will also remember from that passage that it was Michael the archangel and the other good angels of God who bodily expelled Satan and his demons from Heaven. I strongly suspect that the angel we find here ... the angel with a great chain ... is Michael as well. My, how Satan will hate that, aye!? Satan’s demons will also be confined to the Abyss during the Millennium. Isaiah supplies us with that information.
It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders, gloriously. Isaiah 24:21-23
In addition, our text tells us that the purpose of Satan's confinement will be so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. The presence of Satan on Earth complicates the nature of man’s sin problem today. Without Satan’s presence and influence, however, and in contrast to the righteous reign of Christ, the manifestation of man’s sin nature will become much more apparent and predictable. During the Millennium, no one will be able to say, The Devil made me do it! On the contrary, the only thing anyone will be able to say about their wickedness will be, Yes, I did it. So, for one thousand years, the nature of man will be tested and displayed for what it truly is and man's total depravity will clearly be demonstrated apart from any interference or influence from Satan whatsoever (Romans 3:9-18). Now, let’s consider the identity of the nations that our text mentions, who the Devil will no longer be able to deceive. Who might they be? Well, Jesus said there would be a judgment of the nations that would take place at the beginning of his reign on Earth. As we have it in Matthew 25:31-46,
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Then he will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 'for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then he will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
This famous passage is probably one of the most misunderstood, and often taken out of context, passages in the Bible. Jesus was not speaking about the Rapture of the Church, as is so often taught and preached on that passage. He was not talking to the Church at all. As far as the Church is concerned, there will never be any dividing of saints from non-saints, anywhere, or at any time. Christ specifically says that this event, described in Matthew, will follow glory with all his holy angels his coming in ... a clear reference to his Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation. As we have it in Second Thessalonian 1:7-9,
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God [battle of Armageddon], and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: [after the preaching of the 144,000, the two witnesses and God's proclaiming angel who circumvented the globe preaching the gospel] who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power…
So, Matthew 25 is all about the aftermath of Christ’s Second Coming and what will take place at the beginning of his millennial reign. At that time, those who are left alive at the end of the Great Tribulation, will be gathered before Christ Jesus to be divided like sheep being separated from goats. This is the Judgment of the Nations. The actual Greek word translated nations there is εθνη (ethnay). It refers to people from every ethnic group. This will be a very unusual and unique judgment. The sole criteria for this judgment will be how each individual person from every remaining ethnic group on Earth has treated Christ's brethren during the dark days of the Great Tribulation. On that basis alone, people will either enter the Millennium … or be sent away to the Lake of Fire. In reality, this will be the final separation of the remaining Tribulation saints from the surviving wicked Earth-dwellers at the end of the Tribulation. At this judgment, the righteous (those saints who cared for and helped Christ’s brethren during the Tribulation), will be welcomed into his Millennial reign. Their faith, you see, was demonstrated by their actions. Real faith always demonstrates itself by its good works and, also, its love for the people of God. As you have it in First Peter 1:22,
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently… (KJV)
As a result of the Judgment of the ethnos, many people from a wide variety of ethnic groups and nations will enter the Millennium and preserve their individual national identities there. Both Zechariah and Jeremiah speak about these leftover seed nations who will constitute the new populations of the earth during Christ's reign...
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations (following the Judgment of the Nations cited above) which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16
At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. Jeremiah 3:17
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God,who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
There are two different groups of
saints mentioned here who will have important administrative roles
during the Millennium.
The first group, John saw seated upon thrones. He says, judgment was committed to them. This group is the Church. The scriptures are clear about the fact that the Church will one day sit on thrones and judge the world. During the Millennium, this will come to pass. Consider the following scriptures:
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? First Corinthians 6:2
If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. Second Timothy 2:12
And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from my Father… Revelation 2:26-27
So Jesus said to them,‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ Matthew 19:28
Matthew 19:28, above, speaks of the special position that the Apostles, the founders of the Church, will hold in regard to Israel during the Millennium.
The second group, who will reign with Christ, are the Tribulation Saints. Our text identifies them as, those who had been beheaded for the witness to Jesus who had not worshiped the beast or his image. It says that they also lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.This vision caused John to exclaim, Blessed and holy is he who has a part in the first resurrection. They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Notice, they are said to be immune to the second death. Verse 14, defines for us what the second death is.
Next in line in the parade of the first resurrection ... are the dead in Christ who will be resurrected at the Rapture of the Church. As you have it in First Thessalonians 4:16,
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Following them, still other saints will experience their part in the first resurrection. There will be the resurrection of pre-Mosaic, Old Testament Saints (Adam to Moses). And, then, there will be the resurrection of Israel (Moses through the last Israelite who died during the Great Tribulation) (Daniel 12:2). And, finally, there will be the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints. Although we are not given the exact times in Scripture as to these last three resurrections, nevertheless it seems certain their resurrections will take place at or near the end of the Great Tribulation. Daniel, speaking of the resurrection of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation says,
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:12
Notice that this prophecy, given to Daniel in the context of the events of the Great Tribulation, clearly places the resurrection of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation. At that time, godly Israelites who were under the Old Covenant will be resurrected to enter Messiah's Kingdom on Earth, just as the Scripture promised them. For example, Ezekiel said that David himself would one day enter the kingdom to rule over Israel once again. We read,
Therefore I will save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. Ezekiel 34:22-24 (KJV)
The resurrection of the pre-law saints will also occur at the Lord's Second Coming, at or near the end of the Great Tribulation. Job fills in this piece of the puzzle when he says,
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me [i.e. ... frightened out of his wits]. Job 19:25-27
Our passage states, But the rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years were finished. All other people who have died, from Adam's day to the last day, who did not have a part in the first resurrection, will not be resurrected until the thousand years are finished. This vast multitude of peoples will not experience their resurrection until all the ranks of the wicked of all time have been completely filled. Many in this group, I'm sorry to say, will die during the reign of Christ on Earth. This entire group's resurrection is called, by default, the second resurrection or the resurrection of the damned. It will consist exclusively of wicked human beings from all of human history. We will read the sobering account of it at the end of this chapter.
Without comment, let's
simply read this wonderful verse again...
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Let’s pause here for a minute and think a bit more about the thousand year reign of Christ. Revelation does not concern itself with this subject because it’s main theme is the presentation of how the world will be subdued leading up to the Millennial reign of Christ. Therefore, in our text here, the Millennium is only referred to briefly by the simple statement, And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This future 1000 reign of the Messiah has been the Jews’ biblically rooted hope for hundreds and hundreds of years. It was the first thing on Jesus’ disciple’s minds after his resurrection. They questioned him about it saying,
Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. Acts 1:6
Notice, Jesus did not deny their understanding that his widely prophesied Kingdom would actually come to Earth one day. He simply said that the timing of it was solely in his Father’s hands. This future literal reign of Messiah on Earth is a major them of the Old Testament scriptures. Here are a few of my favorites from Isaiah that refer to it.
There shall come forth a Rod
[Jesus] from the stem
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”
It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time
To recover the remnant of His people who are left,
From Assyria and Egypt,
From Pathros and Cush,
From Elam and Shinar,
From Hamath and the islands of the sea.
He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart,
And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
And Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west;
Together they shall plunder the people of the East;
They shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab;
And the people of Ammon shall obey them.
The LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt;
With His mighty wind He will shake His fist over the River,
And strike it in the seven streams,
And make men cross over dryshod.
There will be a highway for the remnant of His people
Who will be left from Assyria,
As it was for Israel
In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt. Isaiah 11
. . . . . . . . . .
I will open rivers in desolate heights,
And fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land springs of water.
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree,
The myrtle and the oil tree;
I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine
And the box tree together,
That they may see and know,
And consider and understand together,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:18-20
. . . . . . . . . .
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.
It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
Says the LORD. Isaiah 65:19-25
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where [NU inserts also] the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
For a thousand years, the Earth will experience unprecedented peace and righteousness under the benevolent but strict reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say “strict” because that is what egocentric sinners will continue to require. This is why our text says that the Lord will rule them with a rod of iron. Saved sinners will enter the Millennium but multitudes of unsaved sinners will be born during the thousand year reign of Christ. Those offspring will possess the same sin nature that mankind has always possessed and they will need to be saved and sanctified by faith in the Son of God … just as people today need to be. Death will also exist in the Millennium but, according to the Scripture, it will be rare. Isaiah tells us the world will be repopulated during the Millennium and also that mankind will have its longevity restored. He prophesies that life spans will once again be as they were in the days of Methuselah, who lived 969 years (Genesis 5:25-26).
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. Isaiah 65:20-21
Doubtless, by the end of the Millennium, there will once again be billions of people on Earth. However, Isaiah also says, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. This statement makes it clear that for many, a thousand years of righteousness and absolute justice will wear very thin indeed. To those people, there will probably be nothing worse, in their thinking, than having to live one more day under the righteous rule of Christ. Zechariah refers to people of that “ilk” as follows:
And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:17-18
This is one example of the exercise of Christ's rod of iron.
We come now to an amazing prophecy to consider. We read here that, after the thousand years has expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations. Why would Christ do that? Someone has said, Well, if you can tell me why God turned him loose the first time, I'll tell you why he turns him loose the second time! There is ample evidence here, however, as to just why Satan will be released. When he is released from the Abyss, this great archenemy of God and his Christ will go forth and act like a giant magnet to once again draw and assemble together all the world’s unsaved malcontents. They will gather themselves together for one last desperate rebellion. Incredible as it sounds, once again multitudes will march against the Holy City and against our blessed Lord, just as the armies of their ancient forefathers had done a thousand years before at the great battle of Armageddon. It is at this precise point in time that Psalm 2, will be fulfilled in history. Therefore, I give it here in its entirety...
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then he shall speak to them in his wrath, and distress them in his deep displeasure: yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD has said to me, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.' Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.
Our text says, when Satan was released he went throughout the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. The Old Testament prophecy of Gog and Magog is found in Ezekiel 38 and 39. It greatly amplifies this future, amazing and final rebellion against Christ. There, Christ's final battle with the Evil One and his armies is given in great detail. Here are some of its more pertinent parts.
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops; many people are with you. Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you. 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan: you will say, 'I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates'; to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land. Ezekiel 38:1-11
you will come from your place out of the far north, you and many
peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great
company and a mighty army.
You will come up against my people Israel like a cloud, to
cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you
against my land,
so that the nations may know me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog,
before their eyes. Ezekiel 38:15-16
…And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog
comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD, ’that my fury
will show in my face.’ Ezekiel 38:18
… And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus I will magnify myself and sanctify myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’ Ezekiel 38:22-23
The next chapter, Ezekiel 39, has to do with the aftermath of the battle of God and Magog … not the battle of Armageddon ... as is so often taught. It is clear from Ezekiel 39, that the Millennium itself will continue the perfecting of Israel. Strange as it may sound, many Jews who will be born during Christ's thousand year reign, will not respond in faith to Christ and therefore will not understand who Jesus Christ truly is (keep in mind that we are still under the days of the seventh trumpet here and the mystery of God is still not complete). As for these biblical names, Gog and Magog, there has been much speculation. They refer to specific ancient cities in the territory of what is now Russia. Apparently, these cities will be restored during the Millennium and will re-assume their ancient biblical names. It seems that they will also be hotbeds of discontent and rebellion that will be played out at the end of the Millennium.
From Ezekiel's prophecy, we learn that Satan's final rebellion and subsequent invasion of the Promised Land (and its beloved city, Jerusalem) will come out of the north. At that time, just as Ezekiel predicted, (and also as it is seen here in our text) fire from heaven will consume Satan's enormous and last army. Then, we read, the Devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW. Amen? The great tempter, deceiver, accuser of the brethren, liar, murderer and tormentor of the human race will, on that great day, be permanently dealt with ... once and for all … never to be heard from again! Our Lord Jesus Christ will summarily consign him to the lake of fire and brimstone, just as easily as he previously deposited the beast and the false prophet there at the battle of Armageddon. Satan's downward spiral will then be complete. Having fallen from Heaven to Earth, then from Earth to the Abyss, he will ultimately be cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone … which will be his final and eternal abode.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before [NU omits God and adds the throne], and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die!
Poor lost sinners, who find themselves before the Great White Throne Judgment, will all too quickly discover just how inadequate the filthy rags of their own perceived good deeds will be. Before Holy God and his righteous gaze, their multitudes of evil deeds and words will be exposed to the light. The moral and spiritual filthiness of each individual will be glaring and inescapable. Jesus said that not only will every wicked, thoughtless, blasphemous and unloving word be brought up … but an explanation will be demanded for them as well. When the books are opened at the Great White Throne Judgment, men’s puny cases for their own goodness will evaporate away like puffs of steam in a windstorm.
May we step aside here for a moment? Did you notice that sin wasn't mentioned here at all? Why is that? Well, it’s because the sin question was forever settled at the cross … not just in relation to you and me, beloved … but, in relation to the whole world! The whole world has been reconciled to God through the death of Christ on that cross. As you have it in First John 2:2,
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
God's wrath towards sin has already been propitiated (satisfied) at the cross. Sin is no longer an issue between God and man. As you have it in Second Corinthians 5:18-21,
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I repeat … sin is no longer an issue between God and man. The issue today is … How has a person responded to the Son of God and his work on the cross? As you have it in John 3:36,
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
This is why sin is not taken up at the White Throne Judgment … only works … followed by the critical issue of whether or not one's name is found written in the Lamb's Book of Life (verse 16). Notice that the destiny of those who will stand before the Great White Throne will be based solely on the presence or absence of their name in that one all-important book. It will have nothing at all to do with men's works … which have just been thoroughly examined. As far as eternal life is concerned, the only thing that God will hold man accountable for is how they have responded to his Son … who loved them so that he gave up his own life for them. As you have it in I John 5:11-12,
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
At the Great White Throne Judgment, I believe these books of works will be opened on each life in order to demonstrate to each one of these poor lost men and women that they truly were SINNERS and therefore, truly DID need a SAVIOR, even though, in life, they disagreed and chose to live their lives apart from him. Doubtless, this thorough examination of the works of each person’s life will be very fresh on their minds when the Lamb's Book of Life is opened to see if anyone’s name present is written therein. But, they will not find a single one. Only those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and received God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and salvation through the shed blood of his Son will have their names written in that book. That's why it’s called the Lamb's Book of Life (verse 8). It is not a record of the wicked works of men and women … it is the record of those faithful men and women who have believed on Christ and, thereby, have had their sins washed away forever by the blood of the Lamb … having received his free gifts of righteousness and eternal life. Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10:20,
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
The Apostle Paul also speaks of this book...
And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Philippians 4:3
Doubtless, it will be a horror beyond description … after people have lost any hope in their own supposed good works to hear the awful words, "No, Lord, his name … (her) … is not here." Dear reader, is your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Believe me, no one will ever enter Heaven on the basis of their own good works. Faith in Christ alone fits one for that holy place. Second Corinthians 5:21, says,
For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Righteousness is a gift, you see. It fits you for Heaven. It is imputed, by God, to anyone who places their trust and hope squarely in his Son. Are you a real believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, you have Christ’s own righteousness. It has been credited to your account. And, amazingly, in God’s eyes, you are as righteous as he is! We can say that, because we have God's word on it. We believers have been given God’s own righteousness. It has been counted to us as our own (Romans 4:21-24). Isn't that wonderful? What a trade, aye? He took our sin and, in return, we have been given Christ's own righteousness. That’s why Romans 8:1, can say,
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
My, how poor lost sinners, who are present at The Great White Throne will regret not accepting God’s free gift of eternal salvation but … instead … took the gamble of standing before Holy God dressed in the filthy rags of their own righteousness!
Let me say a couple more words about these books here at the great white throne. First, the names of all who have responded to God in faith (Romans 4) … even prior to the cross … are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Second, I strongly suspect that the books of works are also for determining the degree of punishment that each individual will experience in the Lake of Fire. Not all will be punished alike. Jesus spoke of the fact that some will have fewer stripes (Luke 12:48). That will be scant consolation however, for all who must spend eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire and in outer darkness.
Finally here, John says death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. I like that. I like that a lot. When my dad and mother died … I came to hate death more than ever. It bothers me to think about their dear bodies laying out there in the graveyard. But, praise God, death also will be dealt with at the Great White Throne Judgment. There will be no more purpose for death or Hell after that, you see. There will be no more dying because there will be no more sinning. Hell, the temporary holding place of all the wicked dead (Luke 16:19-31), will no longer have a purpose. After the Great White Throne Judgment, death and Hell and judgment will be things of the past. The wicked will have been fairly judged and disposed of and all of Christ's enemies will have been put under his feet … including death and Hell itself. As you have it in First Corinthians 15:25-26,
For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
Now, we've arrived! At that time ... THE MYSTERY OF GOD will be COMPLETE (10:6-7)! At the end of the days of the sounding of the seventh trumpet ... everyone will know who Jesus Christ is … whether they are in Heaven ... or in the Lake of Fire. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT COMING NEW DAY!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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