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Revelation 20:4–6

“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (v. 6).

The nature of the millennium described in Revelation 20:1–10 is never defined in the great ecumenical creeds such as the Nicene Creed or the major Protestant confessions. The theologians and pastors who wrote these statements of faith that the church has valued for centuries did not believe they had to address whether the millennium consists of a literal one thousand years, whether it occurs before or after the return of Christ, or other millennial questions that are debated today. This choice not to make the millennium an aspect of confessional teaching tells us that we should not make millennial disagreements a cause for division. All of us should hold our millennial position with humility.

None of this means one’s view on the millennium is unimportant. The Bible describes a thousand-year period in which Satan is bound and Jesus reigns (Rev. 20:1–10), so we should have that position on the millennium. Based on our look at Revelation 20 thus far, the premillennial position, wherein Christ reigns on earth for one thousand years after He returns, seems less likely than the majority Christian position throughout church history. This majority position says that the millennium occurs before Jesus’ return, concurrent with the church age. This might mean that the world will be shaped by Christian teaching and a long period of peace will ensue before Christ returns (postmillennialism). Or, the entire period from Christ’s ascension to His return may feature a series of ups and downs for the church, and there will be no worldwide peace and prosperity before Jesus’ return (amillennialism). We do know for sure, however, that Christ is currently on His throne and that history proceeds according to His perfect design.

Our Lord does not reign alone; alongside Him sit the “souls of those beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.” These men and women have shared in the first resurrection (vv. 4–6). Given that John sees “souls,” this entails a spiritual resurrection, not the bodily resurrection that occurs at Jesus’ return. Almost certainly, these are those who die in faith, preeminently those martyred for their Christian confession. When believers go to be with the Lord, they reign alongside Him.

These who share in the first resurrection will not be under the power of the “second death” (v. 6), which is the eternal judgment of the lake of fire (v. 14). Believers who die before Christ returns go to heaven to reign alongside Him, and they will live forever.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

As Augustine of Hippo observes in his City of God, even Christians who have not yet gone to be with the Lord are participating in the current heavenly reign of Christ (see Eph. 2:6). We may not always feel as if we are ruling and reigning, but our feelings do not determine reality. We need not fear what others can do to us, for we are reigning with Christ now (Col. 3:1), and we will do so forever.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 47
  • Luke 23:39–43
  • Philippians 1:21–24
  • Colossians 3:1–4

    The Binding of Satan

    Satan’s Final Assault

    Keep Reading The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

    From the December 2020 Issue
    Dec 2020 Issue