The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5

The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8

iv] The millennial reign of the saints


In this, the next "and I saw" vision, John sees the saints enthroned in heaven. These are the believers who had suffered because of their testimony to Christ, and had not worshipped the beast. As priests of God, they are given authority to reign for a thousand years. After the thousand years, Satan is released from the Abyss and again deceives the nations. In cahoots with Gog from Magog, Satan sets upon God's people in the city of God. Having proved his irredeemable character, Satan and his minions are cast in the lake of fire, tormented day and night.


The Kingdom of God is at hand; Believers reign with Christ.


i] Context: See 19:11-16. The millennial bondage of Satan, v1-3 and the millennial reign of the saints, v4-10, although separate visions, stand together, both in time and space - Satan is bound so the saints can rule.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8.


iii] Structure: The millennial reign of the saints:

The saints are set to reign, v4-6;

The release of Satan from the Abyss to again make war on the saints, v7-9;

Satan is cast into the lake of fire, v10.


iv] Interpretation:

The interpretation of this fifth kai eidon, "and I saw" vision is fraught, but its message is clear and to the point. Christ has triumphed over the powers of darkness. These powers may seem to reign now, but God in Christ reigns. Those who persevere in faith, those who remain true to the gospel and refuse to worship the glory of the secular city, even now reign with Christ, and will reign with him in eternity. Of course, the details are far less easy to handle. Most serious commentators adopt an amillennial approach to the passage, although with their own particular bent; see 20:1-3, The three main Millennial interpretations of chapter 20. See also Interpretation 20:1-3

In the passage before us, John describes the reign of the saints during the incarceration of Satan (ie., the present church era, the messianic era), prior to his final release and punishment. Some identify two groups of saints, "the souls" / martyrs, and a second group, those who have not worshipped the beast, but one group is likely, namely, believers (kai is probably epexegetic; "that is, those who had not worshipped the beast ..."). The fact that they have come to life to reign with Christ may imply that they are believers who have died, risen, and now reign with Christ in spirit, although this defies the notion of the resurrection of the dead in the day of judgment. For this reason, it is probably a symbol for those who have found new life in Christ and together reign with Christ through the Christian community / church, cf., 1Cor.6:1-6 - "they lived (in Christ) and they reigned with Christ." Believers are alive in Christ, alive in the one "raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died = "the first resurrection", cf., 1Cor.15:20-24. In the age of the church, unbelievers remain "dead", as far as God is concerned, and "do not come to life" until the end of the church age, namely, the general resurrection of the dead in the day of judgment, v5. Those who share in "the first resurrection" (ie., believers, those who have found new life in Christ, the one who is the first fruits of the dead) are blessed because, in Christ, they will not have to face judgment ("the second death"), and share together in the reign of Christ in this the messianic age ("thousand years"), v6.

Finally, the binding / restricting of Satan, v1-3, and the reign of the Christian community in the World, v4-6, collide at the end of the messianic age ("thousand years"). Satan's release "for a short time" leads to the battle of Armageddon, when the beast, the prophet, and the gathered kings / Gog from Maygog and his massive army, set upon the city of God for "the great day of God the Almighty", v7-9a, cf., Ezk.38-39. Of course, the battle is over before it starts, with Satan and his minions put down forever, v9b-10. Given these facts, let us persevere in faith, for "if we endure, we will also reign with him", 2Tim.2:12

Text - 20:4

The millennial reign of the saints, v4-10: i] The saints are set to reign, v4-6. John's apocalyptic image of the heavenly reign of the saints ("the souls" who had not worshipped the beast nor received his mark) serves to illustrate Christ's earthly reign through the church today. This reign John depicts as a "thousand years", a millennia (the reign of God in Christ today / the inaugurated kingdom of God). This millennial reign of Christ (the church / messianic era) climaxes in Armageddon. During this millennia / reign of God in Christ, believers are blessed because, not only do they possess eternal life (free of judgment / "the second death", and alive in Christ / "the first resurrection"), but they also share in the eternal priestly authority of Christ here on earth, ie., they are able to offer forgiveness of sins through witnessing the gospel. Of course, the present reign of the saints in the millennia is but a foretaste of our eternal reign with Christ.

kai eidon "I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.

ep (epi) + acc. "[thrones] on [which were seated]" - [thrones and they sat] on [them]. John's favorite spacial preposition, here + acc. but still with the sense "on, upon." Who is seated on the throne? It is likely that the image refers to all believers, those who have persevered in faith and suffered in their witness to the gospel, so Smalley, Beale, .... - presumably they are living witnesses. Some commentators see them as resurrected martyrs, so Mounce, Aune, .... There is the faint possibility that John is referring to the elders seated in the heavenly sanctuary, cf., 4:4, 11:16.

autoiV dat. pro. "those who [had been given authority to judge]" - [and judgment was given] to them. Best taken as a dative of direct object, giving the sense that the saints are given authority to participate with Christ in God's reign / rule / judgements, so Aune, Mounce, Osborne, ...... and most translations, as NIV; "to them the right of judgment had been given", Barclay. It is possible that we have here a dative of interest, advantage, "for them", such that God judges in favor of the saints, and because of this they will not be subject to the "second death", v6, so Beale, Koester, Smalley, ....; "judgment was given in their favor", CEB.

twn pepelekismenwn (pelekizw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "[the souls] of those who had been beheaded" - [and I saw the souls] of the ones having been beheaded. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive.

dia + acc. "because of [their testimony]" - because of [the testimony]. Causal; "because of, on account of."

ihsou (oV) gen. "about Jesus" - of jesus. The genitive is adjectival, usually classified as verbal, objective, as NIV, "because they had told about Jesus", CEV, "because they had declared their faith in Jesus", Barclay, or possibly subjective, "the testimony born by Jesus", Cassirer, either way, serving to limit "testimony".

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - [and because of the word] of god. The genitive is probably ablative, source / origin; "the Word from God."

kai "[they did not worship the beast]" - and [who did not worship the beast nor the image of it and did not receive the mark on the forehead and on the hand]. It seems best to take the conjunction here as epexegetic; "that is, those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their forehead or their hands, live and reign with Christ for a thousand years." John is further defining those given authority to rule with Christ, namely the witnesses ("the souls"). So, John identifies only one group of believers who are ruling with Christ, so Mounce, Aune, Reddish, ... Some commentators do argue that John is now identifying a second group of believers, those not martyred and so not sharing in the first resurrection to rule with Christ, but sharing in the second resurrection and so included in the reign of the saints later; see Osborne.

ezhsan (zaw) aor. "they came to life [and reigned]" - [and] live [and reign]. The aorist is usually treated as ingressive / inceptive, as NIV; "they came to life again", Cassirer. The aorist is probably just expressing a state, so also "reign", ie., their state of being alive and of reigning, see Mathewson. The faithful witnesses, those without the mark of the beast, are alive in Christ, saved, and as such, reign with Christ. So its not "they came alive (resurrected) and reigned", but "they are alive (in the state of living) and reign." As for when "the souls" reign, they are reigning now with Christ through the Christian community.

meta + gen. "with [Christ]" - Expressing association / accompaniment.

cilia hth "a thousand years" - Accusative of time, duration; "for a thousand years", ESV. "When used for time, 1,000 years suggests vastness", Koester.


This rather difficult verse seems to serve as an exegetical note (Smalley, "two parentheses" - the first is bracketed in the NIV). Having spoken about the state of "the souls" being alive and reigning (ie., the present participation of believers in the reign of God in Christ [the millennia]), John makes the point that "the rest" (unbelievers) will not "come to life" until after the millennia, ie., at the general resurrection of the just and unjust at the parousia of Christ. John then makes the point that the state of the "the souls" (believers) living and reigning through Christ may rightly be called "the first resurrection", ie., they are alive in Christ, the one who is the first fruit of the dead.

twn nekrwn (oV) gen. "[the rest] of the dead" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Who are the "rest of the dead"? "The rest of the dead / the remaining dead" are probably unbelievers, those with the mark of the beast, so Osborne, Koester, .... Possibly all humanity, believers and unbelievers, so Smalley.

acri + subj. "until [the thousand years were ended]" - [did not come to life] until [should be completed the thousand years]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause expressing time up to a point; "until ....."; "until the thousand years were over", TEV.

auth pro. "this [is the first resurrection]" - Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be, best taken as backward referencing, possibly to "the rest of the dead" who came alive (the closest referent), although usually taken as referencing "the souls" who came alive, v4. Possibly forward referencing the blessed, those who are raised to reign with Christ (although unlikely). The reference "the first resurrection" is likely serving as an apocalyptic image of the state of a believer in the here and now - such are alive in Christ who is "the first fruits of those who have died", 1Cor.15:20. Other views of "the first resurrection" abound and Koester nicely summarizes them into three main arguments:

• Resurrection of the faithful to endless life. This is the resurrection of believers in the last day at the return of Christ, as referenced throughout the NT, 1Cor.15:12, etc. It is the "first" resurrection because believers rise first. See Koester, Aune, Mounce, Reddish, ....

• Intermediate state between physical death and final resurrection. This is a spiritual resurrection of believers who, in spirit, unite with Christ prior to the final resurrection on the day Christ's return, as such John calls it "the first resurrection." This aligns with those who see "the souls" as alive in Spirit reigning with Christ during the millennia. See Beale, Smalley, ...

• Earthly life beginning with baptism. This is the idea that a person who believes in Jesus is united to Christ in his resurrection and thus alive and reigning with Christ in his glorification. Augustine was probably the first to run this line; see Hughes.


A person sharing in "the first resurrection" (the state of being alive in Christ who is the first fruits of the dead) is "blessed and holy" because they will not have to face "the second death" (the judgment of eternal damnation for those whose names are not found in the book of life on the great day of judgment), and because they are both "priests of God and of Christ" (ministers) and they reign with Christ during the millennia (the reign of God in Christ today / the kingdom of God as inaugurated in the present age), but also for eternity.

oJ ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "those who" - [blessed and holy is] the one having. The participle serves as a substantive. Believers are blessed in the sight of God because they are holy / set apart for God.

meroV en + dat. "share in [the first resurrection]" - The noun "part", meroV + dat, or + en, gives the sense "have a share in something." See above.

epi + gen. "[the second death has no power] over [them]" - on, upon [these ones the second death does not have authority]. John's favorite spacial preposition. Most commentators hold that the "second death is the punishment of the wicked after their resurrection at the end of the age", Koester. "The second death cannot touch such men", Phillips.

all (alla) "but [they will be priests]" - Here used to provide an accessory idea, BDF.448.6; Believers will not face oblivion, and not only that, but .. / and furthermore will reign. "You shall be called priests of the Lord .... ministers of the holy one", Isa.61:6, so "priests" in the sense of those who are servants "of God kai (and) of Christ." The kai "suggests the unity of nature between God and Jesus", Smalley.

tou qeou (oV) "of God" - of god [and of christ]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or subjective / idiomatic, "priests who serve God and Christ."

met (meta) + gen. "[will reign] with [him]" - [and will reign] with [him the thousand years]. Expressing association / accompaniment. As well as being priests, believers in Christ are also kings in that they eternally reign with Christ. This reign, as exercised in the world today through the Christian community, John calls the millennia. As already indicated, there is a range of views for the "when" of the millennia, eg., the eschatological future (eg., Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation); a literal reign of Christ on earth after this present age, (Osborne); the present church / messianic era, (amillennial); an eternal reign, now and forever ("the saints participating in the sovereign and salvific activity of God in Christ eternally, whether in this life or in the next", Smalley).


ii] The release of Satan from the Abyss to again make war on the saints, v7-9. The passive "will be released" implies that God is responsible for Satan's release (see possible reasons below). Satan is immediately up to his old tricks again, this time with Gog from Magog and his army (another image of the Beast, Prophet beast, and kings + army), who sets upon the saints / the city of God, but is destroyed with fire before he even gets going. Although most serious commentators do not agree with Osborne's postmillennial stance, he is right in pointing out that the amillennial stance is somewhat vulnerable when it comes to Satan's deception of the nations. Satan only gets to deceive the nations after the millennia, not during it. Those of an amillennial ilk have to argue that Satan's deception is restrained during the millennia, which is why society at large is more stable than unstable.

oJtan + subj. "when [the thousand years are over]" - when [the thousand years should be completed]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, translated as definite.

ek + gen. "from [his prison]" - [satan will be released] from [the prison of him]. Expressing separation, "away from." John doesn't reveal the motive for Satan's release. The most convincing suggestion is that Satan receives divine grace / clemency as a final opportunity for him to act graciously. Possibly its all about giving him enough rope to hang himself by, or may be "to make plain that neither the designs of Satan nor the waywardness of the human heart will be altered by the mere passing of time", Mounce.


planhsai (planaw) aor. inf. "to deceive" - [and he will go out] to deceive. The infinitive here is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "he will come out in order to deceive the nations."

ta eqnh (oV) "the nations" - Serving as the accusative direct object of the infinitive "to deceive." Who are these nations? It seems likely that the nations, as with "the people of the earth", is an apocalyptic symbol for those opposed to Christ and his saints. As Koester notes, they can be deceived, swayed by evil, but can also be redeemed through the witness of the gospel, so also Beale, Mounce, Smalley, Reddish. So, the nations constitute the organized subjects of Babylon, the secular city. Other interpretations abound, eg.:

• Dispensational commentators argue that the nations are made up of those born during the millennia who have not converted to the Christian faith and who now join together to take on the city of God; see Thomas. Another version has the nations here as those unbelievers who perished in the war prior to the millennia, finally resurrected from Hades at the end of the millennia to join in battle against the saints.

• Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation, argues that the nations represent the underworld where spirits and demons reside.

• Although the battle described in 19:11-21 is probably the same battle as described here (note the article with polemon, "war"; its "the same war" John has been describing since 12:17), both Beasley-Murray and Osborne argue that it is a different battle and that the nations here are those that did not join with the Beast in chapter 19.

ta "-" - the [in the four corners of the earth]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the four corners of the earth" into an attributive adjective; "the nations that are at the four corners of the earth", ESV. The preposition en is local, expressing space, and the genitive "of the earth" is adjectival, wholative. "The nations scattered over the whole world", TEV.

kai " - " - and. Quite possibly epexegetic here; "that is, Gog and Magog", TEV. Possibly ascensive, "even Gog and Magog", Peterson.

Gwg kai Magwg "Gog and Magog" - It is interesting how John has appropriated Ezekiel's image of "Gog from the land of Magog", an evil individual who leads the invasion against God's people, Ezk.38. Does John actually now see two individuals, turning Magog from a mythical land into a mythical person? This seems unlikely, so John's kai, "Gog and Magog", may well stand for "from the land of." As indicated above, the introductory kai may be epexegetic, such that Gog from the land of Magog is representative of the deceived nations, as a king is representative of the nation (ie., they are "symbols of all the nations gathered together in opposition to Christ and his followers", Osborne), or better ascensive, "even Gog ....", presumably serving as another image of the antiChrist; like the Beast he leads Satan's forces against the city of God.

sunagagein (sunagw) "to gather [them]" - to gather, bring together [them]. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; Satan deceives the nations in order to gather the nations for battle.

eiV + acc. "for [battle]" - to [war]. Here the preposition expresses purpose / end view; "with a view to war."

wJV "like [the sand]" - [whose number is] as [the sand]. Comparative, as NIV.

thV qalasshV (a) gen. "on the seashore" - of the sea. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or attributive / idiomatic, eg., "the sand which is beside the sea." "He will gather a huge army, millions strong."


thV ghV (h) gen. "[the breadth] of the earth" - [and they went up over the breadth] of the earth. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the flat lands that belong to the earth", or idiomatic / local, "the flat lands located on the earth." Note the allusion to Habakkuk 1:6, "I am raising up the Chaldaeans, that savage and impetuous nation, who march far and wide over the earth to seize and occupy what is not theirs", REB. Given that Jerusalem is in the highlands, armies "come up" against the city.

twn aJgiwn adj. "[the camp] of God's people" - [the barracks, encampment] of the saints. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

kai "-" - and. Mathewson suggests that the conjunction here is epexegetic; "the camp of God's saints, namely, the beloved city."

thn hgaphmenhn (agapaw) perf. mid./pas. part "[the city] he loves" - [the city] the one having been loved. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "city", "the beloved city"; "the city that he loves", TEV. Zion is in mind, not particularly Jerusalem, but the assemblies of God's people throughout the world; "wherever and whenever God's people are gathered together 'there is the people of God'", Smalley / Caird.

kai "but" - and. This conjunction is usually treated here as if adversative, as NIV.

ek + gen. "[fire came down] from [heaven]" - [fire came down] from [heaven and consumed them]. Here expressing source / origin. "They will no sooner get there than fire will pour out of heaven and burn them up", Peterson. "Fire is always the principle agent of divine wrath", Koester.


iii] Satan is cast into the lake of fire, v10. Satan ends up in the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet, along will all those with the mark of the beast, cf., v15. Separation from the divine, the very source of life itself, is the end for all those who ignore the gift of life eternal in Christ Jesus.

oJ planwn (planaw) pres. part. "who had deceived [them]" - [the devil] the one having deceived [them]. The participle may be taken as a substantive standing in apposition to "the devil", or adjectival, attributive, limiting "the devil"; "the devil who had deceived them."

tou puroV kai qeiou gen. "[the lake] of burning sulfur" - [the lake] of fire and sulfur, brimstone. Treated as a hendiadys (a single idea expressed by two substantives) by the NIV; "sulfurous fire", Barclay. Of course, the image is not to be taken literally, rather it is a symbol of judgment; so Smalley etc. This also applies to the idea of eternal torment, even though it's a popular idea with a long history. Judgment entails eternal alienation from the love of God; see "day and night" below.

o{pou "where [the beast and the false prophet had been thrown]" - where [and the beast and the false prophet]. Local adverb, "where", introducing an adverbial clause modifying the verb "was thrown"; "was thrown ...... where the beast and the false prophet are." We may have expected the preposition meta, "with", given that in time terms they all go in together (the Revelation provides multiple descriptions of the day of judgment); "was thrown into ...... with ....." Barclay treats the adverbial clause as if adjectival, attributive, limiting "sulfurous fire", "into which the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown."

kai "-" - and. Here adjunctive; "where also the beast and the false prophet are", Berkeley, "likewise are", Cassirer.

hmeraV kai nuktoV (x toV) gen. "[they will be tormented] day and night" - Genitive of time. The sense being "without interruption", "ceaselessly", Smalley. "If it is God's presence that brings vitality, peace, security, hope and indeed 'life' to the human spirit, then to be separated from that presence forever must be equivalent to a kind of eternal agony", Blount.

eiV touV aiwnaV twn aiwnwn "for ever and ever" - into the ages of the ages. Idiomatic expression; see 1:18.


Revelation Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]