Revelation Chapters 20 through 22, Part 1 of 6 Parts
by Karl Kemp
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"Scripture Quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
This material was originally published as part of my paper dated November 1998, "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Six Important Eschatological Chapters of the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 24, 25; and Revelation 20-22: This Paper Deals Extensively with the Topic of God's Ultimate Salvation Plans for the Nations." That paper was produced using a word processor that did not permit me to use italics, footnotes, different fonts or font sizes, etc. As I scan these chapters into a Word 2002 format to upload to the internet site I am incorporating some minor changes. In September, 2012 I am modifying this paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 to split it into six articles to put on several Christian article sites. I am incorporating some minor changes and adding to the content of this paper at this time.
Every verse of the book of Revelation, which is an extremely important book, is discussed in papers on my internet site, except for Rev. 11:1-14:5, which are discussed in a thorough verse-by-verse manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." For a condensed version, see my paper titled "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" that is available on my internet site. (At the beginning of that paper is a listing of the Bible passages discussed in those articles.) Those twenty-four articles are available individually on this Christian article site: "The Mid-Week Rapture, Part 1," and so on. Those twenty-four articles serve as a good introduction for my book and for the mid-week rapture viewpoint, that Christ will return and the rapture will take place right in the middle of the seven-year period that is sometimes called Daniel's 70th week.
Verse-by-verse discussions of Revelation chapters 1-10 and 14:6-19:21 are available on this Christian article site. (If you click on my name beside any of my articles it will take you to a listing of all my articles on this site.) This present paper covers all of Revelation chapters 20-22. Within a few weeks verse-by-verse discussions of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 and Isaiah chapters 24-27 (Isaiah's Little Apocalypse) will be available on this site too. My paper on Matthew chapters 24 and 25 and my paper on selected eschatological prophecies from the book of Isaiah that includes Isaiah chapters 24-27 are on my website (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).
I always use the New American Standard Bible, 1977 edition, in this paper unless I mention otherwise. Sometimes I use double brackets [[ ]] and (( )) to make them more obvious.
REVELATION CHAPTER 20.
"And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. (2) And he laid hold of the dragon [Satan is called the dragon quite a few times in Rev. 12:3-13:11; and in Rev. 16:13; cf. Isa. 27:1.], the serpent of old [see Gen. 3:1-15], who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years [[The thousand years of the millennium (the word millennium comes from Latin and means a thousand years) are also mentioned in 20:3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Many verses of the Bible speak of this kingdom, but these verses are the only ones that specifically mention the duration of a thousand years. There is much use of symbolic numbers in the book of Revelation, and this could be a symbolic use too, but it probably will last a thousand years.
There is an ancient, widespread view that as God created the world in six days, and then rested on the seventh day (cf. Gen. 2:2, 3; Ex. 20:8-11), and in that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), so after six thousand years we will have a thousand year period of rest. The Bible's chronology shows that there were about four thousand years from Adam to Christ, which means that, based on this view, it is time for the millennial kingdom.]], (3) and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer [[See Isa. 24:21, 22. Isaiah chapters 24-27, which is sometimes called "Isaiah's Little Apocalypse," is discussed verse-by-verse in the paper on my internet site that deals with selected eschatological passages from the book of Isaiah. That paper and the companion papers for the books of Psalms and Jeremiah deal quite a bit with God's end-time salvation plans for the nations. I understand the nations to be distinct from God's true Israel, which includes all of the believers from Old Testament days and all true Christians, including those who will become Christians after the mid-week rapture, which will center in the end-time remnant of the nation Israel ("all Israel will be saved" [Rom. 11:26]). God will keep the covenant promises He made to Israel.
I believe we can safely assume that Satan's evil angels and demons will be restrained with him throughout the millennium. Deception is a primary work of Satan and his kingdom (cf. Rev. 12:9; 13:14; and 20:8, 10); this work started, as far as mankind is concerned, with Eve (cf. Gen. 3:1-6, 13; 2 Cor. 11:3; and 1 Tim. 2:14). In his work of deceiving, Satan uses Babylon the great harlot (which, when understood in the fullest sense, includes all false religion and all the things people live for in place of God) and every other lie designed to keep people from God and His (the) truth (cf., e.g., John 8:44); and in the last days he also uses Antichrist and the false prophet. All sin is deceitful; it promises good fruit, but it always ultimately yields bad fruit, including evil, chaos, destruction, and death (cf. Gen. 3:1-24; Rom. 6:21-23 [As the margin of the NASB shows, the Greek noun translated "benefit" literally means "fruit"; I would translate it that way.]; Gal. 6:7, 8; and Heb. 3:13).
It is quite significant, but quite unexpected (based on most of the teaching of the New Testament), that "the nations" still exist on the earth after God's end-time judgment, which ends, in one significant sense, at the end of Daniel's 70th week. See the excerpt from George Ladd in the last paragraph of this double bracket. See the section titled "A Brief Discussion on what the Rest of the New Testament (Apart from the Book of Revelation) Has To Say Regarding the Millennial Kingdom and God's Ultimate Salvation Plans for (the Elect of) the Nations" at the end of the discussion of Rev. 20:1-6 in this paper. However, based on a large number of Old Testament prophecies, the salvation of the remnant of the nations after God's end-time judgment of the world is to be expected. For many examples of such prophecies, see sections 1 and 2 in my paper titled "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" on my internet site. (That paper was the Appendix in my original 1998 paper that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article.) Also see my papers on selected passages from the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Psalms on my internet site. Extensive excerpts from my paper on the book of Jeremiah are included on this Christian article site.
In most of those prophecies in the Old Testament that deal with God's salvation of the nations after His end-time judgment of the world, and here in Rev. 20:3, the nations are distinguished from God's true Israel. For one thing, true Israel reigns. Also, I believe the book of Revelation shows that all the members of true Israel will have been glorified by the time the millennial kingdom begins, unlike the nations. Apparently none of the people of the nations who enter the millennial kingdom will be glorified until after the millennium. And even in the eternal state, which follows the millennium, it seems that there will be a significant difference between the level of glory of true Israel and the elect of the nations, including the fact that true Israel will be reigning, even reigning over the nations. Revelation 22:5 shows that true Israel, God's bond-servants, will reign with God and His Son forever.
We'll discuss true Israel under Rev. 20:4, but here I'll say a little more about the nations. God, who knows the hearts of all people and who doesn't make mistakes, is the One who determines what people will be left of the nations to enter the millennial kingdom. One thing that is clear is that none of these people will have worshiped Antichrist or taken his mark (Rev. 14:9-11). Some teach that the purpose of the sheep and goat judgment of Matt. 25:31-46 is to determine who will be left to enter the millennial kingdom and that the sheep constitute the remnant of the nations who will enter the millennial kingdom.
I'll quote a paragraph under Matt. 25:31-46 from my paper on Matthew chapters 24 and 25 (that is available on my internet site and will be available on this Christian article site within a few weeks). "It is important to see that this account (Matt. 25:31-46) isn't at all limited to a judgment of the nations to determine who will be permitted to enter the millennial kingdom, as some teach. The eternal destinies of those from the nations throughout this [what has turned out to be] lengthy Christian age are in view here. The eternal nature of this judgment is demonstrated by Matt. 25:41, 46." I'll comment further on Matt. 25:31-46, which is a very important prophetic passage, when we discuss the great-white-throne judgment under Rev. 20:11-15.
The peoples of the nations will still be in their natural bodies, and apparently they will still be having children throughout the millennium. It doesn't seem that these people will be converted before the end of Daniel's 70th week, but they will have been greatly humbled and enlightened through God's end-time judgments (cf., e.g., Rev. 15:3, 4) and the other things He does, including leaving them as a remnant at the end of the seven years. These people wouldn't be classified as those who had rejected the gospel, after being adequately confronted with it, and, as I mentioned, they aren't people who had taken the mark of the beast (cf. Rev. 14:9-11). Many/most of these people probably come from nations removed from the center of Antichrist's kingdom and activities.
Those who don't rebel, including their offspring, will ultimately enter God's glorified eternal state, pictured in Rev. 21:1-22:5. Significantly, these verses (21:1-22:5) also seem to clearly distinguish between the nations and true Israel. And, significantly, Rev. 21:27 informs us that the names of all those who have a place in God's eternal kingdom, very much including the elect of the nations, are recorded in the Lamb's book of life. This confirms that all who are saved are saved by the grace of God, through the atoning sacrifice of the "Lamb" of God, Christ Jesus.
When do the peoples of the nations become Christians? Or, do they become Christians? I don't claim to have all the answers regarding God's salvation plans for the nations (and it's not of crucial significance for us to understand such things at the present time; God will take care of the details at the proper time), but I don't picture the nations ever becoming Christians in the sense we do during this present age. When we become Christians, we become part of God's true Israel, the woman of Revelation chapter 12. Apparently none of those saved as part of the nations will ever become part of true Israel. I don't have a need to insist on this point. Isaiah 66:21 would fit the idea that some of them will become part of true Israel.
Some teach that all the saved of the nations will become Christians in the same sense we have become Christians, but the Scriptures, very much including the book of Revelation, seem to picture the nations being distinct from true Israel, even in the eternal state of Revelation chapters 21, 22. Anyway, it's clear that the nations (at least many/most of the people from the nations) who enter the millennial kingdom will be converted and submit in faith to God. (Any who aren't converted or who are converted but then later rebel against God will be removed by judgment. We know that there will be a major rebellion against God at the end of the millennium.) And, as I mentioned, it is clear that they will be saved through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus (e.g., Rev. 21:27).
Also, it seems clear that this conversion will take place (at least for the most part) shortly after God's end-time judgments are completed (see Rev. 15:3, 4), in the early days of the establishing of the millennial kingdom. For more on the nations, and their salvation, see under Rev. 20:5, 6; and 20:11-22:3 (in this paper); see on Dan. 7:12 (pages 74, 75 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"); on Dan. 7:26, 27 (page 86); on Zech. 9:10 (page 196); on Zech. 14:16-21 (pages 233-236); on Rev. 13:7b, 8 (pages 332-334); on Rev. 15:4 (pages 244-246); see Note 3 (especially the last paragraph) on pages 338-341; and see the entire paper titled "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" on my internet site.
I'll quote part of a paragraph from what George Ladd said under Rev. 20:3 ("A Commentary on the Revelation of John" [Eerdmans, 1972], pages 262, 263). "The mention of nations raises a difficult question. One would suppose from the preceding chapters of the Revelation that the entirety of mankind had been involved in the struggle between Christ and the Antichrist. ... [see Rev. 16:14, which is one of the verses Ladd cited in this paragraph] One might suppose that this satanic deception embraces all the nations of the earth, including both the kings and their subjects. Now, however, it seems clear that the 'kings of the earth' represent a select number who have supported Antichrist. There apparently remain nations outside the scope of this struggle who are now delivered from satanic deception." I should mention that those who understand what is happening throughout the three and one-half year super-evil reign of Antichrist will understand that things won't be as they seem: Although Antichrist (in accordance with God's plan) will seem to be invincible, the Lord Jesus Christ will be in total control of the situation and will be using Antichrist and his followers before he judges and totally removes them.]], until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. [Revelation 20:7-10 explain the release of Satan for a short time.] (4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus [The martyrs had testified of Jesus: that He is their Savior, their Lord, the Son of God, the One who will soon judge Antichrist, etc.] and because of the word of God [They were faithful to God and His word when they lived on the earth during the second half of Daniel's 70th week.], and those [I would skip the word "those," which isn't required by the Greek and gives the wrong meaning when it is included. The words that follow apply to "the souls of those who had been beheaded." The translations of the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV all agree with my viewpoint.] who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life [Coming to life here and in 20:5 speaks of the resurrection of the body of those who had died physically.] and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [[A more literal translation of the Greek will help us here, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them, and the souls of those who had been beheaded...." The verb "I saw" is only used once in the Greek. Note that the NASB has the second "saw" in italics.
For one thing, John sees thrones with people seated on them, who are reigning/judging. (These thrones undoubtedly refer to the thrones of Dan. 7:9. On the saints [true Israel] beginning to reign, cf., e.g., Dan. 7:18, 22, 27. Daniel 7:9-28 are discussed in some detail on pages 67-88 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture.") Those who John sees on the thrones are those members of true Israel who were glorified and caught up to God's throne and began to reign with Him in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf., e.g., Rev. 2:26, 27; 3:21; 12:5; and 17:14). There was no need to mention their resurrection here since it was already mentioned in Rev. 12:5; cf. Rev. 7:9-17; 11:11. They have already been reigning with Christ for three and one-half years by the time we get to the time setting of Rev. 20:4, at the end of Daniel's 70th week and the beginning of the millennium. In Rev. 17:14 the glorified saints are with Christ when Antichrist and the ten horns wage war against Him throughout that super-evil three and one-half year reign (e.g., Rev. 17:12-14).
Where are the thrones located? The general idea is clear enough, but it's hard to answer this question with precision. These thrones are (at least in some ways) in the heavenly, glorified dimension, but the glorified saints on the thrones are definitely involved with reigning (which includes judging) on the earth throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week, and then throughout the millennium. See, e.g., Rev. 20:9. (Our situation throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week can be compared to some extent with the situation of God's angels now: they are located in the heavenly, glorified dimension, but they are very actively involved with things taking place on the earth.) I should mention that we won't necessarily literally have thrones; this could be, and probably just is, a symbolic way to speak of reigning. So too with our wearing crowns.
Along with seeing the thrones and those seated on them, John also sees the souls of those members of true Israel who have been martyred for Christ during the second half of Daniel's 70th week, during the super-evil reign of Antichrist. In that John sees "souls," they haven't been resurrected yet, nor have they begun to reign with Christ; but now it's time for them to be resurrected, glorified, and to begin to reign. They will join the members of true Israel who have already been reigning for three and one-half years. See under "thrones were set up" of Dan. 7:9 on pages 72, 73 of "The Mid-Week Rapture," including the section titled, "A More Detailed Look at Those Who Will Reign with the Lord Jesus Christ and the Time They Will Begin to Reign."
In that section, commenting on those members of true Israel who will become Christians (and thereby part of true Israel) after the rapture and who will still be alive on the earth at the end of Daniel's 70th week (in other words they won't be killed, or just die, during that three and one-half year period), I said, "I assume that these believers will be transformed into the glory of the age to come at the end of Daniel's 70th week and will also reign throughout the millennium. (See under Isa. 66:8, cf. Rev. 15:2-4)." Isaiah 66:8 and Rev. 15:2-4 both rather strongly confirm that all the members of true Israel will be glorified by the beginning of the millennium. Isaiah 66:1-8 are discussed on pages 239-247 of "The Mid-Week Rapture." Revelation 15:2-4 are discussed there on pages 244-246. There are many other verses that support this viewpoint (cf., e.g., Isa. 60:1-3, 19-21; and Rev. 19:7-9). Revelation 15:2-4 and Rev. 19:7-9 are discussed in my paper on Rev. 14:6-19:21 on this Christian article site.]] (5) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power [The second death is explained by Rev. 20:14, 15; it is the lake of fire/hell.], but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. [[The "first resurrection" is contrasted with the resurrection at the end of the millennium, which is spoken of in Rev. 20:12, 13. Many verses show that true Israel will be resurrected before "the rest of the dead" (Rev. 20:5). See, e.g., Matt. 24:30, 31; Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; and Rev. 7:9-17; 11:11, 12; 12:5; 17:14; and 19:14. The "first resurrection" is the resurrection of true Israel; it embraces all the members of true Israel, including those who are resurrected in the middle of Daniel's 70th week and those who are resurrected at the end of this seven-year period. The members of God's true Israel who will be alive when Christ returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week and at the end of Daniel's 70th week won't ever die, so they won't need to be resurrected, but they will be transformed/glorified.
Taken in the fullest sense, the first resurrection includes the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20, 23) and those select saints (also part of true Israel) who were resurrected shortly after He was (Matt. 27:52, 53). It is very clear that the first resurrection is not limited to the martyrs mentioned in Rev. 20:4. It is also very clear, based on many verses, that all true Israel will reign throughout the millennial kingdom (and forever), not just the martyrs of the last three and one-half years. As I have mentioned, we can apparently say that all the members of true Israel will have been glorified by the time the millennial kingdom begins, and we can apparently also say that none of the elect of the nations will be resurrected to enter the eternal state of glory until after the millennium.
On being "priests of God," cf., e.g., Rev. 1:6; 5:10. I assume this priesthood will continue, at least in some ways, into the eternal state of Revelation chapters 21, 22, but the need for this priesthood will be substantially diminished after the elect of the nations have been glorified. (See under Rev. 22:3-5.) Revelation 22:5 makes it clear that the reign of God's "bond-servants" (Rev. 22:3) will continue forever. God's bond-servants is the equivalent of His true Israel.
A BRIEF DISCUSSION ON WHAT THE REST OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (APART FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION) HAS TO SAY REGARDING THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM AND GOD'S ULTIMATE SALVATION PLANS FOR (THE ELECT OF) THE NATIONS. This discussion is not germane to the heart of the message of the New Testament. At the same time, the topic is important and interesting, and Revelation chapters 20-22 deal quite a bit with this topic.
This discussion is somewhat brief; I'm not attempting to say everything that could be said on this important topic here. To prepare to write this present section, I read through the New Testament in rather quick fashion, apart from the book of Revelation, looking for relevant verses.
I agree with those who say there aren't any verses (apart from the Old Testament and the book of Revelation) that clearly speak of the millennial kingdom, where, for one thing, a multitude from the nations, who will be converted to God after His end-time judgment of the world, will have a place. Verses like Luke 13:29 (cf. Matt. 8:11); Acts 1:6; 3:19-21; Rom. 8:18-25; and 1 Cor. 15:20-28 fit the idea of a millennial kingdom, but none of them clearly speak of this kingdom. The most relevant passage listed here is 1 Cor. 15:20-28, where the apostle Paul speaks of a gap between the time Christ returns and the saints are resurrected, and the time Christ has abolished all enemies, the last enemy being death (cf. Rev. 20:11-15). (See under 1 Cor. 15:20-28 in my paper on 1 Corinthians chapter 15.) However, in the light of other things Paul said in his epistles (see below), I don't believe he thought in terms of the nations being saved after Christ has returned to judge the world. Some other verses to consider regarding God's ultimate salvation of the elect of the nations are Matt. 11:20-24; 12:41, 42; Luke 10:12-15; and 11:31, 32.
Some New Testament verses that (seem to) teach - verses that leave the strong impression - that all the people who will escape destruction when Christ returns will have been converted/saved before His return: Matt. 24:37-41; Mark 16:15, 16 (These verses in Mark 16, and many similar verses, don't really speak clearly regarding those who haven't heard, and therefore haven't rejected, the gospel); Luke 3:7-17; 17:26-37; 21:34-37; Rom. 1:16-6:23; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1-3, 12; 4:17-19; 5:5-7; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13; 5:2, 3, 9; 2 Thess. 1:6-9; 2:10-12; James 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:17; 4:17, 18; 1 John 2:15-17; 3:8-14; and 5:19.
Some New Testament verses that quote Old Testament prophecies that deal for the most part with (or, in a few cases, at least include) God's ultimate salvation of the (remnant of) the nations after His end-time judgment and use those prophecies with reference to Gentiles who are converted to Christ before He returns to judge the world. I'm not suggesting that it was inappropriate for New Testament writers to use these Old Testament prophecies as they used them in these verses. ((Quotations were used in a variety of ways in the ancient world, many of them quite imprecise, including in the Greek New Testament; for one thing, they didn't use quotation marks; and sometimes they were merely alluding (referring in a casual or indirect way) to a passage. I'll quote part of what A. Berkeley Mickelsen said under the heading "Interpretation of the Old Testament Quotations and Allusions" ("Interpreting the Bible" [Eerdmans, 1963], page 255). "... Some quotations are from the Hebrew text; many more are from the Septuagint [the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek]; others differ from both either because the writer was using some other written text (such as a targum [in Aramaic] or another Greek version), or oral tradition, or was quoting from memory and was not trying to be exact, or was altering the original statement to make it adapt more easily to his particular train of thought.")) There would be a problem, however, if we were to think that the New Testament writers were always indicating the inspired primary meaning of the passages they "quoted" or alluded to. In all the passages cited in the following paragraph, except the first one, the apostle Paul is the writer/speaker; in the first passage James is the speaker.
The verses are Acts 15:16-18 (from Amos 9:11, 12); Rom. 15:10-12 (from Deut. 32:43; Psalm 117:1 [The nations won't praise God as nations until after His end-time judgment.]; and Isa. 11:10; note that the Old Testament verses all use the word "nations," but the verses in Romans [NASB] use "Gentiles"; the Hebrew and Greek words can be translated either way); 1 Cor. 15:54 (from Isa. 25:8; this important verse from Isaiah is discussed in section 1 of my paper titled "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" and in my paper on selected eschatological passages from Isaiah); Gal. 3:8 (with Gen. 12:3); cf. Acts 13:47 (with Isa. 42:6; 49:6). In Rom. 11:25-27 the apostle Paul seems to teach that all the Gentiles who will be saved through Christ will be saved before the remnant of the nation Israel is saved in the last days, which includes (from his point of view) the idea that they will all be saved before Christ returns.
Some concluding, summarizing remarks. Why would God permit the writers of the New Testament (apart from the book of Revelation and Matt. 25:31-46) to omit almost any mention of His ultimate salvation of the elect of the nations after His end-time judgment of the world, which was clearly taught in the Old Testament? Based on what I said above in this section, it seems rather clear that these New Testament writers didn't know of God's plan to ultimately save (the elect of) the nations after His end-time judgment of the world. (If some did know it, they didn't share it, at least not in a clear way.) It is interesting, however, that the dominant viewpoint in the Christian writings (after the New Testament) for the first few centuries was premillennial; the majority believed in a literal millennial kingdom. This viewpoint undoubtedly derived from the book of Revelation (especially chapter 20), from the work of the Holy Spirit, and from what was passed down from the first century church, especially from the apostles.
We will continue this discussion under "Some concluding, summarizing remarks" in Part 2 of this paper.
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