This sermon is number 19 in a series of 20
The Book Of The Revelation - Part 19
"The Millennial Reign Of Christ"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2008 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let's turn to Revelation chapter 20 please, Revelation 20 verse 1: "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that 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, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell", or death and Hades, "delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire".
Now if you have your chart with you that we've been following throughout these weeks, you will see where we have come from - approximately 19 Monday nights ago, inclusive of this evening. We started off with a vision that John had, and then we looked at the messages to the seven churches. Then John has another heavenly vision of the Creator God, and then the Lamb who has alone the right, who is worthy to receive the book of human history from the Father and open it, and determine His will upon all of humanity. Then we looked at what we have called 'the tribulation period', seven years of judgements comprising of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls. We also looked at the seven key figures, the seven dooms on Babylon, and in our last study we looked in chapter 19 at the return of our Lord Jesus. That brings us now to chapter 20, the millennial kingdom - as you can see, we're almost at the end of the book, and the end of the apocalypse that John has been given.
Now the expression 'millennium' - you may not know this - is really a combination of two Latin words, 'mille' which means 1000, and 'annum' which of course means a year. It speaks of this 1000 year period that John has told us of in this chapter 20. Now, of course, if you've been a Christian any length of time you will know that there is a divergence of opinion regarding the millennium as John speaks of it here in Revelation 20. There, throughout church history, have really been three major views held concerning what is effectively the kingdom of God, the millennium.
Now, before we delve into an explanation of those, and even a critique of them, you might be sitting here thinking: 'Well, does all this really matter?'. Well, let me say categorically first of all: as it relates to salvation, it doesn't matter whatsoever what you believe concerning the millennium. You don't need to believe in a millennium, or not believe in a millennium, to be saved - but of course you do need to believe that the Lord is coming back again to be considered a Christian. Whilst it may not be a grounds of your salvation, if you name the name of Christ you have to really believe that, as He said He would come again, He will come again.
Does it really matter regarding spirituality, what you believe concerning the millennium? Well, of course, no it does not. I personally believe that perhaps the most blessed period of modern church history was a period when most Christians were post-millennial. Does it matter for fellowship among believers? Well, I believe from God's word that it is clear that it doesn't matter. We ought to be able to have fellowship with those who have a differing view regarding the millennium, the thousand years - because it is not a fundamental of Christian doctrine. The fundamental of Christian doctrine regarding the teaching on end times is that Jesus Christ is coming again. We must have fellowship on those grounds, whilst we may differ on the secondary issues regarding how and when He will come.
Now this is the only quote from Augustine tonight that I will agree with, but it was he who said: 'On essentials unity, nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity' - and it would be good to remember that tonight. I remember hearing the story of the long-lost cousin Joshua. Joshua had been away for a long time, but word had got home that he was going to return. His brother Johnny thought he was going to come by car, and Joe thought he was going to come by plane, and Jimmy said he was going to come by boat - and it wasn't long before they all got into a fight. In the midst of the brawl, the doorbell rang and Joshua had arrived. They had lost the joy of anticipating his return because they were all fighting about how he was going to get there. Let's not do that. Let's rejoice in the fact that, if we are Christians, New Testament believers, we believe that the Lord is coming again.
We must not allow - though we have gone into great detail in this series, and I'm sure several of you have disagreed on many things - we must not allow the issues surrounding Christ's return to divert our attention from the great personality involved. Remember: this is the revelation of Jesus Christ. As I quoted at the beginning of our series:
'If now with eyes defiled and dim,
We see the signs, but see not Him'
...we've missed the point. But, having said all that, if we conclude that it doesn't matter at all what we believe about the millennial reign of Christ - well, we've made a great error. It doesn't matter in relation to our salvation, it doesn't matter in relation to our spirituality, or Christian maturity, it shouldn't matter for fellowship - but there are two things I want you to consider where it does matter. First of all, I think it matters regarding church teaching. I pose the question: how can an individual assembly teach the truth of the second coming of Jesus Christ if they don't follow a certain line as regards the millennial reign of Christ? I think that's the reason why it's so seldom taught and preached from pulpits in our land: because no one wants to commit themselves to a particular view of eschatology and the study of end things.
But there's another second, and perhaps more important, reason why it does matter: because often the particular type of interpretation that you use related to prophecy affects how you interpret other portions within the Scriptures. We will see that as we go through our study tonight. So let's say categorically that this issue is not all-important, but it is important - and hopefully that will come to be obvious as we travel through.
Now let's look at the millennium first of all, as John gives it to us in verses 1 through to 9. Now clearly John tells us of this period of 1000 years that is to come upon the earth. Let's do a comparison of the views that have been prevalent in Christianity down through our history. The first I want you to consider is a-millennialism. Now the prefix 'a-' before 'millennialism' simply means 'no' millennium. It doesn't mean these people don't believe in a millennium as such, but rather they don't believe it will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth - so it means 'no thousand years'. This belief espouses that the future kingdom foretold in Daniel 2, Daniel 7 and other portions of the Old Testament in particular, is to be understood spiritually. It is spiritual in nature, and they believe it consists either of the church of Jesus Christ in this particular New Testament era, or Christ's present rule from heaven over the hearts of His believing people. So, as He is at the right hand of God now in heaven, He is having sway on the earth through the church and through individual believers.
There are other a-millennialists who believe that this thousand years is speaking of the eternal state, which we will deal with next week in chapters 21 and 22. So, along with what I've already said, a-millennialists also believe that when Christ returns to the earth there will be a general resurrection when all the dead will be raised, there will be a general judgement when everyone - saints and sinners alike - will be judged at the one time, and the end of this present earth will take place, and then there will be immediate beginning of a new future heaven and earth - the eternal state. Really a-millennialism, essentially, is a spiritualisation of prophetic Scripture.
The second most prevalent view throughout Christian history regarding the millennial reign is 'post-millennialism'. Now 'post' means 'after', of course, and so this belief is that the return of Christ will be after the thousand years. Now they do believe in a literal kingdom of God on earth, but they don't believe that this will be established in a supernatural intervention at the second advent of Jesus Christ, but rather it will come into being through human effort - such as man's expanding knowledge, and particularly the increasing influence of the church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God today on the earth. Therefore, in post-millennialism, it is the church that chiefly has the responsibility of bringing Christ's rule worldwide through the preaching of the gospel, that people would own Him as King and bow the knee. When everybody gets persuaded of that, or at least a great majority of humanity gets persuaded of that, the crowning occasion will come of the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and that golden age will be crowned with His return.
The third prevalent view - and this is what we espouse to here in the Iron Hall - is pre-millennialism, and 'pre-' of course, just as 'post' means 'after', 'pre-' means 'before'. This is the view that Christ will return to the earth before the thousand year reign, or the kingdom of God on the earth, and He will return to the earth with the purpose of establishing His kingdom on earth. It takes a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, and indeed of all the passages, Old and New Testament, that relate to this time period and event. It will last 1000 literal years on this literal earth - a literal, political kingdom with Christ ruling with a rod of iron worldwide as King, together with His saints. Therefore pre-millennialists see this church era that we're living in now as separate and distinct from a work that God is doing among His ancient covenant people Israel.
Now let's do an evaluation of these views very swiftly - and I haven't got time to go into it all. I have done this on occasions, but I think it's worthy of entering into tonight - I haven't done it as yet, except a little bit in introduction in our very first study. Let's look at history, as to how it evaluates these particular understandings of the millennium. Now many Christian and church historians have declared that pre-millennialism was the first view of the church, and it was indeed the predominant view among orthodox believers for the first three centuries. Now some would dispute this, but there are several well-respected scholars - one J.N.D. Kelly, whose writings you would study if you did A-Level Religious Studies, and even if you did Church History Studies at University. He is acknowledged internationally as an authority in patristic Christian thought, that's the early church fathers, and he is typical of the scholarly opinion when he says, I quote: 'The great theologians who followed the Apologists, lrenaeus, Tertullian and Hippolytus, were primarily concerned to defend the traditional eschatological scheme against Gnosticism'. This is what he goes on to say, and this is what you need to note: 'They are all exponents of millenarianism'. In other words, they all believed that Christ would come to reign for a thousand years on the earth - and you can find those words that he spoke, that is J.N.D. Kelly, in his book 'Early Christian Doctrines'.
So many historians, respected historians, have the view that pre-millennialism was not contradicted by a single orthodox church father until around the beginning of the third century. To name a few during the first century: Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp were pre-millennial. Incidentally, Polycarp was a disciple of John the apostle, who give us the Apocalypse. In the second century: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus were pre-millennial - and Irenaeus, incidentally, was under the tutelage of Polycarp, who was tutored by the apostle John - and Irenaeus warned against the allegorising, the spiritualising, of Old Testament kingdom prophecies and applying them to other things. Tertullian was another in the second century, and there are several others in the third century.
Pre-millennialism began to be rejected around the third century, particularly by the Greek church - and there's a number of reasons for that, but one of the main ones was the ascendancy of Alexandrian theology. Now that developed in the Greek church, and effectively took the view that physical things were evil. Therefore the idea of a physical kingdom of Christ became somewhat undesirable to them, and so they spiritualised the idea. Origen was one who developed an allegorical interpretation regarding prophecy, and this allegorical understanding of prophecy was brought to the west by Jerome and also prompted the great saint Augustine to develop thought into what we now know essentially as a-millennialism. In his book 'The City of God' - some of you may have seen it, you can still buy it in the bookshops today - he became the first to teach the idea that the organised catholic (meaning 'universal') church is the messianic kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament, the millennium that began with the first coming of Jesus Christ.
Now that view, that a-millennial view, remained dominant until about the 17th century, right throughout the middle dark ages. All of a sudden, during the industrial and intellectual revolution, when a better age came to be born upon the Western society, a more optimistic view developed which was 'post-millennialism'. It became the major view. People thought things were getting so much better, and the gospel is spreading right across the world with new missionary endeavour, pioneer modern missionary efforts, that it must be soon - the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the midst of the greatest revivals and awakenings, many great men of God espoused post-millennialism.
Where did it all end? Well, World War I and World War II, where things ceased to get better, but got drastically worse - and, generally speaking, post-millennialism was really let go and a-millennialism was adopted by many previous post-millennialists. Now whilst there was a revival of pre-millennialism around the 19th century, mainly due to the Brethren movement, a-millennialism has remained predominant in the church for a number of reasons - particularly because it is present in Protestant Covenant theology, it is present in Eastern Orthodox theology and Roman Catholic theology. What I want you to note is - and this is my opinion, you may disagree with it - a-millennialism and post-millennialism, rather than developing out of biblical understanding of prophetic Scripture, has chiefly evolved out of the influence of historical factors on the church of Jesus Christ.
We want to ask what the Scriptures teach clearly, and so that means that hermeneutic is important. Now, what is that big word? Well, it simply means your method of interpreting the Scriptures - that will relate to what interpretation you come to. Now many accuse pre-millennialism of wooden literalism, and I believe that's true on some occasions - but that's not what I'm speaking about, I'm speaking about a plain normal understanding of how we read the Scriptures: that is, literally, historically and grammatically. We take it to mean what it says, unless it's obvious it can't mean that. We take it in its historical setting, and we take it to say what it actually does write grammatically in the original language - and that ought to be our method of interpretation. Now some a-millennialists have admitted that if you follow this method of interpretation, you will come to a pre-millennial understanding of this portion of Scripture and all prophetic Scripture. Indeed, Floyd E. Hamilton, an a-millennialist himself, writes, and I quote: 'Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as premillennialists picture'.
So we believe that this is a consistent method of interpretation that we use with every other portion of Scripture from Genesis right to the end of the Bible, and we believe it is - with a few qualifications and caveats - the way, generally, we should understand prophetic Scripture. Now when we come to that conclusion and look at the Old Testament, we see that it teaches a literal earthly kingdom of Messiah. Daniel 2:44 reads: 'And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever'. Isaiah 11 verse 9 says that this is a kingdom that will be on the earth, not in heaven: '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'.
So the Old Testament teaches in many places that the Lord, the Messiah, shall reign King over all the earth. Take Zechariah 14, after it speaks of the Lord ascending the Mount of Olives at His second coming, we read in verse 9: 'And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one'. Verse 16 of Zechariah 14: 'And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles'. I think it is very clear, unless you spiritualise those verses of course - but where do we end the spiritualising of Scripture if that is our method of interpretation? It's dangerous, to say the least.
The Old Testament also teaches that peace will finally come to this planet during the millennial kingdom. Isaiah 2 verse 4 reads: 'They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more'. There will be other changes to this earth during the millennial reign of Christ if we understand these prophecies literally in the Old Testament. There will be an environmental transformation in creation. Isaiah 35 teaches that the deserts will blossom, there will be great productiveness in places that presently are barren. One of the most famous prophecies concerning the millennium is the fact that predatory instincts of animals will cease, and all creation will live in harmony. Isaiah 11 and verse 6 reads: 'The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them'.
There will also be physical conditions that will change for the better for human beings during the millennium. People will live much longer, and many physical infirmities that we have known so well throughout human history will be eradicated. You can read about that in Isaiah 29 and Isaiah 33. Another thing that is spoken of in the Old Testament is that Israel, as a land, shall finally and for the first time in her history receive a permanent return to her homeland, in the sense in which Abraham was promised by God what has been called 'his grant', that the Promised Land would be from the Mediterranean Sea right through to effectively the River Euphrates. This is, of course, to be read in Amos 9: 'And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God'. You see, there were unconditional covenants given to the patriarchs concerning Israel's right to the land. If you want to study it in more detail, look at Ezekiel 37 and Ezekiel 38 - and I studied these several years ago with you when we went through the great prophecy of Ezekiel - and the details of this screen just before you, of this slide of the various segments that will be given to each of the tribes during that period are given to us. Now that has never ever happened in the history of God's ancient people Israel, and it will happen during the millennium.
Something else the Old Testament teaches us: Messiah's government shall centre in Jerusalem, and there shall no longer be violence in the land. We are so familiar with violence in Palestine, aren't we? Isaiah 60 verse 18 reads: 'Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise'. There will also be a great transformation spiritually during the millennial kingdom. Daniel 9 and Daniel 12, along with Ezekiel 40-48, teach of a millennial temple. Now we studied this before, so I don't want to go into too much detail, but this is a temple that never ever existed in the history of Israel. It's completely different in many respects to temples that have gone before it. There are several differences about this temple - get the recording that I did dealing with it - but one of the great differences is that there is no veil before the Holy of Holies, because the veil has been rent in twain, and our Lord allows us admittance into the very presence of God. Some of the celebrations that the Jews had in the Old Testament will not be celebrated in the rites and ceremonies of this millennial temple.
Something else that is significant in our understanding of the millennial kingdom is that this is not just something that's found in the Old Testament, but the idea, the concept of the kingdom is carried unchanged into the New Testament. Matthew's gospel is a prime example of this, where it sets before us the King of the Jews and gives us the genealogy of the King, the Lord Jesus. In Luke chapter 1 it is pronounced to Mary concerning Jesus who would be born of her: 'He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob', that is, Israel, 'for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end'.
The Lord Himself supports the idea of an earthly kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6 verse 10: 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven'. Of course, you might remember that the disciples had an argument one day concerning who would be the greatest in the kingdom. The Lord Jesus, when answering them, promised that they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom, Luke 22:28-30. Now, of course, we do believe that there is a kingdom in men's hearts - but the Lord Jesus clearly speaks, and the New Testament and Old Testament together clearly set forth, a literal, future consummation of the kingdom that's already in our hearts that will be upon this earth; and it is chiefly taught here in Revelation chapter 20.
So let us look at it verse by verse. In verse 1 we read: 'And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand'. Now, before the millennial reign can take place, Satan must be restrained. We read of this great angel with the great chain, and in verses 2 and 3: 'He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan', four titles for the devil there, 'and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a short time'. Now there is a sense in which Satan has been bound by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. You remember the Lord Jesus taught about how the strong man had to be bound before his goods could be spoiled; and when our Lord came, in a sense He did that. When He died on the cross and through His glorious resurrection, in a sense Satan is now a defeated foe - but I think it's quite clear, not only from New Testament Scripture but from our own everyday experience, that Satan is on the loose. He is far from bound, as we read of it here in Revelation chapter 20. Indeed, Peter the apostle speaks of him as a roaring lion seeking to devour members of the church. Paul also believes Satan is on the loose, therefore in chapter 6 of Ephesians he tells us to wear the armour of God that we might stand against him. Then in Revelation, the apostle John already in chapter 2 and chapter 3 has addressed the seven churches, and to two of them he spoke of the danger of Satan and his devices and his deceptiveness.
Now in chapter 12 of Revelation we read historically of how Satan was cast out of heaven, now in chapter 20 of Revelation we are reading of how Satan will be cast out of earth. Toward the end of Christ's reign, verses 7 to 10, he will again be released for a brief rebellion - and we'll look at that in a moment or two. Look at verse 4 just now: 'And I saw thrones', John says: 'and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them'. Now we believe that this is the church of Jesus Christ in heaven. You remember that Paul taught the Corinthians that they would judge, and that the saints would judge even angels. John goes on to say: 'and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands', that is, the tribulation saints, during this seven-year period, who realised that Christ is the true Saviour and Messiah and were martyred for their faith. Here they are as well pictured by John, and it says that these two groups: 'lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years'. Verse 5: 'But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection'.
Let's spend a moment or two to get this clear, what is being said. The beginning of verse 5, where it says 'But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished', is essentially a parenthesis - that means you could put brackets round it. You could put a bracket before the word 'but', and a bracket after the word 'finished'. Therefore, when you do that, it causes you to understand that the second part of verse 5, where it says 'This is the first resurrection', refers back to what has been said in verse 4. Speaking of these saints sitting on the throne, and the tribulation saints who would all together live and reign with Christ 1000 years - this is the first resurrection. In verse 6 he goes on: 'Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power'
So the beginning of verse 5 is a parenthesis that tells us that the rest of the dead, the unbelieving wicked dead, were raised not until the thousand years were finished. We will see what happens to them as they stand before the great white throne after the thousand years. Now, that's all well and good, what does that matter? Well, it's teaching us that there is not one general resurrection of all men, whether just or unjust. This speaks of a first and second resurrection, now many a-millennialists and post-millennialists spiritualise the first resurrection to mean 'your salvation' - but I ask you: does that seem to be what it means here? Clearly not, it is a physical resurrection of some who had been martyred, physically, for their faith, for not taking a physical mark of the beast.
Well, the rest of the dead unbelievers were raised not until the end of the millennial period of the reign of Christ. Now, let me help you understand this, as far as we think we can understand it. When Revelation 20 speaks of a first resurrection, don't think that it's talking about one individual resurrection. You could perhaps paraphrase it 'a first type of resurrection', because this type of resurrection relates to the saints; the first resurrection relates to saints, the second resurrection relates to the second death, unbelievers.
Now you might be sceptical about that, but the Lord Jesus Christ was included in the first resurrection. First Corinthians 15 reads, verses 23 and 24: 'Every man in his own order', will be resurrected, 'Christ the firstfruits', He was the firstfruits of the first resurrection, 'afterward they that are Christ's', every man in his own order - first Christ, the firstfruits of the first resurrection, and then the saints. Paul says: 'Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power' - and that will happen just after the great white throne, when unbelievers will be judged. So Christ is part of the first resurrection, but 1 Thessalonians 4 speaks of the translation of the saints - what we have called the rapture - and that is part of the first resurrection, it's believers. Then in Revelation chapter 11 we read of the two witnesses who were slain, and their bodies lay in the street, and they were taken up to heaven, resurrected - that is another addition to the first resurrection. So really the first resurrection is a type of resurrection that refers to believers.
The second resurrection refers to the second death: unbelievers who will be cast into the lake of fire - that's clear from verse 14. Look at it: 'And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death'. Now verse 6 says that those who are in the first resurrection are blessed - there's one of the beatitudes of Revelation. Why are they blessed? Because they are not included in the second death, which comes after the second resurrection.
Now let's move on. Verses 7 to 9 tell us that 'when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them'. Now Gog and Magog appear in prophetic Scripture in Ezekiel 38 and 39, but many scholars feel that this is different from that similar event, and there are reasons for that. We can't be dogmatic on it of course, but in Ezekiel the event that involves Gog and Magog appears to happen before the millennial reign of Christ, whereas this is obviously after it. Also, the armies of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel are travelling from the North - but here in Revelation they're coming from the four corners of the earth. Now one thing is similar, and that is that they're all marching toward the one place, and that is Jerusalem - the beloved city.
But forgetting some of those little details, please notice that this is the reason why Satan was not cast into the lake of fire along with the beast and the false prophet, the antichrist. Now maybe you wondered why that was, a little while ago, why he wasn't cast in with those two. The reason is simply that God has a final task for Satan to fulfil - what is that? Well, He wants to prove once and for all - as if it was needed - categorically that the heart of man is desperately wicked and can only be changed by God's grace. 'Where do you get that from?', you say. Well, just imagine for a moment 1000 years of the righteous reign of the rod of iron of the pure Son of God. Imagine the tragedy of a revolt at the end of that period, when Satan is loosed and people who have been living for 1000 years in a near-perfect environment under the perfect government of God's Son, finally rebel against their King.
Now you might say: 'How is that possible?'. Well, you've got to understand that this millennial kingdom, we believe, is not only inhabited by glorified saints - whether members of the church, or tribulation saints resurrected - but it will be inhabited by citizens of the nations who bowed in submission to Christ, and survived the tribulation period and went into the millennium; some of whom, we believe from Matthew 25 and the Lord's teaching on the judgement between the sheep and goats, are the nations who favoured God's people, the Jews, and were merciful to them - 'Christ's brethren', as they are called there. Now in earth's ideal conditions during the millennial reign, we are led to believe - as we have said already - that people will live a lot longer in those more ideal conditions than they presently do. Indeed, Isaiah 65 verse 10 says a child will die at a hundred years of age. During that period these human beings will marry, they will bear children in all likelihood - and although the curse, generally speaking, has been rolled back in its effects, not all of the results of the fall will be completely removed. Some of those who have been born during this period will be unregenerate.
Now you imagine this: when Satan is loosed again, the depravity in those human unregenerate hearts will rise to the surface. Now it will not last, for as verse 9 at the end says: 'fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them'. Warren Wiersbe puts it like this, and I think he's right: 'There is a sense in which the millennial kingdom will sum up all that God has said about the heart of the man during the various periods of history. It will be', the millennial kingdom, 'a reign of law, a reign of a rod of iron; and yet law will not change man's sinful heart. Man will still revolt against God'. Boy, is there a lesson there! Even a perfect environment cannot produce a perfect heart. A man must be born again.
Now, we must move quickly - in verses 10 through to 15 we're brought to the judgement of Satan and all unbelievers. Let me just sum up before we move on to that - I hope you understand all of this - Christ's second coming, some believe through mathematics, looking at portions of Daniel, looking at the days that are prophesied, that there'll be a 75 or thereabouts day interval in which many things will happen after the tribulation, and the millennial temple may well come and so on. Christ will be on His Davidic throne on the earth, the beginning of the millennium, the removal of the curse, the millennial temple offerings and sacrifices - which, incidentally, will be only memorial; just as we with broken bread and poured out wine remember our Lord, these sacrifices will be pointing back to the original reason why they were ever given, which the Jews still have not entered into: Jesus Christ. Then at the end, Satan will be loosed - and that will be effectively, when those rebels are put down, the end of the millennial kingdom - and then the judgement of Satan and the unbelievers.
Look at verse 10: 'The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever'. Now please note this: the beast and the false prophet are still in hell 1000 years after they were cast in. Do you know what that does? It rubbishes the doctrine of annihilation, that once you die your soul is just wiped out, you cease to exist. Here they are, and if further proof was needed it is found in this statement: 'they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever'.
Verse 11: 'And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it'. This is a great throne because of the issues that are involved. It is white because it is a pure, a just, a righteous, a holy throne - and the judgements that are passed down from it are just and perfect. Who is the Judge that is seated on the throne? Well, it is none other than our Lord Jesus Himself. In John 5:22 and 27 He said: 'For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man'. So these lost sinners who reject Christ on earth in life, must be judged by Christ in death.
Then we read in verse 12 that the unbelievers of all ages: 'the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works'. Now let me cast your eye back to verse 5, the beginning, that parenthesis: 'the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished'. This is them living again, even the sea gives up the dead that are in it. Two sets of books are opened, verse 12 tells us: the book of life, in which it would appear the redeemed's names are written. No one appears at the judgement, this judgement, the great white throne, whose name is in the book of life. The other book seems to contain a detailed record of the works of these unsaved, unregenerate people. Now the fact that their names are missing from the book of life condemns them, but it is this book of works - that depicts all that they have done in their life that has been unrighteous - that determines not whether or not they will be condemned, everyone before this great white throne is condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the Son of God! The book of works will show them that they are worthy of judgement, but also the degree of the judgement that they are worthy of.
Do you know that just as there are degrees of reward during the millennium and in heaven, there are degrees of punishment in hell? Our Lord, in Matthew 11, spoke of certain cities in which many of His mighty works were done, and He said it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah at the judgement than for them. The Lord is a just Judge. Verse 13 tells us: 'The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades', Hades was the realm of the dead, Luke 16 tells us about that. Really what is spoken of here, 'death and hell': 'death' is effectively the grave, the place where the body is laid; and 'Hades' speaks of the place where the soul resides, the unconverted soul. What it is saying here is that the grave will give up the body, and Hades will give up the soul, and both body and soul will be reunited to stand before this great white throne and the Judge.
Let me tell you: this is like nothing that our modern court system has ever seen, because here we have a Judge with no jury, a prosecution but no defence, a sentence with no appeal. No one is able to defend themselves, or accuse the righteous just God of unrighteousness or injustice. Verse 14, look at it: 'And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death'. When we read that death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire, it means complete persons: body, soul and spirit will be cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Friends, this message is clear: hell is real! It is a witness to the righteousness of God's character: He must judge sin. It is a witness to the responsibility of mankind, that we have been created in the image of God. He has put an understanding of His desires in our hearts, we have been created moral creatures with consciences - whilst we can abuse them and misuse them. We are not robots, we are answerable to Him for the choices that we make! It is also a witness to the awfulness of sin. All of us, believers or unbelievers, would do well to take note of this: that before God can usher in the new heavens and the new earth, all sin must be eradicated. It's that serious.
In verse 15: 'And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'. Why does God send people to hell? Have you heard that question asked? Essentially God doesn't send people to hell, they send themselves to hell by rejecting Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men. The Lord Jesus Himself said in Matthew 25 and verse 41 that hell was created for the devil and his angels. The Lord Jesus said: 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation', this is why people are judged, this is why they are sent to hell, 'that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God'.
The wonderful message of the gospel is that, though sin has separated man from God in time and potentially in eternity, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through His blessed cross all of us who trust in Him can escape judgement, can escape hell, if we know Him as our own and personal Saviour. My friend: if you do that, if you have done that, you will never be part of the second resurrection, you will never be a partaker of the second death or the lake of fire!
But there is an application for believers tonight, is there not? For if we believe what we have just received - you may not believe it in all the detail that I have delivered tonight - but if you believe there is an eternity, and you believe there is a great white throne, and you believe there is a judgement coming, and you believe that there is a place called the lake of fire, should you not be like Wesley, Charles - we sang his words yesterday morning:
'I want an even strong desire,
I want a calmly fervent zeal,
To save poor souls out of the fire,
To snatch them from the verge of hell,
And turn them to a pardoning God,
And quench the brands in Jesus' blood.
We ought to be fired by the truth of prophecy to win the lost, and to cry:
''Tis all my business here below,
To cry, 'Behold the Lamb!'.
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His name!
Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
'Behold! Behold the Lamb''
Christ has the answer, Christ is the answer, and we've got Him - but what a responsibility there is upon us to take Him, to save poor souls out of the fire, to snatch them from the verge of hell and turn them to a pardoning God, and quench the brands in Jesus' blood.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the nineteenth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Millennial Reign Of Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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