The Reigning of Christ (Revelation 20:1-6)

            Two years ago, I re-watched all the Lord of the Rings movies over the Christmas break. They were originally released around Christmas and my family and I would also go Christmas night to watch the movies together. I love the themes of redemption, hope and friendship that permeate Tolkien’s books. Many would say that “The Lord of the Rings” is a Christian or Catholic Allegory. There is the cross-bearer or ring bearer Frodo Baggins who must take the ring to Mount Doom. The loyal disciple Samwise Gamgee who must walk alongside Frodo on the journey. There is Aragorn, the true king who has the power to release the dead from their curse. There is Gandalf who in his death, resurrection and Transfiguration pictures a Christ figure. Christian fans of the book series could offer a myriad of examples of how it is connected to Christianity. For example, the elvish word for waybread, lembas, means life-bread or bread of life, connecting it to the Eucharist. The Ring is destroyed on March 25th, the day of the announcement of the incarnation of Jesus and his crucifixion according to the Catholic Doctrine[1].

            As I was finishing watching the last few minutes of the 9 hours of cinematic excellence, my dear wife sat down next to me and started to ask me questions about the move. “Who is that guy?” “Why are they getting on the boat?” Why does the ring need to be destroyed?” After about ten minutes of graciously attempting to answer her questions, Ellen said, “I am really annoying you with all these questions, aren’t I?” I graciously replied, “Yes, please be quiet.” I am not a super-fan of the series, but the more I learn about the Lord of the Rings, the more intrigued I become. It is fascinating literature that became fascinating movies. What was Tolkien’s goal in writing the series? Was it to offer a Christian allegory? Or did he merely wanted to invite his readers into another world of heroism as friends battle evil forces? If it is a Christian allegory, who is the Christ figure?

            We may not be able to ask those questions to J.R.R. Tolkien now, but there is fascinating interview where he is asked specific questions on the portrayal of power, God and evil in his books.  That brief interview reveals the authoritative meaning from the author himself on the book. I searched and searched but did not find any secret interview with the Apostle John explaining the exact meaning of millennium. And even though we may not have the ability to have a Q&A with John doesn’t mean we are left in the dark. God has given us 66 books inspired by the Holy Spirit. Throughout the ages, theologians have rested on the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, which means that the Bible is a plain book and can be understood. Peter would say that we have been given everything we need for life and godliness.

            Today, many of you may feel like my wife watching the end of the Lord of the Rings. She came in right at the end and was full of questions and didn’t really understand what was happening. Some of you may be like the Lord of the Rings super-fans and have thought and studied deeply on the millennium and biblical prophecy. I do not plan on answering every one of your questions on the millennium, or to give you a lecture on the various interpretation, my hope is to help you love the Lord Jesus more and to be more fully convinced of his plan and to desire as Titus 2 says, “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:12-14)

            There are three main views of the Millennium. Premillennial meaning Christ will return before a thousand-year reign on the earth; Postmillennial meaning Christ will return after a thousand years of a golden age with the saints reigning on the earth; and Amillennial meaning Christ is reigning now and we are in the millennium now which is the church age and Christ will come back after the age of the church. All three of these views are orthodox meaning they are acceptable views in line with biblical revelation and church history. Personally, I believe that the premillennial and the Amillennial views are the most compelling. This past week alone, I have bounced back and forth between them, but so for what it’s worth, this morning I am going to propose that Revelation 20 is most consistent with the Amillennial position.

            Although I believe eschatology to be important, I do not believe it to be a matter where we should break fellowship. As I said, I wrestled deeply with the text over the last several weeks and have bounced back and forth in thinking about these things. If any of you find an interview with the Apostle John on his exact meaning on these things, I would greatly appreciate you sending it on to me. With that introduction, lets dive into this text.

The Restricting of Satan

            There are key aspects of Revelation that every position must explain. The first aspect is the restricting or binding of Satan. Revelation 20:1-3,

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. [2]

Johns sees an angel coming down from heaven holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit. This picture is very similar to Revelation 9:1 when John sees the star or angel fall from heaven after the fifth trumpet is blown. The key to the abyss probably is the same key Jesus holds in Revelation 1:18, “the key of Death and Hades.” The ultimate power over death belongs to God. A reminder of the New City Catechism, “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. 

            The angel comes and seizes Satan and throws him into the pit. We see Satan identified with all his names here: the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil and Satan, the Accuser of the brethren. The key question is to, “When and to what extent is Satan bound?” I believe that Satan was bound at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The pinnacle event in all history is when the Lord Jesus made a way to God through the gospel. He died in the place of sinners and raised for their justification. Revelation 12 shares how after Jesus resurrection the Satan is thrown down from heaven and wreaks havoc on the church because his time is short.

            During Jesus ministry, he was accused of being of the Devil. He said to his accusers in Matthew 12:22-30,

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Jesus came into the strong man’s or Satan’s house and bound him, so the power of God could be manifested to his people. We know throughout the New Testament that Satan is still active against the saints. Most notably,

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

And

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Although he is active, he cannot deceive all the nations for people are coming to Christ from every tribe, and people, and language and nation. The church is called to make disciples of all nations or all people groups. And that is what is happening!! God’s people are preaching the gospel and people are being saved by the power of God.

At the end of Jesus ministry, he describes the end of history and the great tribulation of the saints, but a clue he offers of the timing is in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Satan can no longer deceive all the nations or the Gentiles. There will be people who come to Christ from every people group.

How encouraging is this for our evangelism? God will save sinners through the proclamation of his gospel. Satan cannot stop the spread of the Gospel. 2 Tim 2:8-9, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Beloved, we may be marginalized and ridiculed in our day for having faith in Jesus Christ, but we can press on because we know that God will use our witness to bring many to his name. We are the light to the nations.

      Why do we send out missionaries? Because the word of God is not bound! Satan cannot stop God’s people who were chosen before the foundation of the world to believe in Christ. He is bound. The death and resurrection of Christ has torn the curtain. We have access to God, and not only us, but all who repent of their sins and call on the name of Christ for salvation. The day of salvation has come through the preaching of the gospel.

      Friend, if you are here and have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, there is hope for you today. Do you feel the conviction of your sin? Do you know that one day you will have to answer for that sin? Friend do not fear. God has sent his Son to pay your debt. All you must do is turn from your sin. The biblical word is repent. Believe on Christ and live. The desire in your heart that is burning and wants to say Yes! to Jesus is the Holy Spirit. Do not resist him. Come to Christ and live.

            Jesus has won the victory. We should have a tremendous confidence in the power of God because of during the age of the church the gospel will go forth in power. The devil will not be able to stop the spread of the preaching of the gospel or its expanding reception by the true Israel during the age preceding Christ’s return.[3] The Devil is active in our world, but he cannot stop the spread of the gospel to God’s chosen people. He will one day be loosed to bring a worldwide attack against God, but lo his doom is sure. 

            Do you have confidence in the power of the gospel? The average American Christian shares their faith zero times a year. Let us be the exception to the rule and have confidence in the power of God today because Satan is bound and cannot thwart God’s plan of redemption.

The Reigning of the Saints

            The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus restricts the power of Satan and allows the saints to reign with Jesus. Revelation 20:4-6,

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. [4]

John sees thrones and the souls of those who have remained faithful unto death seated on those thrones reigning with Christ. Forty-two of the forty-six references of thrones in Revelation are in heaven. The martyrs who are introduced in Revelation 6 after the opening of the fifth seal call out for justice from under the altar are also in heaven. They are identified here as souls.

            Some scholars believe that the saints who are reigning are only the martyrs mentioned earlier in this book. Other scholars believe that it refers to all the saints who have died in Christ. I believe it is the latter. I also believe that John is talking about the intermediate state or the present heaven where Christians go when they die. When Christians die, they are ushered into the presence of the Lord and experiences the blessed state of the first resurrection in the presence of God.

            What is true of Christians? Christians will reign with Christ. Christians will come back to life after death. Christians are blessed and holy. Christians will not be freed from the second death. Christians are priests of God and of Christ. We will reign with Christ upon our death. 2 Timothy 2:11-13,

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.

And Romans 8:16-17,

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

It is a consistent theme of the Bible is that all the saints will reign with Christ. And all the saints are made into priests and a kingdom. We see that already in the book of Revelation in 1:6, “and made us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen,” and 5:10, “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.”

            The saints who are dead in Christ are reigning with Lord. I read the 1,000 years as a symbolic number that represents the age of the church. The first resurrection is compared with the second death. The second death is reserved for everyone who does not know Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. How do we avoid the second death and be one of the blessed of the first resurrection? The answer is right in the text.

            We will experience the first resurrection and reign with Christ if we stay with Christ. The ones who reign with Jesus are those who keep the word of God and do not follow the spirit of the age.  Christians are marked with holiness and righteousness and trust and faithfulness and love and grace and mercy and compassion. We are people who have died to this world and put our hope in Christ. How do we keep ourselves in Christ? We obey him and use the means of grace he has given us to keep our hearts with him. We work to keep our hearts on fire for him.

            One of the means God has given us in identifying ourselves as people of the first resurrection who are not worshipping the mark of the beast is the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a foreshadowing to the great marriage supper of the lamb. We come together to break the bread remembering that Jesus body was broken for us. We come together to drink the cup remembering that Jesus blood was spilled for us. This is a means of grace to remind us and to keep us from being polluted from the world. We come to this table and we again renew our covenant together with God and with each other to live holy lives until Christ return. We come to this table proclaiming the gospel of the cross has power to save and redeem lost sinners.

            There are many temptations that will come upon the saints. We will be tempted to give our lives to lust or greed. We will be tempted to compromise our faith at work and to our government. We will be tempted to choose people over God, sin over sanctification. When we come to the Lord’s Table, we are recommitting ourselves to say no to temptation and yes to Jesus. The Lord’s Table is for sinners, but it is for a particular kind of sinners; it is for repentant sinners. If you are a baptized believer and a member in good standing of a church of like faith and order you are welcome to the table. If you are not a Christian, I’d ask you to refrain from taking the bread and the cup and think about what Christ offers you. Jesus offers you himself. He died in your place on the cross to pay for your sins and to make you a priest of God and reign with him forever. The good news of the gospel is that you can come to Christ today. Take a moment to consider your life and the judgment that is to come. Jesus promises to deliver us from the wrath to come by making us a people of his own possession.

            One of the ways we commit ourselves to Christ is by committing ourselves to each other. God desires his people to marked off by the world. If you are guest with us today, we want to again let you know how grateful we are that you are here today. We want you to feel incredibly welcomed and encouraged to pursue the Lord Jesus with all that you have. We are about to read our church covenant together. Our church covenant is a promise of how we desire to live with one another. If our statement of faith is what we believe, our church covenant is how we behave. This is not meant to exclude you, but to encourage our body to be more faithful to follow Christ together. If you are a member of Park Baptist Church, please stand as we renew our promise to one another. Read along with me. The words will be on the screen behind me.

Having, as we trust, been brought by Divine Grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to give up ourselves to Him, and having been baptized upon our profession of faith, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, relying on His gracious aid, solemnly and joyfully renew our covenant with each other.

We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We will walk together in brotherly love, as becomes the members of a Christian Church, exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require.

We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor neglect to pray for ourselves and others.

We will endeavor to bring up such as may at any time be under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example to seek the salvation of our family and friends.

We will rejoice at each other’s happiness and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.

We will seek, by Divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.

We will work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.

We will, if we move from this congregation, as soon as possible, unite with another like-minded church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.  Amen.

As we prepare the table, please take this time to ready your hearts to take the Lord’s Supper.

 

 

[1] http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/18-ways-lord-rings-christian-allegory accessed 4.29.2018

 

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 20:1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 988–989). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 20:4–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.