I’ve been reading your articles on Revelation 20, which are very helpful and seem really accurate. I have a few questions which you may or may not have already addressed.
First, do you suppose the 1,000 is simply for fullness/indefinite duration? Or do you think it could be meant to resonate with or to co-opt the historical scheme based on the creation week? I refer to the Jewish and early Christian view: six days of labor and sin, then the seventh day = 1,000 years of messianic redemption with the cross, ending with the eighth day of eternity?
Also, the ones who reign with Christ in His session were the martyred and, specifically, beheaded ones. Is it reasonable to apply the reign to all people who get to heaven, or should it be seen as a certain class?
It seems they’re all priests, so also, I wonder, in what capacity are they priests during this interim?
I’ve benefited from many of your online articles throughout the years. I always enjoy reading people like you who are in the Dutch tradition. So much has come out of Michigan, serving as a corrective to an all-too-prevalent, vapid Evangelicalism.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
That you read and profit from the articles on the last things, specifically, those on Revelation 20, is an encouragement.
In response to your questions, first, the number 1,000 does indeed represent fullness of time. This is because the number 10 in the Bible is the number of completeness. Think of the 10 plagues as the fullness of judgment upon the nation of Egypt. Think of the 10 commandments as the fullness of God’s will for the holy life of His people. One thousand, then, is the fullness of time in which the entire church of Christ is saved and gathered by Christ through the gospel proclaimed by the church. During this period of time, Satan is bound in order that the church might be gathered. Only when this fullness of time with its work of salvation is completed is Satan loosed (by the Lord Christ Jesus) to attack the church in the persecution of the last days.
I am doubtful about a correlation of the meaning of this symbolical number with the thinking of some early Christians concerning the significance of the week. What did they mean by “1,000 years of messianic redemption”? Keep in mind also that the arrangement of the creation week has been changed by the resurrection of Christ. It is now the day of rest—the Sabbath—first, and the six days of working following.
Your question and observation about the martyrs of Revelation 20 are astute. It would be sound to explain the martyrs as the special class of believers who are actually killed for their witness of Christ. This would be in harmony with the emphatic testimony of Revelation to the reality and privilege of giving up one’s life for the sake of faithful confession of Christ Jesus, something that happened during the Roman persecution of the church that is the historical type in Revelation and that will happen at the end in the great tribulation under Antichrist. This explanation would not deny that also all Christians live and reign with Christ at death. It would only emphasize the reward in the case of martyrs.
For myself, I understand the truth of the martyrs to apply to all Christians. Everyone who confesses Christ suffers the loss of some aspect of his earthly life. (In the Greek of the New Testament, the word for “witness” is martus, or martyr; see Rev. 11). The loss may be reputation. It may be a job. It may be a friend. It may be a husband or a wife or a child. It certainly includes the sacrifice of many things that the believer would otherwise find delightful. In the judgment of God, all such loss, suffering, and sacrifice are martyrdom. Think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:29: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
As for the priesthood of believers at death, and during the millennium (Rev. 20:6), believers consecrate themselves to God in fervent praise and lively prayer. And consecration to God is the main aspect of priesthood. Heaven will not be inactivity, but grand work: reigning with Christ as kings and consecrating ourselves and all things in the new world to God.
Prof. David J. Engelsma