Overcoming saints reign as a “kingdom of Priests” during the “thousand years,” having overcome the “beast” – Revelation 20:4-6.
During the “thousand years,” Satan is imprisoned, and the victorious saints begin to reign. Ironically, the “rest of the dead” do not live until the “second death” at the “Great White Throne of Judgment.” Behind the image of the saints’ reign is Daniel’s vision of “one like a Son of Man” who received the “kingdom” from the “Ancient of Days.”
In Daniel, the prophet saw “thrones” surrounding the “Ancient of Days.” Those individuals who were sitting on the “thrones” were not identified. However, that information is now revealed. They were occupied by none other than the victorious saints, just as Jesus promised to the congregation at Laodicea – (Revelation 3:21 – “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne”).
- (Revelation 20:4-6) – “And I saw thrones and they sat upon them, and judgment was given for them; and I saw the souls of them who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and such as had not done homage to the beast or to his image, nor had received the mark upon their forehead or upon their hand; and they lived and reigned with the Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: upon these, the second death has no authority; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will reign with him for the thousand years.”
“And judgment was given.” The Greek clause states that “judgment was given for them,” an allusion to the judgment scene in Daniel’s vision when the “Son of Man” appeared before the “Ancient of Days” – (Daniel 7:9-14).
Judgment was made “for the saints,” which, grammatically, means either a judicial sentence in their favor or the bestowal of judicial authority on them. Considering the emphasis on “reigning,” the latter is the best sense. Likewise, in the vision of Daniel, judgment made “for the saints” resulted in their “possession of the kingdom.”
“Beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and the word of God.” The statement identifies the group, the “saints” who were persecuted for their “testimony of Jesus,” and the same men and women against whom the “beast from the Abyss,” the “Dragon,” and the “beast from the sea” waged “war” – (Revelation 1:9, 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17).
This does not mean only martyred saints reign on the “thrones.” Their company included “such as had not done homage to the beast.” For many, refusal to give allegiance to the “beast” resulted in suffering and economic deprivation, if not actual martyrdom.
Elsewhere, overcoming “saints” are men and women who followed the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and consequently, they “come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name” – (Revelation 14:1-4, 15:1-4).
“And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Jesus was the “first and the last, who was dead, and lived” – (kai ezésen). Likewise, the overcoming saints “lived” for the “thousand years” (ezésan). The verse includes verbal links to the letter to Smyrna with its warning that the congregation would experience “tribulation for ten days”:
- (Revelation 2:8-10) – “ These things says the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again… Fear not the things which you are going to suffer. Behold, the Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life…He that overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”
The “ten days” is the source for the “thousand years.” Numbers in Revelation are figurative, often doubled, and even tripled for effect. Elsewhere, overcoming believers qualified to sit on the throne in the same manner as Christ – By persevering in tribulations and martyrdom – (Revelation 1:5, 3:21).
The “first resurrection” means that victorious saints will not participate in the “second death.” There is no mention of any “second resurrection” or “first death.” The passage has juxtaposed “first resurrection” with “second death.” Thus, “saints” who persevere avoid the “second death,” but not necessarily physical death.
So, also, the members of the church at Smyrna who remained faithful “unto death” would not “be hurt by the second death,” which is the “Lake of Fire.” As for the “rest of the dead,” they will not be condemned to it until the judgment before the Great White Throne. Thus, they “lived not until the thousand years ended” – (Daniel 1:14, Revelation 2:7-11, 11:15-19, 20:11-15, 21:8).
“Blessed and holy is he that has a part in the first resurrection.” This is the fifth of the seven beatitudes recorded in Revelation. Collectively, they define the blessed results for the saints that persevere for Jesus, and they summon believers to remain faithful through tribulation – (Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14).
Overcoming “saints” are “kingdom of priests.” Previously, that status was presented as a present reality because of the shed blood of the “Lamb,” and if so, the reign of the saints as “priest” in the “thousand years” must point to the same reality. And as “priests,” they mediate the “testimony of Jesus” to the nations. Priesthood is what defines their reign and authority – (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9-10).
The rule of the “saints” is paradoxical – They “reign” even while persevering through persecution and martyrdom. By means of their faithful “testimony,” they participate with the messianic “son” as he “shepherds” the nations – (Revelation 1:4-6, 2:27, 3:20-21, 5:5-7, 12:11).
The “thousand years” portrays the time between the coronation of the “Lamb” and the release of the “Dragon” for the “short time” for his final attempt to destroy the “saints” – (Revelation 12:12, 20:7-9).
In the interim, the Devil persecutes the church, however, he is not yet authorized to deceive the nations to mount a last-ditch effort to annihilate the church worldwide. For now, overcoming believers “reign with Christ” by persevering in their “testimony of Jesus” – Even “unto death.” In this way, they advance the “kingdom of God” and the sovereignty of the “Lamb” over the nations.