Revelation 20 // The Millenium and The Book of Life
and 1 John 4:7-18
preach from 930 TRINITY South Malling 7/10/18
With much taken from commentaries by Tom Wright and Ian Paul!
Ok we are nearly there! After today we get the really good stuff, the vision of the new heaven and earth and the glory that is waiting for us all….
But for today we have to get through the ‘thousand years’ – or ‘the millennium’ and the judgement of humanity.
So, in case you found it hard to follow the passage, and there is a lot in there – we can’t cover it all today, but the key thing to remember is that God is in control! He is sovereign even over death.
So we’re going to start with the thousand years, or as it is often referred to: the millennium, what is all that about? The devil gets locked up for 1000 years and then let out again to wreak a final little bit of destruction before ultimate annihilation! Why?
And it is interesting because these few verses have had a huge impact on Christianity over the years, causing major divisions as people try to figure out what it’s all about (as with much of the book actually!)
So first off what is one of the key things we have learned about Revelation and the strange imagery/numbers etc?
It is symbolic
So interpretation of it all must be within the context of the rest of Revelation, its symbolism and in terms of cultural context.
There are then 3 key ideas around this related to the actual length and time of the millennium, and Christ’s return or the second coming, – and judgement.
Now don’t get too freaked out I’m going to give you a few lines on each, hopefully phrased in a way so that we can all get a grasp on them…
Premillennialism= pre the thousand years
Christ’s second coming – his return to earth -will happen before this millennium that we’ve just read about.
It assumes that there will be a period of tribulation (remember Rev 7 we see elders in white robes who have come out of the great tribulation)
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….
And it assumes the rapture (ie: believers taken back to heaven before anyone else) and that these happen before Christ comes back.
Then once Christ comes back, and reigns in peace for this period of thousand years
At the end of which is the final judgement.
Post – after
Suggest that that Jesus established his kingdom on earth while he was here and that he has equipped the church to continue to build this kingdom (preaching, teaching, evangelism etc) (Matt 28 great commission)
So that gradually more people will come to follow Jesus and eventually there will be a time when Godly principles faith, righteousness etc will be throughout the earth.
When that happens there will be this period of peace for 1000 years, a time distinguished from the rest of history by the way good triumphs over evil. For example some say this might play out in terms of social improvement; others, suggest a great spiritual advance
and THEN Christ will return, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment.
Then we get:
Amillennialism – A implies no – ie: there is no 1000 years. but that can be confusing, it’s more that the figure of the millennium is not important, but what is symbolises is.
So Amillenialism says that we are already in this season of millennium – though it is not 1000 years – but still before Christ’s return.
And that within that, this period we are in, Christ’s kingdom is already present on earth through the church (as with post …)
So, the binding of Satan, the first resurrection, tribulation and the millennium are all at the same time, covering the period between the first and second comings of Christ.
We are in it now. Because we are here after Jesus was here the first time, yes?
And until he returns we are in a period where both tribulation is happening but also his kingdom is apparent.
And this will all be ended at the final judgement at some point in the future, unknown.
Is that helping?
Premillennialism = first tribulation & rapture, then Christ returns, then 1000 years then: judgement in that order
Postmillenialsm = gradual build up of improvement, then the 1000 years, then Christ returns, then judgement.
Amillenialsim – just the time between Jesus going and coming back until judgement.
None of them are perfect but I wanted to give you an idea of how people find this because it’s not easy
but the most commonly accepted view these days is amillennialism. And that is where we would place ourselves here at TRINITY.
So we believe we are in this period between when Jesus went back and will return, we know his kingdom is here but also more to come, and we also know there is tribulation going on too – not hard to believe that sometimes when we see the news…
So to explain that a bit more…
The Thousand years/millennium is like much of Revelation and other numbers we believe it just symbolic – it simply indicates a long period
and some would even suggest that there are scriptures that could point to it as a figurative length of time. for example:
for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
(that is written in the context of a Psalm that talks of judgement eg:
He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for he is a God of justice.
Suggesting a thousand hills as in a large area or could be a long period of time
Or 1 Chron 16:15
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…
Again, not necessarily 1000 years but 1000 generations a long time….
So then if it’s not 1000 years then did this period start? Was it the moment Jesus was resurrected? When he died? When he ascended?
Well, scholars suggest either began at the Ascension, so Jesus leaves earth and heads on back to Heaven, we can read in Luke 24, how he reminds the disciples:
“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
And then he rose to heaven…
Or it could have been a few days later at Pentecost:
So for example, at Pentecost we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, some call this the birth of the church, when the disciples were filled with the HS and began to speak in tongues, sharing the good news with all who would listen, in diff languages and from diff nations.
We see Peter explaining to the crowd at the time:
Acts 2: 14- 21
15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]
Peter quoting Joel 2:28-32
So both these ideas reference the fact that Jesus knew he would return again one day, but that he also knew his kingdom was established and there were those to oversee it and grow it for him.
So whichever it is, it is a short time after his death and since he’s had time to fill them in on what is going to happen and what they need to do – as we read in the Great Commission: Matt 28
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
So they have been commissioned to do continue the work Jesus was doing. To share the gospel around the world, until the end – final judgement and his return.
Which makes sense then that at this point he leaves them with this mandate to share the good news – to get as many names in the book of life as poss – we will come back to that– before Jesus returns.
And we know that Jesus has already established his kingdom here and we can read about that throughout the gospels, for example we read the kingdom is both now and not yet – you might remember me saying that before on Rev.
when Jesus heals people, he says God’s kingdom has drawn near to you or
the kingdom of heaven is within you…
In Luke 12, I love this verse it says:
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32
(has been, past tense, already happened)
Or Luke 17:20
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
So amillennialism seems to fit most closely I think, that we are living in the kingdom of Heaven and have done has since Jesus returned to heaven, but we not we are not at the completion point yet are we?
We know there is more to come.
We are in the kingdom, but we are also in this period of tribulation, a time when the devil can run amock. This is the time, after after the devil is cast into the abyss which we read in the first few verses. But we can also see referred to in Luke 10:
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
So the devil has been cast down to earth but Jesus’ authority through the disciples is more powerful.
We also read about it in:
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
So…. what we read in Rev 20, John’s vision, is also a vision of something that has happened already . and we know from some of what we’ve studied already that the Revelation timing doesn’t run chronologically, in order. Some of it is concurrent, some already happened.
So what we read here is what has happened, the devil has been cast out of heaven and onto earth, sealed in until the right time, which is why we are able to both experience the kingdom of God but also experience all that comes against it.
So, hopefully to clarify all I’ve just said:
We are living in a time where Jesus’ kingdom is established on earth, we can experience it for ourselves but we also have to fight against that which goes against it and so often draws us away from the truth of God’s kingdom and authority, and who we are in Jesus.
Now we’ve cleared that up a bit!
So, how does all this impact what we take from this passage?
What are the truths we learn about God through this passage?
I think we see reiterated and emphasised again:
The sovereignty of God – even defeating death
The need to know Jesus, that Jesus the only way
And the future promise for us of resurrection into eternity
The sovereignty of God –
In amongst all this craziness, we know that God is in control, he is sovereign.
He is sat on the throne, he is the one who gives authority to the angel for the devil to be cast down,
in fact we see his authority highlighted in that the angel locks and seals the abyss over the devil – seals were hugely important as they showed the identity of the one who had the authority to put the seal in place and only with their authority could it be opened.
So when he is released again it must be for a reason, Tom Wright suggests this final hurrah for the devilis essential as part of this strange divine plan to ensure that every trace of evil, is rooted out of the world, before the great transformation into ‘new heaven and new earth’. No evil or darkness may remain.
And of course once that happens we read,
But fire came down from heaven and devoured them (devil and his army).10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
God sends the devil away for ever and ever – for eternity.
Now we know that Jesus overcame the devil, at the cross, he overcame death already and that sealed him away for a period, and I wonder if there isn’t a strange symbolism in that too,
That Jesus was sealed away (in a tomb) for a short time, but with Jesus, his incarceration was followed by ultimate victory, whereas for the devil his being locked away ended in ultimate defeat.
And this ultimate defeat, at judgement why did we need it?
It is a bit like, everything that has ever gone before, every decision made, every final action, even death, stops and is put on hold, until this final point at which everyone is brought together all at the same time for the final moment.
where we see God’s judgement.
God is sovereign – he is the one who holds the books – the books we read in Rev 20, are recording everyone’s deeds,andthe book of life. He is the one who will do the final judging. And this is why we are in need of a saviour:
We have this section at the end of Rev 20 which sees humanity being judged before God’s throne,
Who will be judged according to
to what they had done as recorded in the books. –
each person judged according to what they had done.
Which is kind of scary right?
Especially when we read:
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
But – the Book of Life seems to record those who will be given eternal life rather than eternal death.
5 The one who is victorious will, (victorious – remember is those who choose to follow Jesus)like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
How do we get into the Book of Life, well I think John lays that down in 1 John 4:
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
So we need have no fear, if we acknowledge Jesus. If we accept him as the Son of God.
Fear we read is all about punishment, but God is all about love. Turn to the one who loves you…
We need to know Jesus, he is the only way to the Father, the only way to get our names in the right book.
For those who follow Jesus, it’s irrelevant what we have done, it’s all about the book of life – we have a choice to receive that gift from Jesus
that ticket into the new heaven and earth of which we read in Rev 21:
Nothing impure will ever enter it, (because we know God’s already got rid of the devil once and for all)
nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful,(because their wrong doings are in the other books and they will have been sent off to the lake of fire…)
but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
You know it’s like going to a gig or a nightclub with a VIP list and the old – if your names not on the list you ain’t getting in…
There are 2 books here with names in. One has a list of names with all wrong doing and sins.
The other just a list of names – why? Because he’s already washed us clean of anything we ever did wrong!
One book leads to ultimate death
and one to ultimate life– which one do you want to be in?
And that is perhaps the one thing here that is not about symbolism.
Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life.
People will say there are many ways to God, to heaven, but I tell you, we believe there is ONE way and that is through Jesus Christ.
So practically, what is our response? It’s really quite simple – to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and then walk with him, seeking to be like him. Focus on sharing his love as we read about in 1 John – focussing on the perfect love of the one who died for us, for you. We read that we need not fear, because perfect love – God’s love casts out that fear. And you know I think when we read about the lake of fire and sulphur and eternal consequences it can be scary. But also the world we live in now is pretty scary too. When we see what tribulation is happening in all corners of the world: war, suffering, injustice, intolerance, or perhaps what we ourselves are facing can make us fearful and anxious.
What Jesus gives us is the promise that in the future, with him, it will be so so different, a wonderful place free from any tiny trace of darkness and evil – something so wonderful we just cannot get our heads around it now. But what a promise, what a future and if we really understood that perhaps it would help us now, when we face the darkness and evil of this world.
But also in that Jesus can impact our lives now, with his abundant love and peace and he can be with us in all of that. We just have to look to him, choose him and choose the book of life.