Revelation: A Complete Commentary

By William R. Newell

Part One: Judgment

Chapter 18: Satan Bound, The Millennium

Revelation 20:4-10

The Thousand Years’ Reign

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

      I. What the Thousand Years’ Reign Is

The thousand years’ reign is the direct administration of divine government on earth for one thousand years by our Lord and His saints. Its earthly center will be Jerusalem and the nation Israel, though Christ and His saints will rule in heavenly resurrection bodies in the New Jerusalem and will take the place now occupied by angels (Hebrews 2:5-8). Satan, as we have seen, will be in the abyss during the thousand years; and his “host of the high ones on high” will be “prisoners gathered in the pit, and shut up in the prison” during that time (Isaiah 24:21-23).

Just as the affairs of the world at present are directly, though unconsciously, controlled by Satan and his host (under the permission of God, but interfered with from time to time by holy angels sent of God, as in Daniel 10), so Christ and His saints will rule during the thou- sand years; generally, doubtless, invisible to the eyes of men whom they control. Yet the glory of the Lord will be seen by all flesh (Isaiah 40:5) and most wondrously and constantly over the temple at Jerusalem (Isaiah 4:5).

      II. Object of the Thousand Years’ Reign

1. Looked at from, God the Father’s side:

a. It will be the public earthly honoring of His Son just where men dishonored Him on this earth and at Jerusalem. It will be part of the literal fulfilling of such passages as Philippians 2:6-11: Christ became “obedient even unto death … wherefore also God highly exalted him … that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

b. It will be the carrying out of God’s promises to His Son, and the prophecies concerning Him, to “give unto him the throne of his father David”—in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32).

“Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” “Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy foot-stool. Jehovah will send forth the sceptre of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psalms 2 and 110). It will be God’s setting His King (Christ) upon His holy hill of Zion, in restored Jerusalem.

c. It is the final divine trial of sinful man on this earth before the earth is destroyed. The trial of man began in Eden; it continued from the fall to the flood; it proceeded at the Babel dispersion; it was continued publicly, though on a limited platform, in Israel under the law; upon Israel’s breakdown, power was given to the Gentiles, from Nebuchadnezzar on. Gentile rule having been abolished at Christ’s second coming, Satan and his host being imprisoned, the trial of humanity continues for a thousand years, the question being, Does man desire God’s righteous rule? God would have all eternity know that the human race, whose head was Adam the First, not only did not in themselves achieve a righteous and benevolent rule or government of themselves, but did not desire such a rule, when executed in all honor and glory under Christ the Last Adam’s direction!

Men claim that they are seeking, evermore, a “perfect form of government”; but that they are not at all seeking such a government, but that they actually hate it, will be evidenced by their instant revolt to Satan’s banner when he is loosed for a “little season” after the Millennium. For we shall find the hordes of mankind rushing up to overthrow the righteous and benevolent reign of Christ at Jerusalem! The deepest sentiment of the natural heart is enmity against God; and this fact God will have brought out so thoroughly that there will never be a question again concerning the wisdom of taking governmental affairs out of unregenerate man’s hands, and placing them absolutely in Christ’s, who shares it with His saints.

d. It will be God’s answer (so far as is possible before the new earth) of the prayers of His saints: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Millennium will, of course, be a mixed state of things, in that, although curtailed greatly, both sin and death will be on earth (Isaiah 65:20).

2. Looked at from Christ’s side:

a. He receives, after long patience, the kingdom of this world which He has been constantly “expecting,” there at God’s right hand (Hebrews 10:12, 13). And He will reign in that righteousness which He has loved (Psalm 45:6, 7).

b. At last He will be able to confer upon the meek of the earth the place and inheritance He ever loved to promise them! They shall “inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5).

c. He will share, with that infinite generosity and gladness to which His infinitely gracious heart moves Him, all His kingly honors with His saints!

3. Looked at from the saints’ side:

a. The Millennium brings the three classes of saints, (named in Paragraph III following) and also earthly Israel, into a state of indescribable blessedness! That iniquity is at last put down; righteousness enthroned, and a beloved Redeemer reigning—this fills the cup of joy for Christ’s own!

b. The very physical changes made in the earth—the razing of the mountains, the elevation of the valleys, the changes in Palestine (Zechariah 14:9, 10), the blossoming of the desert (Isaiah 35:17); the specially built “highway,” and the way, called the “way of holiness,” traveled only by earth’s redeemed (Isaiah 35:8-10), all these reveal a little of the loving care God will have taken for the comforts and joys of His earthly saints at that blessed time!

4. Looked at from the side of the nations, the peoples of the earth:

a. It will be a thousand years under an iron-rod scepter. Unregenerate man, having proved wholly unfit for “liberty,” will find it forever removed from him.

b. Yet there will be peace at last among the nations—enforced certainly, but real. The one who rode into Jerusalem at the triumphal entry “shall speak peace unto the nations: and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9-11). This “Ruler,” born in Bethlehem, shall be “great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be our peace” (Micah 5:2-5). This “child born,” this “Son given”—“the government shall be upon his shoulder … his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government, and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom… . The zeal of Jehovah of host will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6, 7).

c. All nations will be compelled to go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. Most of the people of the earth will be yet unregenerated: for, time after time, in the book of Psalms, we read that because of the greatness of His power, His enemies shall yield “feigned obedience” (Hebrew, lie) unto Him. The prophetic- portions of the book of Psalms will then be fulfilled: for the Psalms are millennial, and primarily concern Israel and their Messiah-King.

For example, see the King coming (Psalm 45) with His Bride and His mighty ones; the remnant of Israel trusting through all the upheavals of mountains, islands, and seas of the tribulation time until the King comes to make “wars to cease” (Psalm 46); the jubilation of Israel over the arrival of the “great King over all the earth” to whom “the princes of the peoples are gathered together to be the people of the God of Abraham” (Psalm 47); and the glorious establishment of the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem delighted in by Israel, and wondered at by the nations (Psalm 48). (Compare Isaiah 2:2-4.)

5. Looked at from the side of “creation”:

a. The creation was “subjected to vanity, not of its own will,” but through Adam’s sin, which involved even the ground in a curse (Genesis 3). It was God who thus subjected it, looking forward to the day “the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-22).

b. At the “revealing of the sons of God,” at Christ’s coming back to earth, this deliverance will be effected. The whole land of Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile, will be completely delivered: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah” (Isaiah 65:25). Indeed, the following passage seems to indicate that all the earth will be delivered: “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). What a marvelous prospect! Habakkuk 2:14 tells us that it will be “the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah” that will thus fill the earth. Man, with his littleness, will at last be nothing; “Jehovah alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:12-22)—a passage that should be read often in these bragging days of puny man!

6. The Millennium will be the time predicted by our Lord in Matthew 5:18: “Till heaven and earth pass away, (which they do at the end of the 1000 years) one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.” All those infinitely wise, just, and kind provisions set forth in the ordinances, statutes, precepts, and judgments of the law given by Moses, will be put into effect. Israel, then an “all righteous” nation (Isaiah 60:21), will have the law in their hearts—loving it, and in their minds—remembering it.

      III. The Order of the Thousand Years

1. Christ will be here in person—King over all the earth. He will sit “a priest upon his throne” (Zechariah 6:13). This is the fulfilment of the Melchizedek priesthood. Howbeit, it must be remembered that our Lord has a glorified body, while the saved remnant of Israel, and also, as I see it, the faithful Israelites raised when our Lord returns, will all have flesh and blood bodies—as earthly people.

2. While Christ Himself, as Israel’s Messiah, will thus be King over all the earth, and be seen “in his beauty” at Jerusalem in the millennial temple (Isaiah 33:17, 22), yet it will be on the Sabbaths (after the “six working days”) and on special feast days that He will thus be seen by Israel (Ezekiel 43:7; 44:2; 46:1-3): but David himself will be the prince whom God will raise up from the dead for this high honor (Ezekiel 37:24, 25; 34:23, 24; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5). We must not confuse in our minds this situation. We must believe the plain words of God. David is not the Son of David. Christ, as Son of David, will be King; and David, His father after the flesh, will be prince, during the Millennium. See Ezekiel 46:4-12—the special worship and walk of the prince.

3. The Church will reign with Christ in glorified bodies like His (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3). The Church, evidently, is the first class of the three mentioned in Revelation 20:4: “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” There is no account of resurrection; for they were caught up at the end of chapter 3 of Revelation. (We do not believe that they are the twenty-four elders who are seen only in connection with the heavenly throne and the four living ones.) It will be remembered that the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones “judging” the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28, 29). They will, it seems, in a beautiful way, be the connecting link between the heavenly Church and the earthly Israel!

The Church, in heavenly bodies (real bodies, of course, like Christ’s), will not interfere with the earthly order of Israel any more than God’s angels interfered with the Davidic kingdom in former days. Judgment, and not the mere execution of it, will belong to—be “given to”—the Church.

4. The second class seen in Revelation 20:4, is, “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God.” These are, evidently, the martyrs under the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9. They are not the Church. They are, we believe, the martyrs coming after the rapture of the Church and before the class last noticed. Also, the word “beheaded” indicates the revival of the Roman Empire method of execution. These martyrs now receive their resurrection bodies, for the words “they live,”119 must refer to bodily
resurrection, and to that only.

5. The third class who reign with Christ are “such as worshipped not the beast,” which plainly identifies them as saints from The Great Tribulation time. They either pass through those awful three and one-half years, or are martyred. They receive resurrection bodies now to reign with Christ the thousand years.

Thus we are prepared for the great unfolding of verse 5: “The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished.” “The rest of the dead” are the lost, whose spirits are imprisoned in Hades, in the earth’s center, till after the thousand years.

      IV. The First Resurrection

1. We have been constantly told by our Lord and His apostles, as well as in Daniel 12, that there will be two resurrections of absolutely different character—one “of the just,” and the other “of the unjust.” Unto this glorious consummation—this “out-resurrection from among the dead”—Paul’s whole spirit was eagerly, striving. And it should be the daily, hourly anticipation of every Christian heart (Philippians 3:8-11).

2. Those partaking in the first resurrection are called “blessed”—which denotes their state of grace from God; and also “holy”—which sets forth their separate character and walk when on earth. Over such, the second death is declared to have no authority (exousia). The believer is not subject to judgment in the sense of endangering his eternity (John 5:24 and 3:18).

Their reign partakes of the Melchizedek character of Christ’s throne. The expression “of God and of Christ” is remarkable. Perhaps light is shed upon it by Revelation 1:6: “He (Christ) made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father.” It is the business of priests to carry on for others “the things pertaining to God” (Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1). This opens a wonderful subject!

And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Here we see the Devil loosed after the thousand years of imprisonment, and immediately rushing back to his old task of deluding earth’s inhabitants to that “war” against God, to which the “enmity against God” of the “mind of the flesh” was ever prone, but for which, during the thousand years, leadership was lacking.

“Over the breadth of the earth” the Satan-led hosts come against “the camp of the saints” (the Church above Jerusalem) and the beloved city—Jerusalem itself.

Now at last, the patience of God being exhausted, and the malignity of man fully demonstrated, fire from God descends and devours earth’s wicked hosts: thus ending forever the sinning human race!

Then we see the execution of the long prophesied doom of the damned. Antichrist and his lieutenant will have been in this fearful literal lake of fire and brimstone alive (i.e. in a human body) for 1,000 years (Revelation 19:20). They are seen, yet in torment. Now the Devil, the great deceiver, is cast into this same literal lake, into that “eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels,” of which our Lord warned in Matthew 25:41.

It is, therefore, most fitting, indeed necessary, that this revelation of the appalling doom of Satan and his two chief human agents should immediately precede the account of the casting into that same lake of fire of those responsible creatures who reject their God—of all choosing sin as their portion.


119 Alford truly says, “If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned—where certain souls lived, at first, and the ‘rest of the dead’ lived only at the end of a specified period, after that first—the ‘first resurrection’ may be understood to mean a ‘spiritual’ rising with Christ, while the second means a literal rising from the grave, then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second,—but if the second is literal, then so is the first, which, with the whole primitive church, I do maintain.”

Stuart says, “‘They lived’ means they revived, came to life, returned to a life like the former one, vie., a return to a union of soul and body.”