Category Archives: Kingdom of God

Revelation 19:19-20:15

Armageddon and the Thousand years

Discussion Question

What is your favourite book? (In this study we will see all the books opened that will be used to judge all of humanity and yet there is the Book of Life – this may become our favourite book!)

Or

Can you think of a story of anti-climax? Like the Y2K bug? All the hype that came to nothing!

Background (Context)

The book of Revelation has been filled with visions from God given to John to write down. We have heard some spectacular things. Chapter One gave us the flavour of the book with its vision of the throne of God. Chapters 2 and 3 contained seven letters to seven churches and we discovered that being faithful to God and holding fast to his promises would return a crown. Chapters 4 and 5 displayed the glorious throne room of our God, declaring that he is worthy and powerful. Chapters 6 to 19 have described the history of the world under the curse of sin while it awaits the return of the King who alone is worthy. Three types of characters appear in the book: those who oppose God (described as beasts and dragons and prostitutes and so forth, they are aligned with Babylon and are tricked by the beast), those who praise God (sometimes called the martyrs or those who survived the tribulation, whose names are written in the book of life) and lastly there is God and his heavenly agents.

Armageddon was mentioned back in Chapter 16 Verse 16  (see VV12-17ff) and as part of our context, we will begin by reading Revelation 19:19-21 to see that it matches the same event as Armageddon.

Read Revelation 19:19-21

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)
  • But they were all captured and destroyed (20-21)

The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)

“…gathered together to wage war…” Compare this phrase in Verse 19 with 16:14 and 20:8. There is one event in mind here and it is a picture of all the worlds strength in attack against God and God dismantling all their efforts in a heartbeat. This is not new to Revelation. Ezekiel 38-39 is alluded to in these verses as is Zechariah 12-14 and Zephaniah 3. A final war of history is described but surely, like the rest of Revelation, they are a picture of how final and effortless the Judgment of God will be on that Day. The emphasis is not on how scary and brutal are the enemies of God but on how swift and final is the Word of God.

Another surprising OT reference is Psalm 2! “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed…The One enthroned in heaven laughs…You will break them with a rod of iron…” Psalms 1 and 2 set the agenda for the whole of the Psalms and give a theme of the entire scriptures. Psalm 2 declares that there is no king besides Jesus (or David in its immediate context) and we need to get right with Jesus before it is too late!

But they were captured and destroyed (20-21)

“But the beast was captured, and with it…” As was mentioned last week, the beast who has lured humanity away from God is defeated – just like that.

“…who had performed the signs on its behalf…mark of the beast…” Rev 13:12 refers to the activity of the beast and the signs that deluded many. The mark of the beast sounds like a branding. We will not get drawn into equating this image with barcodes or something else. This is not how we have been reading Revelation and we won’t start now. The picture language is about being enticed to side with the rebels instead of with God and humanity are tricked in all manner of ways. We are not going to accidentally be marked by the beast by using a certain credit card or something like that. But one can find themselves so distracted by the things of this world that they cannot say they are marked out by Jesus. We ought to take our eyes off avoiding the beast and rather set our eyes on the One who can put our names in the book of life.

“…thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphuric.” We will return to this in Chapter 20.

“…killed with the sword coming out of the mouth…birds gorged…” The judgment comes from the word of God coming from the mouth of Jesus who rides on the horse. The sword is not a metal blade but a word of judgment. The birds remind me of something Jesus said in the gospels, when he was speaking about the end times (Luke 17:37). They are an image of the aftermath of war where the slain are left for the birds to eat – there is no one to bury them.

Read Revelation 20

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • I saw the dragon bound (1-3)
  • I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)
  • Armageddon? (7-10)
  • The books are open (11-15)

I saw the dragon bound (1-3)

“…having a key…and holding in his hand a great chain.” The theme of holding someone against their will is introduced.

“…the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan…” Four identities given to Satan and linking us right back to Genesis 3. We did not know that the serpent was Satan in the garden but this is clear now. I love to remind people that the bible is one complete book. Themes introduced in Genesis have grown across the pages to give us a complete image – just as much as the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 could not have been known to be Jesus until the whole of scripture was revealed.

“…bound him for a thousand years.” It will be interesting to hear each group discuss what the thousand years represents. These thousand years have created a debate about which Millennial view the bible holds: a Premillennial view refers to a Thousand years which begins after Jesus’ return; a Post-Millenial view refers to a Thousand years which ends when Jesus returns and then there is the A-Millenial view which maintains that there is no actual Thousand years but are, again, an image supplied by Revelation to teach us who is in power. Notice how Satan is bound by chains and by time. He is not at all in charge of this cosmos.

There is a timeframe in which Satan is held back from deceiving the nations.

I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)

“…they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” We further our investigation of the Millennial views as this thousand years is not in addition to the previous but superimposed. The question remains, is it an actual thousand years or a metaphor. If it is a metaphor then what does it tell us? The sequence of events seems to follow the sequence in Ezekiel 37-48 (resurrection of God’s people; messianic kingdom; final battle against Gog and Magog and final vision of the new temple and new Jerusalem). The thousand year reference can simply point to a time that has far extended any kingdom that has ever been before. David’s reign was limited by death. Adam’s life fell short of a thousand years. This new era is stronger than any other.

“This is the first resurrection.” The first resurrection refers to the resurrection of Christ. Note that the rest of the dead, those who have not put their faith in Christ, do not participate in this first resurrection. With the power of the gospel, Satan is bound for the same period. He cannot steal or take away what has been claimed by the blood of the Lamb.

“The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God…” This is you and I who have come to Christ. We have full assurance against the judgment to come – do you have full assurance? You should and you can! In this “thousand year reign” that commenced with the resurrection of Christ, we are priests who bring people to God. Jesus said to Peter: I give you the keys to the kingdom! The gospel unleashes security to those who know it and live it!

Armageddon? (7-10)

“When the thousand years are over…” So, despite there not being a literal thousand years (the amillennial view which I hold), there is a storyline of what happens after the resurrection of Christ and after the period that we live in now is over.

“… Satan will be released…go out to deceive the nations…Gog and Magog – and to gather them for battle.” Verse 7 and 8, as mentioned earlier, allude to Ezekiel 38-39 where Gog and Magog are both mentioned. They appear here to represent cities who have bought the lie of the beast and sided with him rather than with the Lamb. The phrase, “gather them for battle”, occurs at 16:16 and again in 19:19 and helps us to see that this is the same event retold again and again. The beast gathers the nations by deceiving them that they can do better than God. God takes them down with his breath. The whole thing ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. This is Armageddon. (I’m-a-gettin’ out ‘o here!)

“In number they are like the sand on the seashore.” The enemy ramps up in power like they intend to smash down God with their might! The description of the enemy is big. Get ready for a BIG battle!

“…but fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” If it weren’t talking about the Day of the Lord it would be funny! God received no scars from this battle. He didn’t even leave his throne room. This took no effort. It is ridiculous to think that we can oppose God. 

“They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” The ‘they’ refers to the devil and the beast and the false prophets. The description is of eternal conscious punishment. Revelation contains imagery that we have learned to not take literally (like the beast and the dragon and the four living creatures etc) but the message of Revelation is real. There will be a Judgment to determine the future of all. And here, for the devil and co, there is what we would perhaps call hell. So what about everyone else? Are they, who have not been washed clean by Jesus, ‘devoured’ like in Verse 9? Let’s read on.

The books are open (11-15)

“The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” This is one of my favourite verses in the bible because it is so mysterious and subtle. The heavens is not ‘heaven’ but the space above the earth. Just as easily as the enemies of God were struck down effortlessly, the earth and all that we know of this reality will simply be gone – without a trace. This is well worth our time meditating on regularly.

“…and books were opened.” Revelation 20:11-15 gives a classic and concise account of what every living human needs to look forward to. There is no mistaking the bible to say that we will all give an account of what we have done. Romans 14:12.

“Another book was opened…” The book to take notice of, however, is the one titled: Book of Life. It’s not the “This is your life” book but the “Jesus has saved your life” book. As Revelation says, if your name is in that book, then you don’t need to be concerned about what is in your personal book. I recall Aslan speaking to Lucy after dealing with Edmond’s unfaithfulness. Lucy was told that there is no need to speak of it any more.

“…and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them…” the point is that no person is exempt from Judgment day. The sea, death and Hades are simply three names for the region of the dead.

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” Death no longer has any sting. The very concept of death has an end – it is also subject to God.

“The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Noting firstly that if your name is not in the book of life, the conclusion is that your own life story will not get you saved. We all need saving! The big question is: do Verse 15 and Verse 10 refer to the same punishment? I don’t see how they cannot!

The human race is faced with a decision: turn to Christ and rely on His pure record to avoid the lake of fire or cross your fingers that you have a clean record written in the book of your life. According to Revelation (and therefore the word of God) you cannot pass the test because you have already failed it. There won’t be a party in hell for all who couldn’t care less about Jesus. ‘Tormented day and night for ever and ever” is the description in Verse 10.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

There is no stopping the kingdom of God as it is the most powerful kingdom in all history and beyond. There is no avoiding hell on our own merit. As Psalm 2 says: Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction…blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Premillennialism has no future. The only text in the bible that refers to a thousand year reign is this one in Revelation and it stands against much of what the New Testament has to say about judgment day. That is, that it will be swift and come like a thief in the night (see actually Revelation 16 where this is quoted in the context of Armageddon). If there is a thousand years that happen after Jesus’ second coming, then it will also include death and the curse of sin. To take the thousand years as literal is to begin to take the whole book of Revelation literally too, with swords coming out of mouths and feet blazing with fire. What we have reflected on in these notes is that the Resurrection inaugurated a new reality which constrains Satan who cannot destroy those who are alive in Christ.

Topic B: The reality of hell. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). There is an urgency in the bible to get right with God. Jesus said it would be better to not be born than to betray the Son of Man (referring to Judas). He also said that it is better to enter life a cripple than to have two feet and be thrown into hell (Mark 9:45). There is a view in Christianity that final judgment may result in eternal unconscious punishment, otherwise known as annialation. This is a big area of discussion and no theologian is excited by the doctrine of hell – but we can get excited about the doctrine of salvation by grace alone! How easy is it to avoid!

Topic C: The book of Life. There must be no greater book that this one. I know, it’s a metaphor, but it points to the reality that when you are with Christ, there is no more condemnation! The book of Revelation has talked about the saints being robed in white, given a stone with a secret name on it, being crowned. There is no such language as ‘hoping for the best.’ I pray that all who are involved in Growth Group ministry can fathom the wonder of full assurance. The thing that matters most is not, which millennial view you hold (although it does matter), nor which view of hell you hold (although that also matters) but whether you have run to the Son who saves.

Revelation 17-19 Growth Group Leaders notes:

Context:

Having looked at the history of the world repeated through different lenses in chapters 4-17, Revelation 17-18 now looks again at the history of the world through the lens of God’s judgement of evil.

Method:

Again we are dealing with a large section of text.  I would focus on 17 and 19.

Read 17:1-6a and determine quickly from verses 5 and 6 that this woman is representative of ‘Babylon’ – or any nation which fails to declare Jesus as King.

Read 17:6b – 14 a bit more slowly.  We are re-introduced to the ‘beast’ aka Satan.  But the ‘Babylon’ woman is merged with this image as it’s rider.  Almost every other additional image gives us the clue that ‘Babylon’ for the time of John, was the ‘Roman Empire’.  More details in exegesis.

Read 17:15-18 a helpful reflective moment.  The devil eats his own.  Nations rise and fall (like Rome does here) – and Satan craves power so much that he eats even those who are aligned with him.  This is part of the judgement of God.

Summarize chapter 18:  The people and nations will mourn the downfall of every ‘Babylon’ – because for many of them, it had fulfilled their desires for growing in wealth and stature.  But verse 4 and 5 remind the Christian to get out of there.  Don’t invest yourself in a kingdom bound for destruction – but rather live for the kingdom that will last.

Read 19:1-4 this should be quick – but see the rejoicing that the evil nation is defeated by God and the vindication of the martyred saints.

Read 19:5-10 This should be quick – but see the joyfulness as the wedding supper of Jesu and his church comes to it’s fulfilment.

Read 19:11-21 We see the end of the Beast and the ‘kings of the earth’ that were introduced in chapter 17.  It is a fight between Jesus (11-16) and the beast and his armies (19-20) and Jesus wins (20-21).

Exegetical points

17:1-6

Babylon was the nation that wiped out Israel in the OT, but the beginnings of Babylon was babel (Gen 11).  Babylon here represents ANY nation who stands in opposition to God – but particularly it represents the superpower of the time.  Nationally, She is rich (vs 4) and she is filth (vs 4-5) and she is guilty of slaying Christians (vs 6) but also of drawing in other nations to her culture (vs 1 many waters = people; vs 2 all the inhabitants of earth intoxicated with her)

17:6b-14

The beast here is Satan (vs 8 from the Abyss – will go to its destruction) and is the power and authority behind ‘Babylon / Rome’ (vs 13)

‘The woman’ which was described as the nation ‘Babylon’ in vs 5 sits on 7 hills (vs 9).  This is a very clear picture of Rome (the city who sits on 7 hills).  Some of the other descriptions then help us flesh that out more: The 7 bigger kings (vs 10) refer to the line of the Caesars:

(Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero – 5 fallen;

Vespasian (69-79AD) – 1 who is;

Titus (79-81AD) – One for a little while;

Domitian (81-96AD) – 8th who will be ‘the beast’

The 10 smaller kings with no kingdom (12) refer to the proconsul governors who each rule for a fixed period of time.

And because all of these rulers and kings belong ultimately to the beast – vs 14 – they wage war against Jesus and his kingdom but will ultimately fail because Jesus is the King of Kings.

17:15-18

And in spite of all this power – the Devil stands powerless against the kingdom of Jesus.  And in his thirst for power – he hates those with whom he has to share it.  And so God’s judgement (vs 17) befalls the prostitute/Babylon, in the form of God allowing the Devil to eat his own.  Babylon / Rome / Any superpower who does not acknowledge Jesus, will be ripped down to ruin.

18:1-3 (cursory)

While the Devil’s lust for power, eating his own, is the vehicle, it is God who declares that this super power’s time is over.

18:4-8

There is a warning of God to his people to come out of ‘Babylon’.  Now, this isn’t a proximity thing – it isn’t a call to physically leave; but it is a call to leave behind the ‘project’ as such.  Don’t get caught up in her sins – and so, don’t get caught up in the judgement (plagues) that will follow.

There is an excellent reflection moment here on not getting caught up in the projects of our society and what it might look like to keep having our eyes on the kingdom, while living in this kingdom which is bound towards destruction.

18:9-24

Here we see the response of everyone who has bought into the earthly ‘project’ of ‘Babylon’ mourning at her loss.  Sea captains and traders mourn at the loss of their wealth.  They mourn at the beauty that is no more.  They will mourn “was there ever a city like this!?” (sidebar: compared to the heavenly Jerusalem coming – this is nothing).  People involved in the project, tend to look back and to remember only the good from the projects that they were involved in.

And yet – verse 20 presents another voice – one of rejoicing.  Because for those who stood with God and who were killed, they are vindicated.  God has judged this human project ‘Babylon’ for the sinful affront to his rule that it is and the destruction it wreaked on his people.

 And 21-24 then present the finality of God’s judgment.  The ‘goods’ that the merchants longed for, will destroyed.  But it is the syntactic change of 23b that shifts to the reasons:  Why?  Because of their ‘marriage’ with the nations in which they led them astray (hear echoes of Jezabel in 2 Kings here) and in which they killed the holy people of God.

19:1-10

And so in direct opposition to the wrongful marriage – we see the wedding of Jesus to his church.  There is rejoicing in 1-2 because he has condemned ‘Babylon’ ‘the adulterous prostitute wife’ permanently.

And in 6-9 we instead see the good marriage – of those to the lamb.  Where instead of adulterous acts, there is righteous acts of the saints.  And there is true blessing to all of those who are invited to participate in this feast and this celebration.

19:11-21

But that still leaves the question of the beast and his minion kings.  Sure Babylon is defeated – but what about the one who stands behind it in this run through of history?  Well, the great battle is set – Christ is described in 11-16: Faithful and true; powerful and full of authority (many crowns); he is clean (dipped in blood), he is the word of God.  His army (14) – is not dressed for battle, but for holy service… because they aren’t needed to fight.  Jesus’ word is the sharp sword; Jesus is the executor of God’s righteous judgement; he has sweet thigh tats declaring him to be King of Kings; Lord of Lords.

Vs 17 – the Angel declares the victory before the battle even starts.

19-21 Is the foolish, frivolous, wasted attempt to overthrow Jesus.  Zero description of battle is given… because none is needed.  Instead there is judgement – judgement which will be focused on in the next chapter.

REVELATION 4 AND 5 STUDY GUIDE – THE GREAT VISION OF HEAVEN

The basic message of this book is that even though Christians may be called upon to suffer terrible persecution in this life, they must remember that they will win in the end because Jesus, described as the Lamb that was slain, defeated evil on the cross and has prepared a place for his faithful people to be with him forever.

The way this message is conveyed is through pictures. All these pictures are from this world, reminding us that they are not to be taken literally. The reader has to look for the meaning behind the pictures.

Always remember, the reality which the word pictures represent will be far, far, greater than anything that can be imagined; like the very first scratchy black and white moving pictures of over a century ago have morphed into a big, smart, ultra-high-definition TV, able to tune in live to anything, anywhere in the world.

All that said; let’s look at the great vision of heaven which John described in Chapters 4 and 5 of the Revelation.

Revelation 4:1-6 [Read]

John sees an open door into heaven. Before him is someone, not described, on a throne. This represents God ruling over all things.

Surrounding the throne are 24 other thrones with 24 elders sitting on them. They represent all of God’s people gathered in the presence of God. They are decked-out in white, with crowns of gold on their head; these represent purity and honour.

From the throne comes flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, representing God’s awesome power and holiness. Before the throne is what looks like a sea of glass, clear as crystal, representing the tranquility and safety of that place.

Revelation 4:6-7 [Read]

Then there are the four living creatures, representing the whole heavenly realm, who know all that can be known about the one who sits upon the throne.

Revelation 4:8-11 [Read]

They never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before him seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever saying;

‘Worthy are you our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power for you created all things and by your will they existed and where created.’

Here are the essential elements of heaven in worldly pictorial form. We don’t know what it will actually look like, but we know enough to be sure that it will be wonderful beyond description and much too marvelous for words.

All his people, purified from sin, will be in his presence. It will be a place of awe and wonder, and it will be beautiful and secure like a tranquil sea.

Notice also that the focus in this vision is on God as creator. In a sense it takes us back to Genesis.

Revelation 1:1-25 [Read]

The theme of God as creator permeates the whole Scripture.

Take as an example Psalm 8 as David gazed up to those very same heavens:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him? … O Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.

Back to Revelation 4, what do the people of God, gathered in his presence, say? Verse 11:

Worthy are you, our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they existed and where created.

When faced with the challenges and mysteries of life in this world, we need to give more thought to our great, almighty Creator, who can do anything he wants to, and always does what is exactly right.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. How would you explain to a new Christian the significance of God as creator when so many today live as if he doesn’t even exist?
  2. When faced with natural disasters such as the Covid -19, or terrible earthquakes, how do they fit into our world-view as Christians in ways that might lead us to worship God the way it is portrayed in this vision?

Revelation 5:1-5 [Read]

But even the picture of God as creator is not the complete story. For that we must go to the second part of this vision, Chapter 5:1:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?’

In all of heaven, no one was found worthy to open the scroll. John began to weep loudly because of this. Then, verse 5;

One of the elders said to me, ‘weep no more; behold, the Lion of Judah, the root of David has conquered so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’

Is that familiar? Think of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5), Jacob (Genesis 34:9-15), Judah (Genesis 49:8-10), David (2 Samuel 7:8-17), and great David’s greater son, Jesus?

He is the one who has conquered Satan and all his works. … So he alone has the right to know what is written on the scroll and what is to come.

Revelation 5:6-7 [Read]

Having introduced us to the long promised conquering king, under the title ‘The Lion of Judah’, the imagery changes; verse 6;

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a lamb standing as though it had been slain, with seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

From now on in the Book of Revelation, Jesus is mainly referred to as ‘the Lamb that was slain’, who has redeemed us to God.

This reminds us that in heaven we will never be able to forget that we are there because he laid down his life for us and took upon himself the penalty for all our sins.

Revelation 5:8-10

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying;

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open the seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.

Is this not what God promised to Abraham in the beginning? Is this not what God promised, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David and is not Jesus the fulfilment of all those promises? That is what we will be affirming in heaven, that all the promises of God find their fulfilment in Jesus.

Exactly what it will be like in heaven, we cannot imagine, but the key point to remember is that whatever it turns out to be like, it will all be about our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will have gathered us to himself like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and it will be wonderful beyond anything that has ever entered our minds.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. In addition to God as Creator, how would you explain to a new Christian the significance of the phrases ‘the lamb that was slain’ and ‘The Lion of Judah of the root of David’?
  2. Why do you think it is important to state these descriptions of Jesus in the vision?
  3. How would you explain why the ‘Lamb’ is worshipped alongside the one who is seated on the throne?

CONCLUSION

Imagine we are those Christians in Asia Minor being told to confess Caesar as Lord. Imagine you are a Christian in the Middle East or in Nigeria being ordered to renounce Jesus and embrace Islam, imagine you belong to a house church in China and the knock comes on the door and they take you away for re-education. What would we do?

If we have the hope of eternal life burning in our hearts, if we fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, we will stand but if we take our eyes off him …

That is the message behind is great heavenly vision which we must hold onto in good times and the bad.