Armageddon and the Thousand years
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!)
Can you think of a story of anti-climax? Like the Y2K bug? All the hype that came to nothing!
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
What did you see? (Observation)
- 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
What did you see? (Observation)
- 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!
“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.