Revelation 20:1-6, It Can’t Possibly Mean That!

1] Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  2] He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3] and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.  The I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not receive his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  5] But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.  6] Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20 continues the events begun by the return of our Lord in ch. 19.  The events in this chapter conclude human history.  They include the binding of Satan, the 1000 year kingdom, the loosing of Satan for the final rebellion, and the Great White Throne judgment.  We’ll look at the first two in this post.

1. The binding of Satan.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this, just a couple of things.  Satan will be bound, not just “hindered,” as, say, by the preaching of the Gospel.  Some have the idea that he’s just going to be like a dog on a chain in the backyard, but still have a limited amount of freedom.  Scripture says he will be bound up and put away. Out of sight and out of mind.

Some object to the idea of a “chain” binding a spirit creature like Satan.  However one may choose to look at this, the teaching is plain:  Satan will literally be taken out of the picture, by whatever means God chooses to use.

2. The “1000 years”.

These verses are some of the most controversial in Scripture.  The very idea of “an earthly, carnal, kingdom” where the Lord sits on an actual throne in the actual city of Jerusalem is just too far beyond what some can accept.  According to this mindset, these verses can’t possible refer to an actual 1000 year period, but, as one writer put it, simply refer to our present Gospel dispensation of nearly 2000 years (!)

I think there’s a reason the Holy Spirit inspired John to use the phrase “1000 years” five times in six verses.  It’s to impress on us that He means 1000 years, not just some indeterminate amount of time!  Besides, isn’t it an insult to our Lord to describe any rule of His, regardless of where it is, as “carnal”?

Revelation doesn’t tell us a great deal of what will happen during these years, but other Scriptures give us some idea.

1. Satan will be bound.

We’ve already seen this.  The chief enemy of God and His people will be taken out of the picture.

2. Israel as a nation will be saved, Zechariah 12:9-14.  They will realize that this One whom they crucified is actually their Redeemer.  Some have objected that their sin shut them out of the possibility of being saved, but, in fact, it will be the means of their eventual conversion.

3. Israel as a nation will be judged, Ezekiel 20:33-38.  When our Lord come back, not every Jew will bow to Him as Lord.  Those refusing to do so will be purged out of the nation.

4. The living Gentile nations will be judged, Matthew 25:31-46, apparently on the basis of how they have treated the Jews.  This might have some reference to the invasion of Israel.

5. The curse will be removed from the earth, Isaiah 65:17-25.  This is the time Paul said that creation was looking forward to, Romans 8:19-21, where creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Some have take Isaiah’s reference in  65:17 to new heavens and a new earth to mean eternity.  Revelation 21:1 also describes such a creation.  However, I don’t think Isaiah and Revelation refer to the same thing.  I may be wrong, but Isaiah says there will still be death in his vision:

“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days’
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed, Isaiah 65:20.

In contrast, John describes a place where “there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

Considering the radical changes that will take place when the Lord comes back, I think it can safely be said that things will indeed be “new”.

The beast and his minions had killed those who refuse to bow down before him and receive his mark.  Here we find, though, that these same martyrs are resurrected and share in the millennial glory.  This isn’t simply “conversion,” as some teach, but an actual coming back to life of those who gave their lives for the Lord.

What about OT and church saints?  Paul taught that OT saints will come back with the Lord at His return and NT saints will be resurrected then.  These won’t be left out of the blessings.

Man longs for and dreams of a “utopia” in which everyone lives happily ever after.  That will not be realized in any real sense until our Lord comes back and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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Hebrews 12:12-24, Continue….

[12]Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, [13]and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated,but rather healed.
[14]Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:  [15]looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; [16]lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  [17]For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
[18]For you  have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, [19]and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  [20](For they could not endure what was commanded:  “and if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot through with an arrow.”  [21]And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceeding afraid and trembling.”
[22]But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, [23]to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, [24]to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. 

Scripture tells us that every true believer experiences trouble of one kind or another.  It’s God’s way of weaning us away from the world and bringing us to Himself.  As someone has said, whether or not trouble is a blessing to us depends on where it is in relation to us and God.  If it comes between us and God, then it’s not a blessing, because it acts as a wedge, driving us away from God, but if God is between it and us, then it brings us closer to God.

I think it’s this latter idea that the writer has in mind in our text for this post.  We’re to strengthen that which is weak and straighten out what is crooked.  We’re to look at trouble as something designed to bring us closer to God.  In our vernacular, I think the writer might be saying, “Take a deep breath.”

The trouble with trouble is that it tends to make us contentious.  To counteract this tendency, the writer says to pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.  Trouble tends to make us self-centered, forgetting not only those around us, but He who is above us.  We’re to “look carefully,” or be diligent, in this matter, because becoming absorbed by our troubles tends to make us bitter, and this leads to nothing good.

Bitterness acts as a poison, corrupting not only ourselves, but our interactions with others.  It doesn’t just affect us; it affects others – and not in a good way.

Self-absorption also opens the door to sin to enter.  The writer mentions Esau as a classic example of this.  The incident he refers to is in Genesis 25:29-34.  As the firstborn son, his was a double portion of inheritance, as well as a priority in blessing.  When the father died, the firstborn became the leader of the family.  Esau threw all that away because he was hungry.  His brother Jacob was at fault here, to be sure, but the responsibility was Esau’s.  He was supposed to be the leader.  Esau might have had other faults, as well, since the writer describes him as a fornicator and profane.  This latter word doesn’t mean that he swore or used bad language, though that may be included.  It simply means “common,” as opposed to “sacred.”  Esau had no thought for the things of God.  In the words of Philippians 3:19, his belly was his god.  He set his mind on earthly things.  And, because of this, he lost heavenly things.  He sold his birthright, Hebrews 12:16.

Earlier, the writer had mentioned that there is an “afterward” for the believer, v. 11.  But there is an “afterward” for the unbeliever, as well.  In v. 17, he says, For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears, emphasis added.  This incident occurs in Genesis 27:30-40.  And this “place of repentance” wasn’t in himself; it was in his father.

Isaac’s family was a mess.  Several chapters in Genesis tells us this, but when the dust was settled in this event, Isaac realized that it was Jacob who was to receive the blessing, not Esau, though Esau was his favorite, and Isaac had intended to give him the blessing.  That Jacob deceived his father in this matter in no way cancels out the fact that God had said, “The older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob],” Genesis 25:23.  (There was an “afterward” for Rebekah as well.  After Jacob’s deception came to light, she sent him away, hoping that he wouldn’t have to be gone too long, Genesis 27:41-45.  She never saw her favorite son again.)

Notice here also that the writer says of the blessing that Esau sought it diligently, v. 17.  It didn’t matter.  It was too late!  His father confirmed this.  After Esau had begged him for the blessing, Isaac said, “I have blessed him [Jacob] – and indeed he shall be blessed,” Genesis 27:33.  The time for Esau to have been diligent, to “look carefully” [v.15], would have been when he was hungry!  I wonder how many blessings we lose because we’re careful too late.  We get “hungry” for the wrong things!

The rest of our text, vs. 18-24, might seem strange.  What do they have to do with how we’re to handle trouble?  I think the answer lies in the main difference between the two covenants alluded to.  Vs. 18-21 describe the scene at the giving of the Law, or the Mosaic Covenant.  This was when Israel officially became a nation.  The things given to her on Sinai were her constitution and bylaws.  Vs. 22-24 have to do with the New Covenant, which the writer has already mentioned in 8:7-13.

There’s probably a lot we could say about these two covenants, but we’ll try to restrict ourselves to only one.  The Mosaic Law had no provision to help the OT Jew fulfill his obligations.  In Deuteronomy 29:2-4, Moses referred to this.  He said to the crowd gathered before him, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land- , the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs and those great wonders.  Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day (emphasis added.)  This explains why Israel was so slow to obey and so quick to rebel.  The Law has no provision to help the sinner obey its commands and can do nothing about the sinner’s condition.  Israel was on her own.  It was up to her to make herself righteous.  That’s why Israel failed so miserably.  That’s why those today who believe they can keep the Law fail so miserably.  They’re on their own.

Work and run, the Law commands,
but gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings;
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

The New Covenant, on the other hand, is all about remedying the plight of the sinner.  In chapter 8:7-12, the writer quoted an extensive portion from Jeremiah 31:31-34 describing the provisions and benefits of the New Covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel was on her own.  Under the New Covenant, Israel will have divine assistance.  And be sure that it is Israel the nation that is in view here, not some “spiritual” Israel, not some convoluted idea that “the church” is really what is meant here.  Under the Mosaic Covenant, God gave no assistance to Israel.  Under the New Covenant, God will put His laws into their hearts and minds.  Every single Jew alive at that time will know God, regardless of their state in life.  This will be the fulfillment of Romans 11:26, So then, all Israel will be saved, a verse where Paul quotes Isaiah 59:20, 21.

But, if all this refers to Israel, then what good does it do us?  God never made any promises to Gentiles in the OT, only about them when He promised Abraham that in him all families of the earth shall be blessed, Genesis 12:3.  I don’t know that the OT, being concerned mainly with Israel, particularly tells us how this will be accomplished.  It’s not until the NT that we find that out.  It is in the NT that the Lord Jesus introduces a new player, as it were, into this thing we call salvation.  In Matthew 16:18, He said, I will build My church, or “My assembly,” emphasis added.  This was to distinguish what He was going to do from every other “assembly” in the world.  The word translated “assembly,” – ekklesia – means a group of people.  It was used to refer to any group or gathering, whether sacred or secular.  In the NT, it’s usually translated, “church,” though it’s used in Acts 19:40 of the riotous crowd which gathered because of the preaching of the gospel in Ephesus, that disorderly gathering which was offended at it.

The Lord’s assembly was to be unique.  It wasn’t like any other “assembly” or gathering or group of people in the world.  It wasn’t just to be a continuation of the nation of Israel or her replacement.

It was, is, His.  He builds it and He rules it.  He will come for it.  It is through Him that Gentiles – us – are able to receive the blessings of salvation.

Some people believe that it’s through the church itself that salvation is received.  Not so.  Not so.  There is no salvation in any church or denomination, but especially not in those who claim that it is.

At the same time, the church – a group of people, not a building – is important.  It’s through her that the gospel is to be preached.  It’s through her that missionaries are to be sent around the world.  It’s through her that the corruption of this world is to be hindered and countered.  Not through politics, not through legislation, not through any of the things men have foisted on her over the years, but through the preaching of the Gospel, and Christians living as if they believed what they say they believe.  Not through the latest social contortions, but through the Scripture.

The strength of the church – the strength of the individual believer – doesn’t come from personalities or programs or promotions.  These should have no place in the church.  It’s a shame that they do.  It’s the reason the church has no power in this increasingly wicked and corrupt world.  Indeed, things have gotten so bad that her voice, that is, the voice of those who say they belong to her, sometimes is heard in favor of that wickedness and corruption.

The strength and success of the church, the true church, the church our Lord started, not this thing called “the church” in our day, comes from her Founder and Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s a telling thing in the Book of Revelation that the Lord describes Himself as standing at the door, wanting admission to His church, Revelation 3:20.  It’s true that this verse is usually thought of as the Lord patiently waiting at the door of the sinner’s heart, waiting for that sinner to open the door and let Him in.  However, Revelation 3:20 has nothing to do with sinners and salvation.  In v. 22, He says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, emphasis added.  Incredible though it may seem, the Lord has effectively been shut out of that place where He should be honored and obeyed.  That’s why the world’s in the mess it’s in – the church is in the mess she’s in.

Things won’t get better until the Lord Jesus is given His proper place, the place of preeminence and honor, and that probably won’t happen until He comes back and physically takes it.  And Christians are only able to “continue” as they follow the counsel of the writer in v. 2:

Consider Him.

 

 

Hebrews 11:39, 40, Faith and Final Things.

[39]And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, [40]God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.

These are tremendously interesting verses.  The writer has listed a whole bunch of “heroes of the faith,” going clear back to Abel, but then he seems to be saying in these verses that we have something to do with them, indeed, that without us, they would be lacking something.

Read the verses again:  And all these [heroes of the faith], having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect [or, “brought to completion”] without us, emphases added.

???

As I’ve thought over these verses, I’ve come to a different view of them than I had originally.  In fact, I had to rewrite most of this post.

There’s a lot of discussion, and has been through church history, about what the church is, her place in God’s redemptive purpose, and, especially, her relationship with Israel .

One view is that God did indeed choose Israel to be His people, and Jesus came to “offer” the kingdom spoken of in the OT to her, but when she rejected and crucified her Messiah, God in effect said, “Oops,” and began the church as sort of a plan B.  This was the view I grew up around and the view of the Bible college which I attended.

As I began to read Puritan and Reformed writers, I came across another view.  This view taught that when Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, God in effect said, “That’s it!  I’m done!”  The church came in as a replacement to Israel, and all the OT promises became hers.  The church is the goal and fulfillment of all those promises and prophecies.  “The church” is a spiritual kingdom; there is no “literal, earthly” kingdom with Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem.  Believers are “spiritual Israel.”  There is no future for ethnic Israel; God is finished with her.

There is a wide variety of teaching in both of these viewpoints.

I don’t claim to have all the answers or to understand everything in the Scriptures, and I’m sure that this post will not lay the discussion to rest, but I believe both views are wrong.

The church is not “Plan B”!  It seems to me that the very idea that God could be, as it were, caught by surprise and have to come up with “Plan B” doesn’t say very much about our view of Him, to say nothing of what it says about Him!  And I don’t know about you, but if God had to change or rework His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond Plan B.

It seems to me to be more Scriptural to say that the church is “Part B” in God’s redemptive purpose.  We’ll return to this thought in a minute.

Now, there are a lot of things we could say about and around this topic.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that, if words have any meaning at all, the Bible is clear that God is not done with Israel.  True, Scripture says that she had been temporarily (emphasis on “temporarily”) put aside.  Micah 5:1 says they shall strike the judge of Israel on the cheek, as a result of which, therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth, v. 3, emphasis added.  Indeed, the rejection of the Messiah is the means through which Israel will ultimately be redeemed.  Romans 11:25, 26 refers to this.  Paul wrote to the church at Rome, For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Israel has been put on the shelf, so to speak, and Gentiles have come into the blessings of the Gospel.  But Paul doesn’t stop there.  He doesn’t say that God is done with Israel.  On the contrary –

 And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written:  ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.’

“All Israel shall be saved.”

Not “every Israelite who ever lived will be saved,” as some have said we believe, but rather that every Israelite alive at the time will be saved.  In chs. 9-11, Paul is writing about ethnic Israel, his countrymen according to the flesh, and so, the “Israel” of 9:26 cannot refer to “spiritual Israel,” that is, you and me, as a preacher once claimed in the worst exposition of Romans 9-11 I’ve ever heard.

There is coming a time in which Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit, Isaiah 27:6, a time which Paul refers to as their fullness, Romans 11:12. In vs. 11, 12, Paul wrote I say then, have they stumbled [see 9:23] that they should fall?  Certainly not!  but through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

As an example of the difficulty some people have with the idea that God still has plans for the nation of Israel, the preacher whom I mentioned above interpreted v. 12 like this, “Now if their (Israel) fall is riches for the world, and their (Israel) failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness.”  This is how he actually wrote it out.  He simply would not or could not see that if the first two instances of “their” referred to Israel, then the third one has to, as well.  Israel has yet to have, and will have, fullness.

So what does all this have to do with our text?

There are books and books about prophecy, from every viewpoint.  Although, as I’ve said elsewhere, I expect that when it’s all said and done, that all of us will discover that we didn’t have everything figured out.

One thing is certain.  In the final description of the city which has foundations, Hebrews 11:10, the Apostle John wrote that he saw the great city, the holy city, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:  three gates on the east, …on the north, …on the south, and…on the west.  Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Revelation 21:10-14.

Although I’m not sure how it’ll all play out, it seems that Israel and “the church” will never lose their distinctive identities.  Without “the church,” in this sense, it seems to me, Israel would not be “complete.”  This is why the OT saints never “received the [fulfillment of the] promise.”

It wasn’t time yet.