Summary: We need to prepare for the future earthly reign of Jesus by the way we live our lives right now.
Over the past few weeks, it has been interesting to watch what is going on in the Middle East as the citizens of nation after nation have risen up to try and topple their governments and install new leaders who they believe will rule with truth and justice. But the fact is that no government here on earth, regardless of the intentions of its leaders, is capable of governing in a manner that is completely righteous and just because every governmental leader is a sinful human being.
But there is coming a day when Jesus will establish His righteous rule here on earth. And that will be a glorious day for His followers as well, since they will get to reign with Him in His kingdom.
Before we read the first part of Revelation 20 this morning, let’s take a moment to review where we are in our journey. We’ve seen God, in many cases through His agents - the angels - carry out His judgment through a series of seals, trumpets and bowls. Those events have served both to punish the ungodly and to test the godly. But even though men recognize these events as coming from the hand of God, most still refuse to repent and commit their lives to Jesus. We’ve also seen Satan operating through his agents – the Antichrist and the false prophet. And through those agents, he is able to deceive much of the world and persuade them to assemble for the purpose of waging war against Jesus. We’ve seen God’s mercy on full display as time after time he has sent witnesses – both humans and angels – to proclaim the gospel and give man numerous chances to repent and turn to Him. And finally, last week, we saw the return of Jesus, followed by the armies of heaven, and His victory over all who would oppose Him at the battle of Armageddon.
It is only after the culmination of all these events that Jesus will finally establish His physical reign here on earth. Turn in your Bibles to Revelation 20 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 1:
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The idea that the Messiah will one day establish a physical reign here on the earth is taught throughout the Bible – in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, one of the main reasons that some of Jesus’ followers, like Judas, became so disillusioned with Him at His first coming is that Jesus began to talk about dying on a cross rather than establishing His earthly rule at that time.
But when Jesus returns to this earth, He is going to literally fulfill every one of those prophecies. What is interesting about this passage here in Revelation 20 is that it doesn’t give us a whole lot of detail about what will be occurring here on earth during this time, but for John’s audience that information wasn’t really needed since they were quite familiar with all of the Old Testament passages that provide more information about those details. The primary contribution of this passage is that it does provide one important piece of information that is missing from those other prophecies – the length of this physical rule of Jesus here on earth.
Although there is not universal agreement on this, I am going to take the same approach to this passage that we have employed all throughout our journey. We have consistently treated the events described in the text as literal unless there is something in the text itself that would lead us to take the language figuratively or symbolically.