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J.S. Russell's Position on the Millennium, the Neglected Third Way of Preterism

By Duncan McKenzie, Ph.D.

Duncan McKenzie Study Archive | The Covenant Judgments of Revelation | The Antichrist Chronicles: vol. II | J.S. Russell's Position on the Millennium, the Neglected Third Way of Preterism | A New Preterist Perspective | Was All The Prophecy in the Bible Fulfilled by A.D.70? | Revelation: The Book of Fulfillment of the Covenant Curses of Leviticus and Deuteronomy | Babylon in Not Jerusalem | Premillennial Preterism | The Serious Error of the Literal Hermeneutic in the Interpretation of the Book of Revelation | A Preterist Book on the Antichrist is Coming | Revelation Chapter 12

The position of James Stuart Russell offers a third option that is different from full preterism and traditional partial preterism. Russell’s position is essentially like the full preterist position (i.e. the one and only Second Coming, the judgment and the resurrection happened at AD 70, the resurrection having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70. Russell’s position sees us as currently in the new heaven and earth, a symbol of the post AD 70 new covenant order). Where Russell position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Full preterism can be traced back to the 1970’s and Max King. It was a fundamental shift away from Russell’s position that has never been adequately discussed; in fact it is rarely even mentioned. Russell saw the millennium as beginning at AD 70 not ending at that time as full preterism necessitates. I believe that Russell was right and a wrong turn took place with the advent of full preterism. I say this because of my study of Daniel 7; I believe it lends support to Russell’s position.

It should be noted that in Russell’s system there will be a future end to evil at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:7-10). In my mind this is an improvement over full preterist paradigm which sees evil as existing into eternity (in men’s hearts). Also Russell’s position does not necessitate the hypothesis of two millenniums. There is much more to be said. I will be saying it in my forthcoming book, The Antichrist and the Second Coming. (800 pages double spaced, see contents below).

The Antichrist and the Second Coming

A Preterist Examination
Duncan McKenzie, Ph. D.
Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. The Coming of the Kingdom of God (Daniel 2)

  3. The Little Horn of the Daniel’s Fourth Beast (Daniel 7)

  4. The King of the North and the Time of the End (Daniel 11:36-12:13)

  5. The Day of the Lord

  6. The Man of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2)

  7. Introduction to the Book of Revelation

  8. The Beast and the False Prophet (Revelation 13)

  9. The Beast and the Harlot (Revelation 17)

  10. The Beast and the Fall of Babylon (Revelation 18)

  11. The Second Coming (Revelation 19)

  12. The Millennium and New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 20-22)

  13. Where Are We Now?

Appendix A: Why I disagree with the Full Preterist Paradigm

A question that relates to the sequence of the millennium in Revelation is that of the temporal relationship of the judgment committed to those who come alive for the millennium in Revelation 20:4 (And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them…”) and the judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 (Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it…and the dead were judged, vv 11-12). I refer to these two visions of thrones and judgment in Revelation 20:4 and 20:11-15 as the throne scene judgments of Revelation 20. At first glance the sequence appears clear; the setting up of thrones and judgment in Revelation 20:4 happens at the beginning of the millennium and the setting up of the great white throne and judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 happens at the end of the millennium. There is another theory on the sequence of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15, however, that is rarely discussed in the literature on Revelation; i it was proposed by James Stuart Russell. Russell’s position is that what is being shown in Revelation 20 is not two separate throne scenes and judgments (one in Rev. 20:4 and one in 20:11-15) separated by the millennium, but one throne scene and judgment (composed of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15) with a digression of what will happen at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:7-10) in between. Russell’s position is that John begins describing a throne scene judgment at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4. At 20:7-10 John digresses about what would happen at the end of the millennium, and then at 20:11 he takes up again the subject of the throne scene judgment he started in 20:4. Russell thus saw the description of the throne scene and judgment that is begun in Revelation 20:4 as being continued in Revelation 20:11. The two sections (Rev. 20:4 and 11-15) are thus describing one throne scene judgment (which happens at the beginning of the millennium) not two throne scene judgments (one at the beginning of the millennium and one at its end). Russell wrote the following on this.

we must consider the passage which treats of (sic) the thousand years, from ver. 5 to ver. 10, as an intercalation or parenthesis. The Seer, having begun to relate the judgment of the dragon, passes in ver. 7 out of the apocalyptic limits to conclude what he had to say respecting the final punishment of ‘the old serpent,” and the fate that awaited him at the close of a lengthened period called ‘a thousand years.’ This we believe to be the sole instance in the whole book of an excursion into distant futurity; and we are disposed to regard the whole parenthesis as relating to matters still future and unfulfilled. The broken continuity of the narration is joined again at ver. 11, where the seer resumes the account of what…had been interrupted by the digression respecting the thousand years, taking up the thread which was dropped at the close of ver. 4.ii

What Russell is saying is that John begins to relate a throne scene judgment in Revelation 20:4 (And I saw thrones and they sat on them…). In verses 7-10 John digresses and talks about what will happen to Satan at the end of the millennium (“Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison…” v. 7). At verse 11 the description of the throne scene that was begun in verse 4 is continued (“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it…).

If Russell’s position is correct (which I believe it is) then the one throne scene and judgment described in Revelation 20:4 and 20:11-15 is as follows.

Rev. 20:4 And I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witnesses to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years

(Parenthesis of 7-10 of what happens at the end of the millennium)

Rev. 20:11-15 Then I saw a great throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

If Russell’s position is correct then the picture that emerges is that of the saints of verse 4 (composed of either dead believers or symbolically all believers, living and dead) joining in with God in judging the unbelieving dead in verse 11. If this is true then verse 4 (“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them…”) is referring to the same judgment that verses 11-12 are (“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it…and the dead were judged”). It should be noted that Scripture supports this interpretation of Revelation 20:4, 11-15 and its picture of the saints joining with God in the judgment.

Matthew 19:28 Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Initially I rejected Russell idea (that Revelation 20:4 and 11-15 were describing one judgment that happened at the beginning of the millennium) as being interesting but unlikely. What finally convinced me that Russell was right, was comparing what is clearly one throne scene and judgment at the beginning of the saints possessing the kingdom in Daniel 7:9-10 (which is when thrones are put in place) with Revelation 20:4 and 11-12. In Daniel 7 there is only one throne scene judgment shown; it is at the beginning of the saints possessing the kingdom, the beginning of the millennium, and it contains the elements of both Revelation 20:4 and 11 (as Russell’s position would predict). This is consistent with the proposition that Rev. 20:4 and 11 are showing one throne scene judgment that happens at the beginning of the millennium. Consider the following comparison of these scriptures. I am using the New Revised Standard Version here and have added the letters A-E for points of comparison. I have also added to Daniel 7 the corresponding verses in Revelation 20 in parentheses.

Dan. 7:9-11 NRSV

As I watched, [A] thrones were set in place (Rev. 20:4) and [B] an Ancient One took his throne (Rev. 20:11), his clothing was white as snow and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames and its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. [C] A thousand thousands served him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him (Rev. 20:12). [D] The court sat in judgment (Rev. 20:4) and the [E] books were opened (Rev. 20:12). I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. emphasis added

Rev. 20:4 NRSV

Then [A] I saw thrones, and [D] those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They 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 a thousand years. emphasis added

(Parenthesis of 7-10 of what happens at the end of the millennium)

Rev. 20:11-12

Then I saw [B] a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw [C] the dead, great and small standing before the throne, and [E] books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. emphasis added

Notice that it is only by combining the elements of both Revelation 20:4 and 11-12 that one gets all five of the elements of the one throne scene of Daniel 7:9-10.

Daniel 7:9-10 Revelation 20:4, 11-12

[A]
7: 9. As I watched, thrones were set in place
20:4 I saw thrones

[B]
7:9 an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing white as snow.
20:11 I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it.

[C]
7:10 A thousand thousands served him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
20:12 I saw the dead, great and standing before the throne.

[D]
7:10 The court sat in judgment
20:4 those seated on them [the thrones] were given authority to judge

[E]
7:10 books were opened
20:12 books were opened

 Daniel 7:9-10 lends strong support for Russell’s idea that Revelation 20:4 and 20:11-12 is one throne scene and judgment (at the beginning of the millennium) not two judgments (separated by the millennium).iii Note that the NRSV makes element C look different in Daniel and Revelation; the NRSV makes it sound like the ones before the throne are attending the One on the throne. If you look at the NKJV and NASB, however, they give the impression that there are two groups before the throne, those attending God and those there for judgment (“thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.” Dan. 7:10 NASB). If the NASB and NKJV give the correct sense (which I believe they do) then the myriads before the throne in Daniel 7:10 correspond to the dead before the throne in Revelation 20:12, both groups are facing the judgment. If none of those before the throne in Daniel 7:10 are facing judgment, then who is? It would be very strange indeed to show a judgment with no one to be judged.

After examining Daniel 7:9-11, I came to the conclusion that Russell was right; the throne scene and judgment begun in Revelation 20:4 is then continued in Revelation 20:11. Revelation 20 is showing what Paul said would happen at the Second Coming (1 Cor. 6:2); the saints in verse 4 are partnering with God as He judges the world in verses 11-15. Notice how Daniel first saw thrones and then he saw the Ancient of Days take His throne, Dan. 7:9 (“As I watched, thrones were set in place {A} and an Ancient One took his throne” {B}). This is exactly what one gets when one connects Revelation 20:4 with 20:11 (4. “And I saw thrones and they sat on them {A}…11. Then I saw a great throne and Him who sat on it” {B}).

Again, what led me to accept Russell's solution that Rev. 20:4 and 20:11-15 are really describing one throne scene (with the parenthetical statement of what ultimately happens to Satan at the end of the millennium in vv. 7-10) is that it is only in by combining both Rev. 20:4 and 11-12 that you get all five of elements that are found in the one throne scene (which happens at the beginning of the kingdom reign) in Dan. 7:9-11. Daniel’s vision of this throne scene shows the elements of Revelation 20:4 (thrones set up with those sitting on them given the authority to judge) as happening at the same time that elements of Revelation 20:11-12 happen (God takes His throne, myriads are before the throne and the books are opened). This judgment was to happen at the beginning of the saints possessing the kingdom, the AD 70 beginning of the millennium. The millennium began right after the defeat of Antichrist (the little horn/individual beast, Dan. 7:9-11, 21-22; Rev. 19:20-20:4); this was the time of the AD 70 Second Coming not AD 30.

Revelation 20:4 and 11-12 are talking about one throne scene and judgment explains the judgment that is committed to those on the thrones in verse 4, the meaning of which is unintelligible if verses 4 and 11-15 aren’t connected. Aune, commenting on this problem, said the following on Revelation 20:4-6, “nothing remotely connected with [krima] ‘judgment’ is found in the narrative; i.e., the right to judge given to those enthroned is apparently not exercised within this pericope.” iv brackets mine Aune further wrote that Rev. 20:4 “looks like the beginning of a judgment scene that is fragmentary, for the judgment itself does not occur (i.e., [krima], ‘judgment’ has no real function in this textual unit)”v brackets mine. This last point is very important; it is strong evidence against the possibility that John was deliberating splitting of the judgment in Daniel 7:9-10 into two separate judgments (not that I have ever seen anyone make this argument). If John were deliberately splitting the throne judgment of Daniel 7 into two judgments, one would think he would have done a more coherent job. That is, the judgment that the saints on thrones in Revelation 20:4 participate in does not make sense if it is not connected to the throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-12. It thus see no indication that John was separating the judgment of Daniel 7 into two judgments (separated by the millennium) in Revelation 20. In Daniel 7:9 thrones are put in place (cf. Rev. 20:4) at the same time that the Ancient of Days is seated (cf. Rev. 20:11).

Some try to escape this problem of the judgment that never happens in Revelation 20:4 by saying that judgment committed to those on the thrones means that they rule, not that they are involved in a judgment. Mounce noted, however, that although the OT term for “to judge” (Heb. mishphat) has connotations of both judging and ruling, the Greek word for “to judge” (krima) does not carry such a range of meaning (he cites Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker “as showing no such meaning for [krima]”)vi Again, my position is that the judgment of Revelation 20:4 is not fragmentary; the judgment John begins to describe at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4 is continued in 20:11. Thus Revelation (like Daniel) is showing one judgment at the beginning of the saints possessing the kingdom (the millennium, Dan. 7:26-27), not two judgments (one at the beginning of the millennium and one at the end).

That Revelation 20:4 and 11-15 are describing one throne scene judgment at the beginning of the millennium (not one at the beginning and one at the end) explains why there is no Second Coming shown at the end of the millennium in Rev. 20:7-10 (which is a fatal problem for postmillennialists). Both full preterists and most traditional partial preterists are post-millennialists. Full preterists say that the Second Coming happened in AD 70 at the end of the millennium. Most traditional partial preterists say the Second Coming will happen in the future at the end of some form of a millennium. Look at what Revelation says about the end of the millennium, however; it does not mention the Second Coming as happening at that time.

Rev. 20:7-10 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

This is the only unequivocal statement in Revelation concerning the end of the millennium, and the Second Coming is not even mentioned. We are shown God’s judgment on Gog and Magog here (the fire coming from God in vs. 9) but that is hardly the Second Coming. There is no Second Coming mentioned in this section.vii In the same manner there is no coming of God shown in Ezekiel 38-39, which is the passage that Revelation 20:7-10 is referring to. The coming of God happens at the beginning of the saints inheriting the kingdom (Dan. 7:21-27). This is when thrones are set up, at the beginning of the millennium (Dan. 7:7-12). What many have construed as a judgment at the end of the millennium in Revelation 20:11-15 is just the continuation of the judgment John was describing that happens at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4. Again, understanding that the judgment of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15 are one judgment at the beginning of the millennium helps to explain why the Second Coming is not shown at the end of the millennium. Daniel 7 (which is what the millennial teaching of Revelation 20 is drawn from) only shows one judgment and it was to happen at the AD 70 coming of God (the Second Coming) at beginning of the saints possessing the kingdom (the beginning of the millennium, Dan. 7:7-11, 21-27).

As I mentioned earlier, I originally rejected Russell’s position on the millennium. Allow me to share some of my earlier ideas on the millennium, as I think they are initially attractive but ultimately lead in the wrong direction. My earlier position (which I now think is mistaken) was that Rev. 20:4 was the 70 AD beginning of the millennium and that Rev. 20:11-15 was the resurrection and judgment at the end of the millennium (which I saw as the end of time). I thus was in agreement with Russell that the millennium began at AD 70 but was extending Russell’s view on future things (relative to us) from Revelation 20:10 to 20:15. That is, Russell’s position is that only Revelation 20:7-10 speaks of future things whereas my former position saw Revelation 20:5-15 as dealing with future things (i.e. I saw Rev. 20:10-15 being a future judgment at the end of the millennium). In my former position I saw Revelation 21 as returning to AD 70, as the topic of the New Jerusalem/bride started in Revelation 19:7 is continued (Rev. 21:2, 9-10). My position seemed fine at first but on closer inspection I discovered logistical problems that could not be remedied.

In Rev. 21:1 (which my old position had said was AD 70) there is no more sea. If the sea (symbolic of Satan’s domain) ceased to exist in AD 70 how could it be around to give up the dead in it at (what my old position had said was) the end of time in Rev. 20:13? Also in Rev. 20:11 heaven and earth/Land flee and there is no place found for them. If this was the end of time, how is it that there is a new heaven and earth/Land in Rev. 21:1 (which my old position said was AD 70)? The necessity of a new heaven and Land in Revelation 21:1 (which I was saying was AD 70) was because the old heaven and Land had fled in Rev. 20:11 (which I was saying was the end of time). To say Revelation 21:1 is AD 70 while Revelation 20:11 is the end of time did not make sense. If Revelation 21:1 is referring to an AD 70 new heaven and new Land then the old heaven and old Land fleeing in Revelation 20:11 must also be referring to AD 70. Similarly, If Revelation 20:11 is the end of time then Revelation 21:1 should be the end of time. The new heaven and new Land in Rev. 21:1 is a direct result of the fleeing of the old heaven and old Land in Rev. 20:11. If Rev. 21:1 is AD 70 then Rev. 20:11 should also be AD 70. Since one is the direct result of the other, one can not separate the two time periods.viii The logical inconsistencies of my previous position presented an insurmountable challenge. Since I knew that the full preterist solution that the millennium was the period from AD 30 to AD 70 was wrong, I went back and reexamined, and ultimately accepted, Russell's position.

While I believe that Russell’s proposition that Revelation 20:4 and 20:11-15 form one judgment at the AD 70 beginning of the millennium is correct, it does bring up a difficulty. Revelation 20:5a says, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” This would seem to be at odds with the position which I am advocating which sees one resurrection of the righteous and wicked happening at the beginning of the “thousand years,” not a resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the “thousand years,” (Rev. 20:4, 6) and then another resurrection, of the wicked (or wicked and righteous) at the end. As I investigated this difficulty, I discovered that there is some question as to whether the part of verse 5 (5a) that speaks of the rest of the dead coming alive after the thousand years was in the original text of Revelation. Notice how the NRSV highlights how Revelation 20:5a interrupts the flow of John’s thought from verse 4 to 5b. In an attempt to smooth this interruption out, the NRSV (as well as the NIV) puts 5a in parentheses (I have added a and b to v. 5).

4. Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They 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 a thousand years. 5a. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) b. This is the first resurrection. Rev. 20:4-5 NRSV

As it stands, Revelation 20:5 does not make sense, 5a. reads “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” 5b. reads “This is the first resurrection.” This makes it sound like the rest of the dead coming to life after the thousand years constitutes the first resurrection. Aune said the following about how verse 5a interrupts this passage, “Since the clause interrupts the thought of the passage, it may have been an annotation added at a final stage of composition.”ix Beale said the following on the awkwardness of Revelation 20:5a. The rest of the dead did not come to life… “is omitted by several good mss. [see footnote] because it was abrupt and seemed out of place or, more likely because a copyist’s eye skipped from ‘years’ at the end of v. 4 to the following ‘years’ [in verse 5].”x

I don’t believe that Revelation 5a is missing in some of the best manuscripts of Revelation simply due to a copyist’s error (this type of error is referred to as a “homoioteleuton”). Revelation 5a is absent in a little over a third of all manuscripts of Revelation including two of the three best (Sinaiticus and 2053 don’t have it, Alexandrinus does). James Parkinson wrote the following on Revelation 20:5a and whether it is part of the original text of Revelation.

In the Greek of Rev 20:5 the first sentence ends with “the thousand years,” just as does the last sentence of the preceding verse. Thus, if it is assumed both sentences were in the original, it would have been an easy mistake for the copyist’s eye to skip from the first “the thousand years” to the second, thus accidentally omitting a sentence. Indeed, Tischendorf, Alford, and others automatically regard it as an accidental omission (technically referred to as a “homoioteleuton”). However, if the sentence in question were originally a comment, with the same terminal words, the automatic judgment has no way to detect it as spurious. In the case of Rev 20:5, the sentence, “The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished” (Greek: ...until were finished the thousand years) has sufficient theological import that it is unlikely it would disappear quietly from about 37% of the manuscripts (from a progressively higher percentage in centuries before the fourteenth). While the Millennarian sentiment of Papias (early 2nd century) and others might welcome accidental omission, the anti-Millennarian spirit from Constantine onwards would severely punish it. The sentence itself interrupts the context, perhaps implying that the first resurrection is the absence of a resurrection! The earlier Aecumenius text (in manuscript 2053, preserving a text of ca. A.D. 600) omits the sentence both times, but it is added in the commentary; it suggests the sentence itself may have originated similarly. Subsequent additions of the Words “But” and “again” seem like an effort to smooth out a foreign sentence. The absence of the disputed sentence in two of the three best manuscripts does not permit the question to be automatically dismissed, particularly because its absence from the Aramaic (Syriac), and from the popular family 82, implies that it is not a local accidental omission. Nevertheless, the manuscript evidence is not so strong as to remove all doubt; so it is here listed under Probable Corrections. xi

I believe that Revelation 5a may well have been a gloss, an early marginal comment by a scribe that got incorporated into the text of Revelation. R.H. Charles wrote the following along these lines.

As another illustration of the critical value of the form of the text I will give the vision of the kingdom of Christ and the glorified martyrs in 20:4-6. This vision would consist of seven stanzas of two lines each, but for the prosaic addition in the fifth stanza 20:5a: ‘the rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years were fulfilled.’ If this were original we should expect it to be introduced by a conjunction and that an adversative one: ‘And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years, but the rest of the dead lived not.’ But no such conjunction is given. Hence the words appear to be a marginal gloss incorporated in the text. Moreover, it intervenes between two lines which should not be separated; for the second line (‘This is the first resurrection’) defines what the first line means. Thus the first stanza should be read: 20: 4i And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years; 5b This is the first resurrection.’xii

The Syriac Philoxenian version of the New Testament (from the sixth century) reads the way that Charles suggests as being correct. It omits Revelation 20:5a (“the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” NRSV) and connects the 2 lines that Charles felt are incorrectly separated. It gives an idea of how I believe Revelation 20:4-6 should read.

04 And I saw thrones, and [persons] sat on them, and judgment was given to them, and to the souls that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God: and these are they who had not worshipped the beast of prey, nor its image, neither had they received the mark upon their forehead or on their hand; and they lived and reigned with their Messiah those thousand years. 05 This is the first resurrection. 06 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in this first resurrection: over them the second death hath no dominion; but they shall be, [nay] are, priests of God and of his Messiah; and they will reign with him the thousand years.xiii brackets in original

This reading is much less awkward, but more importantly, it is consistent with the teaching of the rest of Scripture that there is only one resurrection event of the physical dead (although that resurrection continues since its AD 70 beginning).xiv Nowhere else in Scripture does it show two resurrections of the physical dead separated in time. It should be clear that Revelation 20:4 is referring to the time of the resurrection, as it shows the coming to life of the souls of those who had been killedxv by the beast. These were the souls of believers (the saints overcome by the beast, cf. Rev. 13:7), being resurrected. This is not a spiritual coming to life, as the dead here were saints; they were already spiritually alive (cf. Rev. 6:9-11). Johnson said the following about how the coming alive of the martyrs of the beast is not speaking of a spiritual coming to life.

The reference to “souls” (psychas) immediately recalls 6:9, where the same expression is used of the slain witnesses under the altar. The word describes those who have lost their bodily lives but are nevertheless still alive in God’s sight. This term prepares us for their coming to (bodily) life again at the first resurrection. It is a mistake to take psychas to imply a later spiritual resurrection or rebirth of the soul, as did Augustine and many since. These martyrs are also those who did not worship the beast or his image or receive his mark on them (cf. 13:1-17; 15:2).xvi


     Only one resurrection, a first, is explicitly mentioned in Revelation 20 (although such a designation could infer a second). Personally I believe that two resurrections are inferred here but that they are not separated in time. That is, they are two aspects of one resurrection event. Again, this is consistent with the rest of Scripture which shows only one resurrection of the physically dead that includes the righteous and the wicked. Jesus talked about two resurrections of the physical dead, but they were part of the same resurrection event. The first resurrection was to life, the second was to condemnation, “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29; cf. Dan. 12:1-2; 7). These two resurrections that Jesus referred to were to happen at the same time; they were not to be separated by a period of time (such as the millennium).


i This position is not discussed by either Aune or Beale (who between the two of them cover quite a lot of ground) or any other current day commentary on Revelation that I am aware of.

ii J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia, New Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 523-524. Originally published in London by T. Fisher Unwin, 1887.

iii Russell made little to no use of the book of Daniel in The Parousia. This is unfortunate as Daniel supports his position.

iv David Aune, Revelation 17-22, Word Bible Commentary vol. 52c, gen. eds. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 1079.

v David Aune, Revelation 17-22, Word Bible Commentary vol. 52c, gen. eds. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 1084. Aune sees the seemingly disorganized arrangement of this part of Revelation 20 as due to “hysteron-proteron,” the reversing of the logical order of narrative events.

vi In spite of this, Mounce suggests that “rule” may be the meaning here. Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds. Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce and Gordon Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998), 364. Mounces citation for the meaning of krima is found in W. Bauer, W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2nd ed., Chicago, 1979), 450-51.

vii Postmillennialists assume (as do most others) that the judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 happens at the end of the millennium, it is taken for granted by them that the Second Coming has to happen at this time even though it is not shown.

viii Some partial preterists maintain that Revelation 20:11 is the end of time and yet Revelation 21:1 is AD 70. One can disconnect these two verses in terms of their timing. The new heaven and new Land in Rev. 21:1 is a direct result of the fleeing of the old heaven and old Land in Rev. 20:11. If Rev. 21:1 is AD 70 then Rev. 20:11 should also be AD 70. If Revelation 20:11 is the end of time then Revelation 21:1 should be the end of time. The new heaven and earth of Rev. 21 happen right after the fleeing of the old heaven and earth in Rev. 20.

ix David Aune, Revelation 17-22, Word Bible Commentary vol. 52c, gen. eds. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 1090.

x G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and Donald Hagner, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 1015. The manuscripts that Beale cites are the following: Sinaiticus, 2030, 2053, 2062, 2377; also the better mss of the Majority text of the Apocalypse, the Syriac, Vic, Bea. Note: ‘Vic’ stands for Victorinus Petavionensis, which means that Victor, a Bishop in Austrian around 300 (very early) quotes the passage and omits 20:5a. ‘Bea’ stands for the Commentary on the Apocalypse written by Beatus of Liebana (Spain) in the late 8th century which quotes this passage, again without 20:5a. These are very interesting-showing Western Europe’s acceptance of this version of the text. This reading, then, occurred in Syria, Egypt, and Austria. I am indebted to Stephen Douglas for helping me better understand the manuscript evidence.

xi “Manuscript Evidence and the English New Testament” http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/reference/mscript1.pdf accessed 6-20-2006

The few references I know of that mention the question of Rev. 20:5a are the following:

The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text - Hodges & Farstad

Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse - H. C. Hoskier

International Critical Commentary on Revelation - R. H. Charles.

See http://www.thechristadelphians.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=448.

xii R.H. Charles, The British Academy Lectures on the Apocalypse, (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), 44-45.

xiii James Murdock, The New Testament: Translated from the Syriac Peshitto Version (New York: Stanford and Swords, 1852), Gary Cernava 1996. The text that this version of Revelation is based on is from the 6th century. Earlier editions of the Syriac New Testament did not contain Revelation; see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 106.

xiv The resurrection continues as people have continued to believe since AD 70. It continues in the spiritual sensed when one is born again. It continues in its ultimate sense when the believer dies and puts on his or her resurrection body (cf. Rev. 14:8-13).

xv I have had full preterists try to make this fit an AD 30 beginning of the millennium. They say that these are the souls of those who would be killed by the beast (future to AD 30). Revelation 20:4, however, says that these souls of the martyrs of the beast had been killed (past tense). If the millennium began at AD 30 this would require a pre-AD 30 individual beast and mark (Rev. 13:11-18) to produce the martyrs that come alive in the millennium.

xvi Alan F. Johnson, Revelation in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised Edition: vol. 13 Hebrews-Revelation, Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland gen. eds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 767. While Johnson and I agree that the souls coming to life n Rev. 20:4 is a reference to dead people being resurrected (as opposed to merely a spiritual coming to life) Johnson would not agree with me that the Second Coming and resurrection happened (or more correctly, started) at AD 70.

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 04 Oct 2006
Time: 07:58:32

Comments0:

Thanks for presenting the pro's and con's on subject matters. This is a great site. Christ is to be greatly exalted!

David; Pensacola, Florida


Date: 30 Dec 2009
Time: 03:00:34

Your Comments:

Is it at all possible that 5a is exactly as it should be? It just may be possible that the resurrection of the dead(wicked) is set into motion at a particular point in time and those who died before that time where brought to life for judgement immediately by the newly set up system and that those who died(wicked) after that point would come to life for judgement at the end of the Millenium but sense the means by which it is accomplished and executed is the same as the first except that it is simply delayed it is in fact the same resurrection of the dead(wicked)? So it may be executed at a later point within the Mellinium (at the end!) But since nothing of it's nature is different it is still the same as the first only delayed, hence the statement in 5a almost sounding to say..."Oh, by the way, as part of the small print to the resurrection of the dead(wicked) those who die(wicked) after the inception of the new heavens and land will incedentally be processed at the end of the mellinium!
So it's the same processing of the dead(wicked) who are resurrected just 2 different times of processing as opposed to 2 different resurrections of the dead(wicked) with 2 different types of procedures for the processing of the dead(wicked). Maybe?


Date: 23 Aug 2012
Time: 02:15:54

Your Comments:

If the event in Revelation 20:4 and 11-15 is the one event that takes place at the beginning of the millennium, then verse 14 must take place also.

Rev 20:14 And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.

If death is cast into the lake of fire at the beginning of the millennium and this is at AD70, why does death still occur?
 




 


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