Written by: Christopher Sernaque
The Millennium is one of the most fascinating subjects in Bible Prophecy. This 1,000-year period detailed in Revelation 20, and other passages of Scripture, describes the righteous getting to reign with Jesus and Satan’s 1,000-year confinement, and more. Due to the many different events that occur during the Millennium, it is required that we allow the Word of God to define when each event occurs. Below is a question that was posed to this present writer, and an answer provided by said writer:
Revelation 20:5 reads: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” If the rest of the dead are the wicked, and the first resurrection is for the righteous, then why does the verse say, this is the first resurrection?
This misunderstanding is the result of a misplacing of the last sentence in verse five. The statements concerning the rest of the dead, do indeed pertain to the wicked, as all the righteous are alive at this point, however the last sentence in verse 5 is introducing the concept brought out in verse 6. Thus, the last sentence in verse 5, should be read as introducing the thoughts of verse 6, not completing the thoughts in verse 5. The Bible is written in a style called, “repeat and expand.” This is to say that the Bible lays down a concept and then expands upon the concept to highlight certain points i.e. “multiplied visions.” (Hosea 12:10). In Revelation 20, the first five verses, with the exclusion of the last sentence in verse 5, are outlining the events at the beginning (Revelation 20:1-2), duration (Revelation 20:3-4), and close (Revelation 20:3-5) of the 1,000 years. The last sentence in verse 5, or the phrase, “This is the first resurrection”, is not part of the outline of the millennium, but is part of the expansion of the point in verse 6. In other words, the last phrase in verse 5 does not pertain to the subject matter at the beginning of verse 5 but is introducing the concepts in verse 6. This is how verse 6 reads with the inclusion of the last sentence in verse 5:
“This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
A final note before I close this answer, this type of misunderstanding has happened in other places. Take for instance the placement of the comma in the verse about the thief on the cross. The comma in Luke 23:43 should be placed after the words, “today,” rather than before, so the passage should read, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Based on the context, and on other passages of scripture, it is clear that the comma should be placed after today, not before, as I have rendered it. Consider the fact that Jesus said to Mary that, even by Sunday morning, He had still not ascended to the Father (John 20:7). How then could the thief on the cross go to Heaven on Friday with Jesus, when the Bible teaches that Jesus had not even ascended to Heaven by Sunday morning? Finally, in multiple passages, the Bible teaches that the humans enter a sleep, not heaven or hell, at death. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, Job 17:13, Psalm 104:29). Thus, it is important to keep in mind that “context is king”, and that we must let the Bible interpret itself.
To return to the subject of the Millennium, it would also be appropriate to state that the last sentence in verse 5, is also continuing, or rather expanding on the last sentence in verse 4. This is in harmony with the Biblical principle of repeat and expand. Furthermore, the Bible lays out the conditions of the righteous in verse 4 and expands upon them in verse 6. The Bible lays out the conditions of the wicked in verses 3 and 5, and then expands upon them in verses 7-8.
To provide a better idea of what I am saying, I have provided Revelation 20:2-8 below, with the statements pertaining to the wicked italicized, and the statements pertaining to the righteous bolded:
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
May the Lord bless you as you continue to study the subject of the Millennium of Prophecy.