“Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.”
Revelation 20:4-6 NLT
Have you ever been wronged by someone? Perhaps you have been badly or racially mistreated? Accused of something you hadn’t done? Our abilities to put the record straight can be limited in our societies, but sadly, many people, and particularly Christians, are persecuted for their beliefs, and without redress. And many have died because they have refused to renounce their faith in God. We read in the verse today, that when Christ’s rule for a thousand years commences, He will be joined by those resurrected martyrs who have suffered and died “for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God”. Their reward is that they will be resurrected and reign “with Christ for a thousand years“. And we’re told that they will be joined by all those who have refused to worship the beast and be branded with his mark.
But who will these resurrected people be judging? During the millennium period, there will be a different type of society. No democracy any more. This will be a theocracy, ruled by Jesus, the Son of God, and righteousness, not sin, will prevail. And Jesus will delegate to His faithful servants the authority to judge all those who, through their sin, upset the theocratic societal order. We discovered in the last blog that, although the devil was consigned to the bottomless pit, sin and wickedness would still prevail. No joy then for the sinners. They will be judged by the very people that they wronged.
But what about those Christians who were not beheaded for their faith? The Apostle Paul wrote about this eventuality in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, “We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever“. This was the event many have referred to as the rapture.
John was informed that this was the first resurrection, as described by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians. Notice that for us pilgrims, there is no fear of the first resurrection. Some ask about what sort of body we will have after the first resurrection. Paul write in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” We also get a few clues from the sort of body that Jesus had after His resurrection. His new body was recognisable, but it also had some amazing qualities.
John is told in his vision that those resurrected at the first resurrection will be blessed and holy. No more corruption. No more sin. No more sickness. No more death. But there is a second resurrection coming at the end of the millennium, when the rest of the dead, the unbelievers, will rise. This will not be a good place to be for those who have rejected the grace of God, but more of this later. So we pilgrims look forward to the day when we will enter into eternal life. The detail of this isn’t totally clear from Scripture, but through faith and our belief in God, we are assured of our future.
Dear Father God. As we peer into the future, and dimly see Your grace and provision coming into fruition, we once again declare our love for You, grateful for Your grace. We worship You today. Amen.