Key Passage that Disproves a Millennial Kingdom — [Eph 2:5-6]

 

Introduction

Before we begin commentary on chapters 4-22 of Revelation, I think it would be helpful to take a close look at a passage that I believe provides an unmistakable interpretation of the “thousand years” of Rev 20:1-7. As we go through this book, we must always keep in mind that this is a New Testament book, and so we must allow the rest of the NT to interpret this book for us. If you read my series “Kingdom of Christ Now,” the NT not only does not mention an earthly kingdom, it doesn’t even allow room for it in any of the significant passages dealing with this subject. On the contrary, all indications are that we go directly from the return of Christ to our eternal state of the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 & 22.

Premillennialists (esp. Dispensational Premillennialists) interpret Revelation largely with an Old Testament understanding. They come to this book already with the idea that there will be an earthly kingdom after Christ returns, a kingdom that they place between His return and the Eternal Kingdom. Thus when they come to Rev 20:1-7, they automatically believe it’s talking about an earthly kingdom, one that lasts for a literal thousand years.

However, when we compare Rev 20:4-6 with Ephesians 2:5-6, it’s almost like reading the same verses in both places. Therefore, the way we commonly interpret this passage in Ephesians, must be applied to Rev 20:4-6.

 

Key Verses

(Eph 2:4-6) – 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— 6 and he raised us up together with him and seated us together with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (NET)

 

“dead”

“made us alive”

“raised us up”

“seated us together with him’

 

Confirming Verses:

(Col 3:1-4) – 1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. (NET)

 

“raised with Christ”

“seated”

“life”

“your life”

 

(Col 2:12-13) – 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. 13 And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. (NET)

 

“buried”

“raised with him”

“dead”

“alive with him”

 

Compare With:

(Rev 20:4-6) – 4 Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. 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 finished.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (NET)

 

“They came to life”

“seated on them”

“reigned with Christ”

“first resurrection”

“rest of the dead”

“second death”

 

This whole Revelation-passage must be interpreted according to our understanding of the passages in Ephesians and Colossians. The language is so similar in all of these verses that they have to be talking about the same thing. For us not to carry over the same understanding that we have in Ephesians and Colossians into Rev 4:4-6 is extremely inconsistent. Only a strong positional bias would lead one to see this Revelation-passage differently than the others. It’s not reasonable. It’s counter to everything we’ve ever learned about allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. We must be consistent in doing that.

 

Side by side comparison:

Red (Eph, Col)

Green (Rev)

 

dead, buried they came to life (implies they were dead)

made us alive; alive with him; life; your life they came to life

raised us up; raised with Christ/him first resurrection

seated us together with him; seated  =  seated on them;

reigned with Christ

 

second death  = the lake of fire (Rev 20:14). That there’s a second death, implies that there’s a first death, which has to be spiritual death, as the verses in Ephesians and Colossians reveal.

 

rest of the dead refers to the rest of the spiritually dead. Those who “came to life,” are believers in Christ who were “made alive” spiritually (regeneration). Thus, the “rest” were those who remained spiritually dead.

 

Therefore, “the rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were finished,” refers to the only resurrection the spiritually dead will ever know, which is a physical resurrection. Upon their resurrection, they’ll stand before Christ to be judged and cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).

 

thousand years  =  symbolic for a long period of time, which refers specifically to the whole Church age.

 

Discussion

The common understanding that we have of Eph 2:5-6, Col 3:1-4, and Col 2:12-13 is that Paul is talking about spiritual death and spiritual resurrection — that we’re dead in our sins before we come to faith in Christ, and that upon conversion we’re raised to new life in Christ, spiritually. Few Christians would dispute that. Furthermore, having been spiritually resurrected, we’re now “seated together with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6; Eph 1:3). This is our position in Christ. Few would dispute that either.

Yet, when we get to Rev 20:4-6, that same understanding goes out the window – from the premillennial perspective – even though the picture presented to us there is much the same as it is in Ephesians and Colossians, as our comparisons reveal.

As for our being “seated together with him,” this obviously refers to Christ’s throne, from where He rules as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). The fact that we’re seated with Him, reveals that we “reign with Christ” as His representatives in the world. This is not something that awaits the future. We reign with Christ now — who rules over all. We’re His ambassadors in the world, which continues throughout the Church age. We reign in the sense that we have the truth of Christ, which rules over all that is false.

Therefore, we know that when we compare Rev 20:4-6 with the passages in Ephesians and Colossians, we know that the passage in Revelation is talking about our coming to life spiritually, where we were once dead spiritually. We know that the thrones and those sitting on them are those who have been raised to new life in Christ, and reign with Him now, and we do so throughout the Church age (“a thousand years”).

Which brings us to a significant phrase in Colossians, looking at Col 3:1-4 again:

 

(Col 3:1-4) – 1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. (NET)

 

First, notice that we have been “raised with Christ” already, and are “seated” with Christ already (Eph 2:6). Now notice what Paul says in verse 4. He reveals that when Christ returns (“appears”), then we’ll be “revealed in glory with him.” Paul places our spiritual death and resurrection before that time. He places the return of Christ after that time. Yet, when premillennialists get to Rev 20:4-6, they interpret this passage as referring to something that happens during an earthly, millennial kingdom — which they say happens after the return of Christ. They view the resurrection as being physical and the kingdom as physical and the reign as physical — all contrary to what Paul reveals in the Ephesian and Colossian passages.

 

Summary: Paul places our spiritual death and resurrection, our reign with Christ, in the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13), all as something that is taking place now, within the Church and throughout the Church age. Therefore, when we get to Rev 20:4-6, we’re to interpret that passage the same way. Consistency demands it.

 

For a more detailed study, and a broader understanding, click on the links below:

Commentary on Revelation 20:1-10 – [Interpreting the 1000 Years]

What is the 1000 Years of Revelation 20?