The Coming Kingdom 035Revelation 20:1-10 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 14, 2018 • The Coming Kingdom
The Coming Kingdom
2-14-18 Revelation 20:1-10 Lesson 35
… but the way the Holy Spirit has structured the Bible the doctrine of the Kingdom is already well developed in the Old Testament; Revelation 20 just adds a few details. So the Holy Spirit sort of expects us to approach the Book of Revelation having read the rest of the Bible. Amen. And people get confused because they want to go to the Book of Revelation first. But we’ve discussed the kingdom all the way through numbers 1-7 and then in number 8 it’s offered to Israel; number 9 it’s rejected by Israel and then number 10, 11 and 12 God today is doing an interim work, not to be confused with the kingdom.
And the primary work that He’s doing today is through the church, that’s us, right? One of these days though, as we’ve studied, the church age will be over, the body of Christ will be complete, the church will be translated to heaven in the rapture, as we’ve studied, and what in the world is God going to do then? Well, He’s going to complete His promises concerning the kingdom. So once the church is gone Israel moves back into the spotlight and God is going to restore His kingdom to the earth through Israel.
So that’s why we’ve studied number 13, Israel’s discipline and restoration. And really numbers 14, 15 and 16 is all about how God brings His kingdom to the earth. So the actual coming of the kingdom, we’ve sort of broken it down into four parts: how and when does the kingdom come to the earth, and once the kingdom comes to the earth what does it look like? So we have studied number 1, the re-offer of the kingdom; the very kingdom that was offered to Israel on a silver platter through the expression “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” which was rejected by the Jews in Matthew 12. That’s when they attributes His miracles to the devil; the offer is withdrawn at that point. But that kingdom is reoffered to Israel on a silver platter again in the tribulation period because the nation of Israel always gets it right which time? The second time.
So at this time in history that we’re talking about here they will receive the offer of the kingdom so it’ll be a completely different result than what happened in the first century. And as that is happening, number 2, there’s a transfer of earthly authority. Satan, who has enjoyed running this planet for the last several millennia, ever since the fall in Eden, his authority over this earth is taken away and God’s authority is reasserted as God is going to govern the earth once again through a man, not the first Adam but the last Adam, Jesus Christ.
So probably the key verse in the Book of Revelation is chapter 11, verse 15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; [and He will reign forever and ever.]” And as you look at that chart after the second advent that’s what the thousand year kingdom is about. So that’s the time in history where the authority of God over planet earth is finally reasserted. So the kingdom is reoffered, in the Book of Revelation there’s a transfer of authority, earthly authority, from Satan’s grasp to the devil’s grasp.
And then number 3, and this is what we looked at last time, the actual establishment of the kingdom. Once the kingdom comes, and by the way, we’re to be praying what? “Thy kingdom come,” once it comes what’s it look like exactly? So you’ll have, as we talked about last time, the reinstitution of the office of theocratic administrator, where God governs through a man and his bride or his wife and the two of them govern creation for God. That’s where we fit in; at that time we’ll be married to Christ so we are the wife, so we are ruling alongside of Him under His delegated authority. It’s the same structure that God originally set up in Eden which was lost as we’ve studied.
And once the kingdom comes the covenants that God has made to Israel, every millimeter of what He’s promised them through the covenants will be in total fulfillment. The times of the Gentiles will be over, which means the nation of Israel will be head again over the nations and not the tail as they are today. And all of the prophecies in the Old Testament that we’ve studied that the prophets speak of, and we’ve gone through many, many prophecies, all of those will be in fulfillment all over the earth. The land promises will be fulfilled, each tribe will get is specific allotment of land as recorded in Ezekiel 47. The Shekinah glory of God will reenter the millennial temple which will be functioning at that time. And there’s going to be profound topographical changes on the earth. Even the Dead Sea itself is going to come back to biological life and team with life Ezekiel 47 says.
The bondage that the earth is in right now, and we looked at the passage in Romans 8 which says the earth is groaning, the whole earth is in travail waiting for its liberation. It’s been that way ever since the fall; those chains will be removed and you’ll have the earth functioning as God intended it. And one of the great things about the kingdom, and this is why Satan is working so hard in history to prevent this from happening, one of the great things that will happen is Satan will be bound for a thousand years.
So God, interestingly enough, does not throw Satan into the Lake of Fire right away because He has one final purpose for Satan at the end of that thousand year kingdom, to stir up a worldwide rebellion. But what you have to understand is that worldwide rebellion can’t happen until God lets Satan out of solitary confinement, which he’ll be in throughout the kingdom age.
So it’s going to be just a wonderful time in history. The disciples asked, “Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel? [Acts 1:6, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’”] And the answer, no, I’m not going to restore at this time, first coming, but I will restore it at the second coming.
So we’ve studied the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel, the transfer of earthly authority, number 3, the establishment of the kingdom on the earth, what it looks like, and there’s just one little point left to consider which we’re going to look at tonight. That’s why I had you open up to Revelation 20, that’s the duration of the kingdom. Exactly how long is this going to last?
So Revelation 20:1-10, we’re going to read the verses here in just a second, as I mentioned a little earlier what you have to understand is that’s just the end of the matter. The whole doctrine of the kingdom has been very well developed in the Old Testament and even the New Testament. Revelation 20 just adds one little detail and the detail that it adds is the length of the kingdom.
And as we study this this is where we learn that the two resurrection, the resurrection for the just at the beginning of the millennium and the resurrection for the unjust at the end of the millennium are separated by a thousand years. And even the rebellion that takes place at the end, that’s already been hinted at in Zechariah 14:16-18.
[Zechariah 14:16-18, “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.  And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.  If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”]
Revelation 20 just adds a little bit more clarity to that. But this whole doctrine of the kingdom has already been established. Revelation 20, you have to sort of look at it as just the end of the matter. So that’s why when you define the kingdom, you look at Revelation 20 last, not first, the way most Christians to. And that’s why this study has gone on in the order that it’s gone in. So let’s look at this, Revelation 20:1-10, and notice the repetition of the phrase “a thousand years.” As I read this count up how many times it says a thousand years. It repeats it over and over again; it’s almost like God wants us to know it’s going to be a thousand years, amen!
Revelation 20:1, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;” that’s one!  “and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed;” that’s two! “after these things he must be released for a short time.  Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” That’s three!  “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.” That takes us to our fourth.
“This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” That’s five.  “When the thousand years” that’s six, “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,  and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.  And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire” a real quick commentary here, see how fast this rebellion is stopped. The rebellion doesn’t happen until God allows it and then once it does happen God shuts it down almost immediately. “…fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
So how many times did it say a “thousand years” there? I think it was six; six times! So what the Lord wants us to understand is that the kingdom is going to last a thousand years. You guys agree with me on that? But what you discover amongst theologians is this becomes one of the great battlegrounds of Scripture because so many theologians have bought into the idea that we’re now in the kingdom. So what they do, and this is either called amillennialism or postmillennialism, and they say Jesus started a spiritual kingdom in the first century and that continues on right up to the second coming. And the problem with that is between us and the first advent of Christ is two thousand years. So what you have to do with this number one thousand is you have to de-literalize it to make their system work. You have to stretch it out like an accordion.
And I just use this quote here from… there’s many people I could quote, this is Kenneth Gentry who believes that, and notice what he has to do with the thousand year kingdom. He says, quote: “The proper understanding of the thousand year time frame in Revelation 20 is that it is representative” see, it all sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? “of a long and glorious era and is not limited to a literal 365,000 days. The figure” thousand that is, “represents a perfect cube of 10, which is the number of quantitative perfection.” [Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion: A Post Millennial Eschatology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian economics, 1992), page 335.]
And this is so typical; what he is saying is that the number one thousand is not the issue; what’s important is it means ten cubes which means perfection and we all know that ten is the number of perfection. And when I read that I thought that was strange because I thought seven was the number of perfection.
But what type of hermeneutic, which is your method of interpretation, what type of hermeneutic is he using here? Not the literal approach; he’s using the allegorical approach. We’ve reached our conclusions because we’ve applied the consistent literal grammatical historical method of interpretation but he’s moved into allegorization. Up in Antioch, and this is just a real crash course review from our Protestant Reformation study when we did that in Sunday School a few months back, but up in Antioch for the first two centuries of the church, that’s the circle at the top, the church all understood the kingdom the exact way I’m teaching it here. That’s the future kingdom; they believed in literal interpretation. But down south there arose a rival school in Alexandria, Egypt, and they began to approach Bible prophecy allegorically.
Allegorization is the idea that the literal words of the text are not what’s significant; what’s significant is the higher spiritual meaning. Now who comes up with the “higher spiritual meaning”? The interpreter does! So Philo, we’ve used him as an example of allegorist, he lived just a little before the time of Christ and he basically talked about the four rivers in Eden, the Garden of Eden, there’s four rivers, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates and the Tigris, and Philo said well, those aren’t really rivers. You don’t have to believe those are literal rivers; those really represent four parts of the soul.
And I won’t go through all these gates but on Sunday morning I talked about Nehemiah 2 is fertile ground for allegorists because Nehemiah 2 talks about the gates in the wall around the city of Jerusalem. There’s the fish gate, and people say that means evangelism because Jesus said I’ll make you fishers of men. Then there’s the water gate, that sounds like a political scandal, doesn’t it, the water gate. They say that’s the Holy Spirit because the New Testament analogizes the Holy Spirit to water. And they go through these various gates and they say what’s important is not the gate but it’s the spiritual meaning behind each gate. The problem is when you study Genesis 2 it doesn’t give you all that; that all comes from the carnal mind. It just says there’s four rivers. And Nehemiah 2 talks about a water gate because they took water in and out of the gate. That’s all it means. But who wants to hear a sermon on that, it’s more interesting to hear a sermon that relates to our daily lives.
So what happened in Alexandria, Egypt is allegorization took off and when Gentry basically says the thousand years is not important as the thousand years, what you have to see is the spiritual meaning in it, what I want you to see is he’s not using the literal approach to the Bible. He’s using allegorization. And in our study on the Protestant Reformation I gave you basically four problems with allegorization. They are, very quickly, number 1, the text is not being interpreted when you allegorize; what you’re doing is you’re dragging a bunch of ideas to the text which aren’t found in the text. Milton S. Terry said you “you foist into it whatever the whim or fancy of an interpreter may desire.” [Biblical Hermeneutics (NY: Philips and Hunt, 1883), 224.] You become a spiritualizer and a saying that I like to use is this: he (or she) who spiritualizes tells spiritual lies. They always sound really good when you hear them but if there’s no textual authority for it it’s just someone’s opinion; that’s all it is.
Number 2, when you move into this approach, and that’s why its popular, that’s primarily the main reason why it’s popular, authority is transferred from the text to who? The interpreter. And this is the same battle that’s going on with our United States Supreme Court. You basically have two schools of thought; you have judges that want to interpret our Constitution according the Founding Father’s intentions but how do I fit all my socialist and Marxist ideas into that? Well, I can’t do that because the Constitution is a limited document. So I’ve got to move to calling it a what? A living document which means the judge reads into it whatever he wants, (or she). So the reason that approach is popular is because now the Constitution is no longer the authority but the mind of the judge is the authority. See that? So that’s why the literal method is rejected by so many people because they want to be in charge of the interpretive process.
So Jerome, an early church father says: “…once we start with the rule that whole passages and books of scripture say one thing when they mean another, the reader is delivered bound hand and foot to the caprice of the interpreter.” [Quoted by F.W. Farrar, History of interpretation (NY: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1886), 238-39.] See, it’s a question of authority; who do you want to be the authority in this process? Since this book came from God maybe we should let God speak. Right? I think God’s perspective is more important than our own, amen!
The third problem is there’s no way to test the interpreter. So Gentry says the number of perfection is ten; another person comes along and says the perfect number is seven, so who’s right. Is the ten right or is the seven right? There’s no way to validate that because one person’s subjective interpretation is as good as the other’s. See that?
And then finally, number four, there’s no mechanism for controlling the interpreters imagination. Bernard Ramm, a hermeneutics expert, he says, “…to state that the principal meaning of the Bible is a second-sense meaning, and that the principle method of interpretation is ‘spiritualizing,’ is to open the door to almost uncontrolled speculation and imagination.” [Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3d ed. (Boston: W.A. Wilde, 1956; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 65.”]
I have a lot of weird things in my head imagination wise, and believe me, you would not want to come to this church on Sunday morning and hear that. Maybe some of you would, I don’t know. What hems it in, and the reason I don’t regurgitate all my carnal thoughts is because I follow the literal method of interpretation. I don’t really see myself as the authority as a teacher: I see the Bible as the authority and my job is to try to communicate what God said and apply it and not just make things up. And so Bernard Ramm says, that “For this reason we have insisted that the control in interpretation is the literal method.” You move away from the literal method there’s no more control on human imagination.
I got those four reasons from Dwight Pentecost in his book Things to Come; why we don’t follow allegorization. And that’s exactly what Ken Gentry is doing; that’s exactly what post millennialists do here and it’s exactly what amillennialists do. And if they did what they did here in any other part of the Bible, like the Gospels, they would be full-fledged liberals. And what keeps them in the camp of orthodoxy is they change the rules once they interpret the Gospel or the Epistles; they go back to literal interpretation. But they’re still holding onto this Augustinian Alexandrian approach in the area of prophecy. They think you can just make things up.
So having said all that, if you don’t think a thousand can mean a thousand you’ve moved into allegorization. So let me give you, here’s the heart of our lesson, let me give you four reasons, I think I can go through these fairly quickly, (famous last words, right) four reasons why I think a thousand should be understood as a thousand. So here we go.
Number 1, John uses, John the Revelator, uses indefinite concepts elsewhere. For example, when John wants to be understood figuratively he’s very good at being obvious about that. For example, in the same chapter he talks about the rebellion at the end of the millennial kingdom is like the sand of the seashore. He just used a figure of speech there. What figure of speech is that? That’s a simile. He doesn’t do that when he says a thousand six time, he doesn’t say a thousand is like such and such, he just says a thousand. But when he’s describing a rebellion at the end of the millennium he uses a simile. See that? So John, when he wants to be understood figuratively basically knows how to be understood that way, but he doesn’t do that when he gives you the number one thousand.
And then a little earlier in the chapter he says this regarding Satan’s release from the abyss, he says, “after these things he” that’s Satan, “must be released for a short time.” [Revelation 20:3] The Greek there is mikros chronos, so right in the same paragraph John says a short time. Now if John wanted the thousand to mean a long time don’t you think John could have said a long time. He said a short time, would it be too hard for him to say a long time? But he doesn’t do that, he gives you a specific number. In fact, the expression “a long time” is used in the New Testament. It says in Matthew 25:19, “Now after a long time” that’s polos chronos. So the New Testament knows how to say long time, it knows how to say short time. If a thousand just meant a long time like Kenneth Gentry says, a long and glorious era, it would have said that. But the Bible doesn’t do that; it says specifically a concrete number. So John is very skilled at being figurative elsewhere but he doesn’t do that with the six fold repetition of a thousand. So that’s my first reason why I think a thousand means a thousand.
The second reason I think a thousand means a thousand is because whenever you have the figure year, or years in the New Testament with a number, as we have it here, a thousand years, and you right down into the concordance and you look at every single reference to year or years with a number connected to it, it always means a literal time period. And what I just said is the same logic for believing that the creation days are 24 hour days. See, the creation days are allegorized because everybody is trying to stuff Darwinism into Genesis 1, just like the thousand year kingdom is allegorized because everybody is trying to stuff their amillennialism or postmillennialism into Revelation 20. But if you look at… just forget your theology, forget postmillennialism and amillennialism and free millennialism, forget Darwin, just pretend you don’t know anything about Darwin, or you never had a biology class in the public schools where they taught you that the earth was billions of years old, if you just look at this at face value it’s obvious it’s 24 hours.
First of all it says this, Genesis 1:8, “God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was” what? “morning, a second day.” Now that formula is used six times in Genesis 1, just like the expression a thousand years is used six times in Revelation 20. So it uses the word “day” which is yom, and it says “evening and morning,” now how would you understand that other than an ordinary earth rotation? And beyond that the word yom, which is the Hebrew word yom, translated “day” is connected to a number; it says “second day.” And you can go right on through the Old Testament, whenever yom, day, or plural, days, is connected to a number it’s always a literal day.
For example, remember Joshua was told to march around the walls of Jericho? He says, “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for” how many days? “six days.” [Joshua 6:3] Now nobody says was Joshua out there six billion years walking around? I mean, we would never interpret it that way. It’s the same linguistic formula in Genesis 1 yet we all feel we have the license to rewrite Genesis 1 in a way we would never do in any other part of the Bible, because we understand that when day or days is connected to a number it’s always a literal time period. Or how about Esther’s fast; Esther 4:16, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.” Now we don’t think Esther had a fast for three million years (that’d be quite a fast wouldn’t it) because “day” or “days” is connected to a number.
So if that’s the rule why would I go to Genesis 1 where it says over and over again, first day, second day, third day, and if that weren’t clear enough it says evening and morning, it gives you two clues really. Why would I approach Genesis 1 and say well, those days really are long periods of time, because I’ve got to fit Darwin in here somehow because my biology teacher taught me that Darwin was a scientific fact. So if Darwin is a scientific fact then I’ve got to make the Bible fit Darwin; that’s the mentality. You say well how do you know that Andy? Well, I did that for years as a young Christian because I didn’t know any better. I hadn’t been exposed to young earth creationism and how you can explain the world that we’re in as thousands rather than billions. I hadn’t been to that seminar yet, the teacher told me that the earth is billions of years old, I got saved so I tried to make the Bible fit with what I thought was science and in the process I was violating basic principles of interpretation.
So if that is true, if yom plus day always means a 24 hour day, at the beginning of the Bible then the same rule is true at the end of the Bible. Year, or years plus a number, if it’s a normal literal time period everywhere else then that’s what it has to mean in Revelation 20. So that would be my second reason for taking a thousand to mean a thousand in Revelation 20.
My third reason as to why a thousand means a thousand is if you don’t take the number literally in Revelation 20 then the door is open to rewrite every number in the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is a book of numbers; there are numbers all over the book. Two witnesses, Revelation 11:3. Seven thousand people, Revelation 11:13. Four angels, Revelation 7:1. Seven angels, Revelation 8:6. 144,000 Jews, Revelation 7:4. 12,000 from each tribe, Revelation 7:5-8. Twenty-four elders, Revelation 4:4. 42 months, Revelation 11:2. 1,260 days, Revelation 11:3. Seven churches, Revelation 2 and 3. Ten days, Revelation 2:10. We could go on and on and on and on with numbers. And if I’m not going to take the number at face value in Revelation 20 then you see how the door is opened to rewriting every number in the whole Book. It’s almost like Pandora’s box is opened.
And then my fourth reason why I think a thousand means a thousand is because while the Book of Revelation is a symbolic book not everything in the book is a symbol because when you talk the way I’m talking here, about literal interpretation, people will basically laugh at you. They’ll say how can you take the Book of Revelation literally, don’t you know, you poor fundamentalist flat earther, don’t you know that the Book of Revelation is a symbolic book? And my answer is of course the Book of Revelation is a symbolic book but here’s the deal: not everything in the book is a symbol!
There are many things in the Book of Revelation that are meant to be understood literally. That sort of becomes obvious when you open the Book of Revelation where John says, “I, John, was on the island of Patmos.” Well what does that mean? Well it means John was on Patmos. I mean, that’s a literal statement, isn’t it? There’s no symbolism there. And Jesus, on the island of Patmos, told him to write the seven churches, the names of the seven churches are mentioned, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. So obviously those are seven literal churches. It’s a literal John on the island of Patmos. And so obviously you just open the book and you start reading you quickly see that not everything in the book is a symbol. Yeah, there’s a lot of symbolic material in the Book of Revelation but you can’t just make everything a symbol because a lot of the book is a symbol. See that?
So we have rules in place which we use to identify where are the symbols and we have rules in place to determine how we interpret each symbol once we discover something is a symbol. Now you do this anywhere else in the Bible using the literal method of interpretation. You take things at face value until there’s an obvious figure of speech. At the end of John’s Gospel what does John say? He says I suppose if I told you everything Jesus said or did the world itself could not contain the books written thereof. [John 21:25, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”] Now is that literal? We would interpret that as a hyperbole, it’s a deliberate exaggeration to get a point across that Jesus did a lot of stuff.
So I’m taking the book literally, the resurrection of Jesus literally happened, the miracles of Jesus literally happened and I get to that statement and the text itself makes it obvious that it’s a hyperbole which is meant to be understood non-literally. I’m doing that in the whole Bible.
Now watch this: I’m doing the exact same thing in the Book of Revelation. It’s just in the Book of Revelation it’s a little harder because Revelation has more symbols than anywhere else in the Bible but we are following a consistent approach to the whole Bible. But the method of interpretation that I’m using in the Book of Revelation I’m employing it throughout the whole Scripture, whether it’s Genesis 1-11 or the epistles or the gospels I am continuing with that approach into the Book of Revelation; it’s just a little bit harder in the Book of Revelation because there’s a lot more symbols to wrestle with.
So what distinguishes our system of theology from other theologies out there is not just literal interpretation (watch this very carefully) but consistent literal interpretation. Everybody out there at some point takes the Bible literally or else they wouldn’t even be an orthodox Christian. The issue is not employment of literal interpretation; the issue is are you going to employ that method even in creationism and prophecy. That’s the issue. Most churches by way of denominational affiliation don’t do that. As Sugar Land Bible Church we’re built on the idea that we take the whole Bible literally, literal unless there’s an obvious figure of speech. I’m using that anywhere in the Bible including prophecy, including the Book of Revelation.
So having said all that how do we identify figures of speech in the Book of Revelation. If you look at Revelation 20:2 it says this: “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;” so I’m reading, I take “a thousand years” literally, but then I read about this dragon, now do I take the dragon literally? Do I take the serpent literally? What do you think? I don’t think I should. Why? Because the text tells me that the dragon or the serpent represents who? Satan. Now I didn’t have to come up with that on my own, the text told me to. See that?
So that’s what I’m saying is you take everything in the Book of Revelation at face value whenever you have the opportunity to do it, UNLESS the text itself tells you otherwise. You’re already doing that in John’s Gospel, Romans, anywhere else you are in the Bible. And you just continue with that process into the Book of Revelation, it’s just in Revelation it’s a little harder because there’s more symbols to deal with but it’s the same method of interpretation.
This chart is a very good one because it communicates that language is meant to be understood only two ways. Language is either meant to be understood in a literal sense, we call that denotative speech, or it’s meant to be understood in a figurative sense and we call that connotative speech. All language ever spoken in the history of humanity has those two categories. So it’s obvious as to when one is being employed over the other or else communication could never take place. And this includes the Bible because the Bible is written in language.
So this morning I wake up and it’s Valentine’s Day and my wife says how did you sleep last night? And I say I slept great, I slept in till 8:00 a.m. and I slept like a log. So when I say to her 8:00 a.m. she doesn’t say hmm, that’s an interesting symbol, what does that mean? I speak language, my wife speaks language, we’re both inherent language speaking and listening beings. When I say 8:00 a.m. she knows I’m speaking in which way of these two? Denotatively, see that? But then in the same sentence I said, “I slept like a log,” and the word like communicates to her that I just used a simile, right, so she knows in that juncture I’m speaking connotatively. See that? And there’s no great confusion there. The danger is always interpreting somebody figuratively when they want to be understood literally or literally when they want to be understood figuratively. And that can happen at times, communication can break down because one time… as you get older, you guys all appreciate this, know this, you can walk into a room and forget why you went into the room. Has that ever happened to anybody?
So one day I filled up my cup with coffee, I put it in the microwave, I forgot to set the thing so the microwave kept running and the coffee started boiling over. And by this time I had gone into the office, my wife was in the kitchen, and she says to me, “Honey, your cup is running over.” [laughter] And I said, “yeah, you know, my cup is running over, I’m blessed in this world and God has been really good to me.” And she says “NO, your cup is running over!” So there’s a case where she was wanting to be understood denotatively and I was misinterpreting her connotatively.
So there can be these language breakdowns. But you see, if we couldn’t navigate our way through these things we couldn’t talk to each other. See that? So in the Bible, which is written in linguistic form God decided to record His revelation to man in linguistic form, the rules of language apply. So God is either communicating at us denotatively or He’s communicating to us connotatively and generally speaking, nine times out of ten, maybe even higher than that, ninety-nine out of one hundred, we can pretty much figure out which is in play and which isn’t. This isn’t as hard as everybody makes it out to be is what I’m getting at. If it was that hard then communication in general would be impossible.
So here’s how it works in the Book of Revelation. You’re going through the Book of Revelation and you’re generally taking the text at face value until you see a clue telling you to do otherwise. So you’ll see these little clues, like “spiritually,” chapter 11, verse 8. [Revelation 11:8, “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”] A sign appeared, chapter 12, verse 1. [Revelation 12:1, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;”]
Sometimes you’ll see the word “like” or “as” meaning it’s a simile. Sometimes the language in the Book of Revelation comes right out of the Old Testament which has already defined the figure for us. For example, it talks about four beasts, Revelation 13:2, the four beasts, it talks about a lion, a bear, a leopard, we don’t take those as literal animals because Daniel 7 has already told us, and you know this from our studies in the Book of Daniel, that each of those animals represents a Gentile kingdom. [Revelation 13:2, “And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.”]
Sometimes the context, and generally this is how it works, nine times out of ten the context you’re working in will tell you if it’s denotative or connotative. So in Revelation 17 there’s a prostitute and we don’t interpret the prostitute literally because the end of the chapter says “the woman that you saw is a” what? “a city,” so there it’s obvious that the prostitute is not being used denotatively but being used connotatively. [Revelation 17:18, “The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”]
And sometimes if you took it literally it would just be absurd. For example, Revelation 12:1 talks about a woman clothed with the sun and the moon and the twelve stars. [Revelation 12:1, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;”] And obviously that can’t be literal because if she was clothed with the sun, s-u-n, she would burn to death.
So you see what I’m saying here is generally you try to take the text for what it says in its ordinary sense, unless you’ve got one of these clues at work and then you know that John is trying to communicate something, not denotatively but connotatively; not plainly but figuratively. Do you see that? You’re already doing that everywhere else in the Bible, it’s just Revelation is a little bit more difficult because there’s more symbols to deal with.
Now once you identify something as a symbol there are three rules to use to define what the symbol means. The first rule is context; the context would usually identify a symbol for you so you don’t have to use your sanctified imagination. So Revelation 12:3 talks about a serpent and a dragon; we know that’s not literal because verse 9 calls the serpent or the dragon the devil. And I don’t have to guess as to who the serpent or the dragon is because the context tells me what the symbol means. [Revelation 12:3, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.” Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”]
So many people find a symbol and they want to use their own sanctified imagination to figure out what it means but what you’ll discover is the Bible is its best interpreter. And in the Book of Revelation if the context is not defining the symbol for you your best method is to go into the Old Testament because the Book of Revelation has 404 verses in it; 278 of those 404 verses allude in some way to the Old Testament. And if you want to discover who the woman is clothed with the sun and the moon and the twelve stars, you just go to Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-10 and that imagery is used to describe the nation of Israel.
[Revelation 12:1, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;” Genesis 37:9-10, “Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’  When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’]
So the woman clothed with the sun and the moon and the twelve stars is Israel. And then the third rule you follow is you just say well John is trying to use language of comparison, which would be what? A simile. So in Revelation 8:8, for example, he says, “The second angel sounded, and something like” that’s your clue, “a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood.” So when he says “like” what figure of speech is he using there? A simile.
One of the things to understand about John is John is a first century man with a first century vocabulary trying to describe things happening in the 21st century and beyond. So he’s seeing a giant mountain on fire falling into the sea, the sea turns blood red. What is that? Is that a nuclear bomb? Well, let’s say it is nuclear bomb, why doesn’t John just say it’s a nuclear bomb? Well, he can’t do that, he doesn’t have the vocabulary for it. So what does he do instead? He uses a simile, he says it’s “like.” And John was just told to write down what he saw and so he’s struggling to describe what he saw in this vision, and so he uses these similes constantly. He’s using language from his own time period to describe 21st century or beyond realities. See that?
What if you took Benjamin Franklin from colonial America and you put him in Hobby Airport and he sees someone talking on a cell phone or he sees someone surfing the internet or he sees a giant airline take off and land. How would he describe that? He couldn’t because he has no vocabulary for it from this time. So he would say it’s like this, it’s like that. And that’s what John is doing here in the Book of Revelation. So you have rules for determining when a symbol is in play and once you discover something is a symbol you have these three rules for determining what it means. Look at the context, look at the Old Testament, and factor in the fact that John is using language of comparison. See that?
So when it says “a thousand years” (six times) did you see any of these clues come up? It didn’t say spiritually, a sign like or as, anything; it just said “a thousand years.” So if there is no textual clue telling you a thousand years means something other than a thousand years then Revelation 20 is indicating that the kingdom is going to last how long? A thousand years!
So why do I say “a thousand years” means “a thousand years”? Number 1, John knows how to use indefinite concepts elsewhere which he does not do when he talks about “a thousand years.” Number 2, every time you have a number with the word “year” or “years” it’s always literal so why would it be any different here in Revelation 20? Number 3, if you don’t want to take “a thousand years” literally here what do you do with every other number in the Book of Revelation? You have to allegorize it. Number 4, while Revelation is a symbolic book not everything in the book is a symbol, unless you have a textual clue telling you it’s a symbol. Are you with me on that?
So I very strongly agree with what Robert Thomas, who is now with the Lord, said in his two volume set on the Book of Revelation, which I believe is the best commentary set ever on the Book of Revelation in the history of Christianity. If you’re down to your last shekel and you want to know what commentary to buy get Bob Thomas’s two volume set on The Book of Revelation. It is unbelievable; it’s a Greek commentary but he translates the Greek phrases so if you’re not familiar with Greek you can use it as well. And you will just drown in information. And he comes from our school of thought, the literal method, and he says in this commentary no number in Revelation is verifiably a symbolic number. What he’s saying is every single number in the Book of Revelation, a symbolic book, every single number is literal. Why? Because these clues that we went through earlier are never applied to any number in the Book of Revelation. So seven years means seven years; seven churches means seven churches, two witnesses means what? Two witnesses. A hundred and forty-four thousand Jews means what? A hundred and forty-four thousand Jews. Twenty-four elders means what? Twenty-four elders. So a thousand years means what? A thousand years,
Now I’ve got five minutes left and I’m interpreting the clock literally, I want to give you this one last curve ball that will be thrown at you when you talk about a literal interpretation of a thousand years. Almost all the amillennialists and postmillennialists use this little trick. They will go over to Psalm 50:10, which says, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” And they’ll say do you think a thousand is literal? And if you say yes, they’ll say well doesn’t God own the cattle on the thousand and first hill? And so they’ll use this to try to convince you that if a thousand is symbolic in Psalm 50:10 it’s obviously symbolic in Revelation 20. Do you see that?
But let me give you the answer to this. This, Psalm 50:10 is what you call Hebrew poetry. The Jews did not rhyme sounds the way we do in our poetry; they did not do that, they rhymed ideas. And they have a deliberate structure called parallelism where the two lines, “every beast of the forest is Mine” is rephrased in the second clause, “the cattle on a thousand hills.” That’s called parallelism. And there’s all kinds of different ways that those two lines relate to each other. There’s something called antithetical parallelism where the second line says something different than in the first line. And we can go on and on describing the different kinds of parallelism.
This is what you call synonymous Hebrew parallelism where the second line repeats what’s in the first line but in different words. So if this is synonymous Hebrew parallelism, which it is, then obviously a thousand here is not literal because God owns not the cattle on a thousand hills, He owns all the cattle; He owns the cattle on a thousand and first hill. How do I know that? Because I have to interpret both lines together, because that’s how Hebrew parallelism functions. You with me on that?
So what I’m trying to say is there is a contextual basis for interpreting “a thousand” here non-literally, the advent or the manifestation of Hebrew parallelism. I mean we all understand a thousand years is not literal. And having said all that is there any Hebrew parallelism in Revelation 20? There’s none! The Hebrew parallelism is there in Psalm 50 but it’s not there in Revelation 20. So when people say a thousand is non-literal in Psalm 50 therefore it’s got to be non-literal in Revelation 20 they’re making an apples and oranges argument.
One more fast thing, I can do this in 30 seconds: here is the amillennialist and postmillennialist problem: it says in Revelation 20, “they came to life.” We understand that as the resurrection of the dead. Do you know what they mean by that? Since the kingdom started in the first century, and this is all allegorical, they think “came to life” is regeneration, not a physical resurrection, it’s folks getting saved. That’s what they will tell you it means. The problem with that is there’s a resurrection at the end of the thousand years, the resurrection of the damned. And guess what? They take that literally. They’ve got a big problem because it’s the same verb, they “came to life.” zōē, So if zōē is literal at the beginning of the thousand years or if it’s literal at the end of the thousand years then it has to be literal where? At the beginning of the thousand years.
And this is how you can recognize false doctrine; you have to switch your method of interpretation right in the middle of a sentence to get their system to work. They want “came to life” to be regeneration at the beginning of the millennial kingdom but they take the same verb literally for the resurrection of the damned at the end of the kingdom. I don’t have any real problem with this because I take both resurrections literally because I’m consistent in my approach. Do you see that? They are inconsistent in their approach.
Beyond that, it says, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.” [Revelation 20:5] Now they say that’s regeneration, folks getting saved. The problem is the Greek word is anastasis and do a study on anastasis in the Greek New Testament and it Never (with a capital N) Never means regeneration anywhere it’s used. It is ALWAYS referring to a physical resurrection. And if John wanted to communicate regeneration there’s a whole different Greek word he could have used; it’s palinenesia, palin means again, genesia you recognize the Book of Genesis, the Book of Beginnings; it literally means beginning again. That’s what happens when a person is spiritually regenerated, born again, they’re beginning again. John doesn’t use that word.
If he wanted to say regeneration he could have said that; he doesn’t us it, he uses anastasis, which always means physical resurrection. So the kingdom now people have a big problem with their interpretation. They want the first resurrection to be regeneration; the problem is this last resurrection they take literally and it’s the same verb used to describe both. And the first resurrection is described with the word anastasis and not paliggenesia. So their whole system collapses.
So how is the kingdom going to come to the earth? It’s going to be reoffered because the nation of Israel in the tribulation period; as that is happening the earth is being transferred from Satan’s authority to God’s authority, then the kingdom will be established on the earth and John, apparently he thinks it’s a big deal for us to understand that the kingdom is going to last how long? A thousand years. A thousand years meaning a thousand years! Isn’t that sad we have to spend a whole hour explaining why a thousand means a thousand. But that’s kind of the time period that we’re living in, where people allegorize things out of the Bible. So just take it at face value, a thousand means a thousand.
But, we’re not done yet; we’re done for tonight but we’re not done with the study because following the thousand year kingdom there’s going to be a what? Eternal state, so you’ve got to look at the thousand year kingdom as the porch, the eternal state is the house. So we have this temporary time period called the thousand year kingdom; it’s a vital time period as we’ve explained but it’s not the end of the story. It’s just the porch leading into the house. We’re going to start studying the house next week, what happens after the thousand year kingdom, where the thousand year kingdom will merge into the eternal state. We will look at the specifics of that.