Babylon and Her Destruction (17.1-20.6)

"Come, Lord Jesus" (CFP), white covers only, by Watchman Nee

Revelation 17 | Revelation 18 | Revelation 19 | Revelation 20


20.1,2 It is said in 9.1 that the key to the pit of the abyss is given to Satan, with which he there and then does two things:

(1) He causes two persons to return to life.

(2) He releases the beasts out of the pit to hurt men.

Satan is cast out of heaven after the war in heaven (12.7-9). Now he is cast into the abyss (20.3), for the Lord is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (19.16 and 20.1). The Lord overcomes Satan by authority, and His word is full of authority.

20.3 Some may ask why the dragon is not immediately thrown into the lake of fire. The answer is that after he has been shut in for a thousand years, the dragon is to be released temporarily for the following reasons:

(1) to prove that the dragon will never repent,

(2) to unveil the hidden sins of men, and

(3) to show the good pleasure of God.


20.4 Three classes of people will reign with Christ:

(1) The overcomers will sit on thrones, and judgment will be given to them (20.4a). This shows that they have inherited the kingdom (see also Dan. 7.10,18,22—“Saints of the Most High”).

(2) The martyrs throughout the 20 centuries (“them that had been beheaded”—20.4b). These are the souls under the altar as shown in the fifth seal (6.9f.). It is for “the testimony of Jesus” that they are killed.

(3) The martyrs during the Great Tribulation. These are those who do not worship the beast nor his image, and upon whose foreheads and hands no mark of the beast is received (20.4c).

“They lived”—Let us notice two things:

(1) These people are not resurrected at the time of 20.4. Their resurrection is merely retraced here as an accomplished fact. John does not see them resurrected at that moment; he only acknowledges that they live.

(2) Those here who live include not only the resurrected but also those who are raptured alive; for we cannot assert that only those who are resurrected reign here with Christ; since even though the number of people who are raptured alive may not be great they nevertheless shall reign with Christ too.

20.5 “The first resurrection”—This does not necessarily mean that there is only one resurrection, nor does it denote that there are many resurrections. It simply signifies this as being the “best” resurrection.

The word “the” includes the two things mentioned in the last clause of 20.4:

(1) “Lived” and (2) “reigned”: The best resurrection means to live and to reign. Such a resurrection is a reward, for there is a reigning with Christ for a thousand years as well as a being resurrected.

“The second death” of 20.6 is in contrast with “the first resurrection”, because the latter means to enjoy glory while the former means to suffer eternally. Hence the first resurrection is none other than the time of recompense (Luke 14.14, 20.34-36).

What Paul says in Philippians 3.11 is not an expecting to be raised from the dead (for all the dead shall be resurrected), nor an anticipating the resurrection of the spirit (for the resurrection of the spirit is already accomplished at the time of new birth). No, what Paul is looking forward to is the “out-resurrection” from among the dead, which is this “best” resurrection spoken of here in 20.5, even a reigning with the Lord.

Read again Philippians 1.23-25. There in that epistle’s first chapter Paul is saying that he will live; he is not contemplating death. How, then, can he be talking about resurrection? He clearly states in Philippians 3.20,21 that he waits for the coming of the Lord. Consequently, what he anxiously hopes for is to reign with the Lord.

“The rest of the dead” naturally includes all the unsaved sinners. Their resurrection will come to pass a thousand years later.

20.6 “Blessed” should be translated literally as “happy”—Those who appear to be happy today may not be holy, while those who are holy can hardly be happy today. The first resurrection is blessed in three ways:

(1) “Over these the second death hath no power”—The second death is the lake of fire. Those who have no part in the first resurrection may yet be hurt by the second death. Some Christians will be disciplined in the future (see Matt. 18.34,35). He who wrongs his brother will be punished by the Lord (1 Thess. 4.5,6). We believers are exhorted to fear Him who has authority to cast into hell (Greek, gehenna), thus implying that over some Christians hell still has its threat (Luke 12.4,5). If a branch does not abide in Christ, he, like a branch, is liable to be cast off, withered, cast into the fire and burned (John 15.6).

Some, though, may ask, Does not the Bible teach that once a person is saved he will never perish? Why then do you say here that Christians may appear as though to perish? This is due none other than to a misunderstanding of some Scripture verses such as the following:

“He shall never see death” (John 8.51,52) is actually “he shall not forever see death” in the original, and “he shall never taste of death” is “he shall not forever taste death” in the original.

“They shall never perish” (John 10.28) is “they shall not forever perish” in the original (The Englishman’s Greek New Testament with Interlinear Translation).

“Shall never die” (John 11.25,26) is “shall not forever die” in the original.

(2) “They shall be priests of God and of Christ”—The significance of a priest is to draw near to God. This people shall be very close to God for they shall have a special relationship with Him and Christ. Today we all are priests, therefore all may draw nigh to God. But in the millennial kingdom only those who have part in the first resurrection shall function as priests to God and to Christ.

Aaron functioned as priest because his rod budded. The budded rod represents resurrection. Whoever is chosen priest is proven by resurrection.

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt they all were destined to be priests (Ex. 19.6). Due to their worshiping the golden calf, however, God later chose the family of Aaron to be priests.

“They shall be priests . . . of Christ”, since at this time Christ shall receive worship as much as God himself is worshiped.

(3) “And shall reign with him a thousand years”—As a rule, in Old Testament times no king was able to be a priest, and no priest, a king. But here is a people who are both priests and kings. As priests, they draw near to God; as kings, they rule over the earth. Only those who have suffered are entitled to reign and enjoy glory with Christ.

Here we are told only the fact that they do reign, we are not informed as to how they reign. No doubt the reigning here is heavenly in nature.