Saints Reign with the Lord

Title: Saints Reign with the Lord

Bible Book: Revelation 20 : 4-10

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Reign, Saints; Heaven



If you have spent much time in the Word of God you are familiar with the term, the great and terrible day of the Lord. We understand that the Day of the Lord is going to be a great day for believers, but a terrible day for the lost. Well, since we began this series from the Revelation I have looked ahead, not only to that Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, but also to the great and terrible day when we would reach this passage in our study of the great Apocalypse.

Just as I do not live in fear of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, I have not lived in fear of reading or preaching from Revelation, chapter 20. But, just as there is a lot of mystery surrounding the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, there is a lot of mystery surrounding our text today. Earlier, I read in some commentary that someone had made a study of how commentaries had interpreted some earlier passage from the Revelation. The writer stated that he had found either one hundred or one hundred, fifty different interpretations. Do not be surprised if you go to the commentaries for comments on Revelation 20:1-10 and find that the author has spent a lot of time trying to explain what various people believe, or what position various schools of thought may take. I know. I have just consulted a number of commentaries and I was neither surprised nor disappointed. There are enough interpretations out there to accommodate almost everyone. First, they tell you what the Post-millennialists believe, and then the A-milliennialists, and then they begin giving you all the different positions held by Pre-millennialists. If you are a Pre-millennialist who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture you hold one position, but if you believe in a post-tribulation rapture you will hold another view. Of course, if you believe in a mid-tirbulation rapture.......well, you get the point.

Let me remind you that at the beginning of this series I made you a promise. I promised that I will not answer all of your questions. I think I promised that I will not apologize for not being able to answer all your questions. I am not afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If there is any subject I know less about it is our text today. I know I don’t have all the answers and by now I would be surprised if you have not already discovered that.

There is something I do know, however. I know that God expects you and me to spend a lot of time in the Book of Revelation. I also know that those who read it, or hear it read are promised a blessing. I am convinced that you do not have to have all the answers to partake of the blessing. I am equally convinced that we are being blessed daily as we go to the Word of God by its divine Author. The Holy Spirit miraculously inspired the Scripture writers, miraculously preserved the Word of God, and miraculously illuminates the hearts of believers so that they can interpret and apply the Word of God in daily life. He also calls out, equips, empowers, and anoints preachers to help people to better understand what He has inspired and apply it in their own daily lives.

I want you to remember that all the hosts of heaven witness what the Lamb of God is doing in those end-time events as the beast and false prophet into the abyss and shout “Amen? Hallelujah!” Can you imagine the celebration when Satan is bound and cast into the abyss for one thousand years? Then, there is the ultimate victory over Satan, and the celebration of the saints in the presence of the Lord for all eternity. Then we will all be singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to be.”

A lost person may read this and not be touched by it, but a genuine, Spirit-filled Christian cannot read this, meditate on it, and listen to the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit without being blessed. Today, we are going to be more concerned with that blessing than in settling debates between scholars who never have and never will agree on some of these details. But first, I would like for you to think with me about a brief overview of this New Testament Book of Prophecy:

In Chapter 1, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.
In Chapters 2-3, we have the letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor.
In Chapter 4, we are introduced to the throne room of Heaven.
In Chapter 5, the One on the throne has a scroll with seven seals.
In Chapter 6, the first six seals are broken, with dramatic revelations.
In Chapter 7, God’s judgment is held back until redeemed are sealed.
In Chapter 8, the seventh seal is broken, followed by 7 trumpet judgments.
In Chapter 9, the angel from bottomless pit brings plagues against unsaved.
In Chapter 10, John eats little book which is sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach.
In Chapter 11, God sends two Witnesses to proclaim His message.
In Chapter 12, we see Satan’s vicious attack on Israel, and God’s protection.
In Chapter 13, we see the beast out of the sea and the beast our of the earth.
In Chapter 14, We will stand with the Lamb or fall with the Beast.
In Chapter 15, preparation is made for the seven bowls of judgment.
In Chapter 16, we see the pouring out of the final seven bowls of judgment.
In Chapter 17, we are introduced to the scarlet woman and the scarlet beast.
In Chapter 18, we see the fall of Babylon the Great.
In Chapter 19, the saints shout, “Hallelujah, Our Lord Reigns.”
In Chapter 20, the reign of the saints with Jesus, Great White Thrown Judgment, Satan bound.
In Chapter 21, we are at home with the Lord.
In Chapter 22, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!”

Let me stress, as we look at Revelation 20:4 and following, that time will permit little more than a running commentary if we cover this material in one message. I trust that you will glean as much as you can from this look at these verse, and then that those of you who are interested will continue to study them withing the context of the whole book.


A. John Saw People Seated on Thrones in Heaven, Rev. 20:4

“Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years.”

1) John saw thrones and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. In 1:4, we read, “To the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the One who is, who was, and who is coming; from the seven spirits before His throne.” There is a throne in heaven. We read in 3:21, “The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Now, in 4:3-4, we read, “And the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne. Around that throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones sat 24 elders dressed in white clothes, with gold crowns on their heads.”

In the throne room of God there is one eternal throne which is eternally His. There is a place at His right hand occupied by the Lamb of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. Then around the throne are seven spirits, which I take to mean the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. The four and twenty elders, in my opinion, represent the redeemed who are in heaven (though some would try to be more specific). The point here is that they are seated on thrones, so we are introduced early on to the concept of the reign of the saints with the Lord.

Commentaries take off in various directions in an effort to identify the “people” who are seated on the thrones and such a study should be rewarding but I am going to resist any temptation at this time to try to distinguish between the Old Testament saints, the New Testament saints, and the Tribulation saints. What we are told is that “people” are seated on the throne, and the people must be redeemed people, saints. They cannot be non-believers.

2) John saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded.” What does that mean? How can you see a soul? Here is where the commentaries take off in all directions. One scholar reminds us that we need to distinguish between the vision and the revelation. The vision is what John saw and the revelation was the interpretation or explanation of it. Are these souls synonymous with the “people” who were seated on the thrones, or souls in addition to them? Are these souls the martyrs who have been given an intermediate body so that they can be seen, as one writer claims?

The Bible never teaches soul sleep, that the soul remains in the grave until the Rapture. Of course, you cannot see a spirit or a soul, but both Abraham and Lazarus were seen and recognizable in the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It may be sufficient here to say that these souls are the martyrs who were beheaded because of their identification with Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation. Roman citizens were beheaded at the time this was written, and the word beheaded implies execution in general, even though the Romans crucified non-citizens. We are not given very much information about these martyrs. They were beheaded:

(1) “because of their testimony about Jesus.”
(2) “because of God’s word.”
(3) because they “had not worshiped the beast or his image.”
(4) because they “had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands.

John adds, “They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years.” The tribulation saints will come alive (receive their resurrection bodies) and, and along with the redeemed from the Old Testament and the New Testament periods, will reign with Christ for 1,000 years.

“According to the Scriptures a series of judgments is related to Christ’s return. The beast and the false prophet will be cast into the fiery lake (Rev. 19:20), Satan will be cast into the Abyss (20:1-3), and then the martyred dead of the Great Tribulation will be judged and rewarded (v. 4). In addition, Israel will be judged (Ezek. 20:33-38), and the Gentiles will be judged (Matt. 25:31-46). These judgments precede and lead up to the millennial kingdom.

“John stated that these martyred dead came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Their coming to life suggests that they will be given resurrected bodies. In addition to receiving the visual revelation, John was informed as to the meaning and character of the judgment that was here taking place” (New Commentary on the Whole Bible).

B. The Unsaved Did Not Come Alive for 1,000 Years, 20:5.

“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”

“The rest of the dead” means the unredeemed, the lost. The bodies of the unredeemed will not be raised until the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11ff). John adds that, “This is the first resurrection.” I am sure this will come as no great surprise to you, but all students of the New Testament do not agree on what “the first resurrection” means. This may be a an oversimplification for some, but let me point out that the Bible presents two specific resurrections. The first is “the resurrection of life.” The second is the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29; Dan. 12:2; Acts 24:14). John MacArhur points out that “The first resurrection is called “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14), the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23), and “the better resurrection (Heb. 11"35). It includes only the redeemed of the church age (1 Thes. 4:13-18), the OT (Dan. 12:2), and the Tribulation (v. 4). They will enter the kingdom in resurrection bodies, along with believers who survived the Tribulation.”

That brings us to the second kind of resurrection, which is the resurrection the unredeemed, the lost, who will receive bodies suited for eternity in the lake of fire. They are resurrected to be judged and cast into the hell forever, where there will be conscious, eternal torment.

C. “Blessed and Holy Is the One Who Shares in the First Resurrection” (20:6).

“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection.! The second death has no power over these, but they will be priests of God and the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.”

While all the righteous will be raised before the “1,000 years”, mentioned six times in this chapter, some Bible students believe that individual believers will keep their identities - Gentile believers, believers of the Old Testament era, the church of the New Testament, and saints of the Tribulation.
The fact that the term “a thousand years” occurs six times in this chapter suggests to many students of the Word that it means a literal 1,000 years. Others believe it refers to a definite period of long duration with a beginning point and an ending point. A-millennialists and certain others do not see this as a literal 1,000 period, but there is no disputing the fact that since the term is used six times in this one chapter we must deal with it. There are specific events which precede the thousand years

(a) the second coming of Christ.
(b) the beast and the false prophet thrown into the fiery lake.
(c) the armies destroyed.
(d) Satan bound and locked in the Abyss.
(e) thrones of judgment introduced.
(f) the martyred dead of the Tribulation resurrected.

There are many questions I cannot answer, but of this one thing I an confident: When the Bible says “they will be priests of God and the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years,” that includes all me. How about you. Remember those saints who were shouting, “Amen! Hallelujah” back in chapter 18. Well there will be some more shouting for the redeemed of the Lord.


A. Satan Is Released from the Abyss After 1,000Years, 20:7.

“When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison.”

For many people this 1,000 year period is a critical part of the revelation. We have looked at the three basic approaches to Eschatology, the study of last things. Pre-millennialists believe the rapture will occur before the 1,000 reign of Christ with His saints. Post-millennialists believe the rapture will occur at the end of the 1,000 years of peace on earth. A-millennialists simply do not believe in a literal 1,000 year reign. I was talking with Dr. Perry Hancock, Director of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and former seminary professor this week (August, 2005). He told me about the lady who told him she was a post-millennialist and asked if he could find her a book on post-millennialism. He said that he found one book in a library on that position and took it to the lady. After she read it she came back and told him that was not what she believed - she had mixed up the terms. Perry was surprised when I told him about that I had heard Dr. Nigel Lee conclude a speech by saying, “I thank God I am still a post-millennialist!” I was as surprised by the Amens as I was his statement. I might add that Nigel Lee has earned enough doctorates to staff a small Bible College - ten, in fact! Someone asked, how did he do that. I asked another question: Why did he do that?

I am not going to spend much time with these positions at this point. We have already done that. I will add that there are many serious Bible students who say they just cannot be sure. Someone asked former Mississippi College Academic Dean and Bible Professor what his position was and he said, “I am pro-millennial. Any way the Lord works it out is all right with me.” The late Dr. E. R. Pinson taught me a number of Bible courses. I shared with you something he said to me after I called to wish him a happy birthday after reading that he had celebrated his ninety-second birthday. Before hanging up, I asked him what he was doing at the time and he told me he was teaching a Sunday School class and on the previous Sunday he had begun a study of the Book of Revelation. He added, “Johnny, for the first time in my life I stood before a class and announced, ‘I am a pre-millenialist.” You have to admire a man who is willing to change his mind when he is 92 years old! I agree with Dr. Pinson. I also appreciate what the Late Dr. Leo Eddleman once told me - after stating that when he was president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary if you eve said the world “pre-millennial” they “made you feel like you should go out behind the chapel and wash your mouth out with soap.” Dr. Eddleman said, “I am an historical pre-millennialist, if you do not make me subscribe to a literal thousand years. It may be a literal thousand years, or the thousand years may simply represent a long specific period of time. Whether we are talking about a literal thousand years or simply, a long but very definite period of time in which Christ will reign on earth with His disciples, we know two things. The saints will reign with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and Satan will be bound in the abyss for then entire time. At the end of that time he will be released.

B. Satan Leads the Nations in Battle Against the Lord, 20:8.

“And will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea.”

What do you do when you have been bound in a place of torment for 1,000 years? You say, I think I would straighten out my life and my attitude. Not if you are the devil! After brooding over his hatred for God, His Son, and His children, you feel that you must give it one more try. He quickly goes our and gathers the nations of the world together to go to war against Almighty God.

I have a question for you: Who are these who will follow Satan? The Bible Knowledge Commentary offers the following suggestion:

“Those who survive the Tribulation will enter the Millennium in their natural bodies, and they will bear children and repopulate the earth (Isa. 65:18-25). Under ideal circumstances in which all know about Jesus Christ (cf. Jer. 31:33-34), many will outwardly profess faith in Christ without actually placing faith in Him for salvation. The shallowness of their professions will become apparent when Satan is released. The multitudes who follow Satan are evidently those who have never been born again in the millennial kingdom.”

Here is another question for you: What about Gog and Magog? How do we identify them? The New Commentary on the Whole Bible comments that Magog a general name for the northern nations of Japheth’s posterity, whose ideal head is Gog (Gen. 10:2).

“At least one Greek manuscript has only a single Greek article with “Gog and Magog,” indicating that the two are marked as having the closest connection. In the prophecy of Ezekiel, “Magog” appears to be the land from which “Gog” came (39:2) and is a nation (39:6). It is therefore possible that “Gog” is to be the leader and “Magog” his people. Some contemporary interpreters note that these nations probably surrounded the southeastern portions of the Black Sea, a rather vague and nebulous area in the knowledge of the Hebrews. Ezekiel 38:6 lists other allies north of the Black Sea.”

C. Fire From Heaven Consumes the Nations, 20:9.

“They came up over the surface of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them.”

Satan, released from the abyss at the end of 1,000 years, begins immediately to deceive the nations of the world and gathers the masses together to make war against God. This is the greatest number of troops ever brought together for a battle - “Their number is like the sand of the sea.” They surround the saints and the beloved city, Jerusalem, with plans to totally obliterate the saints and destroy the city. One wonders how Satan could be so dumb, after 1,000 years in the abyss. What was he doing all that time? He may well have been plotting his next move, much like the burglar or robber who is convinced that he can commit the same crime again and not get caught. The masses are deceived, Satan is filled with hate and a lust for power.

John says, “Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them” (that is, the fire consumed the mighty army Satan has gathered against the saints and against Jerusalem. Just as the Lamb of God had defeated all foes (at the end of the great tribulation and before the beginning of the millennium) with the sword of His mouth, God instantly destroys all foes with fire from heaven.

The saints will have reigned 1,000 years with the Lord, and now they will witness the greatest victory ever. If they celebrated the fall of Babylon the Great, and the notorious prostitute, and the false prophet, you can believe they will be shouting “Amen! Hallelujah” when the fire falls and the enemies of the Lord are destroyed.

D. The Devil Is Cast into the Lake of Fire, 20:10.

“The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

The Devil. Satan. Lucifer. Call him what you will. Or, you can join the liberals and deny his existence. For those who believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God - the perfect Word of the perfect God - Satan manifests himself every where, in any situation imaginable. Let me remind you of something I read to you recently from a personal letter Dr. R. G. Lee wrote to me about Satan many years ago:

1) (H)e is presumptuous (Job 1:6 and Matt. 4:5-6.)
2) He is proud (I Timothy 3:6).
3) He is powerful (Ephesians 6:12).
4) He is wicked, or evil (I John 2:13).
5) He is malignant (Job 1:9 and Job 2:4).
6) He is subtle (Genesis 3:1 with 2 Cor. 3:11).
7) He is deceitful (II Cor. 11:4 and Ephesians 6:11).
8) He is fierce and cruel (Luke 8:29 and Luke 9:39-42 and I Peter 5:8”).

My son Mark and two of his friends went out to dinner in Jackson, MS recently. The waitress caught their attention because of her dress - no, not what you may be thinking. She was dressed in black and her general appearance caused Solon to wonder if she were involved in witchcraft. Not one to hold back when a question seems in order, Solon asked, and she assured him that she is a wiccan, their word for a witch. She went on to tell them that she was “raised Southern Baptist” and plans to raise her children Southern Baptist. That is encouraging, isn’t it?

This week, we have witnessed, by means of TV, Israeli soldiers forcing several thousand Israelis to leave their homes so that the Palestinians can take over the Gaza Strip. One Israeli grabbed a gun from a soldier and killed four Palestinians (August, 2005). Of course the Palestinians have been slaughtering Jews for decades. There is a hatred there that is hard to comprehend. I will tell you something else that really blows my mind. There are people who hate President George W. Bush with an intensity that defies belief. A mother whose son was killed in Iraq - a mother who has already had one personal visit with the president (and expressed her appreciation) has set up her command post near the president’s ranch, demanding another personal audience. This follows a speech, laced with profanity, obscenities, and vulgarity directed at the president. Her speech was so vile and evil that her family has tried to get her to stop. Of course, she has the support of some of the most hate-filled people in America, including Michael Moore,, George Scoroce, and others who hate the president. Why mention these people at a time like this? Satan is filled with hate. He fills hearts with hate. He is al liar and murderer from the beginning. He is the great deceiver. When people resort to profanity, vulgarity, lying, slander, and rage, they are acting in the nature and character of Satan.

Some people are possessed by the devil. Others are simply obsessed with him. Still others are oppressed by him. Any thing God loves, Satan hates. When Anton LeVay wrote the Satanic Bible he included his ten commandments, and it should come as no surprise to any one that the satanic commandments are the opposite of the Ten Commandments of God.

Satan is running rampant in America today. His influence is manifested in alcoholism, drugs, gambling, immorality, anger, rage, hate, and everything ugly you an imagine. It is also manifested in things that have the appearance of good, so long as they take the place of something better. The ACLU is suing to have the name of God, displays of the Ten Commandments, the Cross, and all Christian symbols removed from public places in America. Sadly, some professing Christians are supporting them.

Satan is not afraid to go to church, and once there he does some of his dirtiest work, corrupting worship, confusing grace with works, creating ill will between members, spreading gossip, pressing prejudice, bigotry, and lowering moral standards. He introduces lower moral standards, immodest dress, lust, envy and jealousy, even in the house of God. We could go on and on, but that will illustrate the degree to which Satan will go to fight against God and everyone created in the image of God.


Now, listen to the last verse one more time: “The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” His defeat was assured in the Garden. It was accomplished at Calvary. It is finalized when the devil was cast into the lake of fire. And he will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” And the people all said, AMEN! Hallelujah!”

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