Priestly Reign of the Saints

In the book of Revelation, the saints of the Lamb reign as a kingdom of priests in the thousand years period after overcoming the Beast

During the “thousand years,” Satan is imprisoned as the victorious saints begin their reign. Rather ironically, the “rest of the dead” do not live until the “second death” at the “Great White Throne of Judgment.” The image of the saints reigning is based on Daniel’s vision of the “one like a Son of Man” who receives the “kingdom” from the “Ancient of Days.”

In his vision, Daniel sees “thrones” surrounding the “Ancient of Days.” The individuals sitting on them are not identified. However, their identity is revealed in the book of Revelation, namely, the victorious saints.

And this is what Jesus promises to the overcoming saints from the congregation in Laodicea: - “To him that overcomes, I will grant to sit with me in my throne, just as I overcame and sat with my Father on His throne.”

  • I looked, and this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High, and the time came, and the saints possessed the kingdom” - (Daniel 7:21-22).

SAINTS VINDICATED

In John’s vision, “judgment was given for” the saints, an allusion to the judgment scene in Daniel. Grammatically, this means either a judicial sentence in their favor, their vindication, or the bestowal of judicial authority on them which they now exercise.

Considering the emphasis in the passage on their “reigning,” the latter possibility is the intended sense. Likewise, in the vision of the reigning saints in Daniel, judgment is made “for the saints” and results in their receiving the “possession of the kingdom” – (Revelation 20:4-6).

And they were “beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and the word of God.” This identifies the group that is reigning on the thrones - the “saints” who are persecuted for their “testimony of Jesus,” the same men and women against whom the “Dragon” and the “Beast from the sea” wage “war” - (Revelation 1:9, 6:9, 11:7, 12:11, 12:17).

This does not mean only martyred saints reign on the “thrones.”  This company includes saints who have “not rendered homage to the beast.” For many, refusal to give their allegiance to the “Beast” results in suffering and economic deprivation, if not actual martyrdom.

Elsewhere in the book, overcoming “saints” are men who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and consequently, they “come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name” - (Revelation 14:1-4, 15:1-4).

THOUSAND YEARS

And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Previously, Jesus declared that he is the “first and the last, who was dead and lived” - (kai ezésen). Likewise, here, the overcoming saints “lived” for the “thousand years” (ezésan).

In addition to this clause, the passage includes other verbal links to the letter to Smyrna with its warning that the congregation will experience “tribulation for ten days”:

  • (Revelation 2:8-10) – “These things says the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again… Fear not the things which you are going to suffer. Behold, the Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life… He that overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

The ten days in the letter to Smyrna becomes the source for the thousand years” in chapter 20. Numbers in Revelation are figurative, and often doubled and tripled for effect.

Elsewhere, overcoming believers qualify to sit on the throne in the same way that Jesus did, by persevering in tribulations, and martyrdom when summoned to give their lives “for their testimony and the word of God” – (Revelation 1:5, 3:21).

FIRST RESURRECTION

The “first resurrection” means these overcoming saints will not participate in the “second death.” There is no mention of any “second resurrection” or “first death.”

Instead, the passage juxtaposes the “first resurrection” with the “second death.” “Saints” who persevere avoid the “second death,” but not necessarily physical death.

So, also, the members of the church at Smyrna who remain faithful “unto death” will not “be hurt by the second death” which is the “lake of fire.” As for the “rest of the dead,” they will not be condemned to the “lake of fire” until the judgment before the Great White Throne. Thus, they “lived not until the thousand years ended” - (Daniel 1:14, Revelation 2:7-11, 11:15-19, 20:11-15, 21:8).

Overcoming “saints” become the “kingdom of priests.” Previously, that status was presented as a present reality because of the shed blood of the “Lamb,” and if so, their reign as “priest” in the “thousand years” must point to the same reality.

As “priests,” they mediate the “testimony of Jesus” to the nations. Priesthood is what defines their reign – it is how they implement the rule of the “Lamb” on the earth - (Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9-10).

And the reign of the “saints” is paradoxical. They rule even while persevering through persecution and martyrdom. By means of their faithful “testimony,” they participate with the messianic “son” as he “shepherds” the nations.

The “thousand years” portrays the time between the coronation of the “Lamb” and the release of the “Dragon” for his final attempt to destroy the “saints” at the end of the “thousand years” – (Revelation 12:12, 20:7-9).

In the interim, the Devil persecutes the saints. But he is not yet authorized to deceive the nations and mount his last-ditch effort to annihilate the church worldwide. For now, overcoming believers “reign with Christ” by persevering in their “testimony of Jesus” - even “unto death” – and in this way, they advance the “kingdom of God” and the sovereignty of the “Lamb” over the nations.


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