A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 20: Summary and Highlights
In this Preterist commentary on Revelation 20, compelling historical evidence is presented showing that the thousand year reign—the first thousand years of the new covenant– mentioned in Revelation 20 was exactly one thousand years long. As is emphasized in this Preterist commentary on Revelation 20, there LITERALLY was a thousand year reign of Christianity in the former land of Israel or Palestine before the Crusades, the Battle of Gog and Magog, when Islam began to become the dominant religion in the region. In the following commentary on Revelation 20 we shall present the historical evidence including the literal fire from heaven that rained down on Muslim-occupied Jerusalem during this war as predicted in Revelation 20:9.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Battle of Gog and Magog
Revelation 20 Preterist Commentary Intro: During the Thousand Years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, what was once called Israel or Palestine became predominately Christian.
In Deuteronomy 28, God threatened his people with a multitude of curses if they failed to follow his law. Every single curse listed in Deuteronomy 28 happened throughout the course of the Jewish War.1 Deuteronomy 28:63 promised that the Jewish people would be removed from Israel. Interestingly, in the 1000 years after the Jewish War there was a dramatic shift in demographics in Judea. Once populated almost exclusively by ethnic Jews, Judea was 95% Christian by A.D. 614.2 This was, in a large part, because of the expulsion of many Jews after the Jewish War and the second Jewish revolt, the Bar Kokhba Rebellion. After the second Jewish revolt in order to eliminate the possibility of future insurrections, Hadrian ordered the exile of the remaining Jews in Judea. After this war, few Jewish settlements remained with the exception of three areas in the Jordan valley.3 Jerusalem was then renamed Aelia Capitoline and racial Jews were not permitted to approach the city upon threat of execution.4 At the end of the fourth century with Jews still only allowed in the city one day a year, Jerusalem became an exclusively Christian city, the only one in the country.5
Revelation 20 Preterist Commentary Intro: During the Thousand Years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, Israel Enjoyed Unprecedented Peace.
During the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, Judea enjoyed relative peace. This peace; only briefly interrupted by the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, the Sassanid invasion and occasional bouts of Roman persecution; continued until A.D. 313 when Emperor Constantine granted religious liberty.6 Then in A.D. 614, the Persians attacked Jerusalem. After a twenty day siege, the city fell and thousands of Christians were killed. Political control of the city was then turned over to the Jewish people before Christians finally reestablished control three years later. In A.D. 638, Moslems negotiated the peaceful surrender of the city; and for the next three hundred years, Christianity flourished unmolested under Moslem rule.7
Revelation 20 Preterist Commentary Intro: In A.D. 1071, One Thousand Years After the Jewish War, the Seljuk Turks took control of Judea, Molested Christian Pilgrims and Incited the Crusades.
Then in A.D. 1071,8 one thousand years after the fall of Jerusalem, Satan was released from the Abyss, and the Seljuk Turks took control of Judea making travel dangerous for Christian pilgrims. This angered Europeans and in 1095, Europe declared war on Jerusalem and thus began the Crusades—the Battle of Gog and Magog. It is interesting that during the thousand years in which Satan was bound, and the saints reigned with Christ, nowhere does it say that Christians would enjoy one thousand years of uninterrupted peace. In speaking of the glorious return of the Jews from Babylon, Isaiah predicted:
I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; and you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you (Isaiah 54:12-15).
The important thing to note from the above quotation is that although Judea was promised peace, this did not mean that it would never be attacked: “If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you (Isaiah 54:15).” In the same way, although Christians may have reigned gloriously in Judea throughout much of the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, this also does not mean that they would never experience war or face occasional hardship.
1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 20:1-3: Is there a Link Between the Binding of Satan for a Thousand Years in the Abyss and the Greco-Roman belief that the Wicked were Confined to the Abyss of Tartarus for a Thousand Years?
As stated by Plato and Virgil according to Greco-Roman mythology, the departed who went to Hades were confined there for a thousand years after having paid ten times over for every sin they ever committed before they were finally absolved and released.9 What is Hades? Hades is a Greek word for the underworld or afterlife. The authors of the New Testament, of course, also often called the realm of the departed Hades (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). The ancient Greeks understood Hades to be partitioned into three parts one of which is called Tartarus. Tartarus is said to be a deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment similar to the abyss mentioned in v. 3. Interestingly, Satan also appears to be confined to the Hadean abyss of Tartarus for a thousand years before he is released according to Revelation 20:1-3. See Is the Casting of Satan into Hell a Mirror Opposite of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven?.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 20:2-3: The Binding of Satan does not mean that there will be a literal Heaven on Earth. Satan was bound several Times in Jewish History according to the Book of Jubilees.
The fact that Satan is bound does not necessarily mean that there will be a literal heaven on earth. A similar binding of Satan is found in the Book of Jubilees. In Jubilees 48:15, Satan was bound in order to allow the Jews to escape their Egyptian pursuers. This book also lists several other points in Jewish history when Satan was bound; and as a result, the people enjoyed prosperity and peace (Jubilees 23:25-30; 40:9; 46:2).
A Preterist Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 20:2-3: The Fact that Satan is Bound also does not mean that there will no longer be any Sin. According to James 1:14, “Each One is Tempted when, by His Own Evil Desire, He is Dragged away and Enticed.”
When Satan reigned, God’s plan of redemption was impeded. With the devil imprisoned, men now enjoy greater fellowship with God. But the binding of Satan does not mean that the world would then be free of sin. James 1:14 says, “[E]ach one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” According to this verse, it is humanity’s own evil desires, not necessarily Satan, that cause people to sin. As an interesting side note, some people who have survived clinical death testify that living virtuously in the heaven is much easier when the cravings of the flesh have been removed.
4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have a part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Covenant Eschatology and Revelation 20:4-6 Commentary: The Thousand Year Reign of Christ over Heaven and Earth was Not an End Time Event. Instead, the Thousand Year Reign was the First Thousand Years of the New Covenant.
In v. 4, John introduces the Thousand Year Reign. If the Thousand Year Reign is a literal thousand year interval, as I believe it is, then it cannot be an end time prophecy since the events prophesied to occur at the end of the age were all expected to occur within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries (Matthew 3:12; 10:23; 16:27-28; 23:36-37; 24:34; Mark 8:38-9:1; Revelation 22:7). Thus the Thousand Year Reign is not an end time prophecy, rather it is the first thousand years of the New Covenant, the new age predicted by Christ throughout his ministry.
The fact that the Thousand Year Reign is the first thousand years of the new covenant is implied by the fact that that the saints were to reign with Christ at this time according to v. 4. This reign of the saints could only occur after the casting of Satan out of heaven as indicated in Revelation 12:7-11. As I explained above and will continue to elaborate upon below, I believe that Satan was cast from heaven to earth in A.D. 66 and was imprisoned in the Abyss in A.D. 79. However, I believe that the Thousand Year Reign probably began in A.D. 70.
After the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, it was impossible to follow the Law of Moses. Thus this event marked the end of the Old Covenant Age and the beginning of the New Covenant Age which is identified as the kingdom of God in the Gospels and the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22. The fact that the thousand year reign might have begun in A.D. 70 is also supported by the fact that the Seljuk Turks conquered the Holy Land and began to molest Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem in A.D. 1071—one thousand years after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70!
In vs. 4-6, John describes the resurrection of the body of Christ. During the resurrection, the dead are given new spiritual bodies as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:35-54. Many of these spiritual bodies take up residence in another dimension—heaven. And it is here in heaven that the saints reign with Christ (Matthew 19:28; John 18:36; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Ephesians 1:20; 2:6; 2 Timothy 4:18; Revelation 3:21). The fact that the saints reign while in heaven is implied in Daniel 4:26: “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules [emphasis mine].” When the saints entered heaven at the resurrection, they, of course, could then be said to reign with Christ in fulfillment of v. 4 because “heaven rules.” The Thousand Year Reign, however, is not just in heaven. During this time, Christ’s authority and the dominion of His people in heaven extends to the earth as well. See How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!! and Jeremiah 33:20-21 explains why Christ Rules From a Heavenly, Not Earthly, Throne.
Realized Eschatology and Revelation 20:4-6 Commentary: Christianity became the Dominant Religion in Rome and the Former Territory of Israel during the Thousand Years after the Jewish War.
Christianity grew to become the dominant religion of Rome. Not only did Christian emperors succeed their pagan predecessors, Christian kings also ruled Judea, a country that during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades grew to become almost exclusively Christian. This domination of the former Roman Empire including Judea as well by Christian people is the dominion promised the saints as predicted in vs. like Revelation 5:10: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” This trend of Christian domination of the bulk of the former Roman Empire continues today. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that the Christian domination of the former land of Israel lasted exactly one thousand years until the start of the Crusades. At this time, Muslim settlers gradually replaced the Christian inhabitants of the Holy Land.
7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Preterism, A Revelation 20:7-9 Commentary: The Wars after Satan’s Release . . .
One thousand years after the initial appearance of Christ during the parousia in A.D. 66 and the subsequent defeat of the devil at the end of the Jewish War, described in Revelation 19:11-20:3, Satan was once again set loose.10 Immediately after his release between 1063 and 1099, Jerusalem, the city God loves, was involved in five wars,11 the last being the First Crusade—the Battle of Gog and Magog.12
Preterism Explained, A Revelation 20:7-9 Commentary: Gog and Magog are in Turkey. The Seljuk Turks, Gog, Seized Control of the former Territory of Israel in A.D. 1071 causing the First Crusade. Crusaders Launched Firebrands into Muslim-Occupied Jerusalem. This “Fire from Heaven” Resulted in the Conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders.
In Ezekiel 38:2, Gog is identified as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, two cities in Turkey. After converting to Islam, the Seljuk Turks conquered Turkey (including Magog, Meshech and Tubal) and took control of Jerusalem in A.D. 1071. Their hostility to Christian pilgrims ignited a tidal wave in Europe causing the First Crusade in A.D. 1095. Immediately before this battle, the Christian population was expelled from Jerusalem by their Muslim conquerors.13 With the city now left virtually devoid of Christians, the crusaders arrived at Jerusalem and launched flaming arrows and other firebrands into the city. This “fire from heaven” is reminiscent of the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.14 Concerning the firebrands launched into the city of Jerusalem by the crusaders, Raymond d’ Aguiliers writes:
But when the machines were drawn near to the walls [of Jerusalem], they hurled not only stones and arrows, but also burning wood and straw. The wood was dipped in pitch, wax, and sulfur; then straw and tow were fastened on by an iron band, and, when lighted, these firebrands were shot from the machines. [They were] all bound together by an iron band, I say, so that wherever they fell, the whole mass held together and continued to burn. Such missiles, burning as they shot upward, could not be resisted by swords or high walls; it was not even possible for the defenders to find safety down behind the walls.15
In addition, archers fired flaming arrows into the city. Raymond d’ Aguiliers also writes, “This shower of fire drove the defenders from the walls.”16 Eventually the crusaders entered the city and the Muslims and Jews therein were massacred. The city was left virtually empty of people.17 Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were even killed by being cast into fire18 mirroring the punishment of Satan in the next verse. (For more details concerning the literal fulfillment of the Battle of Gog and Magog during the crusades see Ezekiel 38: A Preterist Commentary and Ezekiel 39: A Preterist Commentary.)
10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20 Full Preterist Commentary: A Forty-Year Millennium?
I believe that the thousand year reign was a literal thousand year interval between Judaea’s first century war with Rome and the first crusade, the Battle of Gog and Magog. The strength of this view is that it seems to accurately fulfill Biblical time statements as well as Biblical descriptions of the Battle of Gog and Magog found in Ezekiel 38, Ezekiel 39 and Revelation 20.
However, it is a common belief among Preterists that the millennium began during Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection and ended forty year later at the fall of Jerusalem. Aside from the tenuous idea that a thousand years could symbolize forty, the thought that the author of Revelation would make such a substitution seems unthinkable. Forty is a Biblically significant number. The former Hebrew slaves wandered in the desert for forty years before reaching the Promised Land. Jesus also wandered in the desert for forty days after His baptism. Furthermore, the number forty appears to have symbolic significance pointing to the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 3:16-4:11). Therefore, the fact that there truly was a forty-year period from the time of Jesus’ ministry until the resurrection of dead in A.D. 70 confirms Hebrews 3:16-4:11 and hints at the underlying symbolic significance of the forty years in which the former Hebrew slaves wandered in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land as well as the forty days in which Jesus wandered in the wilderness. Thus one of the biggest problems with this view is the unthinkable idea that the author of Revelation would substitute forty, a highly symbolic number which points to the resurrection, for one thousand, a number with seemingly little or no symbolic significance in the Bible. Why would the author of Revelation purposely obscure the time frame for the millennium if the millennium truly was a symbolically significant forty-year interval between Jesus’ ministry and the resurrection of the dead?
An equally peculiar fact about the forty-year millennium is that it violates the fundamental hermeneutic upon which Preterism is ultimately based. All Preterists, myself included, believe that timing determines the nature of a prophecy’s fulfillment. Thus the Preterist hermeneutic emphasizes and is founded upon a literal interpretation of time statements above all else. So while futurists try to explain away the imminent time statements in favor of a rigidly literal interpretation of the Parousia and resurrection, Preterists by and large interpret the time statements literally and often allegorize much of everything else like the Parousia and resurrection. (Of course, I am not one of these preterists. I believe that these predictions concerning the resurrection, the Parousia and much of everything else were fulfilled in a shockingly literal manner.) So if timing determines the nature of the fulfillment of prophecy, then why is the Preterist hermeneutic suddenly discarded in Revelation 20? How is it that the thousand year reign of Revelation 20 suddenly becomes a symbol of a forty-year interval in Revelation 20 if Preterism is rooted in the idea that timing determines the nature of prophecy?
Aside from the unthinkable idea that a thousand years would symbolize forty– especially in the Preterist hermeneutic–the biggest problem with this belief is that the prophecies concerning the Battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38, Ezekiel 39 and Revelation 20 did not transpire during the Jewish War. I believe in light of this fact alone, this view should be discarded. But let us address the most compelling arguments in favor of the forty year millennium.
Proponents of the forty year millennium believe that Satan was cast out of heaven at the cross. Thus Revelation 20:1-3 was fulfilled in which Satan was cast out of heaven and bound in the Abyss during Jesus’ death and resurrection. According to Revelation 20:1-3, this binding of Satan signaled the start of the millennium. In support of this interpretation, proponents of this view cite John 12:31-32 and Luke 10:18. Sometime before his passion, Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:31-32). Likewise after the disciples cheerfully reported that they were able to cast out demons in Jesus’ name, Jesus declared, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18). When Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven in Luke 10:18, did Jesus behold a vision of the present or of the future?
In Luke 10:18 Jesus sees a vision of the future. However, the Bible is clear that Satan was NOT cast out of heaven at Jesus’ death and resurrection. Satan is still called the god of this world even after Jesus’s death and resurrection. 2 Corinthians 4:4 reads, “[T]he god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Also Romans 16:20 reads, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Romans 16:20 one can see that Satan was still in heaven after Jesus’ resurrection.
Ephesians 6:12 echoes the idea that Satan was not cast out of heaven after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Because Ephesians was written years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the fact that there were still forces of evil in the heavenly realms implies that Satan had still not yet been cast out of heaven at that time.
In light of 1 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 16:20 and Ephesians 6:12 it is clear that John 12:31-32 and Luke 10:18 are examples in which the Bible predicts the future in the present or past tense as is the case in Matthew 23:38 and Revelation 14:8. In Matthew 23:38 Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 in the present tense: “Behold, your house [the Temple] is being left to you desolate!” Similarly, in Revelation 14:8 an angel warns of the future fall of Babylon in the past tense: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
But what about the binding of Satan during Jesus’ ministry mentioned in Mark 3:23-27? Does this imply that Satan had been cast out of heaven during Jesus’ ministry? No. The binding of Satan is not an unusual phenomenon. According to the Book of Jubilees, the binding and release of Satan is not a one-time event. Satan had been bound and released several times throughout Biblical history. Jubilees 23:25-30; 40:9; and 46:2 are a few examples.
So if Satan was not cast out of heaven at Jesus’ resurrection, then when did this happen? Revelation 12:7-9 describe this event:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 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.
Interestingly, a vision of a war in heaven was witnessed in Iyyar of A.D. 66 at the very start of the Jewish War. Recording this event Tacitus writes, “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour” (Tacitus The Histories 5.13). If this vision recorded by Tacitus is to be believed, it appears that the war which resulted in Satan being cast out of heaven mentioned in Revelation 12:7-9 occurred in A.D. 66, not immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection as proponents of the forty year millennium allege.
Proponents of a forty-year millennium believe that the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6 began to occur immediately after Jesus’ resurrection which they believe occurred sometime around A.D. 30. Ephesians 2:4-6 is often cited in support of this notion that the resurrection of the righteous mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6 was in full swing in the forty year interval between Jesus’ ministry and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus[.]” At first glance Ephesians 2:4-6 seems to imply that the resurrection of the righteous was an ongoing phenomenon during the interval between Jesus’ resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, this is not what Paul was saying. In A.D. 62 or 63, about two or three years after having written the letter to the Ephesians, Paul explicitly indicates that the resurrection had not yet occurred: “Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:17-18).”
Did Paul contradict himself? Or did Paul change his mind about the timing of the resurrection when he wrote 2 Timothy? No. As is the case in Revelation 14:8 cited above, Ephesians 2:4-6 also predicts the future in the past tense when Paul announces the coming resurrection as if it were a past event. In other words, there is no contradiction between Ephesians 2:4-6 and 2 Timothy 2:17-18. The resurrection had not yet occurred prior to the Jewish Revolt.
Echoing 2 Timothy 2:17-18, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 also argues against a forty-year millennium:
Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.
Notice that during the forty years between Jesus’ ministry and the resurrection at the last trumpet, the dead believers in Christ are said to be “asleep” in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15. To “sleep” or to be “asleep” is a New Testament euphemism pointing to confinement in Hades or Sheol after death. How could the saints reign with Christ as indicated in Revelation 20:6 during the forty-year interval between Jesus’ ministry and the resurrection at the last trumpet if they are “asleep” in Sheol? As stated above, proponents of the forty-year millennium believe that the saints are or were to be resurrected, at least in part, before the mass-resurrection of A.D. 70. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 argues against a resurrection or heavenly rule of the saints during this forty-year timeframe.
If the resurrection had not occurred prior to A.D. 70, then what about Matthew 27:52-53, Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:2? Let us look at each of these verses suggestive of a resurrection prior to A.D. 70. Matthew 27:50-53 records what appears to be the resurrection of the dead immediately after Jesus’ resurrection:
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Perhaps it is possible that this is the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:6? However, in light of 2 Timothy 2:17-18 this idea seems unlikely. Rather than being an actual description of the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of Matthew 27:50-53 instead appears to be a sign of the coming resurrection similar to the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:38-58, Luke 17:11-18), the resurrection of the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37), or the resurrection of the man thrown into Elisha’s tomb (2 Kings 13:21).
The next verse that might be used to support a resurrection prior to A.D. 70 is Luke 23:43. In this verse Jesus tells one of the thieves being crucified next to him, “Verily I say to thee, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”19 Perhaps this means that this man will be raised to heaven immediately after dead implying that the resurrection to heaven had begun prior to A.D. 70? However, as stated above, in light of 2 Timothy 2:17-18 this idea again seems to be unlikely. In Romans 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 day is used to symbolize the coming age and night, the then present age:
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12).
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. . . . But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10).
It is my belief that in Luke 23:43 when Jesus tells one of the thieves, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise[,]” Jesus may have also used day similar to the way it is used in Romans 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 in order to symbolize the fact that this man would be raised from the dead in the coming age. It is also possible that the paradise that Jesus referred to was actually a part of Hades itself since Jesus says that He had not yet entered heaven long after His resurrection (John 20:17). See If the Resurrection occurred in A.D. 70, What about Luke 23:43 and John 20:17?.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul speaks of a man who prior to A.D. 70 seemed to have seen or experienced the third heaven: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows.” Because Paul is uncertain as to whether this man experienced heaven in body or out of body, this verse is not great evidence of a resurrection to heaven prior to A.D. 70. It would seem to this author that this experience was out-of-body as this man apparently lived to tell the tale. If this experience was an out-of-body experience, then it sounds a lot like a vision of heaven similar to the one John experienced in Revelation 4 and Daniel experienced in Daniel 7. Revelation 4:1-2 reads, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it (Revelation 4:1-2)” Here one can see that John was in Spirit implying that this was, of course, a vision as was the vision of heaven recorded in Daniel 7. It would seem that the experience mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2 was also just a vision of heaven similar to the one recorded in Daniel 7 and Revelation 4. Thus Matthew 27:52-53, Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:2 do not appear to be good evidence of a resurrection to heaven prior to A.D. 70.
Proponents of the forty-year millennium assert that the resurrection of the saints in A.D. 70 must necessarily be the second resurrection after the thousand year reign (Revelation 20:5) since the thousand-year reign is a forty-year interval ending in A.D. 70. Is this true? Mentioning those who take part in the first resurrection, Revelation 20:4-5 reads:
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)
Notice that those who partook of the first resurrection are said to have “been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus[.]” They also “had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads[.]” If the first resurrection was around the time of Jesus’ resurrection, how is it that these people “had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads”? Furthermore, how could those people who were a part of the resurrection around the time of Jesus’ own resurrection have been “beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus”?
Now let us compare those who were part of the first resurrection with the 144,000 who were raised at the seventh trumpet in A.D. 70. Revelation 7:14 says that the 144,000 are those who had come out of the great tribulation: “These [the 144,000] are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This 144,000 who came out of the great tribulation in Revelation 7:14 sound a lot like those who were raised at the first resurrection “who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands (Revelation 20:4).” Here one can see that the 144,000 appear to be those resurrected at the first resurrection, at the start of the thousand-year reign. This falsifies the notion of a forty-year millennium since the 144,000 who were raised in A.D. 70 must necessarily be those resurrected after the thousand-year reign or at the second resurrection. If the thousand-year reign is a forty-year period between Jesus’ ministry and A.D. 70, then shouldn’t the 144,000 have been raised (contrary to 2 Timothy 2:17-18) immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion since this is when we are to believe that the millennium began? And if the 144,000 were raised just after the crucifixion, how is it that they were part of the great tribulation?
The problems do not end here. Further solidifying the fact that the 144,000 raised in A.D. 70 were part of the first resurrection, not the second, Revelation 14:4 calls the 144,000 the first fruits: “These [the 144,000] have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” How could those brought to life in the second resurrection be “first fruits”?
Let us now turn our attention back to the reign of the saints. Proponents of a forty-year millennium sometimes cite verses like Revelation 1:5-6 and 5:50 as evidence that the reign of the saints began immediately after Jesus’ ascension into heaven sometime around A.D. 30. Revelation 1:5-6 reads, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:10 is similar: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they [the saints] will reign on the earth.” Since Revelation 1:5-6 and 5:10 mention the reign of the saints in the past tense, does this mean that the thousand-year reign was in full swing during the forty years between Jesus’ ascension and A.D. 70? No. As mentioned above, the Bible often predicts the future in the present and past tense as is clearly exemplified in Matthew 23:38 and Revelation 14:8.
Then what about 1 Corinthians 15:25-26? 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 seems to suggest that Christ and His people reigned during the forty years between Jesus’ ministry and the resurrection of A.D. 70: “For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Though it appears to be true that Christ reigned during the aforementioned forty-year interval as is also suggested in Acts 2:29-36, nowhere do any of these verses say that the saints were also reigning at this time before Jesus conquered death in A.D. 70. In fact, the departed saints could not have reigned before A.D. 70 since as mentioned above, the departed saints were in Sheol, not in heaven, during this forty-year stretch (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, 2 Timothy 2:17-18). Furthermore, the saints who were alive on earth were also not reigning during this forty-year period since the reign of the saints seems to have occurred after their death and subsequent resurrection to heaven at the end of the age as is implied in Revelation 2:10; 2:26-28; 3:21 and Daniel 4:26. Thus the transferring of the kingdom that occurs after Jesus conquers death in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 appears to point to the time in which Jesus would hand the kingdom over to the Father and the saints as Jesus promised He would do (1 Corinthians 6:3, Revelation 2:10; 2:28). Similarly 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 alludes to Psalm 110 where the enemies whom the Anointed was expected to defeat are kings and their subjects. Notice that 1 Corinthians 15:26 says that the last enemy to be defeated is death. If the last enemy to be defeated was death then this seems to contradict Revelation 20:4-6 which mentions a resurrection of the righteous at the start of the millennial reign and then a second resurrection at the end of that thousand-year period. Thus according to the forty-year millennium view of Scripture one would expect 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 to say that the first enemy to be defeated was death.
Confirming the fact that the saints did not reign during the forty-years between Jesus’ ascension and the resurrection of A.D. 70, Revelation 12:7-12 explicitly indicates that the reign of the saints would begin after Satan was cast out of heaven. And as explained above, Satan had not been cast out of heaven until the end of that forty-year interval sometime shortly before the Parousia of A.D. 70 (Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12). It should also be noted that Revelation 11:15-19 indicates that the saints would begin to reign with Christ at the resurrection at the last trumpet. Echoing Revelation 11:15-19, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 explicitly indicates that the resurrection of the righteous mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6 had not occurred prior to A.D. 70: “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” The resurrection that had not taken place in A.D. 62 or 63 when 2 Timothy was written was, of course, the resurrection of the righteous mentioned as the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6 since Hymenaeus and Philetus were Christians and the resurrection they referred to was the heart of the Christian hope, their own resurrection.
What about the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-8? In this parable the wedding between Christ and the Church mentioned in Revelation 21:2 occurs immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. This means that the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22 was to occur immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century. Rather than implying that the millennium is not a literal thousand year period, I believe that this parable implies that the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 IS the millennial kingdom! This makes sense of the fact that the New Jerusalem is described in the image of the Christian church throughout Revelation 21 and 22. The fact that the church is called the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22 only makes sense during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades. During this thousand year interval Jerusalem grew to become an almost exclusively Christian city. This thousand year reign of Christianity did not, of course, exist before the first century A.D. nor did it continue after the Crusades. The Christian domination of Jerusalem existed only in this thousand year period between the Jewish War and Crusades. Thus the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 is the Millennial Kingdom!
The fact that Christianized Jerusalem is the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 makes sense of Revelation 20:9: “They [Gog and Magog’s army] marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.” The city God loves is, of course, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city God loves in Revelation 20:9 because Jerusalem had become almost exclusively Christian during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the First Crusade, the Battle of Gog and Magog. Now if the forty-year millennium is to be believed, one might ask how it is that Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon, is called the city God loves in Revelation 20:9?
Proponents of the forty-year millennium allege that the judgment scene of Daniel 7:9-10 is the same judgment predicted in Revelation 20:11-15. This is not a sound assumption. How can there just be one judgment if people continue to live and die after the “final” judgment of A.D. 70? Hebrews 9:27 reads, “[I]t is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment[.]” Furthermore, in light of Hebrews 9:27 if there truly are at least two separate resurrections as is explicitly indicated in Revelation 20:1-5, then would it not follow that there must also be at least two separate judgment scenes? Daniel 7:9-10 appears to describe the judgment following the first resurrection while Revelation 20:11-15 may represent the second. However, given the fact that the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 describes the Millennial Kingdom, it is also possible that the judgment scene in Revelation 20:11-15 might also describe the first judgment mentioned in Daniel 7:9-10 as it immediately precedes the establishment of the New Jerusalem in the next verse.
One fact about the forty-year millennium that gives me some pause is the use of thousand in Psalm 105:8-11:
He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”
In Psalm 105:8-11 God remembers the covenant He made with Abraham for a thousand generations. As is the case in the forty-year millennial view a generation is forty years, from A.D. 30 to A.D. 70. Assuming a thousand represents forty in a symbolic or numerological sense, then the thousand generations mentioned in Psalm 105:8 in which God remembers His covenant with Abraham is forty years multiplied by forty years or 1600 years. Interestingly, Abraham died in 1600 B.C. Thus the interval from the time in which God issued His covenant with Abraham to the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:63 in Judaea’s first century war with Rome is very close to 1600 years: “Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess (Deuteronomy 28:63).”
Assuming a thousand represents forty, the fact that the thousand generations mentioned in Psalm 105:8-11 is very close to the interval between when God issued His covenant to Abraham and the end of the Jewish War could be interesting evidence in favor of the forty-year millennium view. However, it should be stated that God’s covenant with Abraham did not truly end in A.D. 70. As stated above, after the first and second Jewish revolts of the first and second century A.D., Christians grew to become the dominant demographic in what was once called Israel or Canaan. Galatians 3:29 reads, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” According to Galatians 3:29 Christian believers are heirs to the covenant God made with Abraham in Psalm 105:8-11. Thus this covenant God made with Abraham did not truly end in A.D. 70 but continued at least for another thousand years after Judaea’s first century war with Rome when Christians became the dominant religious group throughout the former land of Canaan.
Revelation 20:11 A Literal Millennial Reign Preterist Commentary: The Destruction of Heaven and Earth . . .
Verse 11 says that the “[e]arth and sky fled from his [God’s] presence, and there was no place for them.” This verse depicts the destruction of heaven and earth. This incidence of the destruction of heaven and earth in v. 11 may be the same one mentioned in Revelation 6:12-14 during the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 7020 since the New Jerusalem described in the following verses is a description of the Millennial Kingdom. It is perhaps just as likely that heaven and earth were destroyed again 1000 years after the Jewish War since verses 1-7 mention a thousand year period after the binding of Satan in v. 2. As stated above, Satan is bound during the aftermath of the Jewish war with Rome and released one thousand years later according to v. 7. Therefore, this incidence of the destruction of heaven and earth could have occurred one thousand year after the binding of Satan around the time of the Jewish War.
Covenant Eschatology and Revelation 20:11 Commentary: The Destruction of Heaven and Earth is not a One-Time Event.
The destruction of heaven and earth is often understood to mean that God is going to destroy the whole world and rebuild a perfect one in its place, this not the case. Furthermore, the destruction of heaven and earth is not a unique event tied only to the Jewish War with Rome and the fulfillment of the Law as is occasionally supposed. It may be surprising to note that according to the Bible heaven and earth had been destroyed several times in Old Testament history. See The Destruction of Heaven and Earth and the New Heaven and Earth Explained!
Realized Eschatology and Revelation 20:5-6 and 12-13 Commentary: The First Resurrection was during the Jewish War, the Second was during the Crusades.
In vs. 12-13, John describes another resurrection. The sea in v. 13 represents the Abyss also known as Sheol, death or Hades–the realm of the dead. The fact that the sea, death and Hades give up the dead in v. 13 is a clear reference to the resurrection. The resurrection mentioned in these verses could be either the first or second resurrection alluded to in v. 5. As indicated in Revelation 11: A Preterist Commentary, the first resurrection occurred at the last trumpet. See also Revelation 12: A Preterist Commentary. This trumpet was blown at the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. One thousand years after the Jewish War, the Holy Land faced another major war or series of wars, the Crusades. The second resurrection mentioned in v. 13 seems to have transpired one thousand years later at around the time of the Crusades in fulfillment of v. 5: “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.”
In Revelation 21, John reveals the fate of the righteous. Here he sees the New Jerusalem. Could such a city exist right now? In the next chapter, John’s vision of the New Jerusalem will be compared with several commonly reported near death experiences.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment! Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis. Previous Next
Preterist Commentary on Revelation 20: Conclusion
Revelation 20 is a stumbling block for many Preterists. Preterist attempts to understand this chapter often result in questionable exegesis. Partial Preterists will often assert that the thousand year reign is two thousand years and counting while Full Preterists often claim that this thousand year period is not literal and may only be a couple years long. History confirms a more literal reading of these prophecies. As emphasized in this Preterist commentary on Revelation 20, there literally was a thousand year reign of Christianity in Jerusalem before Islam became the dominant religion in the region. Previous Next
- See Deuteronomy 28:15-68: A Preterist Commentary.
- Thomas A. Idinopulas, Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy City from David’s Time to Our Own (Chicago: Ivan R. Deer, 1991), 102.
- M. Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), 16.
- Teddy Kollek and Moshe Pearlman, Jerusalem: A History of Forty Centuries (New York: Random House, 1968), 140.
- Ibid., 149.
- Ibid., 201.
- Ibid., 152.
- Dan Bahat and Shalom Sabar, Jerusalem, Stone and Spirit: Three Thousand Years of History and Art (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1998), 108.
- Plato, Republic X, 315-320; Virgil, Aeneid, VI, 734-769 cited in Kurt M. Simmons, Adumbrations: The Kingdom and Coming of Christ in The Book of Daniel, (Carlsbad, NM: Biblical Publishing Co., 2009), 173.
- As stated in the body of the text, the possible binding of Satan in Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 is recorded in Cassius Dio Roman History 66.22. Approximately 1000 years after this binding, Mt. Vesuvius erupted again in A.D. 1073. Could this be a sign of the release of Satan?
- Nick Ford, Jerusalem Under Muslim Rule in the Eleventh Century: Christian Pilgrims Under Islamic Government, first ed. (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2004), 11.
- Nikolas Jaspert, The Crusades, trans. Phyllis G. Jestice (New York: Routledge, 2006), 45. The symbolism of the earth representing Israel and the sea, the foreign nations is also found in Revelation 20:8. The former kingdom of Israel was roughly rectangular; thus the four corners of the earth may represent the foreign nations beginning at Israel’s four corners. These foreign/Gentile nations representing the Muslim Seljuk Turkish Empire were deceived by Satan in v. 8 to conquer Israel and prevent Christian pilgrimages. This act incited the Crusades.
- Bahat and Shalom Sabar, Jerusalem, Stone and Spirit: Three Thousand Years of History and Art (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1998), 115.
- Jerusalem is called Sodom in this verse because she is also destroyed by fire from heaven as is implied in Revelation 8:7, 9:18, 11:5, 11:8 and 13:13.
- August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants (Princeton: 1921), cited in “ 5. Version of Raymond d’ Aguiliers” in http://www.ordotempli.org/seige_of_jerusalem.htm (12/27/2006).
- Bahat and Shalom Sabar, Jerusalem, Stone and Spirit: Three Thousand Years of History and Art (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1998), 115.
- August. C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants (Princeton: 1921), cited in “ 5. Version of Raymond d’ Aguiliers” in http://www.ordotempli.org/seige_of_jerusalem.htm (12/27/2006).
- Webster’s Bible Translation.
- Many preterists believe that the destruction of heaven and earth mentioned in vs. 11-14 is the same destruction of heaven and earth that had occurred during the Jewish War. Many of these preterists therefore believe that the 1000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20 is not literal. They often cite other examples in the Bible in which the number one thousand is not used literally in order to bolster this idea. The problem with this exegesis is that if the 1000 year interval in Revelation 20 is not literal, the chapter seems unintelligible.