With all the excitement of the new millennium and all the religious implications placed upon it by many, it becomes important that Christians understand exactly what the one thousand year reign of Christ really is. There are many various beliefs concerning the 1000 year period of time and the second coming of Christ Most of these beliefs are drawn from teachings of Revelation chapter 20:6 which says, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Many interpret the visions of this chapter as literal and believe there will be a literal reign of Christ in the city of Jerusalem following a 7 year period of great tribulation. There are so many different variations of these teachings that is would be almost impossible to accurately define the Premillennial theories. I invite you to examine the Scriptures with me and determine exactly what is meant by the 1000 year reign of Christ.
As we have done in each of the previous lessons, it is extremely important that we interpret this passage according to the pattern established by God. As you study through this lesson, I hope that you will refer to the drawing at the top of this page.
The First Resurrection
Since Rev. 20:6 says that we will reign with Christ after the first resurrection, then we must first determine the meaning of the "first resurrection." Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the first person raised from the dead never to die again. Speaking of Jesus, Col 1:18 says, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." Also Col 1:15 speaking of Christ says, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:" God raised Jesus from the dead and made him to be the head over all things. Eph 1:22 states, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." So, from this we understand that the "first resurrection" was the resurrection of our Lord.
Having a part in the First Resurrection
In Rev. 20:6 we find this statement: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection" The question which must be answered is: How do we have a part in the first resurrection? Rom 8:29 says, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Jesus was the firstborn of many brethren. This statement tells us that Jesus will have many brethren who will also be resurrected. Now we must determine exactly when this takes place. Eph 2:1 says, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." Also, Eph 2:5 states, "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." Thayer's definition of "quickened" is "to make one alive together." To make alive is to resurrect. When we are resurrected from the grave of sin, we are made alive in Christ. Our first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection from the grave of sin. So, we have a part in the first resurrection (Christ's) when we are resurrected from sin. John 5:24 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." We pass from death to life (resurrected) when we are obedient to the word of God. This is how we have a part in the resurrection of our Lord.
Reign with Him 1000 Years
Now Rev. 20:6 says that those who have a part in the first resurrection "shall reign with him a thousand years." Since our first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection by being obedient to God's word, then we are now in the period of time known as 1000 years. The 1000 years is a symbolic period of time representing the time between Christ's death on the cross and his second coming. It is this present Christian dispensation. When anyone is resurrected from the grave of sin, they reign with Christ during the 1000 years.
Reign on the Earth
Our reign with Christ is on this earth, but it is not for a literal 1000 years after Christ comes again. Christians are spiritually reigning with Christ today. Rev 5:10 says, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." This is exactly what Rev. 20:6 says. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
Priests of God
Christians are priests of God today. We have moved from the darkness of sin and into the glorious light of Jesus Christ which is found inside the church. Col 1:13 says, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." When we obey the will of God, we become members of His kingdom. Rev 1:6 states, "and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever." (NAS) We are members of God's kingdom today which is the church of Christ 1 Pet 2:5 says, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." When we have a part in the resurrection of Christ, we become priests of God and we reign with him on this earth.
Following the Pattern
If you will look at the drawing at the top of this page, you will see that interpretation of Rev. 20:6 follows precisely the pattern established by God. The children of Israel were saved from the bondage of slavery in Egypt by crossing the Red Sea. Our Red Sea is the blood of Christ. That saves us from the bondage of sin. When we are resurrected from the grave of sin, we have taken part in the first resurrection. We have crossed over from a life of sin to a spiritual kingdom established by God where our sins are forgiven. The children of Israel traveled in the wilderness 40 years and God took care of all their needs. They were nourished on manna. The figurative parallel of Israel's 40 years in the wilderness is the symbolic 1000 year period of time in which Christians reign with Christ.
Every Christian Follows the Pattern
Every child of God also follows this pattern established by God. How do we follow this pattern? Rom 6:3-5 says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Baptism is the act of obedience to God which moves us from a life of sin into the kingdom of God where our sins are forgiven. We follow the pattern. The children of Israel went down into the Red Sea and moved from a life of physical slavery to a life of freedom. Christ died, was buried and rose again to deliver those who obey him from the bondage of sin. We follow that same pattern as we go down into the waters of baptism. This is a likeness of the death of Christ. We are raised out of that water which is a likeness of His resurrection. By doing this we have obeyed the command of God and are cleansed from our sins. Please study the following drawing.
This drawing illustrates what every person must do who desires to be obedient to God. When we are raised from the waters of baptism, we reign with Christ during the figurative 1000 years.
Second Death hath no Power
Rev. 20:6 also says, "on such the second death hath no power." The second death is defined in Rev 21:8 as "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." The second death is hell. Those who are obedient to God and follow the pattern established by Him will not be hurt by the second death which is hell. They will follow the pattern into their heavenly promised land where they will dwell with God eternally. God's plan to redeem man is quite simple and easy to follow. Let us all make sure that we have followed the pattern established by God in order to avoid eternal destruction in hell. If you have any questions concerning this pattern, please feel free to email me or contact the nearest Church of Christ.
Lesson 1 - Pattern used to Study Revelation
Lesson 2 - Holy City - The Bride of Christ
Lesson 3 - Parallel Comparison of Israel and the Church
Lesson 4 - Mount Sinai/Mount Zion
Lesson 5 - The 144,000
Lesson 7 - Armageddon
Lesson 8 - The Great Tribulation
Addendum - Matthew 24