UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Chapter Nineteen and the Thousand Years
By Gary Ray Branscome
Chapter nineteen opens with, “the voice of a
multitude in heaven, shouting, Hallelujah; Salvation, glory, honor, and
belong to the Lord our God” (Rev, 19:1). This cry of rejoicing is one
many doctrinal statements that I mentioned in the first lesson,
are often overlooked. The reason for the rejoicing is the fall of
The reference to the twenty-four elders (in verse 4) harks back to the vision of the heavenly throne room in chapter four, where this series of visions began (compare Rev. 4:4 and 19:4).
The “righteousness of saints” (mentioned in verse eight) is not the righteousness of works, for the Bible plainly tells us that all of our own righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The only righteousness that avails before God is the righteousness that is imputed to us through faith in Christ (Romans 4:6, 11 and 10:4). And, all who have come to faith in Christ are called to His supper (compare Matt. -13 and Rev. 19:8-9).
John then sees “a white horse,” ridden by one whose name is “The Word of God” (Rev. 19:11, 13). Now, many who read this account assume that these verses are describing Christ’s second coming. However, a close reading of the text reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.
Whether we are interpreting a dream, or a parable, it is important to interpret it in the light of what the Bible plainly says elsewhere, and not just let our imagination run wild. And, there is nothing in chapter nineteen that is even similar to what the clear passages of Scripture tell us about Christ’s return.
When Christ returns, He will not be riding a horse (flying horses exist only in dreams), but will come in the clouds in the same way the Apostles saw Him go (Acts 1:9-11, Matt. 24:30 and 26:64, Mark , Rev. 1:7, Luke ). On that day, His return will be sudden, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, // as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west, // [He] will descend from heaven with a shout, // and every eye will see him” (1Cor. , Matt. 24:7, 1Thess. , Rev. 1:7). At that time, “all who are in the graves will hear his voice, and will come out,” and He “will judge the living and the dead at his appearing” (John -29, 2Tim. 4:1, 1Thess. ). Moreover, Christ Himself said that this would happen on the “last day” (John 6:39-40, John 11:24, John 12:48).
None of this is mentioned in chapter nineteen! That leads us to ask: What then could chapter nineteen be referring to? And, I believe the answer is found in Mark 16:19-20 where we read, “After the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them”. Think carefully about the words, “the Lord working with them”. Those words tell us that when the power of God began to spread the gospel, after the day of Pentecost, Christ was not somewhere far away but was actively involved – as the conversion of Saul/Paul revealed. And, if Christ is actively involved in spreading the gospel, then there is a clear parallel between the white horse and rider in chapter nineteen, and the white horse and rider in chapter six. The difference lies in the fact that this horse and rider appears after the fall of Babylon.
In the last lesson, when we looked at chapter
I pointed out the parallel between the angel in chapter fourteen (verse
the angel in chapter eighteen (verse 1). In both cases, the cry “
The Thousand Years
As chapter twenty opens, John sees an angel who seizes “the dragon, that old serpent, who is the Devil, and Satan,” binds him for a “thousand years,” and throws him into the bottomless pit, to keep him from deceiving the nations until the thousand years are over” (Rev. 20:1-3).
In reading this you need to remember that you are reading the description of a dream/vision, not a description of actual events. Moreover, these verses say nothing about Christ coming to earth, believers being raised from the dead, or some golden age when lions lay down with lambs. Yet those ideas, and more, are often assumed and read into these verses. Old Testament passages are twisted to agree with what is only being assumed in connection with these verses, and that is absurd. These verses are the only verses in the entire Bible that speak of a “thousand year” period. And, just because John saw it in his dream/vision does not mean that is what the people living on earth will see.
While the “thousand years” may refer to some future period when Christianity has gone worldwide (Hab. ), Christ’s words, “My kingdom is not of this world,” make it clear that He will not be physically present on earth at that time (John ).
Three things to remember are: 1) The “righteousness of saints” is not the righteousness of works, but is the righteousness that is imputed to us through faith in Christ, 2) There is nothing in chapter nineteen that corresponds to what the Bible tells us about Christ’s second coming, 3) In reading the Book of Revelation we need to remember that John is describing what he saw in a dream/vision, not earthly events.
In the next section we will look at the first resurrection, the final judgment, and what lies beyond.