Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. Next I saw an Agent progressively descending out of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven), continually holding (or: presently having) the key of the Deep (or: the abyss) and [there was] a great chain upon His hand.
2. And He seizes (or: put a power-hold on) the dragon, the primeval (ancient; original) serpent, who is a false accuser and an adversary (or: [the] devil and satan), and He binds (or: bound) it (or: him) “a thousand years.”
3. Then He casts (or: threw) it (or: him) into the Deep (or: abyss) and He closes (or: shut; locked) and seals (or: stamped with a seal) over upon it (or: him), to the end that it (or: he) can no longer (or: would not still) deceive (lead astray; cause to wander) the multitudes (the nations; the non-Israelites; the ethnic groups), until the thousand years may be ended (finished, completed, perfected; brought to the goal). After these [events; things], it is necessary for it to be loosed [for] a little time.
We ended ch. 19 with the war between the Rider on the white horse, together with His army, and the little beast, together with the false prophet and the kings of the land. John here sees a new vision, but this one seems to follow the last in sequence, for vs. 10 lets us know that now the devil is cast into the lake of Fire and Deity where the little beast and the false prophet were cast, in ch. 19:20.
Above, in vs. 1-3, we have the devil arrested, but not yet put in the Fire with the other two. It is subdued and restrained with the Deep, to end its job of deception for the symbolic period of 1000 years. It was the power behind the little wild animal and the false prophet (the two little beasts of ch. 13), but Yahweh was not through with it yet – there was apparently more work for it to do – so it will be put out "on bail" for a little while, to finish its work, and then be returned to the primeval Fire, where it will be joined by death and the Unseen (Hades), vs. 14, and those who were not placed within the scroll of The Live (vs. 15).
I suggest that the Agent of vs. 1 is a figure of the corporate Christ which has the keys of the Kingdom, which includes the Deep (see A Study In Revelation Chapter Nine — Part One, for a discussion of this figure). This is why Paul could make use of the serpent to teach folks not to blaspheme, and why the called-out folks in Rome could crush satan under their feet. Remember the theme of this book: the Lamb rules! Pagan Christianity in our day does not see satan as defeated (although they pay lip service to this), and in a dualistic mindset are always "fighting the enemy," and "doing spiritual warfare" to try to defeat satan and overthrow its kingdom (which is non-existent). We have seen only two kingdoms in this book: God's and the world's (humanity's). The serpent, satan, is a negative tool in the hands of God, easily bottled up at any time, as we see here in vs. 1.
4. And I saw thrones – and they sit (or: sat; are seated) upon them, and judgment (judicial process and verdict) is given by them (or: authority to judge was given to them; decisions and separations are made by them) – and souls (inner lives) of those being ones having been cut with an axe (= beheaded) because of the testimony (witness) of (or: pertaining to) Jesus, and because of the Word of God – even those (or: also the ones) who do not (or: did not) worship the little wild animal (or: beast), nor its image, and do not (or: did not) take (or: receive) the imprinted mark (or: the engraving) upon their forehead and upon their right hand – and they live and reign (or: lived and reigned) with the Christ (the Anointed One) one thousand [other MSS: the thousand] years.
5. But the remaining (the rest) of the dead ones do not (did not) live until the thousand years may be ended (finished; concluded; caused to reach the goal). This [living and reigning with Christ is (or: This thousand years represents)] the first resurrection. (or: The first rising up [is] this:)
6. Blessed and happy and set-apart (holy) [is] the one holding (or: having) a divided part (a piece) within the first resurrection (rising up) – upon these the second death has no authority (does not continue holding right or privilege), but rather, they will be priests belonging to God and to the Christ (or: priests pertaining to God and the Anointed One; or: God’s, even Christ’s, priests; or: priests from God and Christ), and they will reign with Him a [other MSS: the] thousand years.
Again we see this enigmatic "1000 years." Remember, numbers in this book are ideas, not literal, and in between the first and final events of this vision we see an unspecified number of thrones where the souls of the martyrs for Jesus – and those of the resistance who refused to worship the little beast or to take its mark – live and reign with Christ for 1000 years. This metaphorical "time" is apparently concurrent with the dragon's imprisonment, and this is all associated with what is called "the first resurrection" (vs. 5-6).
Later we will see that with the loosing of satan from prison, we see it off to deceive the multitudes in the four corners of the Land, mustering an innumerable army of supporters which commences to lay siege to the "Beloved City." Their efforts are futile, for God immediately treats them like Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-28).
In vs. 11-13 we will see another scene, presumably in the realm of spirit, for the earth and the atmosphere (sky; heaven) flee away for this setting. Here the dead are evaluated, and their verdicts are based upon their works (not their beliefs) – which were written within scrolls.
So what do these signs and figures mean? The teaching by the institutional church about a "millennium" is primarily based upon this chapter, but the views of what is meant by "a thousand years" vary. There are three main views:
1. Amillennialism: Basically that 1000 yrs. is a figure of speech, or a symbol, like other numbers in this book; that Christ and His church are presently reigning in His kingdom, which is a spiritual kingdom – one not of this "world." "The present form of God's kingdom will be followed by Christ's return, the general resurrection, the final judgment and Christ's continuing reign over the perfect kingdom on the new earth in the eternal state" (NIV Study Bible).
2. Premillennialism: view the 1000 yrs. as literal, and that Christ will physically return to earth and set up a physical kingdom which will begin the 1000 yrs. "After the final resurrection, the last judgment and the renewal of the heavens and the earth, this future, temporal kingdom will merge into the eternal kingdom, and the Lord will reign forever on the new earth" (NIV Study Bible).
3. Postmillennialism: "The world will eventually be Christianized, resulting in a long period of peace and prosperity called the millennium. This future period will close with Christ's second coming, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the eternal state" (NIV Study Bible).
The preterist view is generally amillennial, and there are varieties of preterism in the field of eschatology, in the sense that this passage is completely figurative, and that the term "1000 years" is a symbol, not a literal period of time. But for the most, they apply this passage to the 1st century, which is now history for us. "Partial preterists" may see this as yet a future event. Except the amillennialists, all other points of view see this as happening some time in history – the question is at which point.
If we consider "the kingdom of God within [us]" – the microcosm, so to speak – we can see personal applications for these pictures. The Agent progressively (or: continually) descending in vs. 1 is Christ, Who comes down into the "Deep," the Abyss within us, and there binds the dragon within so that it can no longer lead us astray or deceive us.
This dragon is the same beast nature which ascends out of this Deep (ch. 11:7) within each of us in order to slay the witness of Jesus in our lives. But here we see that Christ will repeatedly descend, as needed and progressively deeper within us, to bind it and to resurrect the witness into the realm of the heavenlies (ch. 11:11-12).
The 1000 is a figure derived from 10 X 10 X 10. The aspect of years signifies that this applies to the realm of time. The only thing used as a type and a shadow from the OT to give us the key to understand this symbol is the dimensions of the Holy of holies, in the Tabernacle (itself being a type of the body of Christ). It measured 10 X 10 X 10. The 1000 years is a figure of the dwelling place of God within us during the ages. It is a figure of the kingdom of God, and thus do we see the phrase in vs. 4, above, "they live and reign (or: lived and reigned) with the Christ (the Anointed One) one thousand [other MSS: the thousand] years."
The dragon is for a little time loosed within us in order to fester up all ungodliness within us so that God's Fire can devour any remaining unrighteousness yet in our land. This is the process of purification/sanctification, and Christ is the Agent Who knows when the dragon needs to be loosed, and thus used for God's purposes in our lives. Recall that an agent of satan WAS GIVEN to Paul – another "fruit of the spirit," adversity? – "lest [he] should be lifted up by the transcendence of the revelation" (2 Cor. 12:7, CLNT). So we have here a picture which tells us that God, through Christ as the Agent, has complete control of the devil, or, satan. This is an important part of "the gospel," the GOOD NEWS.
Note how I translated vs. 2-3: it does not say here that He bound, or binds (aorist tense) it "for" a thousand years, because there is no preposition or conjunction in the Greek text. The binding and the casting into the Deep are each metaphors associated with the figure "1000 years," which signifies our innermost being, our holy of holies – the place from where Christ reigns, and the infinite source within us where God imprisons our adversary, until it is time for it to be transformed in the Consuming Fire, which we will see happen in vs. 10.
Now we are presented with a picture of the positive side of the situation, and in vs. 4 we see thrones, and the Overcomers sitting upon them. These are the same ones noted in ch. 12:11 who "overcame [the dragon] because of the blood of the little Lamb, and (or: even) because of the word (or: message; Word; Logos) of their witness (evidence; testimony) – and they love not (or: did not love) their soul (soul-life; inner self; personhood) even to (or: until) death."
Now authority to judge is given to them and these LIVE and REIGN WITH Christ, seated with Him in His throne (ch. 3:21) – and His throne (figured by the Mercy Seat on the Ark) is in the sphere of the 10 X 10 X 10, the holy of holies, the place where He speaks to us. In Ex. 25:22 we see, "And I will meet with you there, and will speak with you from off the propitiatory (mercy-seat – Young), from between the two cherubim, which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Rotherham). This is the 1000-yr. reign: as we live with Christ, in His presence in the Holy of Holies, in the heaven within us.
This living and reigning with Christ (both within, now, and outwardly as He directs us) IS the FIRST (or: foremost) RESURRECTION (vs. 5). The rest of the dead folks, being yet dead, are not living within this realm yet. When the 1000 yrs. (this realm in Christ – the body of the Anointed One, the full stature in Christ) are finished, matured and brought to the attainment of the goal, then they will loose satan from within in order to bring about a consummation upon the whole land (specifically, the land of Israel – the church) where the Fire can descend from the heaven within them (the Lord roaring out of Zion, His body – Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2) and devour the enemies of His people's spirits (vs. 9).
Vs. 6, as noted above, corresponds to ch. 2:11, where the overcomer is not hurt from the second death, and also to ch. 1:6 which states that He has made us (or: made "of us," reading with C) a kingdom: priests (or: a priesthood – other MSS) for God. The overcomer has been "baptized within Holy Spirit and Fire (Lu. 3:16); s/he has been baptized "with the baptism that [Christ was] baptized with" (Matt. 20:22); s/he has renounced himself, picked up his/her cross (figure of the death of the estranged soul) and has followed the Lord (Matt. 16:24-25). Now s/he is "holding (having) a part within the first resurrection."
7. Then, when the thousand years may be ended [other MSS: after the thousand years], the adversary (satan) will be loosed from out of its prison (his place of being watched and guarded),
8. and it (or: he) will go forth (or: come out) to deceive (lead astray) those [other MSS: all the] nations (multitudes; ethnic groups) within the four corners of the Land (or: earth) – “Gog and Magog” [Ezk 38:2] – to gather them together into the battle (or: war): their number [being] as the sand of the sea.
9. And they ascended (or: climb up) upon the breadth of the Land (or: earth) and came around (or: surround) the encampment (or: fortress) of the set-apart (holy) folks, even the Beloved City [other MSS: even the city of the set-apart ones]. And fire descends (or: came down) from God, out of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven), and devours them (eats them down).
10. And the devil (slanderer; accuser; one who thrusts-through or causes division), the one continuously deceiving them (repeatedly leading them astray) is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire and Deity, where the little wild animal and the false prophet also [are; presently exist]. And they will be examined and tested by the touchstone day and night, on into the ages of the ages (or: the indefinite time periods of the eons).
In vs. 7-9 we see that the battleground where the adversary musters its forces is the Beloved City (another name for Jerusalem), the bride of Christ (ch. 21:9-10). This corresponds to ch. 12:13-17, where the dragon goes after the Woman who had birthed the manchild. On the personal application, it is the adversary gathering enemies within our land (our earth nature) to attack our soul (the bride of our spirit). But thank God for His Fire! All of that within us which has the mark (character) of the estranged human (the beast) will be devoured.
When the work is complete, the one who has been thrusting us through, our accuser and adversary, will be thrown into the lake of Fire and Deity (vs. 10) and thus be transformed and caused to ascend back into God (Rom. 11:36). God will test and examine the transformation of the devil, as well as our beast nature and the prophetic which speaks falsely within us – using the touchstone until it tests out pure gold. "The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but Yahweh tries the heart" (Prov. 17:3).
11. Next I saw a great bright, white throne, and the One continuously sitting upon it from Whose face the earth (or: ground; Land) and the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven) flee (or: at once fled). And a place is not found for them (or: And then no position was discovered by them or found in them).
12. Then I saw the dead folks – the great ones and the little ones – standing before the throne. And scrolls are (or: were) opened up. And then another scroll is opened up, which is of (or: the one pertaining to; or: from) The Life. And the dead ones are judged (were evaluated) from out of the things having been written within the scrolls, according to their works (down from their actions; on the level of their deeds).
13. And the sea gives (or: suddenly gave) [up; back] the dead folks within it, and death and the Unseen give (or: gave) [up; back] the dead folks within them. And they are judged (evaluated) according to their works (in correspondence with their actions; in line with their deeds).
14. Next the Death and the Unseen are cast (or: were thrown) into the lake of the Fire. This is the second death: the lake of the Fire.
15. So if anyone is not found (or: was not found) written within the scroll of The Life, he is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire.
Now we come to the "great bright-white throne," vs. 11-15. The color white speaks of purity. When we come before Him who sits upon His throne, both our heaven and our earth flee as we prostrate ourselves before His mercy. There is no place for either our earth nature, nor our spirit when we are judged by Him. He gives us a new heaven (a renewed spirit: "Create for me a clean heart, O Elohim, and RENEW with me an established spirit" – Ps. 51:10, CVOT) and a new earth (a new creation, the Second Man – ch. 21:1; 1 Cor. 15:47).
The literal fulfillment of the earth and the heaven fleeing happened with the termination of the Jewish "world" at His parousia in AD 70. God's pattern is "first the natural (that which pertains to the first Adam, the soul life), and afterward that which is spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). We are now in the afterward.
Vs. 12 simply gives us a picture of standing before God's judgment, using the figure of people standing before an earthly king to receive his decisions. Heb. 9:27 says,
"And now, according to as much as it is lying-away (or: laid away from; reserved) for (or: in; to) mankind (or: people) to die-away once, but after this an evaluation (a separation resulting in a distinction; a judging; a decision)."
We can draw from this verse the fact that everyone will stand before His pure judgment after dying. Since sin was paid for on the cross, this judgment is simply a decision that accords with a person's works (vs. 12, 13), and they will be tried by fire (vs. 14, 15). Now let's see what Paul had to say regarding the judgments of one's works in 1 Cor. 3:13-15:
13. each one's work will make itself to be visible in clear light (or: will become apparent), for the Day will make [it] evident (show [it] plainly). Because it is being progressively unveiled (continually revealed) within the midst of Fire, and the Fire, Itself, will test, examine and put to the proof (or: prove by testing) what sort of work each one's exists being.
14. If anyone's work which he built upon [it] will remain, he will receive wages (pay; compensation).
15. If anyone's work will be burned down, he will incur a loss (sustain the damage; forfeit [it]), yet he, himself, will be saved (rescued and delivered; healed and restored to health; returned to his original state and condition), and as in this way – through Fire!
Here in the Unveiling, the sea in vs. 13 figures humanity, just as it did in ch. 13:1, from out of which the first beast comes. The picture here is of humanity releasing those dead by trespasses and sin. The Unseen (hades) where all who are dead exist and even the realm of death, or the power of death, itself released those imprisoned within them. This was effected by the cross and the resurrection of Christ. When one stands before the throne of God, not even death itself (having been conquered by Christ) can hold on to one who had before been captive. But in vs. 14 we see that death and the Unseen, having completed their appointed works, are now returned to the source, and we have the death of death.
When judgment comes, whether in this life (for our Father continuously makes decisions about us here, too – Heb. 12:9, when we are in subjection to the Father of spirits, we LIVE) or when we die, if our names are not yet recorded in heaven (Lu. 10:20) He baptizes us in the lake of THE FIRE, and our God is a consuming Fire (Heb. 13:29).
This judgment of Fire was discussed in ch. 14:10-11. There we noted that this time of testing is where there is "day and night," an expression of time and it carries on, not in "eternity," but on into indefinite time periods of the ages – according as He deems necessary and helpful – and ch. 21:8 gives another description of all who have "their part" in this experience: "the timid (cowards) and unbelievers (or: faithless folks), and abominable people and murderers – as well as prostitutes and sorcerers (enchanters) and idolaters and all the false (liars)..."
Now keep in mind that Jesus said that prostitutes and tax collectors would get into the kingdom before the religious folks (the priests and elders) – Matt. 21:31. It simply may mean that since they know their need of Christ more than the self-righteous one, then they won't have such a long treatment in God's purification process.
The second death, which is described in vs. 14 as "the lake of the Fire," equates to what Jesus referred to in Matt. 25:31-46 as the "age-lasting (or: eonian) fire" that was prepared for the devil and his agents (vs. 41). This we see fulfilled in ch. 19:20 and 20:10 in this book. But we should also recall that in our Matt. passage it is the goats (literally: kids – the immature), those who did not recognize Christ in Jesus' brothers (family members, vs. 40) when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison – and did not minister to Him in them. Now although these kids were clean animals (goats were used in sacrifices to the Lord, and Christ as our atonement would have been symbolized as a goat, or kid, not a lamb), they were just "kids," immature folks who were producing no fruit of the Spirit (love for their brothers in need). Thus they are judged and to go forth "into correction for an indefinite period of time (or: eonian pruning – which switches the metaphor)." The Greek word for correction is "kolasis," and is an agricultural term that means to prune, or correct the growth of a vine or tree. The obvious meaning is that this fire is designed to cause better growth which will produce more and better fruit.
I suggest that this lake of Fire experience is the same experience that John the baptizer spoke of when he said that Jesus would dip, or immerse, you "within Holy Spirit and Fire" (Lu. 3:16). This fire is meant to burn out any cowardice, unbelief, abominable things, and that which would cause us to murder, be involved in prostitution, sorcery or idolatry, or to be false and a liar (ch. 21:8). It is to also meant to remove the adversary from us, rid us of false prophesying, and free us from being agents of the beast nature – all the things that would keep us from living the Christ Life, figured here by being "written in the scroll of The Life."
Is there any connection between the figure of the lake of the Fire here in the Unveiling, and the figure of "the Gehenna of fire" used by Jesus in the gospels? We know that, literally, Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom which is located to the southwest of Jerusalem, and which had become the city dump in Jesus' day. Refuse from the city, as well as bodies of criminals who were considered unworthy of burial, were dumped there to be burned. With all that decaying organic material, there were plenty of worms in the area anywhere the fire was not burning. This was the scene from which Jesus took this metaphor.
Gehenna is used twelve times in the NT: 7 times in Matt.; 3 times in Mark; once in Lu.; and once in James. It is first used in Matt. 5:22 where Jesus is making a comparison to the Law regarding the act of murder (vs. 21),
"However, I, Myself, am now saying to you people that EVERYONE, who – from internal swelling or agitated emotions of his natural disposition, or from the fruition of his mental bent – is habitually being impulsive or intensely angry to his brother (= fellow member of the society) will be held within the decision (or: held under the control of the crisis or the judging of the local court). Now whoever may at some point say to his brother, 'Raca (an Aramaic word of verbal abuse: contemptible imbecile; worthless good-for-nothing; senseless empty-head; brainless idiot; blockhead)!' will be held within (and thus: accountable to) the Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish council). Yet whoever may at some point say, 'Inept moron (Stupid scoundrel; Despicable fool; You perverse idiot)!' will be held within (and thus: accountable to) [placement] into the [part of] the Valley of Hinnom which pertains to the fire (i.e., the incinerator for refuse in the dump outside of Jerusalem)."
Note here that all the offences are against another human being; they all led to judgment and punishment by a human court; they were misdemeanors that were relatively on a par with each other. But they all came from attitudes or spirits that were contrary to love – and they needed to be cleansed out of people.
Keep in mind that the context of this saying is the "Sermon on the Mount," which was directed to His disciples (Matt. 5:1), teaching the principles of the Kingdom (and in this case comparing them to a more serious crime in the Law: murder). Can we believe that Jesus is saying that, in the Kingdom which He is proclaiming, one can be sent to what institution Christianity calls "eternal fire (or: hell)" for calling someone "stupid"? Is that the "good news"? In vs. 20 He had just been giving a qualification for entering into the reign of the heavens: to have a right relationship with folks that exceeded the relationship and fairness exhibited by the scribes and the Pharisees (practitioners and experts of the Law). He was in this sermon describing the characteristics of what Paul referred to as "the upward call in Christ Jesus." He was presenting a narrower and more restricted path, in comparison to the broad highway of the Law, which only led to destruction.
But as none can keep the Law, other than Christ, so also none can have superabounding rightness, except for the Christ who lives within us. As another example, let us look at Matt. 5:29-30 where we see two more occurrences of "Gehenna." These involve "looking at a woman to lust for her" (vs. 29), and stealing (vs. 30). The first is an inward thought; the second an outward act. In both of these infractions the judgment is "the whole body being cast into the city dump (Gehenna)." Did Jesus mean this literally? The Valley of Hinnom was a dishonorable place in which to end. It happened literally to criminals of that day.
In discussing these verses in our local gathering, Mark Austin suggested that the phrase "the whole body" may be a veiled reference to "the body of Israel" in that day. This was then end of the body politic of the Jews, in AD 70.
Was Jesus merely reiterating the Law? Did He mean that one should literally wrench out an offending eye or chop off one's own hand, if he was failing when being tempted? If so, then this is not really good news that Jesus is bringing to us. Most rational individuals will realize that Jesus was using hyperbole here: a figure of speech. He meant to get rid of those situations in which a person's weaknesses were causing him to fail. Paul had the same problem, as he discussed it in Rom. 7. But if Jesus' admonition, graphic as it is, is a figure of speech, then why do we suppose that failure to follow His admonition would result in a literal judgment of being cast into an "eternal lake of fire"? And if we are being literal, Gehenna is no longer burning – as you can see for yourself if you tour literal Jerusalem today. The lake of the Fire, spoken of here in the Unveiling, is also a figure, a symbol. It is called the second death in vs. 14. The first death brought us into this realm of the physical life here on earth, and thus we were "dead by trespasses and sins;" we were blind, living in the darkness of the Unseen; some of us were whited graves, full of dead bones. But the second death is death to the first death.
The next use of the Greek "Gehenna" is in Matt. 10:28. Who were those who "are killing the body, yet are not able to kill the soul"? The Romans, the Sanhedrin, murderers. Who is He telling us to fear in the next statement? Who can "destroy the soul, as well as the body, in Gehenna? God. He is telling them to fear God. God can destroy the body in many ways. He uses the figures of Gehenna, the "lake of the Fire," to destroy the soul. Consider how He put it in Matt. 16:24-25, "... let him deny himSELF, and take up HIS CROSS, and follow Me: for whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be DESTROYING IT [via the broad path]. Yet whoever should be destroying his soul on My account shall be finding it."
We destroy our souls by submitting to His baptism of Fire, here and now; this is taking up our crosses. Remember, Gehenna is a figure of where He destroys our souls, that we may find our true selves in Him.
Matt. 18:9 is a repetition of 5:29, and Mark 9:43, 34 & 47 tell us about the same. But Matt. 23:15 make His use of Gehenna as a figure of speech quite obvious. His is speaking of the Pharisees proselyting, and in so doing making the proselytes "twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves" (Weymouth). The term "son of Gehenna" is "A Hebraism which equals Gehenna's people" (Bullinger), or, "folks having the qualities and characteristics of the city dump, full of dead people's bodies, and destined for shameful ruin." This is answered by what Jesus said to them in vs. 33 of this same chapter, "O serpents, O generation of vipers! How can you be fleeing from the judgment of Gehenna?"
That generation was on the "broad path which leads to destruction." It happened to them in AD 70. But what does this say to us? Perhaps just that all who have the character which Jesus describes as "serpent" are destined for the purification process. Those who receive the serpent's words and thoughts (its seeds) must endure the judgment which will burn over their fields (Heb. 6:7-8). Those who are serpents have the identity of the beast nature – the mark of the beast.
Now consider the use of this word as found in James 3:6, "Well the tongue [is] a fire; [its fuel is] the System of injustice (or: the ordered and decorated but dominating world of culture, religion, politics and government which is unjust; or: The tongue, also, [is] fire: the world of disregard for what is right).
The tongue is placed down within our members, continuously spotting (staining; = defiling) the whole body, and repeatedly setting on fire the wheel of birth (= the cycle of the origin [of life], or of generation; the wheel of genesis), as well as being continuously set on fire by (or: under) the garbage dump (the depository of refuse; Greek: Gehenna)."
If one has the nature of Gehenna (is one of Gehenna's people), "out of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). Obviously James is speaking figuratively. We must see Gehenna as a figure, but not as a figure of an eternal place of punishment.
"Who among us can sojourn with a fire that devours?
Who among us can sojourn with burnings age-abiding?
He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly..." (Isa. 33:14, 15)
Isaiah could have answered in vs. 15, "The overcomer – he will not be hurt by age-abiding burnings."
"When you pass through the waters, with you I AM, or through the rivers, they shall not overflow you – WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH FIRE, you will not be scorched, and a flame shall not kindle upon you, For I – Yahweh, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, ready to save you." (Isa. 43:2, 3)
He does take us through the Fire, but He is there ready to save us even while we are within the fire, as the three Hebrews in the furnace found out. The fire delivered them from their bonds, and ended in God being glorified. All things return to the Fire, for, "From out of the midst of Him, and then through the midst of Him, and then INTO the midst of Him [are] ALL THINGS" (Rom. 11:36).
I can also see Heb. 6:7-8 as applicable to the Pharisees. Paul had described Israel, according to the flesh, as those "whose is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the legislation and the divine service and the promises" (Rom. 9:4, CLNT). Would not Heb. 6: 4,5 & 7 describe the same thing? And yet, their "end [is] into burning" (vs. 8). I will end this study by giving a few quote from what some scholars say of this chapter.
Barclay says that the origin of the belief in a literal millennium is not specifically Christian, but is found in some Jewish beliefs about the Messianic age. He cites 2 Pet. 3:8 that "one day with the Lord is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day," and also says that it was a common belief with the Jews that each day of creation was 1000 years. He states that "... Millennarianism, or Chiliasm, was very widespread I the early Church, although it was never universal." He further says that "Even the way in which the word 'thousand' is used in Scripture warns us against taking this literally. Ps. 50:10 says that the cattle on a thousand hills belongs to God; and Job 9:3 says that a man cannot answer God once in a thousand times. Thousand is simply used to describe a very large number."
Wallace notes that "It is said in Deut. 7:9 that God keeps his covenant and his mercy unto a 1000 generations.... The term 'thousand' was a figure of completeness. It does not denote a cycle of time..."
David Chilton, a post-millennialist, from his book "The Days of Vengeance" says: "... 'postmillennialists' have understood [ch. 20] as a description of the saints' dominion on earth.... that Christ's reign began at His Resurrection/Ascension and continues until all things have been thoroughly subdued under His Feet... 'The Millennium,' in these terms, is simply the Kingdom of Christ..."
Both Chilton and Malcolm Smith agree that the "Angel"/Agent in vs. 1 is the Lord Jesus Christ. Chilton sees vs. 2 & 3 in the light of Matt. 12:28-29, "Christ appeared for this purpose, 'that He might destroy the works of the devil' (1 John 3:8)." He sees that Christ "began 'binding the strong man'' during His earthly ministry..." He further states that "... the thousand years of Rev. 20 represents a vast undefined period of time."
Chilton quote Norman Shepherd, from his book "The Resurrections of Revelation 20," "[Rev. 20] does not even describe the bodily resurrection of the just expressly as the second resurrection.... baptism is even more properly resurrection that is the resurrection of the body. The just who are alive at the return of the Lord will not be resurrected in the body but will be transformed.... Not resuscitation but transformation is the leading feature of resurrection, and the foundational transformation and transition takes place at baptism, the first resurrection."
Chilton goes on to say, "The first resurrection... is our re-creation in His image, our participation is His Resurrection.... The First Resurrection is taking place now. Jesus Christ is reigning now (Acts. 2:29-36; Rev. 1:5). And this means, of necessity, that 'the Millennium' is taking place now as well."
Malcolm Smith again concurs, saying that the 1st resurrection "takes place in our spirits when we are born again."
On this same topic, Ray Prinzing quotes John 11:25, "I am the RESURRECTION and The Life..." Also, "In Christ shall all be made alive..." (1 Cor. 15:22-23), and then quotes Williams version of Phil. 3:10, "Yes, I long to come to know Him; that is the power of His resurrection, and so to share with Him in His sufferings as to be continuously transformed by His death..."
Ray further notes a different Greek word that is often translated "arose," "raised up," or "to awaken." This word is "egeiro," and is used in Matt. 27:52-53, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept "arose." Other places where this word is used are, "And that, knowing the time, that NOW it is high time to "awake" (egeiro) out of sleep..." (Rom. 13:11) "Therefore it says, 'AWAKE (egiero), O sleeper! and arise (stand up) from out of the dead ones, and Christ will shine upon you" (Eph. 5:14) "If then you were RAISED (egiero) together with Christ... For you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ, within God" (Col. 3:1, 3).
Ray also cites Rom. 8:6, "to be carnally minded IS DEATH; but to be spiritually minded is LIFE and peace," and says, "This is the working of the first death... to mind the things of the flesh..."
We can also consider Rom. 5:12, "Because of this (Therefore; That is why), just as through one man (through the act or agency of one person) The Sin (or: the failure; the miss of the target; the deviation from the goal) entered into the ordered System (the world of religion, culture, economy and government; or: the cosmos), and through The Sin (failure; the mistake; the miss of the target; deviation) The Death also, in this way The Death thus also passed through in all directions (or: came through the midst causing division and duality; went throughout) into all mankind (or: into the midst of humanity; or: to all people), upon which [situation], all sinned (or: everyone fails and misses the target, falls short of the goal, makes mistakes and deviates from the goal)."
Here Ray says, "The second death is prepared to purge out and burn away all sin and its results.... Death came as an enemy... Now God makes DEATH OVERCOME ITSELF. It is by death that death is rendered powerless..." (Heb. 2:9, 14, 15).
In closing, the last part of ch. 20, vs. 11-15, are often thought of as "the final judgment," but the text does not say this, so such a concept should not be "read into" the text. Do we see the idea of a final judgment set forth anywhere in the types and shadows of the OT? I think that what we see is repeated judgments, or periodic judgments, according to God's purposes in any given time or situation. Was the judgment of Egypt final, when God delivered Israel? It was final only for those who actually died a physical death – and in reality, most everyone does physically die – and only in the sense of a physical death. We see judgments of cities and kingdoms (e.g., Sodom; the kingdoms represented by the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream; the economy of natural Israel destroyed in AD 70). We see individuals judged and killed – but do these hold a figure for a "final judgment"?
In Matt. 10:15 Jesus speaks about Sodom and Gomorrah in comparison to how cities or villages or houses who do not receive the disciples or hear their words – and the context is 1st century Israel – would be judged: "Verily, I am saying to you, More TOLERABLE will it be for the land of Sodom and the land of Gomorrah in A DAY of judging, than for that city."
His comparison is saying that in the upcoming judgment on Judea, the results that happened in AD 70 would be worse than what happened in Sodom, etc. But nowhere does it speak of a "final judgment."
On this same final section of ch. 20, James Stuart Russell writes: "Like the other catastrophes which have preceded it, it is a solemn act of judgment... The Seer now resumes the narration which had been interrupted by the digression respecting the thousand years, taking up the thread which was dropped at the close of vs. 4. We are therefore brought back to the same standpoint as in the first and fourth verses. This catastrophe naturally and necessarily belongs to the same series of events as have been represented in the vision of the harlot city, and fall within the prescribed apocalyptic limits, belonging among the things 'which must shortly come to pass'....
"It is the great consummation, or one aspect of it, towards which all the action of the Apocalypse moves.... In the catastrophe of the 7th trumpet it is declared that 'the time of the dead, that they should be judged, is come,' etc. (sh. 11:18); and in the catastrophe of the 7 mystic figures we see 'a WHITE cloud, and on the cloud one sitting, like unto the Son of man' (ch. 14:140, corresponding with 'the great WHITE throne, and him that sat on it,' in the passage now before us..." (The Parousia)
And the "cosmic opera" continues, but I will here end comment on this chapter.