Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 8 of 11

8. The figurative meaning of the number “one thousand.”

There is good biblical reason to believe that the number “one thousand” as used here is figurative rather than literal. [Earlier in this book we have] seen that the numbers in Revelation are symbolic in nature. The use of “signify” (NASB mg.; Greek sēmainō) in 1:1 with reference to the whole book encourages the reader to expect a predominance of symbolic over literal language, including references to numbers (see on 1:1).

The Bible also uses this particular number figuratively: “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (Ps. 105:8; see 1 Chron. 16:15). Ps.90:4 should probably be taken figuratively (as a reference to a long period of time),”For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by.” The same is true in 2 Pet. 3:8, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (for further references see on v.4 above). It may be used as a contrast with the brief period of conflict immediately before the Lord’s return, which is “three and a half days in 11:11 and one hour in
17:12.

“One thousand” also signifies the idea of completeness in Revelation, as in the measurements of the eternal city in 21:16, where “twelve thousand stadia” represents the number of God’s people (twelve) multiplied by one thousand, in order to express the completeness of that people. “One thousand years” would thus signify the complee duration of the church age. Multiples of one thousand have previously been used figuratively in Revelation (see on 7:4-9; 9:16; 14:1; cf.5:11) to express either a large number, a complete number, or both. It does not necessarily signify a very long period of time (however we might construe that), but points more to the idea of a fullness of time allowed by God’s sovereignty at the end of which will surely come the ultimate victory of Christians who have suffered.

We have already suggested that if the suffering saints persevere through their short trials of “ten days” (2:10), they will be given the reward of a millennial reign. The intensifying of ten to a thousand (one thousand being ten to the third power), together with the lengthening of days to years, might suggest that momentary affliction in the present results in a far greater glory even in the intermediate state prior to eternal glory.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 446.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 7 of 11

7. The problem of a “mixed population” during a literal earthly millennium.

A theological problem with the premillennial view is that it means that resurrected believers with glorified, newly created bodies would be living in the old creation with people with corruptible bodies, many of whom will become unbelievers at the end of the millennium. The response that the incorruptible Christ dwelled with people having corruptible bodies for forty days after His resurrection is interesting but not fully satisfying.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 445.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 6 of 11

6. The affirmation of the Bible concerning one physical resurrection.

The Bible states consistently that there is only one physical resurrection at the end of history (Isa. 26:19-21; Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). This final resurrection is mentioned again in Rev. 20:12-15, which includes the physical resurrection of the saints along with that of the unrighteous. [Rev. 20:5a] mentions only the physical resurrection of the wicked in order to stress that they do not share in the first spiritual resurrection. If, as on a premillennial understanding, we take [Rev. 20:4] to refer to a first physical resurrection at the beginning of a millennial period, followed by a further resurrection at its end, the reference would stand in serious tension with the consistent and universal teaching of the rest of the Scriptures that there is only one final resurrection.

Some say there is precedent for several resurrections, since Christ was raised first, and then those who believe in him will be raised later, thus suggesting two resurrections. Even if it is true, however, that the final resurrection was inaugurated in Christ’s resurrection thousands of years before the final resurrection of the saints, this does not count as a separate resurrection followed by a completely different resurrection, since Christ’s resurrection is viewed as part of the later resurrection of His people and not separate from it (1 Cor. 15:20-23). It would be possible but very strange to apply this corporate solidarity in Christ’s resurrection to many subsequent resurrections, so the burden of proof rests on such a position.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 445.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 5 of 11

5. The premillennial problem of a judgment after the final definitive judgment.

In 15:1, John states that with the seven plagues or bowl judgments the wrath of God is finished. In 16:12-16, the sixth bowl judgment concludes with the nations gathered at Armageddon, following which the seventh bowl judgment represents the end of history. It is clear that 18:17-21 picks up the narrative where 16:16 leaves off and concludes it. This means that 19:17-21 covers the same timeframe as the sixth and seventh bowl judgments, thus bringing to a definitive end the wrath of God against unbelievers. How then could there be a further, much later judgment related in 20:7-10? Thus, 20:7-10 is likely referring to the same final judgment narrated in the last bowl (16:17-21) and in 19:17-21. If this is so, then 20:1-6 precedes the final judgment at Christ’s final second coming.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 444-445.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 4 of 11

4. The basis of the fourfold ending of Revelation in the fourfold ending of Ezekiel 37-48.

As noted earlier, the parallels are striking: the resurrection of the saints (Rev. 20:4a; Ezek. 37:1-14), the messianic kingdom (Rev. 20:4b-6; Ezek. 37:15-28), the final battle against Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:7-10; Ezekiel 38-39), and the new temple and new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5; Ezekiel 40-48). The same Greek verb and verb form, translated “they came to life” is used in Rev. 20:4 and Ezek. 37:10 LXX (likewise 37:6, 14, where zaō occurs) in the prophecy of the dry bones (God’s people) being raised to life. That “they came to life” in Rev. 20:4 alludes to Ezek. 37:10 is apparent from the fact that the third person plural aorist active indicative of zaō occurs in the Greek OT elsewhere only in Num. 14:38, which is a mundane reference and has no reerence to any concept of resurrection. This makes Ezek. 37:10 uniquely parallel in all of the OT to the same verb form in Rev. 20:4. The resurrection in Ezekiel is symbolic or spiritual in nature, and focuses on the spiritual renewal of Israel when it is restored from captivity, a point on which both premillennial (at least most) and amillennial OT interpreters of Ezekiel agree. Ezek. 37:10 is now universalized in Revelation and applied to the church.

The meaning of coming to life “in terms of spiritual (as opposed to physical) resurrection in Ezek. 37:10, 14 is clarified by 36:26-28, since it develops the latter text: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you….I will put My Spirit within you…and you will live in the land.” Rev. 20:4 likely follows the same symbolic or spiritual view of “coming to life,” since it alludes to Ezek. 37:10, 14. Indeed, as is clearly the case in Ezekiel 37, it is possible that the vision of Rev. 20:4-6 is a picture of deceased saints being bodily resurrected, but that this picture is to be interpreted symbolically as a spiritual resurrection. This approach would be a partial answer to the literalist objection that a bodily resurrection must be envisioned.

This understanding of 20:4 is supported by the fact that the language of “priests,” “kingdom,” and “reigning” in vv. 4-6 is taken from descriptions of Israel in Exod 19:6 and Dan.7:27 and applied here and in Rev. 1:6, 9 (“kingdom”) and 5:9-10 to the church. In addition, Ezek. 37:10 has already been applied in 11:11 (the breath of life coming back into the witnesses) to connote figuratively and spiritually the church’s continued existence, vindication, and release from the world’s captivity into the immediate presence of God (see on 11:11-12). Rev.20:4 takes Paul’s concept of spiritual resurrection at conversion (Rom. 6:4-11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1) and uses the terminology of Ezekiel to apply it to the intensified form of spiritual resurrection which occurs upon the believer’s death.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 443-444.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 3 of 11

3. Biblical evidence for the intermediate state.

On our understanding, the “first resurrection” describes an intermediate, beginning eternal state between physical death and physical resurrection. Some contend that there is no example in the Bible of the eternal state being a state of resurrection existence, but that is not the case. In Rev. 2:10-11, believers are promised that if they remain faithful until physical death, they will receive the crown of life,” which in turn will prevent them from being harmed by the second, spiritual death.

It could reasonably be assumed that the “life” referred to here is the heavenly existence of the saints between physical death and physical resurrection and is consummated in physical resurrection. The same truth is presented in 6:9-11, where deceased saints appear as living souls without bodies, waiting for the physical resurrection. Jesus taught the same when He said to the Sadducees that God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38). Therefore, said Jesus, God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who are “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36) and thus presently alive to Him, even before their final physical resurrection. The Sadducees denied not only the physical resurrection but also that there was any conscious existence after death, and in this passage Jesus rejects both false beliefs. The metaphorical picture is that of a soul leaving an earthly body and ascending to heaven, where a more intense condition of blessedness is experienced.

This is similar to Phil. 1:21, 23: “to die is gain…to depart and be with Christ is very much better” (cf. also 2 Cor. 5:8: “we…prefer rather to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord”). Paul states in Rom. 6:4-5 that our life in Christ can be referred to as a spiritual resurrection, and that life in Christ continues on into the intermediate state, after physical death. 1 Pet. 4:6 refers to people who, “though they are judged in the flesh as men” [= physical death], “may live [zaō = living in the intermediate state] in the Spirit according to the will of God.”

In the light of this and other Scriptures, it is reasonable to interpret the ascent of the soul at the time of death into the Lord’s presence as a form of spiritual resurrection, in anticipation of the physical resurrection and consummation of eternal life, which will occur at the Lord’s return. That such a translation can be termed a “resurrection” is appropriate, because the souls of the saints are entering a higher state of blessedness and resurrection existence than they had before on account of their regeneration (for a similar thought in early Christian literature, see Ignatius, Romans 2.2; 4.3; 1 Clement 5.4, 7; Acts of Paul), and because they experience the immediate presence of God and Christ (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:14-17). Consequently their role as kings and priests becomes intensifed. Their labor of perseverance on earth is successfully accomplished so that they can rest (6:11; 14:13). They have greater assurance of vindication (see on 6:11; cf. 19:8) and of protection from the second death, because of their intermediate existence of escalated spiritual life.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 442-443.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 2 of 11

2. The significance of first-second and old-new antitheses elsewhere in Revelation and the Bible.

This contrast between physical or corruptible realities and incorruptible, eternal realities runs through chs. 20 and 21. The qualitative distinction between the two resurrections is also suggested by the qualitative antithesis between the “first” (old) creation and second (“new”) creation in 21:1, where the former was pre-consummate or temporary, while the latter is consummate and eternal. Strikingly, in 21:4-8 there is a formal antithesis between “[the first physical] death” and “the second [spiritual] death.” In 21:4, physical “death” is the focus of the clause “the first things have passed away,” which is contrasted with “the second [spiritual] death” (21:8), which is part of the “new” things of the eternal new creation (21:5). 21:1, 4 are a clear allusion to Isa. 65:16-17, where the same qualitative contrasts occur between the first or “former” earth or “troubles,” and the” new heavens and a new earth.”

In Isa. 43:18-19 and 65:16-17, the first or “former” things, referring to the present, old creation, stand in contrast to the “new,” everlasting creation (cf. Isa. 65:19-22 and 66:22) which will replace it. Isa. 66:22 affirms that one of the qualitative differences is that the new heaven and new earth will remain forever, in contrast to the former, which passed away. Thus, the distinction between “first” and “second” and “old” and “new” throughout Revelation focuses not so much on temporal succession (as argued by premillennialists with respect to the two resurrections) as on the qualitative difference between that which is transient and that which is eternally enduring.

This understanding is consistent with similar “first-second” and “old-new” contrasts elsewhere, such as with the “first Adam” and “last Adam” in 1 Cor. 15:22, 42-49 and the “old (first) covenant” and “new (second) covenant” in Heb. 8:6-10:9. The first Adam had a perishable, inglorious body, and he brought death, whereas the last Adam had an imperishable and glorious body, and He brought eternal life. The first covenant was temporary and led to death (e.g., Heb. 8:13), while the second was eternal and led to life. Neither in Revelation, 1 Corinthians, or Hebrews does “first” function as an ordinal in a process of counting things which are identical in kind; rather, it functions to identify things which are opposite to and different in quality from one another.

Consequently, here in vv. 4-6 there are two different kinds of death — one corruptibly physical and one incorruptibly spiritual, and, correspondingly, there are two different resurrections — one eternally spiritual and one physical. Some clarification is still needed. Could the idea that the “second death” is not literally physical but spiritual restrict the nature of that death too much? Does it not also include the physical existence of the reprobates who have been resurrected? The answer is yes, but remember that unbelievers suffer not temporarily in hell, but suffer eternally both spiritually and physically, though this physical suffering does not include physical destruction.

The key is that it is an eternal spiritual suffering in the midst of some kind of ongoing eternal physical suffering. Likewise, believers who experience the first resurrection will later experience a fully consummated spiritual and physical resurrection in the new creation. So the first resurrection, though incomplete, launches an eternal spiritual resurrection, which will be consummated later in an eternally greater spiritual yet fully physical form. The first-second antithesis carries over in that the second resurrection represents the eternal consummation of the first.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 441-442.

Beale: A Response to the Premillennial Interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 1 of 11

A response to the premillennial interpretation of [Revelation 20:1-6] is based on the following considerations:

1. The meaning of “resurrection” and “life” as used here.

It is important to recognize that [the Greek word] anastasis is found in Revelation only here in 20:5-6. In addition, “first” (Greek protos) appears with ‘resurrection’ (anastasis) nowhere else in the Bible. Nor does “second” appear in connection with “death” anywhere else in biblical literature (other than the related use in 21:8). Studies of words expressing the idea of “first” and “second” must therefore be conducted to determine better the meaning (on which see below) and to determine what “resurrection” means here.

In addition, the verb zaō (“live”) has a range of meanings in Revelation and elsewhere in the NT and can be used with reference to both physical and spiritual resurrection in the same context. In 1:18 and 2:8, it refers to a physical resurrection, and in 16:3 and 19:20 it refers to some form of physical life. In 3:1; 7:17; and 13:14, however, it refers to a form of spiritual existence, as also in six other places where it refers to God’s attribute of timeless spiritual existence, so that the predominant meaning in Revelation is spiritual life or a spiritual coming to life.

However, most striking is the observation that elsewhere in the NT anastasis and zaō (or the noun zōē, “life”), together with other synonyms, are used interchangeably to refer to both spiritual and physical resurrection within the same immediate context. For instance, in Rom. 6:4-11, Paul says (according to the following paraphrase) that we have been buried with Christ spiritually so that, even as Christ was raised (egeirō) physically from the grave, we might receive a new life (zōe) spiritually (6:4); that if we have become conformed spiritually) (in our conversion) to His physical death, so shall we be conformed spiritually to His physical resurrection (anastasis, that His resurrection life will begin to become real in our present spiritual existence, v.5). We have died with Christ spiritually that we should live with Him (syzao) spiritually (6:8, another reterence to our present spiritual resurrection life). Therefore, Paul concludes, we should consider ourselves spiritually dead to sin but spiritually alive to God in Christ Jesus. Then Paul says, “the life that He [Jesus] lives [zaō], He lives [zaō] to God” (v.10); “…even so consider yourselves…to be alive [zaō] to God in Christ Jesus” (v.11). Paul takes words like “death,” “life” (zōē, syzaō) and “resurrection” (anastasis) (the latter two words found in Rev. 20:4-6) and mixes two different senses of them in one passage: spiritual (pertaining to our present spiritual resurrection life in Christ), and physical, referring to Christ’s resurrection (though anastasis is not explicitly used in a spiritual sense, it is clearly synonymous with syzaō and zōē). Note also how Paul states that we have already experienced a resurrection in our coming to Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1).

The same is true in John 5:24-29. There, Jesus teaches that one who hears His word already (“now”) has life (zaō) spiritually and has already passed from eath to life (zōē) spiritually (v.24). But an hour is coming, Jesus continues, when those who are dead physically will rise physically, and those who have heard His voice will experience a physical and eternal “resurrection of life” (anastasin zōēs), but others will experience a physical “resurrection [anastasis] of judgment.” Here again, the spiritual and physical senses or the words “life,” “death,” and “resurrection” are used interchangeably in one passage (though again anastasis is not explicitly used in a spiritual sense, it is clearly synonymous with zōē, as a genitive of apposition “resurrection which is life”; but zōe is used spiritually in v. 24). Furthermore, v. 25 and vv. 28-29 refer to the same resurrection prophecy from Dan. 12:1-2, which means that the prophesied resurrection of Dan. 12:2 is interpreted by Jesus to be both spiritual (v.25) and physical (vv. 28-29).

Must then the verb zaō, “live,” have the same (i.e., physical) meaning throughout Rev. 20:4-5? The immediate and broader context of Revelation must determine the meaning. Consider that the “second death” in v.6 dearly refers to a spiritual death of the unrighteous involving conscious, eternal suffering (see on vv. 10, 14-15). On the other hand, the death of the righteous mentioned in v.4 (“the souls of those who had been beheaded”) refers to a literal, physical death. Therefore, in vv. 4-5 there is a first death
of believers, which is physical and is different in nature from the second death of unbelievers, which is spiritual. If there are two different kinds of deaths it is plausible to infer that the two different resurrections would reflect the same dual nature of the deaths. That is, the resurrection of believers is spiritual, whereas the resurrection of unbelievers is physical. The first, physical death of saints translates them into the first, spiritual resurrection in heaven, whereas the second, physical resurrection of the ungodly translates them into the second, spiritual death. This interpretation suits the thought of v.6, since a first, eternal, spiritual resurrection is the minimal condition needed to prevent one from suffering a second, eternal, spiritual death. As the bodily resurrection of the wicked shows, bodily resurrection by itself does not provide protection against the second death. There is a second, final, physical resurrection (of both believer and unbeliever), as there is a first, physical death (of both believer and unbeliever). But the first resurrection is experienced only by believers, whereas the second death is experienced only by unbelievers.

-G. K. Beale with David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 439-441.

The Authority of Christ

Jesus, the ruler of all nature.
The long-awaited Savior,
The King of kings forever.
Jesus, the wonder of the shepherds,
The healer of the lepers,
The calmer of the waters.

All praise and honor He has claimed – All pow’r and glory.
All hell is trembling at the name of Jesus!

Sing with the angels, come and
Shout with old Simeon and
Cry with the women that His mercy freed, O
Follow the fishermen and
Bow with the sinners, because
We are in awe of the authority of Christ.

Jesus, Who spoke in puzzling parables,
Who left the haughty humbled,
Who challenged and who troubled.
Jesus, Who freely gave forgiveness,
Confounding all who witnessed
That he could show such boldness.

All praise and honor He has claimed – All pow’r and glory.
All hell is trembling at the name of Jesus!

Sing with the angels, come and
Shout with old Simeon and
Cry with the women that His mercy freed, O
Follow the fishermen and
Bow with the sinners, because
We are in awe of the authority of Christ.

Jesus, Who let the mob be furious,
Submitting to their blood lust,
Rose to life victorious!

All praise and honor He has claimed – All pow’r and glory.
All hell is trembling at the name of Jesus!

Sing with the angels, come and
Shout with old Simeon and
Cry with the women that His mercy freed, O
Follow the fishermen and
Bow with the sinners, because
We are in awe of the authority of Christ.

-The Authority of Christ from “Song from the Book of Luke” by The Gospel Coalition

Beale: The Importance of ‘Extended Meaning’ Part 4 of 4

“Another reason these ‘indeterminate temple prophecies’ are better viewed as not including any traditional temple building has to do with the progression of redemptive history. Christ and his church clearly are the inaugurated form of the latter-day temple. To have a physical temple built towards the end of the church age, as a partial inaugurated fulfilment of the same Old Testament prophecies that Christ and the church had begun to fulfil, would be hermeneutically and theologically strange. It would be a redemptive historical hiccup.

Recalling…Hebrews enhances the unlikelihood of any future physical temple structure: physical temples were the ‘shadows’ and the inaugurated temple in Christ was the ‘true substance’ of the shadows. In conjunction with this, ‘handmade’ temples went out of theological style with the resurrection of Christ, which commenced the eschatological temple ‘made without hands’. The early Christian community from the beginning reckoned that any humanly constructed temple was impossible in the eschatological era, since the old creation is referred to as ‘handmade’, and the temple of the new creation is alluded to as ‘made without hands’.

If this principle were violated, then redemptive history would take a retrograde step back from the new creation into the old; the inauguration of the new creation temple in Christ and the church would exist alongside an old-age temple. Certainly, when the old world is destroyed at the end of the age, and only the new, eternal creation remains, there is no room for such an antiquated structure.

Consequently, an approach of ‘literal interpretation’ that attempts to conform fulfillment of prophecies to physical realities as much as possible is probably not an ideal way to describe a biblical hermeneutic. Nevertheless, we have endeavoured to show that even someone guided by such an interpretative rule could see that our understanding of the end-time temple is not inconsistent with that approach. On the other hand, a ‘literate canonical approach’ that aspires to the broad literary meaning of the entire biblical context is a more felicitous way to summarize a single method of interpretation.

Such an interpretative approach aims to unravel the original intention of biblical authors, understanding that intention may be multilayered, without any of the layers contracting the others. These original intentions may have meaning more correspondent to ‘literal’ physical reality, while others may allude to ‘literal’ spiritual realities. This is certainly true with respect to the temple. We have attempted to sail between the coast of ‘literalism’ on one side and that of ‘spiritualization’ on the other, and hope we have avoided the dangers of both.

We think that the approach we have taken avoids the criticism of mystical spiritualizing since the end-time temple is physical but on grander scale than former temples. Indeed, the entire new creation is what the localized temple pointed to and symbolized all along! Rather than a little structure, the new cosmos is the physical abode for the divine glory. This approach does not employ allegorical methods of interpretation or the reading in of symbols that have no controls. Rather, the controlling paradigm throughout this study has been Genesis 1:28 in relation to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. We have seen that later temples and prophecies of the end-time temple usually allude to one or both of these Genesis passages, so that these early Genesis texts provide the interpretative controls for understanding the progressive revelation of the temple in the Old and New Testaments.

On the other hand, this ongoing biblical revelation itself sheds light on how these Genesis passages are developed, though this interpretative developmental growth cannot extend beyond the organic bounds of the first chapters of the Bible. In fact, the image of God’s glorious presence in a garden-like temple has formed an inclusio or kind of ‘book-end’ structure around the entire canon (Gen. 2 and Rev. 21:1–22:3), providing an interpretative key for understanding the material about the temple throughout Scripture. Another interpretative key has been the temple’s cosmic symbolism, which pointed to the goal of its own extension to become co-equal with the cosmos itself.”

-G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 2004, 384-385