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.

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