Surely no one was surprised by Brexit? Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome. As my ASDA House coworker explained in 2001 when I asked about Britain adopting the Euro, “they won’t let us put the Queen on it!” I knew then that the tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last. Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown.
The pageantry, the history, and the utter fascination of being a people ruled by the reign of a Sovereign King or Queen is absolutely repugnant to the American consciousness, however. Though we began as loyal subjects of the Crown, the abuses our forefathers suffered at its hands have been forever enshrined in our foundational document, The Declaration of Independence. Every year on the Fourth of July we read.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.Declaration of Independence
The Declaration’s list of grievances is ingrained on our national identity. We impute George III’s guilt to every idea of monarchy. While good for self-governance, our anti-monarchal bias negatively affects our hermeneutics. It is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us. Yet, many sweet promises given to believers in the Bible are related to the rule and reign of the saints over the world.
The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him; 2 Timothy 2:11-12
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30
And especially in Revelation we read.
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, Revelation 2:26
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:10-11
And most notoriously,
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.Revelation 20:4-6
Unfortunately, the sweetness of these promises is often obscured by the violence this last passage has suffered at the hands of eisogetes. At precisely this point, many otherwise sound interpreters abandon the principle of ‘interpreting less clear passages from more clear passages.’ And the questions this text presents are legion? Where are these thrones? Over whom will the saints reign? And who are these saints? Are they martyrs only? Or a select few that experience a proto-resurrection?
Many hearers give up on this passage because of the divisiveness of teachers and preachers. But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony. Like all of Revelation, this passage is not given to obscure, but reveal. Not to distress, but comfort. Not to divide, but to unify. In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections. To miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture. Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.