Scene 6 of 7. “Celebration and the Millennium.” (chapters 19-20). During scene six we learn of preparations being made for the great celebration known as the wedding supper of the lamb. (v19:9). This scene also marks the end of the Great Tribulation as is clear from verses 11-21. We have gleaned sufficient information from the first six scenes to construct a timeline of events. While we do not (and cannot) know the starting point, it is important for us to understand the process and the final outcome! The basic timeline of history can be illustrated as follows:
Church age Tribulation Christ’s return Millennium
There are three vertical bars on the timeline, the first is the start of the tribulation, the second is Christ’s return, and the third is the end of the millennium. We know that the time between the first and second bar is seven years. We also know that the timeline between the second and third bar one thousand years. Scene one of Revelation occurs prior to the Tribulation and Scene seven occurs after the Millennium. Thus we know that Scenes two through six take place in a seven year span of time between bars one and two – during the Tribulation. In this next illustration let us zoom in on the seven year tribulation:
Trib begins 42 months Trib ends
Scene 2 Scene 3 Scene 4 Scene 5 Scene 6
The tribulation begins in scene 2 and scene 6 ends the tribulation. Scene 4 (the pauses, but specifically the death of the two-witness of chapter 11) happens at the mid-point of the tribulation. The arrival, ministry, death, and resurrection of these witnesses will be one of the clearest markers of the Tribulation. From this timeline we can logically assume that scene 3 happens during the first half of the Tribulation and scene 5 during the second half of the Tribulation. Scene 3 is comprised of the Seal & Trumpet judgments while scene 5 is comprised of the bowl judgments and the destruction of Mystery Babylon.
There is one last important event on this timeline that is not addressed definitively by the book of Revelation – the Rapture. While the term rapture (meaning to be snatched up) is not found in the Bible, the concept is clearly Biblical. Please review the following passages: Matthew 24:37-42, Acts 1:9-11, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6. While the Bible speaks multiple times about this Rapture event, we are not given the specific time of its occurrence. In fact, Jesus warned against any attempt to determine the time of His return for it is a time that only the Father knows. Even so, there has been much speculation on the timing of the Rapture and three competing theories are common today: pre-, post-, and mid-tribulation. Scholars find evidence for each position in Scripture, however I do not find the evidence for any single position to be definitive. It is my opinion that we ought to plan for a post-tribulation return of Christ and pray for a pre-tribulation Rapture.
But let us return to the text and the celebration that is taking place in heaven at the beginning of chapter 19. In verse 1 John hears a multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute…” The great prostitute is the false system of religion that the beast/anti-Christ has used to subjugate the people on earth. The punishment of the earth is complete, as is the destruction of the prostitute. Heaven is preparing for a great celebration! Three times the great multitude of declares, “Hallelujah” (verses 1, 3, and 6). In verse 7 the official announcement is made, “for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.” The Church is dressed in white wedding garments signifying our righteousness in Christ.
For clarity, the angel guiding John directs him to write the following (verse 9), “… Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” John understands the message of the angel and falls to his knees in worship. The angel quickly admonishes John to rise. “Worship only God,” he declares.
John’s attention is again focused on heaven as he observes another vision starting in verse 11. John is witness to a rider on a white horse but this is a different rider than the one back in chapter 5. The rider on this white horse is called Faithful and True. As John describes this rider it quickly becomes clear that this is Jesus, for on His robe is written, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” This time Jesus is not portrayed as a suffering servant on the cross but as a mighty King. While the angel makes it clear that preparations for the wedding supper continue, there is one other task that needs to be completed.
In verse 19, John’s attention turns again toward earth with his focus upon the beast/anti-Christ. Standing with the beast are the kings (governments) of the earth and they are ready for war. The lines are drawn. On one side Jesus stands with His Church. In opposition, we have the beast/anti-Christ and his horde of human followers that have been deceived and accepted the mark (666).
Let us carefully read verse 20: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet… the two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Chapter 19 concludes by noting that the human followers of the beast were killed with the sword of Jesus. We can assume this refers to a physical death because verse 21 notes that birds gorged on the flesh of the dead.
However, scene 6 is not yet complete. While the beast/anti-Christ and the false prophet have been dealt with, the third member of the false trinity yet remains. We must continue reading in chapter 20 to learn about the demise of the dragon - satan. In verse two we learn that an angel seizes satan and locks him in the Abyss for 1000 years. (This 1000 year period is referred to as the Millennium.) For some unknown reason, satan must be released for a short term after the Millennium (verse 3b).
We are only provided with the briefest of summaries of what transpires during the Millennium – verses 4-6. John sees thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. He is also witness to the souls of those who had been martyred during the tribulation. John specifies that the souls belong to those who did not worship the beast nor received its mark. As John views this vision, these martyred souls come back to life (resurrected) and reign with Christ on the earth during the Millennium.
We can conclude from verse five that the majority of the Church remain in heaven during the Millennium. They are not resurrected until the end of the Millennium (v.5). John is told that those who partake in this first resurrection, that is the martyrs of the tribulation, are blessed and holy. The second death (hell) has no power of them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ during the Millennium.
If, during the Millennium the Church is in heaven and only the martyrs remain on the earth to reign with Christ, one must wonder who they reign over? Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are locked up in the abyss. We must therefore assume that Christ and the tribulation martyrs reign over the people who worshiped the beast and accepted his mark – and their descendants.
At the conclusion of the Millennium (v.7), satan is released for some mysterious reason. The Deceiver goes out to Gog and Magog and gathers them for battle. One must turn to Ezekiel 38 and Genesis 10 to understand the terms Gog and Magog. Most scholars, though not all, understand these terms to refer to the descendants of Noah’s grandson who settled north of Israel (around the Caspian and Black Sea). A few scholars attribute Gog and Magog to modern day Russia. MacArthur believes that Gog is a general reference to those who oppose God, and that John uses it here to refer to the human leaders of the revolt against God. Magog would then refer to the land or nations lead by Gog.
What we do know is that satan and Gog lead a substantial army, verse 8 describes its number as like the sand on the seashore. This vast army faces off against Jesus Christ and His Followers at the camp of God’s people, the city He loves. This is most assuredly a reference to Jerusalem. Just as the great battle is about to begin, God sends fire down from heaven and devours Gog and his army (v.9). This time, satan is permanently banished to the lake of fire (hell) along with the beast, the false prophet, the demons, and all their human followers (v.10).
Scene 6 (chapter 20) concludes with the Great White Throne Judgment as recorded in verses 11-15. John witnesses a great multitude of the dead standing before the throne of Jesus. Jesus opens the Book of Life, as well as the many books that record the deeds of those standing before Him. If there was any doubt as to the identity of those standing the Great White Throne, John clears it up in verse 13: “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” This multitude is comprised of every human from the beginning of time, whose name was NOT found in the Book of Life. The penalty for everyone was the same; if your name was not in the Book of Life you were judged by your deeds and sentenced to the lake of fire (hell). This is the second death, eternal separation from God and eternal torment in hell.