Home > Book of Revelation, Ezekiel, Gog & Magog, Heavenly Jerusalem, The 1,000 years > On the thousand years of Revelation 20

On the thousand years of Revelation 20

In Revelation chapters 19, 20, and 21, John draws from prophecies of the last few chapters of Ezekiel, and applies them to the Church. Ezekiel 38-39 tells of an invasion by the armies of Gog and Magog; John adapts Ezekiel’s prophecy and interprets it, as referring to deceived people from all parts of the earth who come against the Church, which is the “camp of the saints” and the “beloved city” of Rev. 20:8-9.

Steve Moyise pointed out several ways that the book of Revelation depends on the prophecies of Ezekiel; the creatures having four faces, lion, ox, man, eagle, in Rev. 4 occur in Ez. 1; sealing of the saints in Rev. 7 compares to the sealing described in Ez. 9-10; the harlot city in Rev. 17 compares to Ez. 16:23; the lament over the city in Rev. 18 compares with Ez. 26-27; establishment of the New Jerusalem compares with Ez. 37-48. Other things drawn from Ezekiel include the precious stones, and the rainbow about God’s throne, the crystal sea, and the expression “full of eyes.” [1]

Moysie provided a list showing the correspondence between Ezekiel’s prophecy, and the final chapters of Revelation.

Ezekiel Revelation
Revival of dry bones (Ez. 37:10)  First resurrection (Rev. 20:5)
Reunited kingdom (Ez. 37:21) Saints rule for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4)
Gog & Magog battle (Ez. 38:2) Gog & Magog battle (Rev. 20:8)
Gorging of the birds (Ez. 39:4) Gorging of the birds (Rev. 19:21)
Taken to high mountain (Ez. 40:2) Taken to high mountain (Rev. 21:10)
Temple is measured (Ez. 40:5) City is measured (Rev. 21:15)
Temple full of God’s glory (Ez. 43:2) City full of God’s glory (Rev. 21:23)
River of life (Ez. 47:12) River of life (Rev. 22:2)

Clearly, the final chapters of Revelation exhibit a strong dependence upon Ezekiel’s prophecies.

In Revelation, John puts the city where Ezekiel spoke of the temple. John says that he saw no temple in the holy city, but “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” Moyise commented: [2]

However, what is even more surprising is that having borrowed so much from Ezek 37 through 48, John denies the very thing that these chapters are all about: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). As Vogelgesang says: ‘A greater contrast with that vision, where seven of nine chapters describes this temple, its ordinances and its priests, and the glory of God dwelling therein, cannot be imagined.” But John does not simply omit such material; he transfers it to his description of the New Jerusalem. Thus while Ezekiel speaks of measuring the temple (40:9, John speaks of measuring the city (21:23); while Ezekiel speaks of the glory of God filling the temple (43:2), John speaks of God’s glory filling the city (21:23). This is further evidence of John’s creative freedom when appropriating Ezekiel.

Isaiah said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” [Isaiah 2:2] The “mountain of the LORD’s house” of Isaiah’s prophecy, which is raised up, is Mount Zion, and the temple. Jesus identified himself with the temple of God. [John 2:19] God’s house was established in the top of the mountains, exalted above the hills, when Jesus ascended to heaven. Jesus is the temple, and the holy of holies, where men come to worship God. And so, in John’s description of the holy city, Jesus is said to be the temple of it, and also its light. John said, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” [Revelation 21:23] The city consists of those who are “in Christ.”

The dimensions provided for the city in Revelation are provided in figurative units. It would be absurd to take the numbers and units as literal, because in that case, supposing that the height of the wall was the dimension given, the city would be about 36,666 times higher than its wall! Earthly, human units do not apply to things in heaven, whether units of time, or of space.

John described the shape of the holy city as a cube of 12,000 furlongs each side. This likely alludes to the shape of the holy of holies in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and in the temple at Jerusalem. In the tabernacle in the wilderness, the holy of holies was 10 cubits by 10 cubits by 10 cubits. Inside, was total darkness. What is the significance of the darkness? Perhaps, it is to teach us that those who are in the presence of God do not walk by the sight of the eyes, but by the word of God.

The holy of holies contained the Ark of the Covenant, made of wood, gilded with gold. It contained the two stone tables on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna.

Some have noticed that when the numbers representing the length, breadth, and height of the holy of holies are multiplied together, it works out to the number 1,000, which they suggest, corresponds to the thousand years of chapter 20. John Tipton wrote: [3]

This thousand years is a symbolic number as well as a superimposed realm of existence for those who have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, by the blood of the Lamb. The thousand years has the same significance as the Holy of Holies. The dimensions of the Holy of Holies are ten cubits by ten cubits by ten cubits, adding up to a volume of one thousand. The Holy of Holies is a picture of the immediate presence of God.

In the Old Testament, where the number “thousand” occurs, it is often used in a figurative way. Several scriptures speak of “a thousand generations,” picturing a very long time, of indefinite duration. [Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 105:8] In these examples, it is not meant to indicate a precise number, as a “generation” is a very imprecise period of time.  Similarly, in Psalm 50, the psalmist refers to “the cattle upon a thousand hills,” not meaning a precise number of animals, but all cattle.

Psalm 50:10-11
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

The psalmist compared a thousand years to “yesterday when it is past.”

Psalm 90:4
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

In the New Testament, also, Peter spoke of a thousand years as having a non-literal meaning. [2 Peter 3:8]

In Revelation 20, the “thousand years” is clearly symbolic. It is those who are “beheaded” for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, who reign with Christ a thousand years. Those who reign with Christ, are the saints.

Paul wrote of the “reign” of the gift of righteousness, and of grace, that “reigns” in the lives of the saints. [Romans 5:17-21] He said the saints are raised up, as if from death, to “walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4] This is what John was referring to, I think, when he wrote about those who have a part in the first resurrection; they are the saints who are  figuratively beheaded; their minds are subject to God’s word.  Paul also spoke of being a living sacrifice. [Romans 12:1]

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote of becoming “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” [Ephesians 4:23-25]

As Tipton suggested, the “thousand years” represents an indeterminate period; it could represent the lifetime of the saints.

References

1. Steve Moyise. Does the author of Revelation misappropriate the scriptures? Andrews University Seminary Studies, Spring 2002, Vol. 40, No. 1. 3-21.

2. Ibid., p. 9.

3. John Tipton. Another look at Revelation. Xlibris, 2010. pp. 71-72.

 

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  1. June 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

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