The keys of the kingdom FAQ
What were the keys of the kingdom given to Peter?
Did the apostles teach that the kingdom had come?
What is meant by the key of David?
Who reigns 1,000 years? Christ, or the saints?
What is meant by a thousand years?
How does Rev. 20:1-7 connect with Ezekiel?
Did John say χίλιοι ἔτος, thousands, in Revelation 20:1-7?
In prophecy, are years literal, but days figurative?
What does John intend to teach in Revelation 20:1-10?
When he returns, will Christ reign for a thousand years?
When do the saints become “a royal priesthood”?
Is part of Revelation 20:5 spurious?
Where can I see the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript?
What is the first resurrection?
What is Discrete Millennialism?
What happens when the thousand years end?
What is the territory of God’s kingdom?
When Peter acknowledged Jesus was the Christ, as related in Matthew 16:16, Jesus said to him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
It is understood only by the revelation of God. Paul said, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit.” [1 Corinthians 12:3]
When Peter acknowledged Jesus was the Christ, Jesus promised to give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 16:19] The understanding given to Peter that Jesus was the Christ no doubt was one of these “keys.” This is supported by the events related in Acts 2. Peter understood that Jesus had fulfilled the promise given to David about a son who would possess his throne forever. But, although the New Testament depicts Jesus as reigning over all, having received the throne of his father David, which is implied because he was “made Christ,” some Christians doubt it, and some even contradict and oppose this precious truth.
The world rejects the teaching of the apostles, and of the law of Moses, which said that Jews who refused to believe in Christ were cut off from their people. Peter said to the Jews: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” [Acts 3:22-24]
When Jesus was raised up as described in Acts 1, the mountain of God’s house was raised up with him. Jesus had identified himself as the temple of God, and Zion, and Jerusalem, were now in heaven, and the true Israel now consists of those in Christ, and the rest are described as branches broken off from their tree, by Paul in Romans 11:17.
The world does not understand thus, naturally. To the world, and many Christians, unbelieving Jews remain “Israel,” contrary to Acts 3:22-24. But it was also one of the keys of the kingdom that Jesus gave to Peter.
Those who expect an earthly kingdom, such as the Jews hoped for, fail to recognize that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. The prophecies about the earthly city and mount Zion now applied to the heavenly one; there is a continuity between Jerusalem of the Old Testament prophets and the heavenly Jerusalem.
In Acts 15:16, James applied a prophecy about the tablernacle of David being restored to the church, implying that members of the church are part of the royal family. The church is Christ’s household.
Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 6:15, that Jesus Christ is “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality” agrees with this.
In Thessalonica, Paul and Silas were accused of preaching that Jesus was “another king,” and a rival to Caesar. [Acts 17:6-8] Jesus is presently reigning upon the throne of David, in the Jerusalem above, which was raised up, as foretold in Isaiah 2:2.
John acknowledged the reign of Christ as king, when he said he was our brother, and companion in the kingdom of God. [Revelation 1:9]
Jesus described himself as possessing the “key of David,” and as “he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth,” in Revelation 3:7. A key is to a house as a throne is to a kingdom. David was king of Israel at Jerusalem, and Jesus is the king of Israel, in the heavenly Jerusalem, and he shares those keys with us. He opens our minds to understand spiritual things, but he closes the minds of them who do not believe.
There is no scripture that says the reign of Christ will be for a thousand years; his reign is forever. But in Revelation 20 John uses that expression for the time of the saints’ reigning with him. Perhaps he uses a thousand years to signify “a foretaste of eternity.”
The apostle Peter connected a thousand years with “a day with the Lord.” He wrote, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” [2 Peter 3:8]
Substituting the phrase “a day with the Lord” for “a thousand years” in Revelation 20 may possibly yield a clue suggesting the meaning of this passage. Peter also said,
2 Peter 1:18-19
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
Peter wrote of darkness, and approaching dawn, and the light of prophecy, and the day star that rises up in our hearts, bringing in the full light of day, which represents a full understanding of the gospel, as Jesus described the righteous who “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” after the tares and things that offend are removed. [Matthew 13:43] Peter’s reference to light and darkness is metaphorical. Light signifies truth and knowledge, and darkness signifies error, or ignorance. The day, and the thousand years, in which believers reign with Christ is a time of their spiritual enlightenment.
The following table was presented by Steve Moyise. [Does the author of Revelation misappropriate the scriptures? Andrews University Seminary Studies, Spring 2002, Vol. 40, No. 1. 3-21.]
|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)|
The question whether a thousand years, or thousands of years, best represents the thought of Revelation 20:1-7, is raised by the translation offered in the Tischendorf 8th Edition of the Greek New Testament, where the expression χίλιοι ἔτος is used, meaning thousands of years, as chilioi is plural. Most texts have χίλια ἔτη, a thousand years.
If chilioi is the correct word, rather than chilia, the idea that Christ will return to reign upon earth for one thousand years in the future is discredited. A spiritual interpretation of the reigns of the saints who are beheaded, and do not worship the beast or his image, seems more promising.
See Thousand or thousands in Revelation 20:1-7 for a discussion.
John Russell Hurd wrote:
But when all the other parts of a passage in this book are to be taken in a spiritual or figurative sense, we see no reason for making the expression a thousand years an exception to the general rule. There is no reason why the term thousand, or that of years, should not be as figurative as the terms chain, key, pit, be. In addition to this, we are to take into consideration the declaration of the mighty angel, (Rev. x. 7:) “There shall be time no longer;” and we have as good reason for applying this declaration to the term of one thousand years here, as we have had for applying it to the twelve hundred and sixty days. We have no warrant for maintaining the distinction, that the years are literal, but the days are figurative. So, on the other hand, if we were to consider the twelve hundred and sixty days, or forty-two months, as days of years, and months of thirty years each, by the same rule we should consider the period now under consideration as one of three hundred and sixty thousand years, instead of one thousand.
[Hurd, John Russell. Hyponoia or, Thoughts on a spiritual understanding of the Apocalypse. Leavitt, Trow & Co. NY. 1844. p. 503.]
The overthrow of Satan is the main idea, as the binding of Satan begins this section. John introduces the idea that the saints who reign with Christ are those who have been beheaded. I think this is a metaphor representing submission of ones’ mind to God. Paul exhorted the saints to become living sacrifices: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” [Romans 12:1] James said, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” [James 4:7]
The saints overcoming Satan is the crux of a chiasmus that spans the whole book. See On the chiastic structure of Revelation.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691), an influential Puritan leader in the seventeenth century, which was a time when the meaning of the thousand years of Revelation 20 was a hot topic of controversy, wrote: “His coming in the air is not there to reign a thousand years, but presently to judge the world, as in Matth. 25. he describeth it: and to confine his kingdom in human nature, and ours with him to a thousand years, and confine it to the air, and the survivors on earth, is a fiction full of contradictions, dishonourable to Christ and his Kingdom, uncomfortable to the Church.” [The glorious kingdom of Christ, described and clearly vindicated. 1691. p. 8.]
According to Paul, every believer is a temple of God. [1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19] The church, consisting of those who are “in Christ,” is depicted as a temple, [Ephesians 2:20-22] and the saints “sit together in heavenly places.” [Ephesians 2:5-6]
The apostle Peter described believers as stones built up into a spiritual house, or temple, and they are also a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices. [1 Peter 2:5] Because Jesus is our high priest, and because he also reigns as king on the throne of David, the saints are a royal priesthood, being part of the house of David, by their connection to Jesus. The church is Christ’s body.
Living holy lives, acceptable unto God, is “our reasonable service,” Paul said. [Romans 12:1] He encouraged believers to be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” [Romans 12:11-12] He wrote: “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God… therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” [Romans 14:17-19] Paul, and the other apostles, viewed Christ’s kingdom as a present reality. Peter said:
1 Peter 2:8-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
The words “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” are missing in the Codex Sinaiticus, which is the oldest known manuscript. The passage seems more natural when the words are omitted.
The manuscript can be viewed at this site.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and the power of judging was given to them; and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God; and of those who had not worshiped the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark on their forehead, nor on their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 [no verse]
6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in this first resurrection; over such the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The first resurrection is the experience of being raised up, as a new creation, when one believes the gospel, and is baptized. Paul wrote: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4]
Paul also wrote: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” [2 Corinthians 5:17] I suggest the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5 alludes to these teachings of Paul.
This is an alternative to premillennialism, postmillennialism, amillennialism etc. The thousand years applies to the lives of individual saints who reign with Christ, not to Christ, who reigns forever. See: Discrete Millennialism.
If the thousand years of Revelation 20 are understood in a spiritual sense, rather than by the letter, and it represents the duration of the lives of individual Christians as explained above, the thousand years or the day with the Lord ends prematurely for those who fall away, who abandon their faith, who return to the world from which they had escaped, and cease to walk in the way of Christ, thus terminating the thousand years, or their day with the Lord, which represents the duration of their reign with Christ. For them, the thousand years are finished.
The thousand years ends prematurely for those who are seduced, and follow the tail of the dragon, as pictured by the stars cast to the earth in Revelation 12:4.
Hebrews 11:8-10 says that Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Of Abraham, and Sarah, and the other patriarchs, vs. 16 says: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” God is often referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [Exodus 3:6, 15; 4:5; 6:3; Matthew 22:32; Acts 3:13; 7:32]
Jesus said to the Jews, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” [Luke 13:28]
The city that is prepared by God is the one described by the prophets. David said, God builds Jerusalem, and its walls, and the cites of Judah. [Psalm 51:18; 69:35; 102:16; 147:2] God will be “a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” [Zechariah 2:5] Psalm 125:2 says, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” But none of this applies to the earthly city, that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD; it applies to the heavenly city. Certainly God was not around about the earthly city when the Roman legions were camped there. Neither did he fight against her enemies, as described in Zechariah 14:3 for example.
It would be absurd to say that God builds the earthly city. Mount Zion, scripture says, “cannot be removed” and “abideth for ever.” This simply cannot be said of the earthly city.
They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
Mount Zion and Jerusalem represent the mountain of the house of the Lord, which was raised up, as Isaiah foretold, when Jesus ascended to heaven. [Isaiah 2:2]
Because Jesus said Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob will all be in his kingdom, and Hebrews 11:16 says the city and country they inherit are heavenly, the promised land that they will possess is also the “better country,” the heavenly inheritance.