Tree of Knowledge – I know what is right and wrong, and therefore, I’m obligated to enforce that on others.
Tree of Life – I don’t have to define right and wrong for someone else because the Holy Spirit is the one that convicts. My job is just to show them the love of Jesus through my life and let him take it from there.
Which tree are we eating from? We can pursue a steady diet from the Tree of Knowledge, but that only leads to a quagmire of ever heightening religiosity. In eating of this tree, we can condemn homosexuality. But, we also have to enforce everything else that is labeled as sin.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s not delve into the Levitical law here as no Christian that I know of upholds all of those. Instead, let’s just focus on how Jesus defined the law.
Please note I’m not listing these to condemn anyone, but simply as a comparison as to how we pick only certain platforms to campaign against so we can appear more (self-)righteous by condemning someone else.
Ever had contempt or called someone fool? Then you’re under the same judgment as a murderer (Matt 5:21-22).
Is there someone angry with you that you haven’t reconciled with? Then you’re obligated, by Jesus’ definition of the law, to go and reconcile with them immediately. (Matt 5:23-26)
Ever look at someone with lust? Then you’re under the same judgment as an adulterer. Unless of coarse you’ve plucked out your eyes, then you might be okay (Matt 5:27-30).
Divorced or married to a divorcee? It would seem this is a permanent state of adultery, with the only “out” being if the spouse was cheating (Matt 5:31-32).
I think every one of us, even the most devout of Christians, falls into at least two categories here. And this is only a snippet of the law.
So what was Jesus trying to say? None of us are justified by the law, so quit throwing around condemnation as though you are (imo).
In other words, anyone you consider an enemy is automatically qualified for your most devout displays of love as exemplified by Jesus (Matt 5:43-44).
This isn’t being soft on sin. This isn’t condoning anyone’s actions. This is simply being what Jesus calls us to be—the salt and light of the world—not the salt and vinegar of religion.
Love is hard on sin because people are convicted by the Holy Spirit without us ever uttering one word of whether they are right or wrong. In fact, it removes the burden from our shoulders of having to be the judges of humanity and the definers of sin and righteousness.
There is, of coarse, discernment, but this is for our personal walk with Jesus. Again, this is not a tool of enforcement of others’ walk when they haven’t even been introduced to who Jesus really is. First, we show the love of Jesus by entering in to their life and not dropping holy hatred bombs on them from a distance. Once they know Jesus’ love, the Holy Spirit guides from there. In addition, we can’t force change and may never see growth. Again, this is where we just follow Jesus’ guidance instead of an agenda of conversion by force.
Through Jesus, we are now free to eat of the Tree of Life and stop persisting on a diet of the Tree of Knowledge.
The Pharisees actually weren’t the horrible people we might make them out to be in comparison to us today. They were striving to hold their society to Biblical standards in an ever changing world.
However, they were doing this through politics and force. They were well versed in the scriptures and knew well there would be a Messiah coming from the line of David. Jesus didn’t fit the bill for the conqueror they were expecting, one who would put all those sinful heathens in their place once and for all and establish Christians Israel as the dominant force in the world.
The Messiah that came brought a message of love. He taught that the Kingdom was open to everyone, and that the gatekeepers were the ones who weren’t allowing people in (Matt 23:14). In fact, even though they were teaching the Law, they were making converts twice the sons of Gehenna as they were (Matt 23:15). Ouch.
Are we still missing the point?
Are we still insisting on politics and law as the way to be a Christian?
What if we focused on loving our enemies like Jesus taught us (Matt 5:44), even if it costs us our life? Maybe then the political spectrum would begin to change because of us showing Jesus’ love. If we insist on doing it by political means, then we have to play by worldly rules. This alienates us from what Jesus taught and defiles our message to the rest of the world. If anyone is to blame for the state of the world, it’s Christians that refuse to be the salt and light. We can’t serve two masters….
Jesus had some harsh words for the Pharisees, but it was because he loved them and was trying to break through the callous exterior of stubborn religion they had erected around their hearts. For some, like Nicodemus, it seems to have worked to an extent. Others continued as they had always done and riled the other Israelites to rebellion.
Is that our goal? To rile Christians to rebellion? Is that what Jesus taught? Take a look at what happened to their rebellion in 70 AD. Is that the direction we want to go? Is this the same hateful stubbornness that we’re heading for? It seems history is starting to repeat again and we refuse to learn the lessons relayed by our own religious text.
In addition to the word “hell,” age, or aión (αἰών) in Greek seems to be one of the more mistranslated and misunderstood words in our society. A quick glance at the references in a concordance can go a long ways to clearing up much of the confusion. The concordance link shows 125 occurrences of aión and it’s derivatives. Based on the ancient ways of understanding “world,” this may have been appropriate as it would have meant their known society and not the physical world. It’s similar to how we say our world ended when a tragedy takes place. Another Greek word, kosmos (κόσμος), is used throughout the New Testament in a more appropriate sense of world in the physical.
Another word used for aión is “forever.” This is a little more confused of a meaning. Again, aión means “age.” While it is an unspecified amount of time, it isn’t the Greek word for infinite. Other Greek words, such as Apeiron (ἄπειρον) or aidios (ἀΐδιος), may have been more appropriate in many of these 125 occurrences if the intent was to communicate “forever” or “eternal.”
If we look at such a verse in its original context, as the original audiences of the time would have understood, we quickly see how our context can be skewed. In Matt 24:1-3, Jesus makes mention that the temple will be destroyed (v1-2). His disciples later ask him these two questions, in regards to this statement, in verse 3:
As written of previously, Jesus goes on to list out the end of that age (aión), all which apparently happened in the first century as he stated it would in Matt 16:27-28.
Far too often, especially with recent events, I see people stating we need to return to Biblical principles. Yet, these same people are touting a manipulated, politicized view of the Bible without understanding the full, radiant, beautiful story of Jesus and the life we’re called to live. Ancient Israel attempted to live by the Law, yet Jesus showed them what the Law and the Prophets were really communicating (Matt 22:37-40). As stated last post, Jesus circumvented punishment under the Law with the adulterous woman (John 8). He didn’t follow the mandated “rest” of the Sabbath (Mark 2:24). He seems to have allowed the disciples to violate the laws of cleanliness (Mark 7:5). How could he be considered perfect in fulfilling the Law while violating it? It was because he was living to the higher standard of the Law—LOVE! It seems the Pharisees had one definition of what it meant to be a follower of God, yet Jesus had a completely different view. This seems to be the same today! Christians following Jesus are shunned, cursed, and despised because they refuse to follow the mandates of religion.
Today, we continue to insist on living by the letter that brings death instead of by the Spirit that brings life (2 Cor 3:6). We continue to use poorly translated concepts as the basis of our ministry while refusing to look to the real meaning as it doesn’t coalesce with our physical empire and traditions. We nullify the Word of God because of our traditions (Mark 7:13), and we’re more worried about praise from man rather that praise from God so we don’t become alienated from our “synagogue” (John 12:42-43)! God is worshiped by mouth only, but hearts are far from him, and the doctrines are just rules taught by men (Matt 15:8-9).
In all honesty, I’m just tired of the way “Christians” have been violating Jesus. They blaspheme the name of God before the “outsiders” by their manipulated view of Jesus’ love (Romans 2:24). I’m beginning to see why Jesus was often frustrated with the dogmatic Pharisees (Matt 23). Enough already! It’s time to start living what Jesus taught—LOVE! I promise you what the world is seeing from the majority of Christians today by our condemnation and prejudice is not the love Jesus showed. It would seem the biggest hindrance for “sinners” to come to Jesus is “Christians.” “I’m not perfect” is no excuse to uphold hatred as the way to Jesus. That statement just justifies our comfort in not stepping out in love like Jesus did and calls us to. It justifies us to just sit in a pew and shift blame to “those others” while simultaneously refusing to reach out in love to them.
If anything hurts God’s heart, it’s Christians that look nothing like Christ. It’s all these uncomfortable passages that we either manipulate to our institutional agendas or ignore all together.
I don’t write any of this to bash people over the head with guilt. I desire that my brothers and sisters in Christ wake up and follow him as he showed and to quit just playing church. If any of this offends, I’m sorry. If anyone wants to call me heretic, blasphemous, or demonic, go ahead and do so as Jesus said to expect such (Matt 10:25, John 15:17-25), and I’ve already had people email me with such. It doesn’t effect me anymore as a real and immersive love relationship with Jesus curtails and annuls all of that hatred. If you feel the need, please use the contact form. As I’ve stated before, I won’t take it personally against you. If I can dissipate some of the hatred in the world onto myself instead, I will gladly take up that cross to follow and honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
In Luke 8, we see an adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. They state, that by the very Law, she should be stoned. The Law, handed down by God himself, allowed them every right to both condemn and put to death this woman (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). This was God’s command.
Jesus doesn’t wag his finger at her and say, “Tisk, tisk. You’re a sinner but I still love you.” Nope. Instead, he stoops down and starts writing in the sand. There’s been many theories on what Jesus was writing, but I think that misses the point. It would seem that Jesus’ first priority was to direct the negative attention away from the woman and onto himself. He did this by drawing in the sand—a gesture that likely caused everyone to focus on what “answer” he might be writing.
Of coarse, when the scribes and Pharisees got wise to this, they diverted attention back to the woman. Do we still do this today? When someone is trying to show what Paul calls the “most excellent way” (1 Cor 12:13, which leads into the love chapter), do we instead throw dirt on the subject? When a city comes together in love after a tragedy, do we instead focus on controversy about flags and guns?
It seems though, that when the accusers caught on to what Jesus was doing, they again shifted the focus back to punishment by the Law as was God’s initial command. Of coarse, everyone knows Jesus’ response, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” And of coarse, they all dropped their stones and left.
Notice here that Jesus never once directly accused her of sin. In fact, he redirected the negativity to himself first, prior to even addressing the situation. Perhaps this is another way of saying that when we feel like throwing stones, we should keep our focus on Jesus instead.
It was only after all of this, when Jesus had routed the shame dumped onto the woman, did he confront her with, not a tongue lashing, but by telling her she wasn’t condemned. He set her free from guilt and shame so that she could then “go and sin no more.” Is this what we’re doing in our world? Are we showing love to others, setting them free from their guilt and shame so that they are then able to go and sin no more? Or are we just piling on more guilt and shame? Notice that the woman never “repented” for what she did. Jesus didn’t wait for her to make an apology first. He took action to love her right where she was at to set her free of sin. This is the type of life Jesus calls us to live as Christians! Condemnation doesn’t draw people closer to Jesus—it only pushed them further away!
It would do us well to remember that in the Christian crap-storm that has ensued in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, we are called to a more loving purpose by Jesus—to live by the spirit of the law, not the letter. As Paul intimates, the letter of the law brings death but the Spirit of the law brings life (2 Cor 3:6). It seems we Christians are thumping our Bibles harder than we are striving to follow Jesus’ example in its’ pages.
It would seem that we can be right in the law, but wrong in our hearts. If we have to attach a “but” to our love, or any other stipulations, then is it really unconditional?
They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I didn’t command, nor did it come into my mind.—Jeremiah 7:31
and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal; which I didn’t command, nor speak, which didn’t even enter into my mind:—Jeremiah 19:5
They built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through fire to Molech; which I didn’t command them. It didn’t even come into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”—Jeremiah 32:35
If the thought of burning children in fire didn’t even come into God’s mind, why do we insist he would do much worse—eternal torment by fire?
Isn’t he the same God yesterday, today, and forever?
So, here’s a general summary of my views after reviewing Revelation and the New Testament prophecies as well as much of the correlating symbolism reused or further explained from the Old Testament.
We see the repetition and the calling out of the soon timetable in both the opening and closing chapters of Revelation, as well as throughout. To avoid repetition, see the timing section of this post. These are the same concepts that Jesus presents in the gospels and the apostles encourage the readers of the epistles with—that the “Great and terrible day of the Lord” would come soon. The punishment would come on ancient Israel and the persecution of the early Christians would subside. Jesus’ Kingdom would be fully establish and opened to all. Considering that the Greek writing calls out certain text by repetition and keywords like “Behold,” I believe Jesus said exactly what he meant—that he was returning soon (Rev 22:7, 12).
This was my starting point when viewing Revelation. The writings of historians, such as Josephus, also correlate in large part to what happened during the war of 66-73 AD. In short, it was “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be.”—Matt 24:21. Though I strove not to reference too much outside of the Bible, it is useful to know of the culture and eastern symbolism used when attempting to understand the prophecies better.
Speaking of the culture, Revelation was directed to 7 assemblies in particular, those of Asia Minor (Rev 1:11, 22:16), though likely it circulated throughout many of the time. It seems to be written in a way that the Romans wouldn’t understand if they captured the text, yet the original recipients would be able to decipher. Much of the text would seem to make reference to Rome and the Caesars, who upheld themselves as gods. This was a time of severe persecution for Christians. Specifically mentioning these, in such a negative light as this book portrays, would have added additional focus to the Christians of the time as it would have been seen as treason by Rome.
So that’s the general summary of the previous series of Revelation commentaries. I tried to be as direct as possible with my conclusions in this post. Please view the other writings as you may see fit.
Now we come to the final chapter of the book and of the Bible. The first five verses seem to be a continuation of the prior chapter. We see more imagery of the spiritual Jerusalem with the river of life flowing from the throne (v1). Interestingly, this contrasts with the river of fire flowing from the throne in Daniel 7:10. Is there both a river of fire and a river of life? Did the river of life replace the river of fire? These questions don’t seem to have a clear answer within the text, but it is an interesting comparison.
In verse 2, we see the tree of life bearing its fruit every month. As well, we see the leaves used for the healing of the nations. This seems to have both a spiritual and physical component. The leaves heal the nations as we go out into the world spreading the Good News of Jesus’ love and opening of the Kingdom to all.
Verse 3 states that the curse is no more. The Old Covenant came to an end with the full establishment of the New Covenant Kingdom (Heb 8:13). Therefore, there is no more curse. Jesus became the curse for us (Gal 3:13). We still see the physical effects of the world we live in, but the punishments for sin have already been borne by Jesus.
In verse 4&5, we see more of the concepts of the spiritual realm reiterated. We will see Jesus’ face, there will be no night, and we will reign with him forever.
So far, from 21:1 through 22:5, the new Jerusalem vision seems to be all in one sequence. All of this is spoken of as though it has already happened, that we are free to live in the new Kingdom now, though we are still temporarily bound to the physical. None of this sounds like a city that would come down in the physical realm, nor does it sound symbolic. It reads as though it is an actuality in the spiritual realm. It would seem that the spiritual realm is more real than the physical.
Verse 6 brings us again to the familiar terminology, as though to assure us, and especially the original recipients, of the intended time frame of these events—“things which must happen soon.” Verse 7 continues, in the red letters—“Behold, I come quickly” and Jesus goes on to further state, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Considering that we today have a hard time even knowing what the words of this book mean, how ever are we to keep them? This again seems to acknowledge that we weren’t the intended audience of these passages as far as the witnessing of the signs, tribulation, and Parousia.
In verse 8&9, John begins worshiping the angel, who tells him not to as he is a fellow servant, but to worship God. The angel again confirms, in verse 10, that the time is at hand and therefore the words of this book should not be sealed up. Verse 11 seems to show the imminence of these happenings as those who were unjust/filthy and those who were righteous/holy would likely stay so. In other words, it was too late at this point to change as the judgment of the Lamb was soon to commence. This would seem to be in reference to passages such as 2 Thes 2:11 (also the chapter where Paul is speaking of the “man of sin/lawlessness”).
Yet again, in verse 12, we see the repetition of the soon concept—“Behold, I come quickly.”
In verse 13&14, we see Jesus’ well known statement of Alpha and Omega. We see the repetition of those who have kept his commandments/washed their robes (depending on the translation) allowed entry into the city and access to the tree of life. We see in verse 15 that those who have not washed their robes remain outside of the city. Perhaps it’s our job to help bring them in!
In verse 16, Jesus again states the intended audience—the assemblies. Again, this correlates with the opening passages of the assemblies of Asia Minor (1:11).
In verse 17, like in the gospels, we see the (Holy) Spirit and the bride (the New Jerusalem) making the invitation to “come” to all—that everyone who is thirsty can drink from the water of life freely. Shouldn’t this also be our gospel, our Good News? Is this the message we are portraying to the world?
In verses 18&19, we see the warning that the passages in this book should not be added to or taken away from. This seems to have been a warning to the early readers that the things in this book would soon happen. Likewise, if we remove the soon terminology, we get a book that can be made to say whatever we would like it to and be relevant to whatever time we retrofit it for. Yet again in verse 20, we see that—“He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.” ” As well John reiterates a common theme of the 1st century church—“Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.” It seems they were looking for, and seeing, the signs of Jesus’ approaching Parousia.
The book closes out with a small benediction (21).
In Greek, there was no punctuation and everything was capitalized. In order to delineate a matter of importance, it was either repeated, or a certain type of word was used as to make the topic noticed. We see both being applied in this chapter. The soon reference is made five times and implied in a few other places. Jesus himself directly marks out two of these occurrences with “Behold,” a word meant to draw specific attention to what followed. It would seem that these things were to occur imminently in reference to the intended audience—the assemblies of Asia Minor in the 1st century.
So that’s it. That’s the whole messy, scary, weird, crazy book. I know many may not agree with a lot of what I wrote, but I hope that at least a few points come across that would help others be more readily willing to study some of these scriptures. This commentary, if for nothing else, has helped me immensely in understanding this seemingly “off limits” book. I pray that all come to a greater knowledge of Jesus and his love for us.
For easier viewing, links to this entire commentary can be found here.
Now we move into the final chapters. I do plan on doing a post or 3, as God leads, following these commentaries. I want to reiterate that my viewpoint is only one of many and I don’t hold any insistent claims that I’m 100% right. Hopefully, the follow up post(s) will clear up a little of my though process as I view the overall consistency and relevance of the passages.
There are a lot of concepts in this chapter, but considering the story line so far, they should be reasonably easy to understand.
This chapter seems to circle back to just after the events of judgment on Israel around the period of 70 AD as we see the same new Jerusalem in chapters 12 and 19 descending. As I’ve listed in other posts, Jesus and the apostles all taught an imminent return of Jesus in his Kingdom. We now see that Kingdom in verse 2, that is, the spiritual Kingdom is now manifest among us, but the physical realm of human free will still exists. It would seem throughout the Bible that the element of human free will was always allowed by God. He did, at times, harden those who were already unrepentant to further his plan, but it was always initially their choice.
Verse 1 describes the new “heaven and earth” as the old have passed away. As shown before, this is the same thing Jesus mentions in Matt 5:18 related to ancient Israel. This references back to how Yahweh spoke of Israel, through the prophets, in the Old testament (Isaiah 1:2; Deut 32:1; Jer 2:12, 22:29). Heaven and earth, the old spiritual Israel, had passed away when the earthly remnants of that covenant were destroyed (the temple etc…). The new “heavens and earth” were then established. That is, the Israelites that converted became the first Christians of the New Covenant and brought the outsiders into the new Kingdom. This is why we see the reference of there being no more sea in verse 1. As mentioned previously, the sea seemed to represent outsiders which the old nation considered outcasts. The new spiritual nation of Israel consists of everyone.
In verses 3-4, we see what can be considered the “now and not yet.” The Kingdom is already among us in the spiritual. It’s up to us to begin to live in it in a more realized way. So many seem to live under the worldly kingdom, not knowing they are free to live as fully as possible in the spiritual Kingdom. Jesus speaks often of the Kingdom being here and now. He even speaks of how the religious elite of the time were not entering and attempting to block others from entering (Matt 23:14). It would seem that from the time of Jesus’ ministry, the new Kingdom was being built (John 4:23-24, 14:3), it’s full inception at Jesus’ Parousia. Verse 4, as mentioned before, becomes fully evident when we take our last breath here and fully awaken spiritually in Jesus’ Kingdom, though we can live out elements of it in the here and now as we draw closer to Jesus in this life.
As throughout the rest of the prophecies, the spiritual elements are manifest in the physical world. We are citizens of a spiritual Kingdom and we manifest that Kingdom through our physical lives—or should I say: Are we manifesting Jesus’ Kingdom through out lives or looking forward to a return of vengeance on “those others” just like ancient Israel anticipated?
In verses 5-8, we see that Jesus is making all things new. He gives freely of the water of life and all are welcome to become children of the Kingdom. However, those who choose physical desires over the spiritual Kingdom will have their part in the lake of fire. We see here a mention of a more grand plan than we may be able to imagine. When we consider passages such as Col 1:20, we see a concept that may be appropriate to further expand on. In Phil 2:10-11, we see every knee bowing to Jesus and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, which we see is only possible by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). Additionally, we see that kampsē (a derivative of kamptó) is used here—which seems to represent a willing bowing as opposed to sugkuptó—a forced bowing. Could it be possible that God’s plan is to save everyone? Would we dare to hope for such? Note, this isn’t saving our physical selves, this is saving our spiritual selves, though many may have to pass through the second death/lake of fire to be cleansed.
The rest of this chapter, 21:9-27, explains the beauty and grandeur of the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ. In verses 24-26, we see that the “glory of the nations” will be brought into the city by its residents. This sounds like we are to live our lives as such that we bring others into the Kingdom. This also states that in the spiritual realm, only those who have been purified will be able to enter into the Kingdom.
In the final verse, 27, we see that only when their name is written in the book of life, will those who are outside of the Kingdom be allowed in. This is beginning to get into Chapter 22, so I will pick up here in the final installment of my commentary of these chapters specifically. As stated before, I plan, God willing, to write some additional post(s) after I finish the individual chapter reviews. As stated before, these are my personal views as pertinent to my prayerful studies and the context of the rest of the Bible. Please research for the meaning of these as relevant to your personal walk with Jesus.
This chapter is one of the more interesting ones to explore. First, I want to begin this post by saying these are my personal conclusions as I’ve studied to put all the pieces together into one coherent message. There seems to be a dividing line in this chapter between what we’ve seen so far, fulfillment of the prophecies as relevant to ancient Israel, and a future fulfillment beyond the 1st century. Up until these current passages, no huge jumps have been intimated as to far-future events. So, with much consideration, I proceed to try to unpack this chapter as I understand it so far.
We see one main concept in this chapter that has been a source of much confusion and tends to cast the entire book off of its axis—the 1000 years, aka the millennial rule. As with the rest of this book, my view is to take this as straightforward as possible.
The first major consideration is to compare this chapter with the rest of the book. While we see some shifting of time back and forth within the first century, the time is always specific as to the time period and society specified. There’s no reasonable assumption to be made that because the passage here speaks of 1000 years, that it should be expanded beyond the borders of what it states. In most other passages where there is an unspecified amount of time, the words age (aion) and/or age-during/of (aionios) are used. Though the words correlating with aion have been translated somewhat poorly, when specifying that the 1000 years isn’t precisely that, it would seem more appropriate to use the “aion” terminology.
Likewise, this doesn’t seem to be consistent with an earthly rule. If we categorize it as such, we then take the same stance as the Jewish expectancy of the Messiah—that he would be the ruler of a physical kingdom that would subjugate and destroy all other kingdoms and bring the Jewish kingdom into a golden age of ruling. In essence, we adopt the ancient Jewish standpoint but with a new Christian label superimposed. While there are physical elements played out from Jesus’ rule of the new spiritual Jerusalem, it doesn’t seem to be intended as an earthly kingdom.
In addition, the 1000 years seems to be in reference to the period of time Satan is bound before his release, not the limitations of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus still rules the new spiritual Jerusalem today and will continue to do so forever.
Gog and Magog
It would seem the identity of Gog and Magog would be crucial to our understanding of these verses. In Ezekiel 38-39, we see references to Gog, king of Magog. It seems the imagery is being reused to refer to future battle(s) to take place approximately 1000 years after the fall of Jerusalem. In addition, Revelation makes mention that these are the lands, not the Jewish people themselves, as the judgment and removal of that infrastructure ended that polity permanently in relation to the their exclusiveness as God’s chosen (as discussed last chapter, Rev 19:3). It seems, if this is referencing a future 1000 years and the original Israel has already been dispersed, then this would be the new (spiritual) Israel.
We see several mentions of the lands associated with Magog in Ezekiel—Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (38:3). Here is where we enter into deeper waters. Considering the text of Revelation so far though, I would have to consider these locales to be in Asia Minor—what we know today as Turkey. Again, this is to defer to context, Jesus sending a message to the assemblies that were also in…Asia Minor…about something that would be familiar to their society.
It would seem, from the context up to this point, that something was going to happen in and around the lands of Israel and it would involve Asia Minor (Turkey) and others from around the world of that time (~1000 years after Jerusalem fell and Satan was bound). In addition, Ezekiel reveals the why in 38:16 and 39:7. It seems that while Christianity grew immensely during the first 1000 years, there wasn’t perfect peace. Additionally, Jesus never promised that. Christians would become more harassed around this time according to the Ezekiel passages and God would prove again that he is faithful to his people.
So now we look for an event that would correspond to Satan’s release. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks successfully invaded Anatolia, securing a decisive victory over the Byzantine Empire (formerly Rome), and capturing the Emperor (ref). While it isn’t clear if this battle was the beginning of the empire’s decline, the ensuing civil war seems to have only played into securing the Seljuk Empire’s power (ref). One major lose suffered by the Byzantine Empire in this battle, however, was their ability to field troops to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Places. It seems between 1073-1098, Jerusalem was continually contested until the First Crusade arrived, securing Jerusalem for a time. It would seem that these crusaders were the wielders of the “fire from God” of Rev 20:9. Note, though, these passages don’t delineate any of these armies being “good.” Just as with Rome delivering the judgment of the Lamb on Israel, it seems the crusaders were dispatched to deliver God’s wrath on those who were continually making bloodshed over Jerusalem. The results of this battle seem strikingly similar to the results of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem.
Though the above takes quite a bit to unpack, there are a few other concepts I would like to touch on in this chapter.
After the 1000 years, we see Satan cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet also are (v10). As stated in the previous chapter, this was relaying that the power of that kingdom (Rome) was being destroyed (Daniel 7:26). A thousand years later in history, we see its power still being whittled away. It would seem the lake of fire is to burn away anything that isn’t fit to exist.
In addition, in verses 12-15, we see the judgment of those unbelievers who were dead. We see the sea, death, and Hades giving up their dead. We then see death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire. Again, the lake of fire seems to be for destruction of anything not fit to exist. Now that the power of death is destroyed, it is but a doorway instead of a holding cell. But, what’s the point of God destroying Hades (hell) if he is just going to use the lake of fire for the same purpose—torment? Perhaps the lake of fire has a different function, cleansing of the spirit (though immensely painful) and destruction of dominions. As we see in Rev 15:1, God’s wrath comes to an end. I hope to expand a little more on these topics in the last two chapters of Revelation.
So, this is my current take on chapter 20. As stated before, I won’t claim to be 100% right. These conclusions are reached by considerations such as the audience specified, the timing constraints mentioned within the text, and God’s nature and stated plan for all.
We see, in the first two verses, another repetition of the completion of the judgment on Jerusalem and Israel. In verse 3, we see that her smoke goes up forever and ever. This is, again, a symbolic way of saying complete and permanent destruction of what we know in the physical realm as in passages such as Isaiah 66:24.
In verses 4-6, we see praise given to God in heaven.
In verses 7-9, we see the preparation of the bride and the marriage feast. The bride, as discussed before, being the New Jerusalem. We see this marriage about to happen immediately after the destruction of the old Jerusalem, but first…
In verses 11-16, we see the vivid imagery of Jesus riding on the white horse. This seems to be him coming in his Kingdom as he states some of the apostles would be alive to see (Matt 16:27-28), and that he would come back to get them (John 14:3).
Here’s an interesting point of contention though. We don’t really have any historical verification that any of the early Christians were bodily taken up into heaven. In addition, if all the Christians were taken up to the marriage feast, who was left to spread the gospel? We do have passages in the Bible itself that might explain what happened.
Here we see where parables, such as the 10 virgins (Matt 25:1-13), make much more sense. The first century Christians were told to hold vehemently to the faith and keep watch in preparation for the bridegroom’s arrival. Those that didn’t, while considered Christians, seemed to not have been taken up. Like in the parable, all were virgins (made pure by the blood of Jesus), but only those who kept watch, during this oppressive era, would be taken up. The rest would have to wait out their time here on earth, but weren’t shut out of the Kingdom forever (only the marriage feast). This parable also continues from the prior chapter’s Olivet discourse. It seems Matt 25 directly correlates with the judgment and coming of Jesus that he was explaining. It seems the next parable in that chapter, the parable of the talents, relays a similar message to the early church—those that do nothing with what they’ve been given (the gospel and prophetic warnings) would not be rewarded when Jesus came. We see this same theme communicated in Rev 2 and 3 to the churches of Asia Minor.
In addition to this, we have a strange cessation of the apostles’ writings at this point (after the fall of Jerusalem). We could consider that they had all been martyred by now, but this would discount Jesus’ own statement that some he was speaking to would in no way taste of death until they saw him coming in his Kingdom (Matt 16:27-28). That is, his Kingdom came after the Old Covenant kingdom was judged, destroyed, and delivered up to the Father (1 Cor 15:24).
It would seem these were extreme times for the inception of the Kingdom and much work was to be done. However, when the full Kingdom was manifest, dressed in the acts of the saints (Rev 19:8), the journey for us as children now became less heavily contested. I don’t want to delve much further into these topics in this post as the ideas are starting to cross into chapters 20 and 21.
Chapter 19 Continued In verses 17-18, we see an angel standing in the sun calling all the birds to an earthly “great supper of God.” This is their feasting of the corpses of those who died in the preceding war. Again, this affirms the time period we’re still dealing with.
In verse 19, it would seem the beast (again representing the Roman empire) along with its constituents (the armies from all over the “known” world subjugated by Rome) were gathering to war against Jesus. To understand what this verse is relaying, we can look to when Paul was on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4-5). As we see with Paul’s early actions, these armies seemed to be marshaling to persecute Jesus through the slaughter of the Christians. It would appear these armies, now that they were done with Jerusalem and Palestine, were now turning their attention to the Christians.
However, in verse 20, we see that Jesus seizes the beast and tosses him and the second beast (aka the false prophet) into the lake of fire. Now we get to an interesting consideration. We know from history that Vespasian and Titus both continued on after the close of the war (73 AD). We don’t see them being plucked from the earth to be thrown alive into the lake of fire. To understand this specific verse, we have to compare it to the correlating passages in Daniel.
In Daniel Chapter 7, we see these same scenes presented but with more detail. Daniel 7:11 shows the first hints of what is taking place in Rev 19:20. The beast (animal) was slain, its body destroyed, and it was to be burned with fire (i.e. the river of fire in verse 10). Daniel seems also confused about this (v15-16). In verse 26, this is further explained though—the dominion of the beast (or it’s rule) would be taken away and destroyed. This is the power and dominion of the beast itself, but not those individuals who incorporated it, that was thrown into the lake of fire.
Returning to Rev 19:21, we see the others involved in the war being killed by the sword of Jesus’ mouth. While we may not have much historical reference to this in the physical realm, we do know that both Vespasian (79 AD) and Titus (81 AD) died within a decade of the end of the war (73 AD).
Putting it all together
While persecution of Christians continued for another two centuries, no war of extermination was launched against them (though based on these passages, it seemed intended). During this period, as may be common knowledge, Christians laid down their lives, just as Jesus did, for love. This laying down of their lives in love worked from within the Roman kingdom and eventually overtook it. This seems to have been God’s intent for Israel, yet instead of laying down their lives in love, even for their enemies, they vehemently held to their code of laws and condemned everyone else that wouldn’t conform to their loveless religion. Eventually, as we see throughout the book of Revelation, judgment came on them based on the Old Covenant penalties that they insisted on receiving by their unrepentant state. Jesus fulfilled and removed that entire covenant once the final judgement was finished. The new Kingdom, ruled by Jesus, then began overtaking the world. This Kingdom, however, isn’t about military might; it’s about love. This Kingdom still continues today, though many under the flag of Christendom are still trying to further the Kingdom by politics, military might, manipulation, etc…instead of love.
Again, these are my views of these scriptures as they pertain to the Bible overall. I encourage everyone to research these things for themselves.