Home > amillennialism, eschatology, hermeneutics, premillennialism > Shepherd’s Conference: Matt Weymeyer on Revelation 20

Shepherd’s Conference: Matt Weymeyer on Revelation 20

March 17, 2010

I’ve been listening to some of the MP3 files from this year’s Shepherd’s Conference.  Matt Weymeyer’s “Thy Kingdom Come” is an especially helpful one, with great exegesis of Revelation 20.

Matt Weymeyer:

I think this is important, we need to be careful not to let the centrality of the gospel tempt us into a state of exegetical laziness or even what I like to think of as pious agnosticism when it comes to this issue of eschatology.  See, most people would readily agree that eschatology is one of the more difficult areas of systematic theology and, see what happens is, as a result of this, many Christians are self-proclaimed, sometimes even proud, agnostics when it comes to their view of the end times, and unfortunately, many of them seem to be content to remain in the dark when it comes to what God has revealed about the future… God has revealed too much about this issue for us to be content with being agnostic.

Following are some notes that follow his outline of five key questions concerning the passage Revelation 20:1-6.

1.  Is the timing of Satan’s binding present or future?

Revelation 20:1-3 describes Satan being completely cut off from having any influence; total removal from influence on earth

Satan is bound and locked into the abyss — prison for evil spirits; a real place in the spirit world — Luke 8; Revelation 9 and 11.

Charles Feinberg:  “One cannot have Satan bound and loose at the same time; the logic of language will not permit it.”

Response to amillennialists who claim Satan is only bound so that he will no longer deceive the nations:

1.  John’s use of the purpose clause (statement in verse 3)  does not preclude the possibility of other purposes or results of Satan’s imprisonment.   Example:  a prison warden has taken special care of a prisoner to put him in solitary confinement.  The warden issues a purpose statement concerning the prisoner’s safekeeping — the statement only mentions one thing, but that involves other restrictions as well.

2.  The New Testament teaches that Satan is active and involved in deceiving the nations in the present age.  See 2 Cor. 4:4, which contradicts Rev. 20:3.

2.  Is the nature of the first resurrection spiritual or physical?

Four reasons why the first resurrection does not refer to spiritual regeneration:

1.  The word translated resurrection is used 42 times in the NT and not once is it used to refer to regeneration; it is used to refer to physical resurrection. — the heavy burden of proof is on amillennialists here.

2.  The regeneration view requires that the Greek word azey-sun (spelling?) (verse 4) be understood in a completely different sense than the same Greek word in verse 5.

3.  The grammar of this passage indicates that the group in the first resurrection is raised at the beginning of the thousand years, and reign together with Christ for the entire period of time.  (This is not the same as the amillennial view of believers being regenerated throughout the thousand years and not reigning for the entire period of time.)

4.  According to amillennial and post-millennial view that the 1st resurrection = regeneration, the individuals described in verse 4 are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit until after they are martyred for their faith in Christ.

Most common objection from amills and postmills:  the premill view of 2 resurrections is a direct contradiction, they say, of biblical teaching of a single general resurrection of both righteous and wicked at the same time.  — John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:15

Response:  these passages do not preclude the possibility of two separate resurrections at different times.  These passages never state that these resurrections happen at the same time. The passages do refer to the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked, and always listed in that order.

My own note here:  See also Spurgeon’s sermon on this topic.

Also, later revelation gives more information.

The Old Testament did not explain a gap between the two comings of Christ.

Anthony Hoekema:  In the New Testament we find that what the Old Testament writers seemed to depict as one movement, must now be recognized as involving two.

The same is true concerning the resurrections of the righteous and wicked.

Wayne Grudem:  “all of these verses in the absence of Rev. 20 might or might not be speaking of a single future time of resurrection.  But with the explicit teaching of Revelation 20 about two resurrections, these verses must be understood to refer to the future certainty of a resurrection for each type of person without specifying that those resurrections will be separated in time.”

3.  Is the duration of the thousand years symbolic or literal?

Amillennialists:  the thousand years are symbolic of some large, undetermined amount of time; or, the thousand years is symbolic of completeness.

The truth concerning Revelation and numbers:  the vast majority (Weymeyer — about 95%) of the 254 numbers in the book of Revelation are intended to be understood literally.  Any time you find a number with a time indicator in Revelation, nothing in the context indicates that it’s symbolic.  Nowhere in scripture (even in 2 Peter 3) is a thousand years used as a symbolic designation.

Rules to follow concerning determination of symbolic language, general hermeneutical approach to take:

1.  Does it possess a degree of absurdity when taken literally?  Example: Isaiah 55:12 “the trees of the fields will clap their hands.”

2.  Does it possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically?  Symbolic language effectively communicates what it symbolizes.

Isaiah 55:12 does possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically.

3.  Does it fall into an established category of symbolic language?  — figures of speech, etc.  You have to be able to identify what kind of symbol you’re dealing with.  Isaiah 55:12 is a  Personification type of symbol.

The symbolic view of 1000 years in Rev. 20 fails these 3 questions.

Revelation 20 does NOT possess any degree of absurdity when taken literally — there is nothing difficult here.

Question 2 — look at all the literature, the differing ideas that amills/post-mills come up with when they try to take it symbolically.  Since they all have such different ideas of what it means, question 2 fails — a symbolic view of 1000 years does not possess a degree of clarity.

Question 3 — The symbolic use of 1000 years does not appear to fall into any clear category of symbolic language.

One post-mill answer:  compared the 1000 years to “hyperbole” as in “I’ve told you this a million times…”

Problem:  John’s use of 1000 years cannot possibly be understood as hyperbole, an exaggeration, of a time period now 2000+ years in length.

4.  Is the Location of the Millennial Reign Heaven or Earth?

1. An earthly reign of Christ is precisely what is promised throughout the Old Testament.

Numerous passages:  Jeremiah 23:5-6, among many others

2. Revelation 5:10 looks ahead to that time when saints will reign with Christ — they will reign upon the earth.

3. Revelation 20:9 — the saints who reign with Christ are said to be “on the broad plain of the earth.”

4.  Revelation 19 and 20 teach that Jesus will return to this Earth where He will then reign.

5.  Is the Chronology of Revelation 19 and 20 recapitulatory or sequential?

Compelling reasons to adopt the sequential view:

1.  Introduction to Chapter 20 — “and I saw”

2.  The overall context of Revelation 12 – 20 points to a chronological relationship between chapters 19 & 20.  Starting at Rev. 12:9, where Satan is cast down to the earth, chapters 12 – 18 describe the three members of the unholy trinity. They are defeated in chapters 19 and 20.  At the end of chapter 19, only two of the three have been defeated; Satan (third member) is defeated in Revelation 20; this again indicates a sequence:  Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet already were.

3.  Use of the words “any longer” in Rev. 20 verse 3 — “any longer” indicates interruption of something that had been taking place.  Follows sequentially from events previously described in chapters 12 through 19.

4.  Content of Rev. 20:1-6 — it’s impossible to reconcile the contents of these verses with the present age.  Satan is not currently bound; first resurrection is physical; thousand years are best understood literally.

5.  The absence of compelling objections.  No compelling reason to abandon the sequential view.  You have to provide evidence for recapitulation, and those must be valid and compelling reasons.

The two main objections to the sequential view:

1.  The existence of the unbelieving nations in the Millennial Kingdom.

If Rev. 19-20 presents a sequence of events, and all the nations are destroyed in Rev. 19, where do the unbelieving nations come from in chapter 20:8, at the end of the thousand years?

Response:  The nations will arise from the offspring of nonglorified saints who originally entered the Millennial Kingdom.  (pre-trib or mid-trib view).

Amillennials object to the idea of glorified and unglorified saints existing together — reference Luke 24 and John 21, Christ in a glorified body interacting with non-glorified sinful

Also consider that even in our world, angels co-exist alongside us in this physical realm.  Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

2.  Parallel between Rev. 12 and Rev. 20 — the casting down of Satan in Rev. 12:7-12 and casting down of Satan in Rev. 20:1-6.

recapitulation view:  clearly these must refer to the same event.

Problem:  amillennial view has focused on superficial points of continuity, to the virtual exclusion of specific points of discontinuity.

Three major, critical differences between the two passages, that are incompatible with each other.

1.  Rev. 12 — Satan is cast down from heaven to earth;

Rev. 20 — Satan is cast down from earth to the abyss.

amillennials neglect and don’t give enough attention to the study of the abyss in Rev. 20

2.  Expulsion of Satan from heaven (chapter 12) has exact opposite outcome from Rev. 20

Chapter 12 — Satan goes out and deceives the whole world.

Chapter 20 — opposite:  the casting down prevents him from deceiving the nations.

3.  Rev. 12 — “short time” — cast down to the earth for a short time

Rev. 20 — “short time” — Satan is first cast into the abyss for a long time, then he is released for a short time

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