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Exegeting through Revelation 20 with S. Lewis Johnson


I’m now finishing the MP3 files for S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Divine Purpose” series, a 37-part series he taught in 1985 and 1986.  The last several messages (messages 31 through 36) are a subset that exegete the content of Revelation 19 through 21.  Here are some of the highlights:

It is said that the test of orthodoxy is our view concerning Christ’s First Coming.  But the test of spirituality is our view concerning the Second Coming.  From S. Lewis Johnson, in message 31 of the series:

… the test of orthodoxy is a person’s belief concerning the First Coming of the Lord Jesus.  Was the Son of God incarnate?  Did He go to the cross?  Did He offer an atoning sacrifice?  Was He buried?  Was He raised from the dead, in bodily form, on the 3rd day?  Those great events do have a great deal to do with our orthodoxy.  But the test of spirituality is our views concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

Now, the apostles, whether they would have agreed with that precise statement or not, would have agreed with the sense of it, because in 1 John chapter 3 in verse 3, the Apostle John writes concerning the appearance of our Lord, he says, “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”  So the thought of the Second Coming, the belief in the Second Coming, is a purifying hope.  So we don’t apologize for speaking about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

In Revelation 20:4, the words “came to life” (in reference to the saints who came to life for the thousand years) are the same Greek words and grammar as used in Revelation 2:8, where these words are spoken of Jesus “who died and came to life.”  If amillennialists want to maintain that Revelation 20:4 doesn’t really mean physical resurrection (but only spiritual rebirth), here is one problem (among many others).  If these saints are not physically resurrected, then how can it be said that Christ was physically resurrected?  These are the same words used by the same author — the apostle John — in the same book of Revelation — yet we are supposed to throw out the normal meaning and usage of words, to fit a preconceived scheme (amillennialism) first thought up several hundred years after Christ?

Revelation 20:6 is an interpretive beatitude:  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. A common feature in apocalyptic literature — such as Daniel and Revelation — is that a vision (often symbolic) is given, followed by the interpretation.  Here is one such case of this pattern:  the vision in Revelation 20:4-5, and the interpretation in Revelation 20:6.  Yet in both the vision and its interpretation, the phrase “a thousand years” is found.  Anybody think the apostle John is trying to make a point, that it really means a thousand years?

From message 35 in the series, concerning Revelation 20:7-10, the “fifth last thing” (the final rebellion):   the words “Gog and Magog” are well-known from Ezekiel 38-39, and often a look back is helpful in understanding the many Old Testament allusions John provides in Revelation.  However, in this case we find that the term “Gog and Magog” is used in a different way.

In the Ezekiel passage, Gog is a person/ruler, and Magog is a land.  In Revelation 20, Gog and Magog are used as a reference to “the nations in the four corners of the earth.”  In Jewish literature, the expression “Gog and Magog” is used to refer to the forces of evil — just as we use certain expressions, such as “Waterloo,” to refer to something other than the actual word Waterloo itself.  This usage from the Jewish literature, which the apostle John was familiar with, certainly fits within the context of Revelation 20:7-10.

S. Lewis Johnson also speculates — on something the text itself doesn’t state — as to a possible reason for how Satan is able to deceive the nations.  We do know from other passages that during the kingdom Israel will have the preeminence and special favor, so a likely reason for the uprising at the end of the thousand years could well be their jealousy of Israel.  Psalm 66:3 and Psalm 110:2 are additional Old Testament texts that may suggest that men feign obedience during the kingdom.

We also can learn, from Revelation 20:7-10, that our God is a non-frustratable deity.  Even Satan’s rebellion, and all of our sins and man’s sins, bring glory to God and accomplish His purposes.

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