Rev. 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The reign of a thousand years directly corresponds to Satan being bound for a thousand years. One is shown to replace the other. How did Satan deceive the nations before being bound? The Bible says he was “shut up”. . . “that he should deceive the nations no more”. How would this deceiving the nations be or have been seen? Would Satan have a castle and an honor guard? Could a person say, “There’s Satan sitting on a throne.”? The only way we could know that Satan has deceived the nations is if we have faith in God, and though faith, believe what the scriptures have to say about Satan’s work. Satan is a being in the world of spirits, “the prince of the power of the air”, and so can only be understood via spiritual testimony. If we understand that Satan’s work is in the realm of spirits, then what would the reign be of those souls who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus? They would not be walking on the earth, or sitting on thrones in Jerusalem. Does the Bible say they will reign on earth for a thousand years? It doesn’t. Does the Bible imply such a thing? If such an implication existed, then it would have to be on the basis of what their reign is shown to replace, Satan deceiving the nations. Again, how would Satan be seen in deceiving the nations? – He would be seen from a spiritual point of view. Likewise, the 1000 year reign of those souls should be seen from a spiritual point of view.
Satan deceived the nations by representing Christ in a way that caused the worst kind of blasphemy. The ecclesiastical nightmare of the Eastern and Western Orthodox churches and their protestant offshoots has done more to destroy the souls of men than any other deception Satan has stimulated in the world. How many souls have been beguiled by their icons, statuary, stained glass, and celluloid depictions of Jesus? How many souls have been lost because they have witnessed the excesses of false religion and have stumbled by blaming all reference to Jesus? Has any Muslim or Jew enacted the auto-da-fe, by which an individual was burned alive in the name of Jesus Christ for heresy? Has there ever been a communist who strangled a man so that he might die in a state of grace and not be tempted again to turn from Holy Mother Church? Though these examples may seem antiquated, I believe they serve to demonstrate a depth of satanic practice that had never before been seen on the earth. It remains unparalleled. It was/is a form of deception wherein people came to believe they could bend earthly government to their will through using the name of Jesus Christ. No doubt some have done this in a naïve sort of way, while others cynically have rooted for power. The genesis of this is cited in the book of 1st John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” This was far different than the ambitions of Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. Those men were the product of an unbelieving world. Whereas the other produced a world of unbelief.
The prophecy of a thousand year reign speaks of “the first resurrection”. It is not the resurrection wherein body, soul, and spirit are incorporated to never die. The first resurrection is of those who are “dead in trespasses and sins”. Everyone who is responsible for their actions has fallen under the category of being dead in sins. The first resurrection is being made alive from the death of sin. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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.” (Rom.6:3-4) In Revelation 20:4, the Lord points us to souls who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and gives us this statement, “This is the first resurrection”. It is an epitome. For example when two top tier teams play an extremely close game for the championship, one might say, “Now this is basketball.” In the same vein, we are pointed to the greatest extreme God’s people are called to face in following Jesus. Even if a brother lives a fairly comfortable life and dies peacefully in his bed, he still is a part of the first resurrection. But the epitome, “this is the first resurrection”, is seen in retrospect, looking back at the ones who faced the horror of the anti-Christ, “. . . the souls of them. . .” It would be observed by those who live in a time where they can look back and appreciate the sacrifices of the faithful.
When the Bible uses the term “a thousand years”, should we take that to mean an absolute one thousand? We have many examples in the Bible of one thousand or ‘a thousand’. Some refer to an actual amount as in “a thousand talents of silver”, while others are a figure of speech, as in “one man of you shall chase a thousand”. Prophecy often uses figures of speech, as well as more ordinary sayings. The thousand year reign phrase is very similar to the expressiveness of 1st Chron. 16:15 “Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.” One gets the sense of a something meant to be outside of reckoning. “. . .they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . .” Yet it is conclusive. . . “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” But to number an actual thousand? I don’t think so.
The thousand year reign of the first resurrection can only be appreciated by faith. There are those who rejoice in the collapse of Dominican and Jesuit influence. There are those who appreciate the sacrifices men and women who were willing to die rather than pay homage to a religion which so casually brutalized the world in the name of Jesus. Because of this appreciation, there are those who, Mordecai-like, refuse to bow the knee man’s institutionalization of the name of Jesus. They have honored the Lord and “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. . .” The admiration given toward these is a tacit acknowledgement of their primacy over the affairs of men. In this way these souls reign with Christ. Those who value the primacy of these faithful souls are the ones who “walk by faith and not by sight”.