The 2nd Vision of the Millennium: the Saints Reigning With Christ
In verses four through six, John records a second vision of this same time period. There is also significant disagreement on the meaning of these verses.
John saw thrones and people sitting on them. The ones sitting on the thrones are described as “souls” and as those who were beheaded for testifying to Jesus and those who did not worship the beast or receive its mark. (4)
Premillennialists believe the thrones are on earth and that these people reign on earth with Jesus during the millennial reign on earth. This is partly because they believe there will be a 1,000 year reign of Jesus on earth and partly because verse one says the angel came down from heaven.
However, it seems that these verses refer both to Revelation 4:2-4, where John gets his first vision of heaven, and Daniel’s visions of the Ancient of Days taking is seat and passing judgment in favor of the saints. The vast majority of the uses of “thrones” in Revelation refer to thrones in heaven.
In Revelation 3:21, Jesus made the following promise: The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”. To conquer was to continue in faith, despite persecution, until death.
In Revelation 4, John saw God’s throne surrounded by 24 thrones on which elders sat. The wore white garments and golden crowns. In Daniel 7, after the vision of the beasts, Daniel saw thrones being placed, the Ancient of Days taking his seat on his throne, and proceeding to judge. It says also that the “court” sat in judgment and the books were opened. Here in chapter 20, these souls sit on thrones and are given authority to judge, just as in Daniel 7.
Since Daniel 7 occurs in heaven, and Revelation 4 occurs in heaven, it seems that this vision of Revelation 20 also involves events in heaven.
2 Timothy 2:11-12 says: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him”.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 says “the dust (the body) returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”.
In Revelation 6, in the fifth seal, John saw under the altar in heaven the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and their witness. (6:9) This is very similar to the description of chapter 20: they we're souls of those “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God”. (20:4) Again, this indicates events in heaven during the church age (the millennium).
This group is actually composed of all who died in faith. In includes those who were executed for their faith, but also those who did not worship the beast or its image. (4)
A further description of this group is that they came to life and reigned for 1,000 years with Christ on earth. It is called the first resurrection. The Premillennialist view is that this is the physical resurrection of believers before an earthly millennium. They believe the lost do not rise until the end of the millennium because verse 5 says “the rest of he dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended”. Thus, they believe that believers are taken to heaven, given glorified bodies, but returned to an imperfect earth to rule with Jesus for 1,000 years over an earth populated by both immortals and mortals. (I think it would be a real bummer to leave a perfect heaven for an imperfect earth.) At the end of 1,000 years, they believe there will be another resurrection.
Jesus, however, taught that there was one resurrection of mankind’s physical bodies. He said “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”. (John 5:28)
So, this first resurrection, that results in the soul being in heaven, is the believer’s soul coming into the presence of Christ at death. Paul called death “departing to be with Christ”. (Philippians 1:23)
John is not seeing a resurrection of physical bodies, but rather then death of the physical bodies of believers that causes their souls to appear in heaven. It is another of the many paradoxes of Revelation. The believer appears defeated because his body is dead but, in reality, he is victorious, having died in faith to have his soul appear in heaven to be with Jesus.
John said these who have this first resurrection are blessed, because the second death has no power over them. Believers die in their bodies, go to heaven and stay with Christ. They are priests of God, giving praise to him in heaven, and reign with him. At the resurrection of their (and our) physical bodies, (the 2nd resurrection by implication), they receive glorified bodies for the new creation. 1 Corinthians 15 shows us that this occurs when Jesus returns, at the sound of the last trumpet. It tells us Christ must reign in heaven until the last enemy is put under his feet, not 1,000 years before.
This happens at the sound of the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians. 15:52) The last trumpet (7th trumpet) in Revelation occurs in 11:15. All say “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever!”
This is the second coming of Christ & the resurrection.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, northings to come, nor powers, nor nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-38)