John tells us that he saw thrones and “they sat on them” (Revelation 20:4). Who sat on thrones? Nearly all the scholars of whom I am aware agree that those on the thrones are believers who were martyred for Christ, but I don’t agree. Those sitting on thrones are the Father and Christ. John also tells us that those who had given up their lives for the Gospel had neither worshiped the beast nor his image and had not received his mark. Therefore, they reigned with Christ for 1000 years (Revelation 20:4, 6; cp. 3:21), but, what does “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” actually mean? Does the text mean they literally reigned in heaven over their enemies? Probably not!
First of all, if they lived in Christ (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3-4), they would have had to have been resurrected (1Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 2:6). Concerning this resurrection, Paul told the Ephesians that they had been raised from the dead already (Ephesians 2:1), but the death of which Paul spoke wasn’t physical death, it was spiritual death. They were physically alive before they believed the Gospel, but they had been spiritually dead. Now that they believed the Gospel, God raised them from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ and to sit in heavenly places where Christ is (Ephesians 2:5-6; Revelation 20:4). So, here we have believers who hadn’t died physically, but they were sitting in heavenly places from a spiritual perspective (i.e. in Christ). In other words, the believer’s life in Christ (i.e. his spiritual resurrection) occurred when he repented and believed the Gospel, and spiritual death for all believers had been abolished at the resurrection of Christ (cp. 2Timothy 1:10).
Nevertheless, does the fact that the martyrs who reigned with Christ, indicate that they were alive after physical death? I don’t believe so, and I hope to adequately prove they weren’t (physically) alive in this study. It is believed by many that the martyrs, who (they think) reigned on thrones with (G3326) Christ for a thousand years, reigned from thrones alongside Jesus’ throne, but this simply isn’t true. No believer could sit upon any heavenly throne until Christ reigned from his Messianic throne (Revelation 3:21). Christ didn’t even begin to sit upon his Messianic Throne until the Day of the Lord, when he returned in the glory of his Father. At that time he began to reign on **his** Messianic Throne (Revelation 11:15). Up until that time, he ruled from his Father’s throne (Acts 2:33-34; Ephesians 1:20-21; Hebrews 8:1), which is also his throne (Revelation 22:1, 3), but not his Messianic throne (Revelation 3:21).
The same Greek word translated with (G3326) in Revelation 20:4, 6 is also used in the following chapter to say: “the tabernacle of God is with (G3326) men, and he will dwell with (G3326) them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with (G3326) them, and be their God (Revelation 21:3 – parenthesis mine). According to Peter, believers in the first century AD were being built up into a spiritual house of God (1Peter 2:5), and Paul agrees (1Corinthians 3:16; 2Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). The point is, if believers **are** the tabernacle of God, and God dwelt **with** them, he obviously dwells **in** them, not alongside of them. In other words, they are his House or Temple in which he dwells.
Moreover, it was to this very point that Jesus prayed the night before he died (John 17:21, 26). Therefore, we are able to say the martyrs, despite their being dead, reigned **with** Christ through his rule. For example, I flew to the state of Washington from the state of Pennsylvania to see my daughter. However, I didn’t actually fly the plane; the pilot did that for me. I was **with** him, but he did the work. In the same manner those who had died in Christ, reigned with him. Their lives were hid in him (Colossians 3:3), and, therefore, when Christ pronounced a judgment, it was to vindicate them. One might say they reigned or ‘ruled’ over their adversaries through the judgments Christ made (viz. the seals, the trumpets and the vials).
According to my studies, thus far, in the Apocalypse, the beast, the false prophet and the dragon existed during the first century AD. Moreover, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD was proof of the coming of Christ. He judged the beast and the false prophet, casting them in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). If my studies in the Apocalypse are logical and true, and the beast and the false prophet have already been judged, then those who “…had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands…” have already been completely vindicated. If they have been vindicated, the millennium must also have ended in the first century AD, because the thousand years has no reasonable context beyond the judgment of the beast.
 See E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible, where the margin says concerning who is seated on the thrones: “i.e. the Father and Christ. He then goes on to include the martyrs who died for Christ, but I don’t agree. They don’t sit upon thrones until after Jesus comes.