In the past few studies I’ve been considering those who reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4), or for what modern Christians call the millennium. We have seen that the period of time we understand to be the millennium is, in fact, a far shorter period of time than a literal thousand years. In this study I hope to add even more credence to that assertion, thus establishing a surer foundation for the truth that the millennium both began and ended in the first century AD.
Notice that Revelation 20:4 depicts the martyrs of Christ as living and reigning with him for a thousand years. In a previous study we saw that Paul’s readers were told they were already living with Christ during the first century AD (Ephesians 2:6). Yet, the Second Coming didn’t have to occur before believers could be with Christ in heavenly places. Notice that the text says judgment or a verdict had been given the martyrs of Revelation 20:4. I believe this also extends to believers who hadn’t yet died, but lived in the world for the sake of Christ. They had been given grace to overcome evil in their lives and let righteousness rather than sin reign (Romans 5:17; Galatians 5:22-24). Believers reign in the sense that they are “in” Christ, and Christ reigns from his Father’s throne. What he does upon the throne favors the believer. Prayers are answered and God intervenes in the affairs of men to assure a positive result for the sake of the elect.
If believers were already living and reigning in heavenly places with Christ during their physical lifetimes, it seems logical that the millennium would have had to have already begun. If the millennium had already begun before 70 AD, then, clearly, the Apocalypse couldn’t be interpreted to say the Second Coming of Christ would occur **before** the millennium began. With this in mind, notice what we are told at the opening of the fifth seal in chapter six of the Apocalypse:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,
“How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. (Revelation 6:9-11 NASB; emphasis mine)
What is interesting is how similar the martyrs of Revelation 6 (the fifth seal) are with the martyrs of Revelation 20. In chapter 6 the martyrs are told to wait a little while for their vindication, and they are given white robes. The white robes, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon referred to “a loose outer garment for men extending to the feet, worn by kings, priests, and persons of rank.” In other words, they were given a verdict along with the martyrs of Revelation 20 to reign through Christ for a period of time. Similarly, the martyrs of chapter 20 were given a verdict that they should reign through Christ over their enemies, and their arch enemy would be destroyed after a thousand years was fulfilled (cp. Revelation 20:10). It isn’t that difficult to understand that being given white robes was not the Second Coming. That would occur on the Day of the Lord in the sixth seal; neither did the Day of the Lord occur before the martyred saints or Revelation 20 reigned through Christ’s judgments for thousand years. Both groups waited for a period of time before their enemies were destroyed, at which time they would be completely vindicated. For the martyrs in chapter 20 it is for a thousand years, while for the martyrs in chapter 6 it is for a little while. So, consequently, a thousand years (the millennium) was only a little while.