Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Reigning Priesthood

I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. 20:4-6 

   Earlier, we read about these thrones and those who sat on them; Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 4:4. It was suggested that, on the practical side, the crowns of gold were the communication devices of the "away team".   From the aesthetic point of view, the fact that they are wearing golden crowns suggests that they are the ones who have authority.

   After saying that, John said, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded. The word "soul" can be used to mean the whole person, body and all.   John is not saying that he saw naked, bodiless souls; what he meant is that he saw the people who were martyred by beheading or otherwise.

   If we concur, that the first four seals; the five horsemen of The Apocalypse, ride throughout history, we certainly can see that the fifth seal, which speaks of the martyrs, also runs throughout all of history, and fits into this section about the altar.  The altar, mentioned here, is the same golden altar around which the souls of those which were martyred for the Word of God were seen in 6:9.
                                                                                                   
Those people who had suffered martyrdom, for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  John does not say that they were the ones sitting on the thrones, and based on the order of the sentences in this verse, it does not seem to be what he wants to imply.  First, he speaks about those that sat on the thrones and says they were in positions of judgment.  


Then, separately, he says, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus.  When John saw the martyred saints, he says about them; this is the first resurrection.  John makes it very clear that no people, the rest of the dead, Christian and non-Christian, lived again until the thousand years were finished.  

Bible teachers should put aside the idea that "when we die we go to be with Jesus".  That is a totally unscriptural teaching!  Notice this verse that rejects that theory.  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they (the martyred saints) shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.  20:6 

   In 6:10-11 the martyrs ask, How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” ... and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.  This means that their vindication will not happen before the history of the Church, on earth, is finished and the last martyr has died.  Therefore the Millennium, cannot happen before the rapture of the church.

   However, if the Millennium coincides with the time that Satan is in prison, and we know that after Satan has been in prison for one thousand years, (an unspecified length of time), he is released from prison to harass the Church again.  This means that there will be more martyrs after the Millennium is finished.  Consequently, based on 6:11, the martyrs cannot have been ruling during the Millennium.

  

Prayers and Incense


Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. 8:3-5 

   By saying, another angel, John is separating it from the first seven angels that he had just seen.  The fact that this angel is offering incense and prayers just before the first trumpet sounds may indicate that Jehovah, in His mercy, once more is waiting to hear the prayers of the saints before His unmitigated fury strikes the earth.  

   Perhaps the incense and prayers together will soften His judgments, if the Church indeed will pray.  The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. As already mentioned, God is pleased when we pray.  Let my prayer be set before You as incense. Psalm 141:2
    
 When Jehovah gets involved things get serious.   There were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.  This phrase, with variations, is found four times throughout the book.

  The similarities between the sixth seal and the first six trumpets and the first six bowls of wrath are too great to ignore.   I believe that the sixth seal is a condensed version of the first six trumpets and the first six bowls of wrath, yet to come.  The seventh seal is delayed for a while, just as the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl of wrath are.  Of course, the plan is to study each of these in the appropriate time frame.