In the previous video, in this “Saving Humanity” series, I promised you we would discuss a very controversial parenthetical passage found in the book of Revelation:
“(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” – Revelation 20:5a NIV.
At the time, I didn’t realize exactly how controversial it would turn out to be. I assumed, like pretty much everyone else, that this sentence was part of the inspired writings, but from a knowledgeable friend, I’ve learned that it is missing from two of the oldest manuscripts available to us today. It doesn’t appear in the oldest Greek manuscript of Revelation, the Codex Sinaiticus, nor is it found in the even older Aramaic manuscript, the Khabouris Manuscript.
I think it is important for the serious Bible student to understand the importance of the Codex Sinaiticus, so I’m putting a link to a short video that will give you more detailed information. I will also paste that link into the Description of this video if you would like to watch it after viewing this discourse.
Likewise, the Khabouris Manuscript is of vital importance to us. It is likely the oldest known manuscript of the complete New Testament in existence today, possibly dating back to 164 C.E. It is written in Aramaic. Here is a link to more information on the Khabouris Manuscript. I will also put this link in the Description of this video.
Additionally, about 40% of the 200 available manuscripts of Revelation do not have 5a, and 50% of the earliest manuscripts from 4th-13th centuries do not have it.
Even in the manuscripts where 5a is found, it is presented very inconsistently. Sometimes it’s only there in the margins.
If you go on BibleHub.com, you will see that the Aramaic versions displayed there do not contain the “The rest of the dead” phrase. So, should we be spending time discussing something that originated with men and not God? The problem is that there are a great many people who have built an entire salvation theology that depends very heavily on this single sentence from Revelation 20:5. These people are not willing to accept the evidence that this is a spurious addition to the Bible text.
And what exactly is this theology they are guarding so zealously?
To explain it, let’s start by reading John 5:28, 29 as rendered in the very popular New International Version of the Bible:
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28, 29 NIV)
The majority of Bible translations replace “condemned” with “judged”, but that doesn’t change anything in the minds of these people. They view that to be a condemnatory judgment. These people believe that everyone coming back in the second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous or the evil, will be judged adversely and condemned. And the reason they believe this is that Revelation 20:5a says this resurrection occurs after the Messianic Kingdom of Christ that lasts 1,000 years. Therefore, these resurrected ones cannot benefit from the grace of God dispensed through that kingdom of Christ.
Obviously, the good who rise to life in the first resurrection are the children of God described in Revelation 20:4-6.
“And I saw seats, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them, and these souls who were cut off for the testimony of Yeshua and for the word of God, and because they did not worship The Beast, neither its Image, nor received a mark between their eyes or on their hands, they lived and reigned with The Messiah for 1000 years; And this is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he, whoever has part in the first resurrection, and the second death has no authority over these, but they shall be Priests of God and of The Messiah, and they shall reign with him 1000 years.” (Revelation 20:4-6 Peshitta Holy Bible – from Aramaic)
The Bible doesn’t speak of any other group who are resurrected to life. So that part is clear. Only the children of God who reign with Jesus for a thousand years are resurrected directly to everlasting life.
Many of those who believe in a resurrection to condemnation also believe in eternal torment in Hell. So, let’s follow that logic, shall we? If someone dies and goes to Hell to be tortured eternally for their sins, he is not really dead. The body is dead, but the soul lives on, right? They believe in the immortal soul because you have to be conscious to suffer. That’s a given. So, how can you be resurrected if you are already alive? I guess God just brings you back by giving you a temporary human body. At the very least, you’ll get a nice little reprieve…you know, from the tortures of Hell and all that. But it does seem somewhat spiteful of God to pull billions of people from Hell just to tell them, “You are condemned!”, before sending them right back. I mean, does God think they will not have figured that out already after being tortured for thousands of years? The whole scenario paints God as some kind of punitive sadist.
Now, if you accept this theology, but don’t believe in Hell, then this condemnation results in eternal death. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a version of this. They believe that everyone who isn’t a Witness will die for all time at Armageddon, but oddly enough, if you die before Armageddon, you get resurrected during the 1000 years. The post-millennial condemnation crowd believe the opposite. There will be Armageddon survivors who get a chance at redemption, but if you die before Armageddon, you are out of luck.
Both groups face a similar problem: They eliminate a significant portion of humanity from enjoying the life-saving benefits of living under the Messianic kingdom.
The Bible says:
“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” (Romans 5:18 NIV)
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, “life for all people” doesn’t include those alive at Armageddon who aren’t members of their organization, and for post-millennials, it doesn’t include everyone coming back in the second resurrection.
Seems like an awful lot of work on God’s part to go to all the trouble and pain of sacrificing his son and then testing and refining a group of humans to rule with him, only to have their work benefit such a small fraction of humanity. I mean, if you’re going to put so many through all that pain and suffering, why not make it worth their while and extend the benefits to everyone? Certainly, God has the power to do that; unless those promoting this interpretation consider God to be partial, uncaring, and cruel.
It has been said that you become like the God you worship. Hmm, Spanish Inquisition, Holy Crusades, burning of heretics, shunning victims of child sexual abuse. Yes, I can see how that fits.
Revelation 20:5a can be understood to mean the second resurrection occurs after the 1,000 years, but it doesn’t teach that all are condemned. Where does that come from besides a bad rendering of John 5:29?
The answer is found at Revelation 20:11-15 which reads:
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV)
Based on the post-millennial’s condemnation interpretation, these verses tell us that,
- The dead are judged on the basis of their deeds prior to death.
- This happens after the thousand years are over because these verses follow those describing the final test and Satan’s destruction.
I will show you that neither of these two arguments is valid. But first, let us pause here because understanding when the 2nd resurrection occurs is crucial to understanding the salvation hope for the vast majority of mankind. Do you have a father or mother or grandparents or children who have already died and who were not children of God? According to post-millennial condemnation theory, you’ll never see them again. That’s a terrible thought. So let us be absolutely sure that this interpretation is valid before we go destroying the hope of millions.
Starting with Revelation 20:5a, since the post-millennials resurrectionists will not accept it as spurious, let’s try a different approach. Those promoting the condemnation of all those who come back in the second resurrection believe it refers to a literal resurrection. But what if it’s referring to people who are just “dead” in God’s eyes. You may recall in our previous video that we saw valid evidence in the Bible for such a view. Likewise, coming to life can mean being declared righteous by God which is distinct from being resurrected because we can come to life even in this life. Again, if you are unclear on this, I recommend you review the previous video. So now we have another plausible interpretation, but this one doesn’t require the resurrection to occur after the thousand years have ended. Instead, we can understand that what occurs after the thousand years is over is a declaration of righteousness of those already physically alive but spiritual dead—that is, dead in their sins.
When a verse can be plausibly interpreted in two or more ways, it becomes useless as a proof text, because who is to say which interpretation is the right one?
Unfortunately, the post millennials won’t accept this. They won’t acknowledge that any other interpretation is possible, and so they resort to believing that Revelation 20 is written in chronological order. Certainly, verses one through 10 are chronological because that is specifically stated. But when we come to the concluding verses, 11-15 they are not placed in any specific relation to the thousand years. We can only infer it. But if we infer a chronological order, then why do we stop at the end of the chapter? There were no chapter and verse divisions when John wrote the revelation. What happens at the beginning of chapter 21 is completely out of chronological order with the end of chapter 20.
The entire book of Revelation is a series of visions given to John that are out of chronological order. He writes them down not in chronological sequence, but in the order in which he viewed the visions.
Is there some other way by which we can establish when the 2nd resurrection occurs?
If the 2nd resurrection occurs after the thousand years is over, those resurrected cannot benefit from the thousand-year reign of Christ as the survivors of Armageddon do. You can see that, can’t you?
In Revelation chapter 21 we learn that, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4 NIV)
The anointed ruling with Christ also act as priests to reconcile mankind back into the family of God. Revelation 22:2 speaks of “the healing of the nations”.
All these benefits will be denied those resurrected in the second resurrection if it occurs after the thousand years are over and the reign of Christ has ended. However, if that resurrection occurs during the thousand years, then all these individuals will benefit in the same way that the Armageddon survivors do, except…except for that annoying rendering that the NIV Bible gives to John 5:29. It says they are resurrected to be condemned.
You know, the New World Translation gets a lot of flack for its bias, but people forget that every version suffers from bias. That is what is happened with this verse in the New International Version. The translators chose to translate the Greek word, kriseōs, as “condemned”, but a better translation would be “judged”. The noun from which the verb is taken is krisis.
Strong’s Concordance gives us “a decision, judgment”. Usage: “judging, judgment, decision, sentence; generally: divine judgment; accusation.”
Judgment is not the same as condemnation. Sure, the process of judgment might result in condemnation, but it might also result in acquittal. If you go before a judge, you hope he hasn’t already made up his mind. You are hoping for a verdict of “not guilty”.
So let us look again at the second resurrection, but this time from the viewpoint of judgment rather than condemnation.
Revelation tells us that “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” and “each person was judged according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12, 13 NIV)
Can you see the insurmountable problem that occurs if we place this resurrection after the thousand years have ended? We are saved by grace, not by works, yet according to what it says here, the basis for judgment is not faith, nor grace, but works. Millions of people over the last several thousand years have died never knowing God nor Christ, never having had the opportunity to put real faith in Jehovah nor Jesus. All they have are their works, and according to this particular interpretation, they will be judged on the basis of works alone, prior to their death, and on that basis are written in the book of life or are condemned. That way of thinking is a complete contradiction with Scripture. Consider these words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4, 8 NIV).
One of the tools of an exegetical study of the Bible, that is study where we allow the Bible to interpret itself, is harmony with the rest of Scripture. Any interpretation or understanding must harmonize with all of Scripture. Whether you consider the 2nd resurrection to be a resurrection of condemnation, or a resurrection of judgment which occurs after the thousand years is over, you have broken scriptural harmony. If it’s a resurrection of condemnation, you end up with a God who is partial, unjust, and unloving, because he does not give equal opportunity to all even though it is within his power to do so. (He is Almighty God, after all.)
And if you accept that it is a resurrection of judgment that occurs after the thousand years is over, you end up with people being judged on the basis of works and not by faith. You end up with people who earn a way to everlasting life by their works.
Now, what happens if we place the resurrection of the unrighteous, the 2nd resurrection, within the thousand years?
In what state would they be resurrected? We know they are not resurrected to life because it specifically says that the first resurrection is the only resurrection to life.
Ephesians 2 tells us:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV)
The Bible indicates that the dead were not really dead, but asleep. They hear the voice of Jesus calling them, and they wake up. Some wake up to life while others wake up to judgment. Those who wake up to judgment are in the same state they were in when they fell asleep. They were dead in their transgressions and sins. They were by nature deserving of wrath.
This is the state that you and I were in before we came to know Christ. But because we have come to know Christ, these next words apply to us:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4 NIV)
We have been saved by the mercy of God. But here’s something we should be aware of regarding the mercy of God:
“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9 ESV)
His mercy is over everything he has made, not just a part that survives Armageddon. By being resurrected within the kingdom of Christ, these resurrected ones who are dead in their transgressions will, like us, have the opportunity to know the Christ and put faith in him. If they do that, then their works will change. We are not saved by works, but by faith. Yet faith produces works. Works of faith. It is as Paul says to the Ephesians:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
We are created to do good works. Those who are resurrected during the thousand years and who take advantage of the opportunity to put faith in Christ will naturally produce good works. With all this in mind, let us again review the final verses of Revelation chapter 20 to see if they fit.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” (Revelation 20:11 NIV)
Why are the earth and heavens fleeing from his presence if this occurs after nations have been overthrown and the Devil destroyed?
When Jesus comes at the start of the 1000 years, he sits on his throne. He wages war with the nations and does away with the heavens—all the authorities of this world—and the earth—the state of this world—and he then establishes new heavens and a new earth. This is what the apostle Peter describes at 2 Peter 3:12, 13.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12 NIV)
If this is referring to a resurrection, then why are they described as “the dead”? Shouldn’t this read, “and I saw the living, great and small, standing before the throne”? Or perhaps, “and I saw the resurrected, great and small, standing before the throne”? The fact they are described as dead while standing before the throne lends weight to the idea that we are talking about those who are dead in God’s eyes, that is, those who are dead in their transgressions and sins as we read in Ephesians. The next verse reads:
“The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:13-15 NIV)
Since the resurrection to life has already occurred, and here we are speaking about the resurrection to judgment, then we must take it that some of the resurrected ones are found to have their name written in the book of life. How does one get one’s name written in the book of life? As we’ve already seen from Romans, it is not through works. We cannot earn our way to life by even an abundance of good works.
Let me explain how I think this is going to work – and admittedly I’m engaging in some opinion here. For many in the world today, obtaining knowledge of the Christ so as to put faith in him is next to impossible. In some Muslim countries, it is a death sentence to even study the Bible, and contact with Christians is next to impossible for many, particularly the women of that culture. Would you say that some Muslim girl forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 13 has any reasonable chance of ever knowing and believing in Jesus Christ? Does she have the same opportunity that you and I have had?
For everyone to have a real chance at life, they will have to be exposed to the truth within an environment in which there is no negative peer pressure, no intimidation, no threat of violence, no fear of shunning. The whole purpose for which the children of God are being gathered is to provide an administration or a government that will have both the wisdom and the power to create such a state; to level the playing field so to speak, so that all men and women can have an equal opportunity at salvation. That speaks to me of a loving, just, impartial God. More than God, he is our Father.
Those who promote the idea that the dead are going to be resurrected only to be condemned based on the works they did in ignorance, inadvertently slander the name of God. They may claim that they are merely applying what Scripture says, but in reality, they are applying their own interpretation, one that conflicts with what we know of the character of our Heavenly Father.
John tells us that God is love and we know that love, agape, always seeks what is best for the loved one. (1 John 4:8) We also know that God is just in all his ways, not just some of them. (Deuteronomy 32:4) And the apostle Peter tells us that God is not partial, that his mercy extends to all men equally. (Acts 10:34) We all know this about our Heavenly Father, don’t we? He even gave us his own son. John 3:16. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)
“Everyone who believes in him…will have eternal life.” The condemnation interpretation of John 5:29 and Revelation 20:11-15 makes a mockery of those words since for it to work, the vast majority of humankind never get the chance to know and believe in Jesus. In fact, billions died even before Jesus was revealed. Is God playing word games with is? Before you sign up for salvation, folks, you should read the fine print.
I don’t think so. Now those that continue to support this theology will argue that no one can know the mind of God, and so arguments based on God’s character must be discounted as irrelevant. They will claim that they are merely going with what the Bible says.
We are made in the image of God and we are told to fashion ourselves after the image of Jesus Christ who is himself the exact representation of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3) God fashioned us with a conscience that can distinguish between what is just and what is unjust, between what is loving and what is hateful. Indeed, any doctrine that paints God in an unfavorable light must be false on its face.
Now, who in all creation would want us to view God unfavorably? Think about that.
Let us sum up what we have learned so far about the salvation of the human race.
We will start with Armageddon. The word is only mentioned once in the Bible at Revelation 16:16 but when we read the context, we find that the war is to be fought between Jesus Christ and the kings of the entire earth.
“They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:14, 16 NIV)
This coincides with the parallel prophecy given to us at Daniel 2:44.
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44 NIV)
The whole purpose of war, even the unjust wars that humans fight, is to eliminate the foreign rulership and replace it with your own. In this case, we have the first time when a truly just and righteous king will eliminate wicked rulers and establish a benign government that truly benefits the people. So it makes no sense to kill all the people. Jesus is only fighting against those who are fighting back against him and resisting him.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the only religion who believe that Jesus will kill everybody on earth who isn’t a member of their church. Yet there is no clear and unambiguous declaration in Scripture to support such an understanding. Some point to Jesus’ words about the days of Noah to support the idea of global genocide. (I say “genocide” because that refers to the unrighteous eradication of a race. When Jehovah killed everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah, it was not eternal destruction. They will return as the Bible says, so they were not eradicated – Matthew 10:15; 11:24 for proof.
Reading from Matthew:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:37-41 NIV)
For this to support the idea of what amounts to the virtual genocide of the human race, we have to accept the following assumptions:
- Jesus is referring to all humanity, and not just Christians.
- Everyone who died in the Flood will not be resurrected.
- Everyone who dies at Armageddon will not be resurrected.
- Jesus’ purpose here is to teach about who will live and who will die.
When I say assumptions, I mean something that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt either from the immediate text, or from elsewhere in Scripture.
I could just as easily give you my interpretation which is that Jesus is here focusing on the unforeseeable nature of his coming so that his disciples not grow lax in faith. Nevertheless, he knows some will. So, two male disciples could be working side by side (in the field) or two female disciples could be working side by side (grinding with a hand mill) and one will be taken to the Lord and one left behind. He is referring only to the salvation offered the children of God, and the need to stay awake. If you consider the surrounding text from Matthew 24:4 all the way through to the end of the chapter and even into the next chapter, the theme of staying awake is hammered on many, many times.
Now I could be wrong, but that’s the point. My interpretation is still plausible, and when we have more than one plausible interpretation of a passage, we have ambiguity and therefore cannot prove anything. The only thing that we can prove from this passage, the only unambiguous message, is that Jesus will come suddenly and unexpectedly and we need to keep our faith. To me, that is the message he is transmitting here and nothing more. There is not some hidden coded message about Armageddon.
In short, I believe Jesus will establish the kingdom by means of the war of Armageddon. He will eliminate all authority that stands in opposition to him, be it religious, political, commercial, tribal, or cultural. He will rule over the survivors of that war, and quite possibly resurrect those who died at Armageddon. Why not? Does the Bible say he can’t?
Every human will get the opportunity to know him and submit to his rule. The Bible speaks of him not only as a king but as a priest. The children of God also serve in a priestly capacity. That work will include the healing of the nations and the reconciliation of all humankind back into the family of God. (Revelation 22:2) Therefore, the love of God requires the resurrection of all humankind so that all can have the opportunity to know Jesus and put faith in God free of all impediments. No one will be held back by peer pressure, intimidation, threats of violence, family pressure, indoctrination, fear, physical handicaps, demonic influence, or any other thing that today works to keep the minds of people from “the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) People will be judged on the basis of a life course. Not only what they did before they died but what they will have done afterwards. No one who has done horrible things will be able to accept the Christ without repenting for all the sins of the past. For many humans the hardest thing they can do is to apologize sincerely, to repent. There are many who would rather die than say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Why is the Devil released to tempt humans after the thousand years have ended?
Hebrews tell us that Jesus learned obedience from the things he suffered and was made perfect. Likewise, his disciples have been perfected through the trials they have faced and are facing.
Jesus told Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31 NIV)
However, those who have been released from sin at the end of the thousand years will have faced no such refining tests. That is where Satan comes in. Many will fail and will end up becoming enemies of the kingdom. Those who survive that final test will be truly children of God.
Now, I admit that some of what I’ve said falls into the category of understanding that Paul describes as peering through a fog seeing by means of a metal mirror. I’m not trying to establish doctrine here. I’m just trying to arrive at the most likely conclusion based on Scriptural exegesis.
Nevertheless, while we may not always know exactly what something is, we can often know what it is not. That is the case with those who promote condemnation theology, such as the teaching Jehovah’s Witnesses promote that everyone is destroyed eternally at Armageddon, or the teaching which is popular in the rest of Christendom that everyone in the second resurrection will come back to life only to be destroyed by God and sent back to hell. (By the way, whenever I say Christendom, I mean all of Organized Christian religions which includes Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
We can discount post-millennial condemnation theory as false doctrine because for it to work we have to accept that God is unloving, uncaring, unjust, partial, and a sadist. The character of God makes believing such a doctrine unacceptable.
I hope that this analysis has been helpful. I look forward to your comments. Also, I would like to thank you for watching and, more than that, thank you for supporting this work.