Coming to the second reality of this last age of the old world we find that it will be a place of justice and life. First, consider the justice of this age. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” John saw thrones and he saw a people sitting on those thrones in a place of judgment. Who are these people? Paul said this to the New Testament church, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world…? Know ye not that we shall judge angels…” (I Cor. 6:2, 3)? And Christ Himself said to the 12 apostles, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28, the promise to the apostles was to be judges over Israel, it is assumed that the rest of the saints will be judges elsewhere). So, we know that the church will reign and we know the apostles will reign. We have a future of ruling with Christ. Daniel agreed to this truth: “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Dan. 7:21, 22). All saints shall reign with Him; all that have been justified and sanctified shall also be glorified. There is a great turn of the tables. The saints who were persecuted by the world are now judges of the world. This is the fulfillment of the promise to those that overcome: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21). The millennium will be a return to a time of the judges, as indicted by the word judgment, where the saints will judge the nations directly under the authority of God. And so shall we sit upon those thrones. The Muslim world speaks of sharia, a law that comes from their false god through their false teachers that governs all of life. This is the just parallel to that idea. We will be as Moses to the people (Ex. 18:13). We will judge their matters. We will teach them the word of God and will of God in all matters. The world rejected Christ and His word. They would not have Him rule over them and now comes the time that they will hear the word of God and we will be their teachers. No more will they close their ears. The promise of the great commission shall finds its greatest fulfillment as we teach all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Mic. 4:1-3).This is that great day and we will play our part therein.
We see the reward of all saints but there appears to be a special reward for the martyrs. There will be many martyrs in the 70th week of Daniel. The beast has made war with the saints and has worn them out. We get some insight on how they will be disposed of during this time. They will be beheaded. Long before there was a guillotine John saw these mass murderers occurring on the scale of Jacobian Revolution. Like many Christians both past and present they will follow Christ at the price of their own lives. The souls under the altar in the sixth chapter waited for the death of their brethren that would join them in the same martyred fate. These are their brethren. The reason for their death will be two-fold they die for the witness of Christ and for the word of God. That is the truth of all who live for Christ. It was the reason why John suffered at Patmos (Rev. 1:9). It was for this reason that the dragon made war against them (Rev. 12:17). The day has come for the souls that suffered to be rewarded (Rev. 6:9). The promise that God revealed to Paul finds its end here: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (II Tim. 2:12). Again, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:17, 18). They lived. Those that believe in Christ shall never die. They lived and reigned. They not only lived but the ascended to great heights. They lived and reigned with Christ, as part of His bride so shall they ever be with the Lord. They shall be so for 1,000 years. The martyrs especially will have pre-imminence in that time. The millennial reign of Christ is not just the final test of the wicked as seen above but is the overt reward of the righteous before the wicked world. It is there in that time that the difference between the ends of righteousness and wickedness will be known by all.
This will indeed be a world of perfect justice and it will be a world of life: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” The life that will be prominent will be resurrection life. The martyrs lived but the rest of the dead had to wait till the time in which the millennial reign of Christ is over. The resurrection assumes here all in the fourth verse. It assumes all of the bride as they that sit on the thrones as well as all that were beheaded. They all live with Christ while the rest of the dead waited in hell and their bodies in the grave. Now is the time to speak of the resurrection. Job once asked the question: “If a man die, shall he live again?” and he answered his own question in the affirmation of faith: “all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14). Again, Job, whose book is the oldest of our Scriptures, affirmed his faith on this point. “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” (Job 19:26). Such is the resurrection life that awaits some. Not all are included in this resurrection but our text says “the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” There will be many that will not share in this resurrection life. Some will enter into the millennium by virtue of the simple fact that God in His mercy allowed them to survive the 70th week of Daniel. They are blessed in that they will see that time of peace but they are not finally glorified (Dan.12:12). There are others whose bodies will remain in the grave and their souls in hell until the time of their final judgment. For purposes of this study we must call that the second resurrection. As Daniel said in the terms of this second order, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). This is the fate of the rest of “the dead” (Eph. 2:1). We will yet speak of that reality at the end of this chapter. There is indeed coming a time in which all that are in the grave shall hear the voice of Christ who has the keys of hell and death and “shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). The last shall be first and the first shall be last. This is the order of resurrection. The last resurrection belongs to those that will be raised unto damnation but the first resurrection of our text belongs to the bride, the people of God. It is this first resurrection that Daniel spoke about that would occur (or at least will be seen) after the tribulation of those days: “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life…” (Dan. 12:2). We wait for that day in which we will awake. The psalmist beautifully described our longing for that day, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15). We know there will be a time in which Jacob’s trouble will be over and when that happens this life from the dead shall be realized (Rom. 11:15). To this end the pattern of Christ at His resurrection consumes us. He is the resurrection and life and it is only by believing in Him that we never die (John 11:25). He was the firstfruits of those that sleep (I Cor. 15:20). The firstfruits meant that the rest of the harvest is coming (Matt. 13:30 – We as part of the first resurrection are part of that same harvest as Him of which He was and is the firstfruits). When He rose from the grave He rose to die no more (Rom. 6:9). That is the pattern by which we will live. Because He lives we shall also live (John 14:19). “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21). John agreed with Paul as to this matter, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). One day we will lay the seed of this body into the ground in death but it will raise into immortality and incorruption. This very body will be changed one day to be like our Lord in His glory. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body…. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:42-44, 50-55). How glorious indeed shall be this first resurrection! It is indeed the better resurrection (Heb. 11:35).
The first resurrection is one of eternal blessedness. This is one of the greatest beatitudes of all: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” We are not only blessed, singled out by the God and set apart for happiness, but we are holy as well. We are blessed and partakers of the holiness of God. There is no greater blessedness than that. All of the dead shall live again, we should strive to be a part of this first resurrection. The first resurrection here stands in distinction to the second death. If you are not in Christ the second death will have everlasting power over you. But the promise to the overcomer is that they shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11). They shall never die (John 11:26). They shall never perish (John 10:28). If we have Christ this is the blessedness which we have. Instead of the second death we shall be priests of God and of Christ (making Christ equal to God the Father and therefore God Himself). We are priest who approach unto God and stand between God and the people of this world. And we shall be kings unto on this earth by reigning with Him for 1,000 years. Thus the promise is fulfilled to all believers of making us a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6, Rev. 1:6, 5:10).