Revelation 20:4

4 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.

Revelation 20:4 Meaning and Commentary

Revelation 20:4

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them
Besides the throne of God the Father, and the throne of glory, on which the Son of God sits, and the twelve thrones for the twelve apostles of the Lamb; there will be thrones set, or pitched, for all the saints, ( Daniel 7:9 ) who will sit on them, in the character of kings, and as conquerors, and shall sit quiet, and undisturbed, and be in perfect ease, and peace, for they that sit on them are the same persons hereafter described in this verse; for after the binding of Satan, an account is given of the happiness and glory of the saints during that time:

and judgment was given unto them;
that is, power, dominion, regal authority, possession of a kingdom, answerable to their character as kings, and to their position, sitting on thrones, ( Daniel 7:22 Daniel 7:27 ) unless it should be rather understood of justice being done them, which does not so manifestly take place in the present state of things, and of which they sometimes complain; but now righteous judgment will be given for them, and against their enemies; their persons will be openly declared righteous; their characters will be cleared of all false imputations fastened on them; and their works and sufferings for Christ will be taken notice of in a way of grace, and rewarded in a very glorious manner. And so it may respect their being judged themselves, but not their judging of others, the wicked, which is the sole work of Christ; nor will the wicked now be upon the spot to be judged; nor is that notion to be supported by (See Gill on Matthew 19:28), (See Gill on 1 Corinthians 6:2), (See Gill on 1 Corinthians 6:3). The Jews fancy that their chief men shall judge the world in the time to come; for so they say F23,

``in future time, (or in the world to come,) the holy blessed God will sit, and kings will place thrones for the great men of Israel, and they shall sit and judge the nations of the world with the holy blessed God:''

but the persons here meant are not Jews, but sufferers for the sake of Jesus, as follows:

and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of
Jesus, and for the word of God:
these, with the persons described in the next clause, are they who will sit on thrones, during the thousand years of Satan's being bound, and will have judgment given them; even such who have bore witness to the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the true Messiah, and the only Saviour of sinners, and to him as the essential Word of God, or to the written word of God, the whole Gospel, all the truths and doctrines of it; and who have been beheaded for bearing such a testimony, as John the Baptist was, the first of the witnesses of Jesus: and since this kind of punishment was a Roman one, it seems particularly to point at such persons who suffered under the Roman Pagan emperors, and to design the same souls said to be under the altar, and to cry for vengeance, ( Revelation 6:9 ) . This clause, in connection with the former, is differently rendered; the Syriac version renders it thus, "and judgment was given to them, and to the souls that were beheaded" the Arabic version, "and to them was given the judgment the souls killed" the Ethiopic version, "and then I saw a seat, and the son of man sat upon it, and he rendered to them judgment for the souls of them that were slain for the law of the Lord Jesus".

And which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither
had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands,
see ( Revelation 13:1 Revelation 13:4 Revelation 13:14-16 ) . This describes such who shall have made no profession of the Popish religion, nor have supported it in any way; who shall not have joined in the idolatry of the Romish antichrist, but shall have protested against it, and departed from it, and shall have adhered to Christ, and to the true worship of God; see ( Revelation 14:1 ) ( 15:2 ) . And so this, with the preceding character, includes all the saints that lived under Rome Pagan, and Rome Papal, to the destruction of antichrist, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom; not that these martyrs and confessors, or even all the saints of their times, are the only persons that shall share in the glory and happiness of the thousand years' reign of Christ, and binding of Satan; for all the saints will come with Christ, and all the dead in Christ will rise first, or be partakers of the first resurrection; and all that are redeemed by his blood, of whatsoever nation, or in whatsoever age of the world they have lived, even from the beginning of it, shall be kings and priests, and reign with him on earth, ( Zechariah 14:5 ) ( 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ) ( 1 Thessalonians 4:14 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ) ( Revelation 5:9 Revelation 5:10 ) though John only takes notice of these, because the design of this book, and of the visions shown to him, was only to give a prophetic history of the church, from his time, to the end of the world; and these particularly are observed to encourage the saints under sufferings for Christ:

and they lived;
meaning not spiritually, for so they did before, and while they bore their testimony to Christ, and against antichrist, and previous to their death; nor in their successors, for it would not be just and reasonable that they should be beheaded for their witness of Christ and his word, and others should live and reign with Christ in their room and stead; nor is this to be understood of their living in their souls, for so they live in their separate state; the soul never dies; God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: but the sense is, that they lived again, as in ( Revelation 20:5 ) they lived corporeally; their souls lived in their bodies, their bodies being raised again, and reunited to their souls, their whole persons lived; or the souls of them that were beheaded lived; that is, their bodies lived again, the soul being sometimes put for the body, ( Psalms 16:10 ) and this is called the first resurrection in the next verse:

and reigned with Christ a thousand years;
as all that suffer with him will, and as all that will live godly must, and do, ( 2 Timothy 2:12 ) ( 2 Timothy 3:12 ) . Christ being descended from heaven, and having bound Satan, and the dead saints being raised, and the living ones changed, he will reign among them personally, visibly, and gloriously, and in the fullest manner; all the antichristian powers will be destroyed; Satan will be in close confinement; death, with respect to Christ and his people, will be no more; the heavens and the earth will be made new, and all things will be subject to him; and all his saints will be with him, and they shall reign with him; they shall be glorified together; they shall sit on the throne with him, have a crown of righteousness given them, and possess the kingdom appointed for them; they will reign over all their enemies; Satan will be bruised under their feet, being bound; the wicked will be shut up in hell, and neither will be able to give them any disturbance; and sin and death will be no more: this reign will not be in a sensual and carnal way, or lie in possessing worldly riches and honours, in eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage; the saints will not be in a mortal, but in an immortal state; the children of this resurrection will be like the angels; and this reign will be on earth, ( Revelation 5:10 ) the present earth will be burnt up, and a new one formed, in which these righteous persons will dwell, ( 2 Peter 3:13 ) of which (See Gill on Revelation 21:1) and it will last a thousand years; not distinct from, but the same with the thousand years in which Satan will be bound; for if they were distinct from them, and should commence when they are ended, the reign of Christ with his saints would be when Satan is loosed, which is utterly inconsistent with it. The Syriac version very rightly renders it, these thousand years, referring to those of Satan's binding. Nor are these thousand years to be understood prophetically, for as many years as there are days in a thousand years; for as this would defer the judgment of the wicked, and the ultimate glory of the saints, to a prodigious length of time, so it should be observed, that prophetic time will now be no longer, according to the angel's oath in ( Revelation 10:6 ) but these are to be understood literally and definitely, as before, of just such an exact number and term of years; see ( 2 Peter 3:8 ) this is a perfect number, and is expressive of the perfection of this state, and is a term of years that neither Adam, nor any of his sons, arrived unto; but Christ the second Adam shall see his seed, and shall prolong his days longer than any of them, ( Isaiah 53:10 ) . It is an observation of the Jewish Rabbins F24, that the day in ( Genesis 2:17 ) is the day of the holy blessed God (i.e. a thousand years), and therefore the first Adam did not perfect, or fill up his day, for there wanted seventy years of it: and it is a notion that prevails with them, that the days of the Messiah will be a thousand years F25; and so they will be at his second coming, but not at his first, which they vainly expect, it being past: and also they say F26, that in these thousand years God will renew his world, and that then the righteous will be raised, and no more return to dust; which agrees with John's new heaven and new earth during this state, and with the first resurrection: and so Jerom, who was conversant with the Rabbins, says F1 that the Jews expect a thousand years' reign.


F23 Yalkut Simconi, par. 2. fol. 41. 4.
F24 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 5. fol. 185. 4. vid. Jacchiad. in Dan. vii. 25.
F25 Midrash Tillim, fol. 4. 2.
F26 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1, 2. & Gloss. in ib. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 42. 1. & 49. 3. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 150. 2.
F1 Comment. in Zach. xiv. 16, 18.

Revelation 20:4 In-Context

2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 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.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 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 King James Version is in the public domain.