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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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DIGRESSION 9: The Seven Final Visions Of Revelation

One of the keys to understanding Revelation is to realize that it is structured as a series of visions based around the number seven. It must also be understood that as with many Old Testament prophecies, the book of Revelation is not strictly chronological in its fulfilment. Sometimes we read something which is actually the final picture, and then we read how this situation came about. At other times, we find a series of visions give us as it were 'snapshots' of different aspects of the same process. The seven final visions are introduced by the rubric "And I saw...". It is my suggestion that they each show different aspects of the process of setting up the Kingdom. All references are to Revelation unless otherwise stated.

Overview: The thoughtful student of the final chapters of Revelation will realize that there are difficulties in 'fitting in' our usual view of the Millenium with the information presented there. The suggestion is made in these notes that the "thousand years" simply means 'a very long time', and refers to eternity. This solves the problem that a rebellion at the end of the 'Millennium' would contradict Is. 9:7; 60:18; Jer. 3:17 and other passages which teach that "they shall learn war no more" after the Kingdom is established. The wrath of God is finished when the seven last plagues are poured out (Rev. 15:1 RV), at the Lord's return, i.e. at the beginning of the 'Millennium'. At the coming of Christ, the powers represented by the dragon and beast are defeated and chained up. The dead are raised and judged. The rejected join the dragon in the 'bottomless pit', an area on the borders of the land of promise, i.e. the initial geographical extent of the Kingdom.  Here they are restrained, but once the Kingdom is established, perhaps after a period of 7 years or so, they 'attack' the land of Israel, where the Kingdom of God has been established. They are then destroyed. The Kingdom then continues eternally. The descriptions of a judgment seat in these final chapters are all related to the same judgment seat, i.e. that when Christ returns. The OT prophecies of a 'Millenium' with mortal people in it either apply to the setting up period of the Kingdom, or they are to be read in a more figurative way.

First Vision: 19:11-16

19:11 Christ goes out to make war, the Beast and his armies go out to make war against Him (v.19)- head on conflict.

19:12 Cp. our name in the Kingdom; no-one can enter into Christ's sense of resurrection and reward; there will always be an unreachable, untouchable element in him throughout eternity. Surely this makes our relationship with Him the more appealing.

Second Vision: 19:17,18

19:17 birds of prey gathered together = Ez. 39:17-20; therefore Gog / Magog = Beast and false prophet (19:19). This = 14:18-20, which is Joel 3:13. Therefore Joel 3 and Ez. 38/39 are parallel.

Third Vision: 19:19-21

19:19 This is war with Christ- therefore Ez. 38/9 = after Christ's return- the Psalm 2 scenario. He is already crowned, 19:12.

19:19 The beast, the kings of the earth and their armies 'gather together' to fight against Christ. This is the gathering of 16:13,14; they are gathered together by the power of the false miracles. Thus v. 20 mentions how "the false prophet that wrought miracles before [the beast]" is captured with the beast- the scene of 16:14.

19:20 "that wrought miracles"; the connections between Revelation and John's Gospel tke us back to the miracles of Christ, for which John uses the same phrase (Jn. 2:11,18; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2,14,30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18,37; 20:30. Thus the false prophet is an anti-Christ,a fake Christ with fake power and fake validation.

19:20 Destruction of the beast by fire = Dan. 7:11; Is. 30:30,33 (who is "the king"?). The beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. This is the lake of 20:14,15; 21:8- where the unworthy saints are thrown. Thus the punishment of the rejected and that of the world is the same; and therefore there must be a separation now, lest we be "condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:).  "Burning with brimstone" / sulphur recalls Sodom- where the unworthy believers shared the same fate as the 'world' around them. Lot's wife was turned into salt, as was the surrounding country (Lk. 17:29).

"The lake of fire" will be in the presence of Christ (14:10)- not underground. "Cast alive" suggests torture; cp. 14:10 "tormented". Others are simply killed outright by Christ's word of command (20:21). This would suggest that even among the unresponsible there are degrees of punishment.

Casting into a pit and fire as punishment cp. Babylon's persecution of Daniel and his friends.

Fourth Vision: 20:1-3

20:2 Satan is bound. Surely 'satan' here is the political forces of the dragon, not abstract sinfulness. Satan in the sense of the power of the flesh was bound by the Lord during his life and death (Mt. 12:29). However, it may be that the Lord's binding of satan was only for believers; he still has the power to bind (Lk. 13:16).

Bound 1000 years- i.e. for ever? Note the difference between binding and sealing.

20:3 The pit is s.w. Lk. 8:31,33, where the demons ask Christ not to send them into the abyss; the parallel record says that they asked not to be sent out of the land of Israel (Mk. 5:10). Also Rom. 10:7 uses the abyss as a term for the lands beyond Israel (it is referring to Dt. 30:13). The beast that comes out of the abyss comes out of the sea (11:7; 13:1). It seems that the geographical area outside Israel from where the beast comes (i.e. the Arab world?) is where it is returned to for punishment.

Loosed a little season once eternity (the "1000 years") is established. "Fulfilled" = s.w. accomplish; to establish, build up (Lk. 22:37; Gal. 5:16; James 2:8; LXX: Ruth 3:18; Is. 55:11; Dan. 4:30). The little season cp. 6:11- the time of persecution just before the Lord's return. Do the forces of evil try to persecute the saints by repeating their behaviour during the holocaust period which lead up to the Lord's return? If that lasted 3˝ years, will their rebellion last a similar 3˝ years? Both periods are described as "a little season".

Fifth Vision: 20:4-10

20:4 "Them that were beheaded". Death by beheading was only for Roman citizens; is this reference a special recognition of the sacrifice of those who could have had much in life, but gave it up for the sake of God's Truth?

Saints sitting on thrones = Dan. 7:22; the throne of the beast is cast down, and judgment given to the faithful.

"The word of God" = the preaching of the word; the word is designed by its very nature to be preached.

20:5 "But the rest"- those not among  the righteous, v.4.

"Lived not again (no, not even when) the thousand years were established". For other examples of this idiom see 2 Sam. 6:23; Dt. 23:3 cp. Neh. 13:1. Who are the "rest of the dead"? The wicked responsible, raised to judgment along with the righteous? The rest of humanity?

"The first resurrection" doesn't have to imply that there is a second one chronologcially. Jn. 5:29 says there are two resurrections; the first, to life, and the second to death. The second death is this second resurrection to death.

20:8 Gog and Magog. The similarities with Ez. 38/9 are so strong; an invasion of God's land when His people are in "peace and safety" (a phrase elsewhere used about the Kingdom), destruction by fire. According to the usual view of Rev. 20, this similarity means absolutely nothing. This cannot be correct exposition. There must be a connection; surely this must refer to the same invasion?

20:8 "Shall go out"- implying the bottomless pit is a geographical area?

Satan deceives the "nations"; but 21:1 says that when the Kingdom is established, there will be no more sea, no more nations. Therefore this must be appropriate to the beginning of the Kingdom. During the setting up period, the nations come up to worship Christ, as often prophesied in the OT;  however, they are described as entering into the city (21:24-27), i.e. attaining immortality through their faith and obedience.

The dragon "will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth/ land" (RSV). The Gog / Magog invasion comes from those dwelling in the "isles" (Ez. 39:6); but this Greek phrase often means Gentile areas on the borders of the land (Is. 41:5; Jer. 47:4; and "the isles" in Ezekiel refer to Arab lands bordering the land of promise). Abraham was from the sides of the land of Israel (Is. 41:8,9), the margins of the land of promise- from where the final Arab invasion will come.

There is triple emphasis on his deception (vv. 3,8,10). He continues the work of the false prophet, after the false prophet is put into the lake of fire. The dragon carries on his work; the false prophet is Babylon (19:20), who also deceived (18:23). The bottomless pit, where the rebellion comes from, is therefore at the borders of the land. The Kingdom of God is fundamentally based upon the land of Israel. They are gathered to "the battle" (RV)- the final battle which the OT prophets so often mention.

The dragon was a deceiver back in 12:9, and still is, as Jezebel in the early church deceived (2:20). The dragon of chapter 12 is cast down at Christ's return; the description of the dragon being cast into the pit is an amplification of this. When the dragon is thrown down in chapter 12, he persecutes those of the land (natural Israel?) and the sea (the nations?) for "a short time" (12:12)- the "little season" of 20:3? The dragon is cast out of heaven in 12:9- meaning that he is thrown out of the 'heavens' of the land of Israel (or the temple specifically), into the earth / world. 

Rev. 12

Rev. 20


The dragon persecutes the woman for 3˝ years


The holocaust before Christ's coming

Thrown out of the temple / land of Israel (heaven) to the earth / rest of the world

Dragon cast to the abyss

Christ comes to throw the man of sin out of his place in 'heaven' (2 Thess. 2)

There for a while until he realizes he has a short time


Setting up of the Kingdom

Makes war with the saints for another 3˝ years, replicating the holocaust, also involving suffering for the sea (nations) and the land-dwellers (natural Israel?)

Makes war with the saints; aims for Jerusalem.

Rebellion; the invasion of Ez. 38 and maybe Joel 3; the desire for the temple in Joel 3 would then be another similarity between the rebellion and the invasion prior to Christ's return.


Destroyed by fire

The Ez. 38/39 invasion is destroyed in two stages; five sixths are destroyed first, then the final sixth- by fire.

20:9 They compass Jerusalem- s.w. Lk. 21:20. As they did during the invasion of the land prior to Christ's coming, so they will do in this re-enactment of it.

The rejected saints and defeated Arab armies will make the rebellion of 20:9. This will connect with the rebellion of Korah and his company of rejects against the encamoment of God and His faithful people- which was also destroyed by fire. The lake of fire / bottomless pit / second death all seem to be parallel.

20:10 The dragon is in the abyss and deceives the nations which are there. The devil will deceive during the rebellion as it did in the period of the holocaust before the Lord's return (12:9; 13:14; 18;23; 19:20).

The devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet already are. This suggests that their punishment lasts until the Kingdom is established, and until the "little season" of the rebellion is finished. Thus it would seem that the punishment of the wicked and rebels is to exist for some time into the Kingdom age. A number of passages tend to agree with this. The righteous will go forth from the borders of the promised land and look at their carcases (Is. 66). The rejected saints go to the same place (20:15), condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11).

20:13 The sea giving up the dead doesn't refer to dead bodies floating upwards; sea = nations (17:5), which won't exist after the Kingdom is established (21:1); therefore this refers to the judgment at Christ's return.

Is the bottomless pit to be equated with the lake of fire? A place of punishment? The rebels are punished and then those who survive (i.e. those deserving more punishment) are sent back to this area, where they are punished for a long time, day and night for ever (20:10). But there will be no day and night as such in the Kingdom (21:25; 22:5). Therefore we must take this description of their punishment figuratively.

Sixth Vision: 20:11-15

20:11 is amplified / repeated in 21:1. This is about the judgment at the second coming, not the end of the 'Millennium'. Earth and heaven flee away (cp. 6:14)- the old human system. "There was no place found for them" = Dan. 2:35 re. the human system beign destroyed at Christ's second coming, not the end of the 'Millennium'. This is surely the new heaven and earth of 21:1; that of Is. 65:17 and 2 Pet. 3:13, which will be established at Christ's return. The opening of the books  (20:12) = Dan. 7:10; 12:1, which concern the start of the 'Millennium'.

20:14 The destruction of death = the second death, which occurs at the judgment (21:8), when Christ comes. The second death can't happen twice, at the  start and end of the Millennium. Death, sorrow etc. (21:4) are destroyed for us, the believers; this is believer-centric language. Likewise "men" in 21:3 = the believers, not all human beings then alive (some will still be enduring punishment).

Seventh Vision: 21:1-8

21:1-8 connects with Is. 65, concerning the establishment of the Kingdom, not after the Millennium.

21:1 No more sea, i.e. nations, 17:15

21:1 Heaven and earth pass away, the former (Gk. proton) things pass, v.4- the things that were once first place now pass.

21:2 "The bride" is married at the marriage supper (19:7-9)- not at the end of the Millennium. Therefore this is about the setting up of the Kingdom at Christ's return.

21:3 "The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (21:3) = Ez. 37:26,27, concerning the time of Christ's return. If God lives with us at Christ's return, how will He be shielded from the 'mortal' population? This problem dissapears if the 1000 years is seen as a description of the Kingdom itself.

21:3 = fulfilment of Gen. 17:3.

21:4 wiping away tears s.w. Acts 3:19 sin blotted out at Christ's return. Tears = for our sins (sorrow = sin in Is. 53).

Will we have an emotional breakdown straight after the judgment?

21:6 Invitation to mortals to drink fountain of water of (eternal) life freely, as the river in chapter 22, implies the mortals will be progressively granted immortality during the setting up period. 21:24 Gk. speaks of the nations of those who are being saved. We, now, take the water of life (22:17; Jn. 4:14; Mt. 10:8). The mortals will replicate then our experience now. Therefore we can preach to them from our personal experience and they can follow our pattern of redemption.

Christ will give the water of life freely then to the mortals- as he did in his mortality. It's the same Jesus, with no fundamental change. Freely we received, freely give- not a reference to not charging for the Gospel, but a command to reflect the gracious enthusiasm for our salvation which we have received from the Lord.

21:8 These people are the responsbile of 20:15, those of 22:15 who are placed (Geographically?) outside the encampment of the people of God.

The fearful- s.w. only Mt. 8:26; Mk. 4:40 re. disciples. We either have faith or no faith; there's no third road. "I believe, help thou mine unbelief" was counted as faith. On the other hand, "O ye of little faith. How is it that ye have no faith?".

The unbelieving- s.w. re. the disciples (Mt. 17:17; Jn. 20:27; Tit. 1:15).

"Liars"- only s.w. elsewhere in Rev. re. believers (2:2).

"Abominable, murderers, whoremongers (s.w. re. believers in 1 Cor. 5:9,11; Heb. 12:16; 13:4), sorcerers, idolaters, liars". These are the refjected saints. It means that in essence this is how God sees some in the ecclesias. Or does it show that far more people than we expect will be classed as responsible to judgment?

This overall sequence of judgment on the kings of the earth, gathering them into a pit, shutting them up, then their revival and final destruction and then the unchallenged, eternal reign of Christ is the same sequence as in Is. 24:20-23. Very significantly, Psalm 2 has a similar picture, of Christ ruling amidst his enemies, "the kings of the earth" (cp. Rev. 19:19), who then decide to cast away the cords with which Christ has bound them (Ps. 2:3). This is exactly the scene of Rev. 20; the enchained remnants of the first invasion, along with the rejected saints, being loosed from their chains and surrounding Jerusalem. Interestingly, Psalm 2 describes them throwing off their chains, whilst Rev. 20 says that their chains of condemnation are loosed. Presumably this means that they try a rebellion against the Lord Jesus which he 'lets' succeed. The language of Rev. 19:15-18 combines allusions to both Psalm 2 and also Ezekiel 38- as if to imply that they both prophecy of the same invasion, i.e. that after Christ has returned.

We can construct a possible timeline of events from the evidence here presented:

Arab invasion; 3˝ year domination of Israel? Temple desecrated?

Christ comes

Invaders destroyed and punished, some immediately, others by being placed outside the confines of the land of promise, i.e. the Kingdom. The rejected 'saints' also go there. They are 'chained', i.e. kept out of the territory which comprises the Kingdom. They rebel against this.

During this period of 'chaining' and punishment, the Kingdom is established.

Their invasion aims for the temple (Joel 3; Ez. 38) . It replicates the earlier invasion, prior to Christ's return. He is King in Zion (Psalm 2). The rebellion lasts a short time- maybe 3˝ years?

It is destroyed by fire (Ez. 39).

As with the first invasion, some are destroyed immediately, others are punished in a certain geographical area on the borders of the Kingdom, for a very long time.