Christ the King (Revelation 1:4-8)
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Have you seen that before? Look at all the Kingdom language. Yes, John is writing to a specific audience, but what he chooses to anchor into means everything. Christ as King. John is putting a prophetic capstone on a coming judgment that will be like nothing that has ever been seen, and the one thing he wants his readers to know is Jesus as King.
Not a would-be or will-be king. Jesus Christ is King now and for all eternity.
“Christ is right now seated at the right hand of God as King eternal. Christ will not come back to be King, He will come back as King.”
But wait… I thought Jesus comes back to be King for 1000 years, and that hasn’t started yet?
“What about Revelation 20?”
I want to be purposefully cautious here because of the tension such questions create. I have dear and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ who will not agree with what I’m going to say about Revelation 20, but my hope is that they will appreciate the approach toward answering this question.
If scripture interprets scripture, you do not get four verses into the book of Revelation before you have to wrestle with Revelation 20. When it comes to eschatology or the study of last things, this question of Revelation 20 always comes up, and it has to be addressed through a consistent and biblical lens.
This is a question that attempts to be the end of certain theological wrestlings as if this were the cheat code that makes one invincible to any further thoughtfulness on how we are seeing certain aspects of Christ and His kingdom. Revelation 20 is more of a linchpin for certain beliefs in last things, but this linchpin works like any other linchpin. We’re counting on this linchpin to hold everything together because if it fails, everything’s coming unraveled. I think that’s why there’s a great deal of tension surrounding this chapter, and I completely understand that. It has been my experience that when this question is finally posed, it isn’t being used as the invincible argument that it thinks it is, rather, it’s being grasped as a last hope of all that seems precious to how a person has seen Christ and His kingdom.
Is John expecting us to see this reign as 1000 literal years?
Hermeneutics, or simply how we interpret the bible, always allow scripture to interpret scripture and should be very cautious of beliefs held that are hanging on the thread of one verse. When I’m asked about Revelation 20, I generally restate what a person is saying in a way that makes them wrestle with what they are actually saying,
“so what you’re saying is that Christ must reign for 1000 literal years?” So, something like, from 2:30:37pm March 30th in the year 2050 until 2:30:36pm in the year 3050?
With a literal interpretation of this text, your only response to this question is “yes.” I then ask, Can you give me all the other scriptures where it is said that Christ will reign for 1000 literal years. I generally interrupt the long awkward pause with, “Guess what? There aren’t anymore.”
There are no other texts in the whole of scripture that speak to a specific 1000 year reign of Christ like we assume Revelation 20 does. NOT ONE. I don’t know about you, but I, along with a great deal of reliable contemporary and historic scholars, pastors, and theologians, cannot reconcile that with how I see the rest of scripture functioning.
Listen very intently here: Believe 1000 literal years if you like, but let the weight of that belief be real. Understand that you are staking everything on one chapter, anchored by one verse that is not repeated or upheld by ANY other passage in ALL of the rest of scripture, within the most symbolic book in all of the scriptures.
So are there any others scriptures that speak to the length of His reign? Of course, there are, and they all speak to his eternal reign.
6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Okay, so what is Christ said to be doing during His reign? Putting His enemies under his foot, rule or authority.
Daniel Understood what Isaiah meant:
44 In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
Gabriel and Mary understood:
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
The people knew it:
34 The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
John knew it:
6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”
The author of Hebrews knew it:
8 But of the Son He says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.
Peter knew it:
2 Peter 1:11
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
We serve a real King, on a real throne, exercising a real authority over a real world in real time.
This and this alone will bring us the comfort, joy, and peace we long for and were designed for.
Let’s subject this to the standard set above. Does scripture anywhere else speak of “1000” in this way?
Yep, and in a similar context, not one of them is literal:
6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
God’s love does not end with the 1001st.
11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand-fold more than you are and bless you, just as He has promised you!
His blessing doesn’t end at the 1001st.
10 “For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
His ownership doesn’t end with the 1001st.
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
The 1001st day is suddenly better.
2 Peter 3:8
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
This doesn’t mean that 1 day = 1000 years.
6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
This means that Christ’s reign began with His father seating him at his right hand after His obedience on the cross and unseating the ruler of this world off of his throne, and of the increase of His rule and authority there will be no end, only increase.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Life was going to become very difficult for the young church in the 1st century, so John knew they needed the King as He was, not as they imagined Him to be. Life is often very difficult for us today. The encouragement John gives is timeless. There is pain in life, but pleasure in our victorius King. Let him have his victory!
Life hurts, but Christ is King. Cherish it as it ought to be today…