Theme: Those who faithfully suffer for Jesus now will reign with
Him in the
(Delivered at Bethany
Bible Church on Sunday, August 13, 2000. All scripture quotes,
unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses, and all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
We're all familiar with that nursery rhyme. But did you know that
it has actually been the subject of some serious philosophic debate?
Some believe that this rhyme was meant to be a parable of political
philosophy -- one that teaches the principle that, try as they may,
the leaders of this world can't restore a kingdom to a place of
former prominence once that kingdom falls from power.
For example, one interpretation of the nursery rhyme is that it's
a reference to the Roman Empire. Throughout the centuries since
its "great fall", many kings and leaders have sought to
revive this great world empire and restore it to its former glory.
But in spite of all their efforts, no ruler or nation has ever been
successful in "putting it back together again".
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that "Humpty Dumpty"
is a derisive reference to King Richard III, the hunch-backed king.
("Humpty Dumpty" was a slang phrase, in those days, for
a short, clumsy person.) During the Battle of Bosworth Field, as
the theory has it, King Richard was riding on the stallion he had
named "Wall" when he suffered an injurious fall from his
horse. This "great fall" couldn't have happened at a
worse time; because immediately, Richard was surrounded by enemy
troops and was hacked into pieces. Hence the final part of the
rhyme takes on a grisly meaning: "All the king's horses and
all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again!"
Another, rather sobering interpretation is that the nursery rhyme
is a subtile reference to King Charles I -- the English king who,
in the 17th century, had the infamous distinction of being beheaded
by Parliament. His son was later placed on the throne by those who
were faithful to the monarchy; but thing just weren't the same anymore.
This is all very interesting; but of course, in the end, it might
be that the nursery rhyme isn't anything more than just that --
a nursery rhyme. It's fun to speculate about, anyway. Nevertheless,
the principle certainly seems to hold true: the great kingdoms of
men, once fallen, cannot be put back together again. Even the greatest
kingdoms of mankind are, at best, temporal and very frail. Try
as men may, they can't turn back the clock and restore a fallen
kingdom to its former glory.
There is one future kingdom, however, that will prove to be somewhat
like the Humpty Dumpty story -- only set in reverse. In this case,
all the kings horses and all the kings men will, one day, collect
together to smash this future kingdom off its "wall" of
prominence and break it irreparably into pieces. And yet, the collected
kings and mighty men of this world will utterly fail in their attempt
to do so.
The Bible tells us that one day, Jesus Christ will return bodily
to the earth in power and great glory -- riding on a white horse,
and followed by the armies of heaven -- to assume His rightful place
on it as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16).
And yet, the Bible also tells us that the devil will inspire his
hand-picked world-ruler -- the Antichrist, along with his false
prophet -- into deceiving the whole world, and conspiring the armies
of the nations together to overthrow King Jesus before His earthly
rule can begin. In Revelation 19:17-21, the apostle John tells
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with
a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of
heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great
God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains,
the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who
sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both
small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the
earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against
Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast
was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs
in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark
of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were
cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the
rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth
of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with
their flesh (Rev. 19:17-21).
What a grotesque scene! This time, there's a new twist to the
'Humpty Dumpty' script: it's all the kings of the world, and all
their horses, that can't be put back together again! Following this,
John tells us;
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key
to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid
hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and
Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into
the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so
that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years
were finished. But after these things he must be released for
a little while (Rev. 20:1-3).
And that's when we read of the great kingdom that Jesus Christ
Himself will put together -- a kingdom that the kings and mighty
men of the ungodly system of this world will seek to make "fall",
but that will nevertheless remain standing for a thousand years;
a kingdom that no one will ever be able to break apart. John writes;
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was
committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been
beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who
had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received
his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived
and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of
the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who
has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death
has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ,
and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6).
* * * * * * * * * *
Yesterday, I was leaving a restaurant after enjoying breakfast
with another brother; and we had our Bibles tucked under our arms.
(If you want to be encouraged by how many brothers and sisters you
have in Christ, by the way, I recommend that you go out to a restaurant
on Saturday morning with your Bible. You'll be encouraged to see
lots of folks doing the same thing. I always enjoy it when someone
I don't know greets me by smiling and pointing to his or her Bible.)
As my friend and I were walking out of the restaurant, I walked
past one man standing in line who tapped my Bible and said, "Good
book! I especially like the ending!" I said, "I do too!
We win in the end!"
That's what is so great about the passage before us this morning!
It's a declaration that Jesus wins in the end; and that we who love
Him and follow Him will gloriously win with Him!
When you think about it, this passage is remarkable, in part, because
of what it doesn't tell us. The Bible tells us much in other places
about what Jesus' earthly reign will be like when He comes back.
We can read many prophecies about it -- particularly in the Old
Testament. But these three precious verses constitute the only clear
description we have in the entire Book of Revelation of the greatest
Kingdom earth will ever see. Even thought it may not tell us all
that we'd like to know about that future period of time, it does
tell us what God wants us to know about it. He tells us the things
He tells us in it in order to encourage us that those who share
faithfully in His sufferings with Him will also reign with Him in
This vision of the future reign of Jesus is revealed to the apostle
John immediately after a long description of the future suffering
of God's people. This period of suffering, often called the Great
Tribulation, is described as a future event -- unprecedented in
its intensity. John described something of their suffering in Chapter
13. He writes about how the devil's world-ruler -- described as
"the beast" -- would, for a short period of time, be granted
the ability "to make war with the saints and to overcome them"
(13:7). We're told that this "beast" will appear to suffer
a fatal wound of some kind; but that the devil will deceive the
world by making it appear as if this world-ruler had been raised
from the dead. John says that "All who dwell on the earth will
worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life
of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (v. 8).
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he
had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises
all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes
the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast,
whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that
he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight
of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those
signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling
those who dwell on the earth to make an image of the beast, that
the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as
would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes
all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive
a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no
one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of
the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:11-17).
Many who will follow Jesus Christ, and who will refuse to worship
the beast and his image and take his mark on their hands or forehead,
will be murdered. John tells us of their outcry in heaven: "How
long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood
on those who dwell on the earth?" And John says;
Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said
to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both
the number of their fellow servants and their brethren,who would
be killed as they were, was completed (Rev. 6:11).
Believers will suffer terribly under the devil's greatest effort
to establish his own kingdom on the earth. But on the other side
of their suffering is the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The persecution
is terrible; but they win in the end! They suffer for Jesus for
a while; but afterwards, they reign gloriously with Him for a thousand
* * * * * * * * * *
Right now -- even as we speak -- the subjects of Jesus' glorious
future kingdom suffer in this world because of their love for and
devotion to Him. They must go against the grain of this world.
They have to say no to the things this world demands they say yes
too; and they have to say yes to values and commitments that the
world demands they say no to. Jesus' followers are the targets
of this world's ridicule, and abuse, and hostility. And in some
places in the world, the suffering of our brothers and sisters in
Christ is almost indescribable.
And yet, Jesus told us, "In the world you will have tribulation;
but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
That's a promise that, in Him, we will win in the end.
Do you ever feel the pain of that suffering? Do you feel as if
your faith in Jesus Christ cost you too dearly? Do you feel the
rejection of old friends and relatives because you've decided to
follow Jesus? Do you ever find yourself wondering whether or not
it's all worth it?
We should be encouraged by this passage that it's wonderfully "worth
it" to remain faithful, and keep on to the very end -- no matter
what the cost. In the end, Jesus will be victorious. We really
do 'win in the end'! This passage describes for us the saints'
enjoyment of that glorious victory with King Jesus. Look at verses
4-6, and at how those who suffer for Jesus now can be assured of
reigning with Him in the future.
1. He will establish His authority on earth.
John says, "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment
was committed to them." As the NIV translates it, "I
saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority
to judge" (20:4).
Here, we read that, when Jesus returns and the devil has been bound,
"thrones" -- that is, seats of authority -- are established
on the earth. And apparently, "judgment" -- that is,
authority to judge -- is awarded to some, and they are seated on
those thrones. The question is, who is the "they" who
sit on those thrones?
We're not told for certain; but I'd like to suggest that the "they"
are the very same one's who cried out from beneath the altar of
heaven, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and
avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (6:10),
who were given white robes and told to rest a while longer until
the full number of their brethren were killed as they had been.
I believe they're the very same ones who are described later in
Revelation 7; where John says,
... I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could
number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing
before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes,
with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud
voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on
the throne, and to the Lamb!" (7:9-10).
John was told who these who celebrate before the throne were:
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation,
and washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and
serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the
throne will dwellamong them. They shall neither hunger anymore
nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;
nor the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them
and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe
away every tear from their eyes" (7:14-17).
I suggest that these are the very same ones who are described as
accompanying Jesus when He returns to the earth; "And the armies
in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him
on white horses" (19:14).
When Jesus establishes His authority upon the earth, He will set
up thrones in the very place where the devil sought to establish
his own earthly kingdom. And I believe this passage is telling
us that King Jesus will place on those thrones the very ones the
Antichrist slew for not worshiping his own image.
2. He will resurrect His faithful co-regents.
How will these who were killed live again to reign with Jesus?
John tells us; "Then I saw the souls of those who had been
beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who
had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his
mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned
with Christ for a thousand years" (20:4).
Why are they referred to as "souls"? It's because that's
how the Bible referred to them before they are resurrected and joined
again to their bodies. In Revelation 6:9, they're referred to as
"the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God
and for the testimony which they held".
These were put to death because of their faithfulness to their
testimony to the Gospel of Jesus and to the word of God. Their
commitment meant that they wouldn't bow down to the Antichrist or
worship his image; and that they wouldn't take his mark on their
foreheads or hands. For those commitments, they were put to death.
Apparently, we're even told how most of them were put to death.
The Greek word that's used to describe the method of their execution
is one that means, "to strike or cut with an ax."
But we're also told that they who were killed for their faith were
made to live again. As Jesus said, "I am the resurrection
and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall
live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die"
* * * * * * * * * *
John seems to depart from his description of the resurrection of
these tribulation saints for a moment to answer a question. He's
told us what happens to those who died for their faith during the
time of the tribulation; but what happens to the rest of the dead?
Look at what it says in verses 5-6. The apostle writes,
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand
years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed
and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such
the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God
and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev.
This passage teaches us that there are two resurrections: the first
at the beginning of the thousand year reign of Jesus on earth, and
the second when that thousand year reign is completed. Only one
of those resurrections -- the first one -- is described as a blessing
to be a part of.
Why is the first resurrection the blessed one? It's because this
passage also tells us that there are two deaths. The first one
is the physical death experienced by the saints -- particularly,
in this case, the saints who gave their lives for Christ in martyrdom.
It's the same physical death that we will all experience -- expect,
of course, those who are alive at the time of Jesus' appearing (1
Thess. 4:15-17). There is a second death, however; and the Bible
describes it as much more dreadful than the first. It's the eternal
judgment of separation from our Creator forever in the lake of fire
(Rev. 20:14). The Bible tells us that those who are blessed to
be part of the first resurrection have no reason to fear the second
How does someone "have part" in the first resurrection,
and thereby avoid the dreadful judgment of the second death? Jesus
taught that the way to have eternal life is through faith in Himself.
He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word
and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall
not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life"
Jesus also taught that there were two resurrections. He spoke
of Himself as the Son of Man, saying,
... The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves
will hear His voice, and come forth -- those who have done good,
to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to
the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).
The first resurrection Jesus spoke of is a resurrection unto eternal
life. The second is a resurrection unto condemnation and judgment.
Each of us will experience one of these resurrections -- either
one or the other.
And this is a good time to stop and ask the all-important question:
Which resurrection will you have a part in? The first or the second?
Have you placed your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?
Have you trusted Him as your Savior from sin? Have you "heard
His words", and "believed on the One who sent Him"?
If so, you have no need to fear the second death. You will have
part in the first resurrection; and the second death will have no
power over you.
If you haven't placed your trust in Jesus, now is the time to do
3. He will reign with them for a thousand years.
Not only does Jesus raise these tribulation saints from the dead,
but He also raises them to rule with Him! John says, in verse 4,
that "they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."
It says the same thing in verse 6; that they "shall reign with
Him a thousand years."
I take those words literally. You may know, however, that there
are many honest, Bible-believing brothers and sisters in Christ
who do not. They interpret this "thousand year" period
symbolically. They would say that the "resurrection"
is a literary symbol of the beginning of the Christian church, starting
with the preaching of the apostles; and that the "thousand
years" is a symbol of the undefined period of time that the
Church is active upon the earth. They would say that there will
be no literal, bodily reign of Jesus on earth for a thousand years.
Instead, they say that the age we're living in right now is what
the "thousand years" is meant to represent.
Others have taken the "thousand years" to refer to a
period of time on earth when the Church will, as it were, "come
to life" in a powerful way. It will grow stronger and more
holy, and will eventually have such an impact upon the earth that,
after a long, undefined period of time (symbolically referred to
as a 'thousand years'), the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will have been
brought about upon the earth. In this interpretation, its only
after the Kingdom of Jesus has been established on the earth that
Jesus will finally return and assume His rightful place as its King.
Those who have held to these views do so because they find it unreasonable
to take what this passage says literally. To be sure, there's much
in the Book of Revelation that's obviously meant to be understood
symbolically. But personally, I see no good reason why we shouldn't
take this passage as referring to a literal thousand years. Consider
that John himself seems to treat it as if it were a literal thousand
year period. He tells us that the devil is bound for a thousand
years (20:2); that he is kept bound until the thousand years were
finished (v. 3); that after this resurrection, "the rest of
the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished"
(v. 5); that the saints will reign with Jesus for a thousand years
(v. 6); and that, "when the thousand years have expired, Satan
will be released from his prison" (v. 7). John also tells
us that, when it's all over, Satan is cast into the lake of fire
-- not for a thousand years, but to "be tormented day and night
forever and ever" (v. 10). It just makes sense to treat these
words as literal. All the other elements of this passage make sense
when we do so. And as one of the fundamental rules of Bible interpretation
states, "if the plain sense makes good sense, then seek no
What will that thousand year period be like, as Jesus reigns on
earth with His resurrected saints? The Bible gives us many 'previews
of coming attractions'. We're told that it will be a remarkable
time of peace in God's created order. Isaiah 11 says that, during
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall
lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and
the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The
cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down
together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing
child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall
put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy
in all. My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge
of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Not only will there be peace between creatures, but there will
also be peace between nations -- as Jesus Christ Himself rules the
world from the city of Jerusalem. The Old Testament prophet Micah
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain
of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains,
and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to
it. Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go
up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths."
For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD
from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke
strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshears,
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up
sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Micah
And it may well be that people will live on the earth as long as
they lived before the flood of Noah. Isaiah describes a future
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor
an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall
die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years
old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not
build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat;
for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall
not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they
shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their
offspring with them (Isaiah 65:20-23).
Let yourself imagine for a moment a world where the devil is bound
for a thousand years and rendered incapable of afflicting evil on
mankind. Imagine a world where Jesus Christ reigns bodily as the
King of all the nations of the earth, along with His resurrected
saints. Imagine a world where there's no longer any war or conflict
between people groups; where the world is like the Garden of Eden
spread around the globe; where technology and scientific research
is permitted to advance unhindered for centuries through people
who conduct their work in the reverence of the Creator, and for
the genuine good of all. We may not understand all of what the
Bible tells us about Jesus' future reign; but God tells us enough
to thrill our hearts, doesn't He?
And notice how this 'reign' of the saints is characterized. Their
reign is given a particular dignity. John says, "they shall
be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand
years" (v. 6). Their reign is a reign of ministry to Jesus
to His Father.
It's the highest of all privileges to serve Jesus; and the reign
of the saints on earth will be characterized by this highest of
all privileges. Even throughout eternity, that will remain the
highest privilege; because we're told that in the New Jerusalem,
"There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of
the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They
shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There
shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun,
for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever
and ever" (Rev. 22:3-5). To serve Jesus perfectly -- that's
what it means to 'reign'! And to serve Him forever -- that's what
it means to 'reign forever'!
Dear brothers and sisters; the devil has fought against this future
Kingdom reign of Jesus from the beginning. He fights against it
even today. But in spite of all his horses and all his men, he
will never be able to prevent the reign of Jesus Christ from becoming
established on the earth.
Let's never lose hope when we suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.
Let's remember the lesson of this passage for us. It's the principle
that Paul expressed when he said, "... If we died with Him,
we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign
with Him" (2 Tim. 2:11-12). Let's willingly suffer for King
Jesus now; knowing that we will certainly reign with Him in the
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