Beatitudes in Revelation (5)

Beatitudes in Revelation (5)

Beatitudes in Revelation (5).

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him a thousand years.”  (Revelation 20:6).

“Blessed” = makarioi; a rich Greek word with many nuances, all in the context of enjoying God’s favor: fully satisfied; deeply joyful; delightfully content; profoundly happy; blissfully fulfilled. When Jesus declares that you are blessed, He is congratulating you, confidently affirming that God is active in your life. You are blessed when you put yourself in the position to be transformed by God. You are blessed, you are most fortunate, you are to be envied, because you now have the unexpected privilege of participating in the Kingdom of God. When you are blessed, you are aware that your blessedness does not depend on your outer circumstances. You are thus filled with hopeful joy. So when Jesus says that you are blessed, it is time to celebrate, for He is looking upon you with favor. In these Beatitudes, Jesus is saying that God wants us to be blessed, He is for us, He wants good to happen to us.

This particular beatitude leads to more questions than answers. Believers are said to share in the “first resurrection,” which is what exactly? Did the first resurrection take place when Christ was raised from the dead, and God raised every believer up with Him as we ascended with Christ into the heavenly realm, where we are now co-seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6)? Is that how we shared in the first resurrection? Or are we sharing in His resurrection now by experiencing on earth the mighty power that was released when God raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20)? Or, on the other hand, is the first resurrection primarily spiritual in nature, a resurrection of the heart when we accepted and started following Christ unto salvation? And thus, when our hearts experience resurrection, we then experience the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Still another view is that the first resurrection is when we all rise from our graves at Christ’s return in glory, to meet Him in the air (1 Thess.4:15-17). The first resurrection implies a second resurrection. If there is uncertainty about the first one, then the second one only compounds the mystery.

And what about the “second death?” Fortunately, this part of the promised blessing isn’t so uncertain. The first death is our natural, physical death at the end of our born days here on earth. Those who experience second death are those who unfortunately experience a spiritual death at some point after the physical death. The second death means separation from God at judgment, and represents the failure to gain eternal life in heaven with God. As John says in Rev. 20:14, the second death is experienced by anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life. The second death is powerless over believers precisely because believers’ names are all written in this Book of Life.

We do know that every believer is destined for priesthood, in the role of ruling priest no less. Earlier in Revelation, John told us that Jesus “appointed us as a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). John also mentioned in Rev. 5:10 that believers are “formed into a kingdom of priests who reign on earth.” We don’t know when that rule will take place, or where, or even what that will look like when it happens. We do know the role of a priest, though. and we can begin even now to “offer the world back to God in a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” (Orthodox Bible notes). In that same light, the New Jerusalem Bible notes that “those who turn to the Messiah and whose sins He forgives will be a royal line of priests, because in union with Jesus the messianic Priest they will consecrate the universe to God in a sacrifice of praise.”

As far as reigning for a thousand years, no one knows for certain when or if that will occur. Is it a literal or a symbolic Millenium? Is it before or after Christ’s return? There is no point in wasting time trying to find the bottom line on these questions. Do we need to know when the Millenium will occur? Will it impact our daily walk with Christ right now? No and no. We can rest in the fact that Jesus will return when the time is right and the conditions are favorable. That’s good enough for me.