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how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

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It is said of Jesus in Revelation 2:8 that he “was dead and came to life (ezēsen)”. That strongly suggests, doesn’t it, that “they came to life” (ezēsen) in 20:4 signifies resurrection? Notice that the letter ends: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11). This is exactly what is said about the Roman martyrs who shared in the first resurrection and the thousand year reign (20:6). This is a group which would share in Jesus’ dying, coming to life in resurrection, and reign in heaven. They have been beheaded; they have not worshipped the beast of Roman power. It’s difficult to see that as a reference to all Christians.