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peter wilkinson | Tue, 02/07/2012 - 16:00 | Permalink

Andrew - you've made some interesting points which I address below. You've also made some misinterpretation (perhaps deliberately) of my argument. There are also some technical misunderstandings.


Peter thinks that this apocalyptic stuff is all somehow just a metaphor for being a Christian.

There's plenty of apocalyptic stuff in my interpretation to keep you more than happy; I wasn't removing the force of the passage from its application to the 1st century at all.

The major problem with your point of view about a proto-resurrection of the 1st century martyrs is innovation. The other NT passages you use to promote the same idea all rely on inference, not explicit statement. The inference depends on your particular framework of interpretation. The validity of this framework over other frameworks of interpetation is open to discussion. But it remains inference. There is no explicit statement of a 1st century resurrection for the martyrs.


We still have to reckon with the fact that they are defined specifically by their refusal to worship the beast, etc. Does this symbolism locate them in the particular story of the early church’s refusal to participate in Roman idolatry? Or does it have a much more general frame of reference, encompassing all faithful believers throughout the ages?

You've misread me here. I wasn't suggesting a Pilgrim's Progress type allegorical application to Christians of all ages. I was keeping to the 1st century.

I also agree with your next point, that it is "the faithful community as a whole" who are being referred to in the passage (ie in the 1st century). This wasn't an issue.

Verse 4d

"Came to life" - ezēsan. Does this refer to (physical) resurrection? You refer to Romans 14:9 and Revelation 2:8, where the same verb is used of Christ's 'coming to life' at his resurrection. But you miss the point: Jesus's resurrection and coming to life after he died makes possible life (in the sense of new life) for believers before as well as after they die. This is clear from the passages I quoted, where (new) life experienced by believers before they die is described in terms of resurrection. Jesus's resurrection was unique; that of believers is enjoyed before and after death, leading to eventual physical resurrection. The relevant passages where resurrection terminology is applied to believers before death are John 5:24-30, Ephesians 2:6, and Colossians 3:1-4.

The 1000 years is a metaphor, whichever way you want to look at it, and includes, by this argument, those who were martyred as well as those who were faithful and refused to worship the beast, but had not been put to death (the third group). They each lived, enjoying an entirely new kind of life altogether, by virtue of faith in Christ and through his unique resurrection.

 Verse 5

There is no “again” in verse 5—I don’t know where that idea came from

Sorry Andrew, there is in my Greek New Testament. The verb is anazaō - "to live again". We should pay particular attention to the distinction between this form of zao, and the preceding use in verse 4. The contrast draws attention to one kind of life enjoyed by faithful believers living in the face of persecution from the beast (at that time), and life enjoyed by believers who had been put to death and "lived again".


The phrase “the rest of the dead” (5a) appears to imply that however many groups are mentioned in 4a-c, they are all dead

This would be arguable unless there were good reasons for thinking otherwise, which, in my opinion, there are. Also the preceding phrase "they came to life (or simply "lived") and reigned with Christ for a 1000 years", which might be taken to refer exclusively to the martyred dead, actually obliterates the boundary between the physically living and physically dead. Those still alive in the face of persecution from the beast enjoy a triumph which is both metaphorical in the sense of victory implied by 1000 years, and temporal in the sense of an immeasurably longlasting period of time (ie forever), which includes life beyond death.


“The rest of the dead” (hoi loipoi tōn nekrōn), however, may not mean “the rest of humanity”.

It probably does, but in the immediate context there is no dispute: it refers to thsoe who died in a state of non-belief at the time the passage refers to.


I would argue, however, that, terminology aside, this “first resurrection” is not such an innovation. I think it is of a piece with, for example, Daniel’s belief that there would be a limited resurrection of the dead at the time when Israel is delivered from the imperial oppressor (Dan. 12:1-2)

This depends how you read Daniel, and especially how Daniel is understood in the light of events as they transpired. Yes, there is a specific apocalyptic sense in which events occurred in AD 70. No, Daniel cannot be taken to find its fulfilment in AD 70 alone, and even in Daniel 12:2 - "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to everlasting shame and contempt", the language is straining beyond AD 70, even if there were a resurrection of some (but not multitudes) at that time (which I personally dispute).

Finally, you haven't really addressed my point that the structure of the use of kai in Revelation 20:4 suggests that there are three groups in view in the passage. This is the key to avoiding the convoluted theories which have produced entirely new eschatological and theological categories alien to the rest of the NT. It avoids the endless controversies which have plagued eschatological interpretation over the years, and would have saved a great deal of the ink that has been spilled on the subject.








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