The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ, Revelation Chapter 20 Verses 4-6 (NASB)

    AND I SAW (1) THRONES, and
    • they sat upon them, and
    • judgment was given to them.
John is just doing what he was told to do (Revelation 1:11). At the end of chapter 19 and the first three verses of chapter 20, we see how evil (or demonic activity) will be inhibited from functioning on this earth. The devil is thrown into the abyss with no way to escape until after the thousand years are over. The beast and false prophet are already consigned to their eternal prison, the lake of fire.

One could think that there then is an absence of governance, assuming that governance during the tribulation is totally evil. However, as this verse starts out, there will be governance (THRONES) and the rule of law (judgment was given to them). Many expositors try to explain who the "they" are who are sitting on the THRONES. The most acceptable answer would be the joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 4:1-7) and/or the 'bride of Christ' (Revelation 19:8). The vanquished evil is replaced with the "good" and is typified by the white robes, the righteous acts of the saints. It is not for us to determine who they are; Christ has  already done that (Revelation 19:9).
    And I saw the (2) SOULS of those
    • who had been BEHEADED (a) because of the testimony of JESUS and (b) because of THE WORD OF GOD, and those
    • who had not worshiped the BEAST or his IMAGE, and had not received the MARK upon their forehead and upon their hand;
These people have a special place in the heavenly kingdom (Revelation 6:9-11). They were/are 100% totally committed to Jesus Christ even to death. Oh, that we may learn from their example!
    and they came to LIFE and REIGNED WITH CHRIST for a THOUSAND YEARS.
The promise to the "overcomers" at Smyrna (Revelation 2:10) is finally fulfilled.

When one considers that the SOUL most likely is a thought process, i.e. a decision consciously made in our minds, then the SOULS, that were severed from the body (BEHEADED) are reunited with the BODY, where LIFE is. You may have a different view of where the SOUL of a person is, but that explanation needs to fit within the context of this verse. Most interesting to this author is that John SAW the SOULS. That means SOULS have form and are visible. We truly have a lot to learn about the spiritual/soul side of man.
    The rest of the dead did not come to life UNTIL the THOUSAND YEARS were completed.
This verse shows the contrast to "they came to life" in the previous verse. The "rest of the dead" are the ones who now are receiving their wages (Romans 6:15-23). Specifically, they took the mark of the beast and committed murder (Exodus 20:2-13-17). John shows us that these people will remain dead, probably both physically and spiritually until the 1000 years are COMPLETED.
This one phrase has caused more controversy among scholars than any other in the Revelation. Translators point out that the verb "is" may more properly be translated "completes". In any case, FIRST RESURRECTION implies a sequence. Even though it is not specifically stated, the SECOND RESURRECTION, implied, is generally taken to be the one in verse 12.

Now, back to the FIRST RESURRECTION.  We pointed out in the previous verse, that "they", the ones of the FIRST RESURRECTION, occupy the thrones. We probably will never know who "they" are, but we have a couple of hints from scripture who "they", the joint heirs, might be.

As 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 points out, this is a sequenced RESURRECTION. Christ started the process when He conquered death and RESURRECTED from the tomb/death (Luke 24:1-12). Then Matthew 27:51-52-56 records a curious (to us) RESURRECTION of saints in Jerusalem. This RESURRECTION may also have occurred throughout the whole area, but only Jerusalem is noted where this occurred. There is no record of these bodies going back into their tombs/graves. The "many bodies" could be interpreted to be all "joint heirs" from Adam and Eve until Calvary. Next the "dead in Christ shall rise" as 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 teaches.

In the middle of the tribulation, the two witnesses are RESURRECTED (Revelation 11:11). And from the previous verse in this chapter of Revelation, the tribulation saints complete the FIRST RESURRECTION. The important point to understand is that the "rest of the dead", those who are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-4-6-10) will not be around during Christ's millennial reign. Active evil now is dormant.
    BLESSED and HOLY is the one who has a part in the FIRST RESURRECTION;
This is the fifth of the Revelation "Beatitudes" (complete list is in Revelation 1:3 study). Those of us who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior understand that because Christ rose again, FIRST RESURRECTION, after He was crucified, we, too are "BLESSED" to partake in the eternal life it brings. However, HOLY is the key word in this phrase.

It is clear that as we enter the 1,000 year period, we are declared and perceived by God to be HOLY. It wasn't always that way. But at this point, we see the eternal state of believers, HOLY, confirmed (Romans 6:1-4-11). Amazingly, this eternal state for each of us is/was known before the earth even was created (Ephesians 1:3-4-14).
    over these the SECOND DEATH has NO POWER
The BLESSED and HOLY ones will NEVER see the SECOND DEATH (the LAKE OF FIRE, verse 14). In fact, what we see here is the contrasting eternal state of the unbeliever or wicked. This is when the "wages" will be paid forever (Romans 6:15-23).
    but they
    • will be PRIESTS of GOD and of CHRIST and
To be PRIESTS means to be the spiritual leaders. It is implied in this phrase that sin still exists on the earth during the 1,000 years (Revelation 20:7-8). If there wasn't any sin, there wouldn't need to be any PRIESTS (1 Peter 2:1-9-10). Also this confirms John's opening statement in Revelation 1:6 that we are to minister to GOD because we are of God and of Christ.

David Hocking in his book, "The Coming World Leader, Understanding the Book of Revelation", points out that there will be religious festivals during this period (for example, the Festival of Booths (Zechariah 14:16-21).

Noticeably absent from this list is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit functions now as "the sealer" (Ephesians 1:3-13-14) rather than "the Helper" (John 14:15-24). It is assumed that the BLESSED and HOLY ones already understand this.
    • will REIGN with Him for a THOUSAND YEARS.
The other function besides being PRIESTS is to be administrators. That is what REIGN means. Christ sets the policy, and the BLESSED and HOLY ones will implement that policy. Be aware that during the 1,000 years, this will NOT be a democracy; it is a THEOCRACY. Those of us who live in "free" countries tend to think that a democracy is the ultimate form of government. But as believers, the BLESSED and HOLY ones, we know the form of the final government is a THEOCRACY (Psalm 72).
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only