Excerpted from More Than Conquerors, pages 191-192, by Dr. William Hendriksen. This book is an amillenial interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Hendriksen adopts definite and sane principles of interpretation and clearly and consistently applies them throughout his book. He is best known for his New Testament Commentary, a series encompassing fifteen New Testament books. He has also written Survey of the Bible, Bible on the Life Hereafter, Israel in Prophecy, Covenant of Grace, and Beginner's Book of Doctrine.
In order to arrive at a proper conception of Revelation 20:4-6, we must go back to the first century AD. Roman persecutions are raging. Martyrs are calmly laying their heads under the executioner's sword. Paul had already done this; also James. Rather than say, "The Emperor is Lord", or drop incense on the altar of a pagan priest as a token of worshipping the emperor, believers confess their Christ even in the midst of the flames and while they are thrown before the wild beasts in the Roman amphitheatres.
But Christ is not unmindful of His grievously afflicted disciples. He sustains them in order that they may remain faithful to the end. For that very reason He gives to His sorely-tried Church the vision of 'the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus' (Rev. 1:2,9; 6:9). He describes these souls -- together with those of all departed Christians who had confessed their Lord upon earth -- as reigning with Jesus in heaven. He says, in effect, 'Here below: a few years of suffering: there, in that better land above, they live and reign with Christ a thousand years!' What a comfort! Certainly, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which is revealed to the souls of believers reigning with their exalted Lord in heaven!
In connection with this 'thousand year reign' of verses 4-6 we shall answer three questions.
According to the passage which we are considering it takes place in three places.
We may safely say, therefore, that the thousand year reign takes place in heaven.
The next question that has to be answered is:
The nature of this reign may be summarized in four ways as follows.
Our final question is:
The answer is simple and easy.
First of all, all the souls of the martyrs, 'those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus'.
Secondly, all other believers who died in their faith, 'such as worshipped not the beast', etc.
The rest of the dead, that is, all other men who died, the unbelieving dead, lived not until the thousand years are finished. When that period is finished, then there is a change. Then they enter 'the second death'. In other words, they receive everlasting punishment: not only as for the soul but now also for the body. The change is not for better but for the worse.
On the other hand, those who have part in the first resurrection are blessed and holy. Over them the second death has no power. Not only shall they reign with Christ, but they shall also worship God in Christ as priests throughout the thousand years (Rev. 1:6; 5:10).