How do A-Millennialists explain Revelation 20? I’ll give you their points and then my counterpoints.
#1- The battle of Revelation 20:7-10 is the same battle as previously described in Revelation 16:12-16 and Revelation 19:17-21.
It is obvious that many places in the book of Revelation, and the OT prophets as well, that there is a re-explanation of what previously was envisioned. It is often referred to as recapitulation. But it must be proved not assumed that each mention of a battle is the one previously described. For instance, there are reasons to believe that Revelation 16:12-16 and Revelation 19:17-21 are both describing events which relate to the same battle. The judgment of the beast system used by Satan is prevalent in both passages. The identity of the beast and false prophet are present in both. So there is continuity between these two battles (actually one battle) as they end this time of tribulation against God’s people initiated by Satan, the beast, and the false prophet.
However, the battle in Revelation 20:7-10 does not have these same identifying markers. Instead, there are chronological markers which show that this is an entirely different battle. First, after the battle of Revelation 19:17-21, the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. It specifically states that both were thrown alive into the lake of fire. Satan, however, is bound with a chain in a bottomless pit. Then we have the description of the first resurrection whereby those who have been beheaded have come to life and are sitting on thrones.
The battle of Revelation 20:7-10 cannot be the same battle of Revelation 16:12-16 nor the battle of Revelation 19:17-21 for one simple reason. The beast and the false prophet are not present on earth during this battle as they are in the previous two. Instead, just as the passage states, they are already present in the lake of fire being tormented forever and ever. Satan joins them after the thousand years, but they have been cast there previously. This A-Millennialist reading of Revelation 20 simply does not stand up under scrutiny. The battle of Revelation 19:17-21 occurs before the thousand years, then the battle of Revelation 20:7-10 occurs after the thousand years.
Some A-Millennialists try to point out that each of these battle scenes is echoing Ezekiel 39. The whole passage of Ezekiel 38-39 needs to be examined. Ezekiel 38:1-7 envisioned a supernatural “turning around” of the enemy as they came in to invade Israel.. But then beginning in Ezekiel 38:8, there is a fast-forward to “after many days”, meaning a considerable period of time. During this extensive time, there would be a kingdom of peace and security for Israel. After many days, this Gog figure is brought back again at the appointed time. This time there is no real battle, but only Gog’s armies fighting against themselves and God’s holy fire destroying them all.
Then when we begin Ezekiel 39, we start afresh with the supernatural “turning around” of the enemy as they come to invade Israel. Ezekiel 39 picks up on what actually happens when Gog and company get turned around, while Ezekiel 38:8-23 focuses on what happens “after many days”. This vision agrees completely with Pre-Millennial basics with the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12-16, 19:17-21) occurring premillennially in Ezekiel 38:1-7 and 39, and the postmillennial consumption of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38:8-23 (Revelation 20:7-10).
It is this phrase “after many days” which foretold exactly what would happen in Isaiah 24:21-23. Quite simply put, there would come a day of judgment for the heavenly hosts and the earthly powers that be. The heavenly host should be understood as the fallen angels which are in need of judgment. Notice that they are not ultimately judged on that day, but only shut up in a pit which serves as a prison. It is only “after many days” that they will receive their ultimate judgment. The reign of the LORD begins from Zion as these vagabonds are gathered into the pit. Against these OT visions, the premillennial position is shown to be evident even before we reach Revelation 20.
#2- The thrones of Revelation 20:4-6 are located in heaven as the thousand year reign is taking place right now.
This also is very simply shown to be erroneous. The first resurrection should be viewed as a bodily resurrection. This was the hope of the apostles in such passages as I Corinthians 15:50-55, II Corinthians 5:10, Philippians 3:20-21, I John 3:2. When this passage states that those who have been beheaded have come to life again, there should be no doubt that it is referring to people who have literally lost their lives due to having their heads chopped off. This is a physical resurrection from the dead, as such it is the first resurrection. So the timing for this passage is when the first resurrection occurs, allowing those who have been beheaded to come to life once again. These people were alive once, proclaiming the gospel , they had their lives cut short, now they have come to life again. The burden of proof stands on the A-Millennialists to show that these have received their resurrection bodies in order that they might be reigning on thrones in heaven now. The resurrection of the righteous is uniformly laid out to occur at the end of the age, I Corinthians 15:23, John 6:40, Matthew 13:37-43 with Daniel 12:1-3.
Second, all throughout the book of Revelation, there has been a definition of what it would mean to rule with Christ. The following verses show the future hope that the church looked forward to based on this revelation.
Revelation 2:25-27 Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. (cf. Psalm 2:9)
Revelation 3:12-13 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Revelation 5:9-10 Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Third, what the A-Millennialist asserts is not even in the text. Since the future hope of the church is shown to be reigning here on earth, there must be some specific evidence in Revelation 20:4-6 to overturn what should be this basic understanding. There is no mention of the locale being heaven or that these thrones are heavenly thrones. This is reading into the text a preconceived idea.
This vision should be seen as the fulfillment of Daniel 7. The fourth beast represents the beast system of this world in place that the Son of Man judges at His coming. The saints possess the kingdom after the Son of Man pronounces judgment upon the beast system of this world. But notice what it means for the saints to possess this kingdom. “All peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (meaning the Son of Man). The kingdom that the saints possess forever, forever, and ever (Daniel 7:18) is not in heaven, but under the whole of heaven, Daniel 7:27.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
On that day the LORD will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.
Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
for the LORD of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders.
Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many people with you.