Who are the beheaded martyrs in Revelation 20:4?

By Rev. Roger Best

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

This passage answers several questions. Who is beheaded? Clearly, believers alive on the earth during the time Antichrist is reigning. When are they beheaded? The text indicates that Antichrist's reign of terror begins at the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth Week and runs to the beginning of the Day of the Lord. Why are they beheaded? Believers will be challenged for their faith in Christ and their unwillingness to worship Antichrist.

Unfortunately, it does not answer a very important question. Why are they resurrected at the beginning of the millennium? Perhaps insight is given in Revelation 6:9-11 concerning this question. The similarity between the two groups of martyrs described in these two passages allow the reader to conclude that the same group is described in both places.

While it is not possible to be dogmatic, the martyrs in the book of Revelation appear to be special in that they refuse to submit to Antichrist's demand for worship and are killed for it. The period beginning at the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth Week and running until the beginning of the Day of the Lord/God's wrath will be the single most demanding time in human history to be a follower of Christ. Those who are faithful during this time, up to and including the giving of their lives, will be honored by God. To die as a "beheaded martyr" and be raised near the beginning of the millennial kingdom for all to see would certainly be a great honor.

Their deaths are particularly violent and ruthless which may in fact explain why they are resurrected at the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ. Revelation 6:11 indicates that God instructed the martyrs to wait a little while longer for their deaths to be avenged on those who dwell on the earth. God's vengeance against the earth dwellers culminates with the battle of Armageddon that occurs at the end of the 30-day reclamation period that follows the Seventieth Week of Daniel.

Therefore, these martyrs are resurrected after Armageddon very near the beginning of the millennial kingdom. This is about as dogmatic as one is able to be given what the text explicitly says.

 

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