Hoekema’s exegesis of Revelation 20

Hoekema (1979) follows the line of thought suggested by Simon Kistemaker’s More than Conquerors.  Like other amillennialists, he sees the book as a series of seven capitulations.   His presentation is cogent and sometimes beautiful.  I think it breaks down at the end, though.   He says Revelation 20, particularly the verses about those who were beheaded, recapitulates the “souls under the altar” from Revelation 6.  The implication is that the souls under the altar = those who reign with Christ during the present church age (p. 233-235).

However, that is about all those two passages have in common.  The souls in Revelation 6 are not reigning.  They are crying out for vindication.  Yes, they are fully vindicated in Revelation 20, but they are vindicated by a bodily resurrection.  That is precisely what they need and precisely what Hoekema’s interpretation does not allow for having.  As C. Marvin Pate notes,

“A spiritual resurrection can hardly explain the compensation provided for the martyrs in verse 4. From John’s perspective they are physically dead but spiritually alive. What they need is a bodily resurrection. (b) The best understanding of the verb esezan (they lived) in verse 4 is that it refers to a bodily resurrection” (Pate, “A Progressive Dispensationalist View of Revelation” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation).

We must note that Hoekema’s exegesis, while it has its problems, is infinitely superior to earlier, more Augustinian forms.   Augustine (and most after him) saw the “resurrection” as meaning “regeneration of the soul.”