Revelation 20:4-6 (New English Version) reads: “ 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. 6 This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
This passage teaches the saints are resurrected in the first resurrection, and they live and reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. But there is a problem with Revelation 20:5. The fifth verse does not appear in the Sinaitic Codex (produced ~440 AD), the most ancient and authoritative manuscript for Revelation. This makes the scripture suspect. Some copyist probably added it to the text.
For discussion’s sake, let’s wonder if this verse (“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended”) is correct. If that’s accurate, then who is being “judged” by these faithful saints? Who are the saints reigning over if mankind has not been resurrected?
Excluding verse 5 now makes logical sense. The purpose of the “thousand years” is for the saints to assist in the great work of correcting and teaching mankind. “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9) Mankind will be taught as they travel the “the way of holiness; The unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8)
Mankind’s final test comes in Revelation 20:7. Satan is permitted freedom one last time before his eternal destruction. God will allow Satan to test people to see whether each person truly desires to serve and worship God. Following this, the great work of Atonement between God and Man will be complete.
If, however, Revelation 20:5 is part of the sacred text, how might we understand “the rest of the dead not come to life until the thousand years were ended”? We might say that it will only be after the 1,000 years, that mankind will have God’s approval to full, perfect life on earth. If they continue obedient, they will never die. Then they will be fully alive – restored to the perfection Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.