In the earliest part of our study of Revelation, we suggested the “journey” through this study would take us from Pentecost to Judgment Day three times. We saw the transition of this time span with the opening of the seven seals. Then we saw this time span with the seven trumpets. Then we saw the seven last bowls/plagues. With the first two “journeys” (in our public discussion, we often used the word “scene” depicting the Revelation in parts) a transition period (we called it an “intersession”). In this final time, we do NOT see an “intersession,” but instead a harsher finality to the wicked force opposing the cause of Christ Jesus and His church. Such increasing intensity from the first group of seven to the last indicates the recipients of this letter should grow increasingly more conscience of the ETERNAL DESTRUCTION of evil and the ETERNAL REWARD for those of VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE, AND GLORY. Thus, this twentieth chapter is a “finality” of the whole … the death-filled destiny of all that is evil and the glorious life for those of righteousness.
That this chapter has met with great abuse from those willingly ignorant of its truthfulness (2 Peter 3:5). As we have done throughout this study, LET THE SCRIPTURES INTERPRET THE SCRIPTURES. Remember this was addressed to brethren that, from biblical accounts (Ephesians, Thessalonians, and mention of some of the other cities of the seven) are just as we in understanding and use of the scriptures. (It is prayerful that the remark is complimentary to the student!) Understanding of ANY passage comes from study and meditation of the TRUTH!
1. That the angel comes “down from heaven” is again meant as “in the presence of God and from His authority.” Therefore, this great feat of binding Satan for a little while should increase our faith in knowing the POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD to keep Satan from overcoming the world as he did with Rome. Carefully examine 1 John 4:4 --Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. We are seeing in this symbolism the power of God in its most EFFECTIVE usefulness!
We know from this “in the presence of God” that the message brought is true and righteous. He has THE KEY of the bottomless pit, and in his hand, a chain. The KEY is symbolic of the authority to bind or release (see Matthew 16:19 and its use in this fashion in Revelation 1:18) The BOTTOMLESS PIT is a cistern without a bottom: it simply cannot hold water and thus is a useless cistern in which to place any valuables one wishes to preserve. In that regard, we can understand there is nothing of Satan that is valuable enough to treasure and preserve! The CHAIN is the binding/restraining element. Using the word “great” as an adjective, we note the strength and size of the chain. Thus, we know that CHAIN is the power that binds Satan, and that POWER must be the Word of God.
2. Satan here receives four names: DRAGON – describing his huge fierceness and power; OLD SERPENT – subtle and deceptive ways (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3); DEVIL – slanderous and hateful (John 8:44); SATAN – adversary. That he is BOUND should not make us think Satan has no activity. 1 Peter 5:8 shows he is active: albeit, in this passage, we note his RESTRICTED environment, made so by the authority and power of God’s Word. The time span of which Satan is bound is 1000 years – an unspecified time and frankly means “a limited time” as can be seen in reference to the following passages: Psalms 90:4; Ecclesiastes 6:6; 2 Peter 3:8. EXAMINE 2 PETER 2: 4- 10 AND JUDE 6. There is a “waiting time” before Judgment Day! This “waiting time” and the 1000 years are two and the same! Further, THE WORD OF GOD KEEPS SATAN FROM ENCAPSULATING YOUR SOUL IF YOU STAY FAITHFUL TO GOD ---- HEBREWS 13:5 – 6.
3. By the authority of Heaven (vs. 1) Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, shut up (locked in) and sealed (assured AGAINST release) THAT HE SHOULD DECEIVE THE NATIONS NO MORE, TILL THE THOUSAND YEARS SHOULD BE FULFILLED – after that he must be loosed little season. Notice this is NOT a permanent time span --- it is NOT the “day of judgment – YET! We will see that time … but it is NOT at this passage! WHAT is done is the fact Satan is restricted for a limited time. The REASON is from doing what he desires to do, i.e., deceive the nations. The TIME LIMIT OF 1000 YEARS is a lengthy time, but not a permanent time. At God’s discretion, Satan is RELEASED – but only from God’s discretion and NOT via a “break out” of Satan. This shows conclusively that God has full power … God COULD keep Satan bound eternally – AND WILL at the judgment day! As to “a little while,” we will examine this in verses 7 – 11 of the present chapter. Keep in mind the study of 2 Peter 2:4 – 10 and Jude 6.
4. – 6. Throughout our study, we have emphasized four features of this book unique to the Christian: VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE, and GLORY. Now, we are ready to see those four unique elements presented in full to those who have obeyed God FAITHFULLY and receive them as their reward. With Satan (the controller of all that is evil) there is NOTHING for the Christian to fear! This message is needful to ALL of mankind … and we Christians are the ones to shout it loudly! This is the passage that PROVES the reception of VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE, AND GLORY to those who obey God!
John looks and sees thrones, those that sat on the se thrones, and the fact JUDGMENT is given to them (i.e., the power to enact judgment). Compare this to 1 Corinthians 6:2 – 3. John also says the souls of them that were martyred for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God: those who had not worshipped the beast or his image or received his mark. These lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Now note this is the SAME LENGTH OF LIMITED DURATION in which Satan was bound. Thus, the two co-inside so that RIGHTEOUSNESS binds Satan! To loose Satan is only long enough to ETERNALLY destroy him. Yet, since the same authority the angel of verse 1 had is given to us regarding the KEY and the CHAIN (Romans 1:16 – 17), it behooves us to KEEP SATAN BOUND! This is called FAITHFULNESS!
Now “the rest of the dead” refers to those in chapter 19:21 who had been “killed” by the “sword” that came out of the mouth of the rider of the white horse. These souls, like Satan, are “dead in their trespasses and sins.” Their destiny is just as sure and set as that of Satan. The contrast is that those who DIED IN CHRIST (i.e., in His service) live eternally with Him (Rev. 14:13) and those who lived in sin, are now DEAD in their trespasses. “This is the first resurrection” has reference to Romans 6:1-6 ONLY IN THE FACT THOSE WHO PUT SIN TO DEATH TO LIVE IN CHRIST RAISED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM. This passage also has reference to John 5:19 – 47 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18 which see and study! It is NOT the case of some “long drawn-out affair,” but rather the “steps” by which this last great day occurs!
Now examine carefully the above with verse 6 and it “ties together” rather clearly. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” First, note the “time span” is the same as that of which Satan is bound. Therefore, AS LONG AS WE REIGN WITH CHRIST, WE HAVE NO FEAR OF SATAN! Next, notice that we can NOT live and reign with Him unless we have had part in “the first resurrection.” That is BAPTISM (Rom. 6:1-6) and from this context, the requirement of FAITHFULNESS UNTO DEATH is included in that we must LIVE AND REIGN with Him to gain that “dead in Christ shall rise first” acclaim! Without it, we are included in the lost … those destined to the SECOND DEATH (see verse 14.)
7. – 10. The temporary confinement of Satan does come to an end … and his release is within this time world as is indicated by verses 3 and 7. As to WHEN this 1000-year reign is complete (that is, with a DATE) we cannot know. We know he shall be (or perhaps now is) released because God’s Word says he will be released. (*) However, we have proven his EFFECTIVENESS has no power on those that are OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH; LIVING AND REIGNING WITH CHRIST. Note carefully SATAN DOES NOT ESCAPE – HE IS RELEASED! Upon Satan’s release, he has but a SHORT TIME … and in this time, he goes to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog, and Magog to gather them to battle. Their number is as the sand of the sea. It would behoove the student to examine Ezekiel 38 – 39 about Gog and Magog and note the following:
a. Satan will gather great hordes against God’s people from all corners of the earth.
b. They come with the full intent to destroy the peaceful people of God.
c. The situation is not out of control It is within God’s purpose (Ezek. 38:16)
d. Failure and destruction await this oppressive force.
e. The total security of all God’s people.
As Satan’s forces once more elevate themselves as if more powerful than all forces, they encompass the saints and the beloved city (i.e., they concentrate all their efforts to defeat both individual Christians and thus the entirety of the church), only to meet defeat from the Almighty! Such a defeat is the fulfillment of God’s promise! And NOW the ETERNAL DEFEAT!!! Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast (civil government of evil) and the false prophet (beast of religious error) are and shall be tormented day and night eternally! NOW IS THE ETERNAL JUDGMENT.
(*) The DATING of “the 1000 years” is impossible to detail. It is totally within God’s control! What we DO know is from man’s recorded history concerning the church and subsequent uprisings of evil powers. Should these be the equating factors to the 1000-year reign, we cannot tell. We know also, it is NOT a “millennial reign,” as denominationalists would have us accept. The wording of this is symbolic and has to do with the PEACEFUL TIME OF GOD’S CHILDREN and the return of Satan’s uprising. Obviously, God controls it all: HE IS ON THE THRONE OF ALL AUTHORITY! It appears quite evident then, that this symbol speaks of the “testing of our faith” if you will (1 Peter 1 and 2 Peter 2). ONLY THE FAITHFUL survive as ALL THE EVIL receive eternal damnation. Of what more detail this passage might offer, it is immaterial given the undeniable facts of eternity!
11. – 15. Now John sees yet another element of this great VICTORY, PROMISE, HOPE, AND GLORY. It is a separation of the righteous from the wicked: this is indeed the judgment without any “intermission” as we experienced in the previous cycles of seven.
John sees a great white throne (pure/peaceful and holy!) The One who sat on this throne has all the authority. From His presence (at His word) the heaven and earth of present time flee away (2 Peter 3:1 – 12) and there was no more place (purpose) for them. (Ibid.)
Now, John sees the dead, small and great standing before God (all that have lived and are now departed from earth life – Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 24:15). The “books” were opened. As to what these “books” are, we can learn from careful study of the BOOK itself – the Bible! All the dead of all the ages will face the judgment day. Inasmuch as there have been three dispensations of God’s Law (the Patriarchal Age, Mosaic Age, and the Law of Christ), those laws must be the STANDARD of the judgment and are binding upon those to who the law applied. Each law came from God (Heb. 1:1-2) and therefore, no time of earth has existed without a law of God to govern man regarding right and wrong. The other book is called the BOOK OF LIFE and has several references within Scripture: Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19. Obviously, this book has those who are LIVING WITH GOD AND CHRIST – those who are obedient, i.e., the redeemed! While our concentration within this study has been upon Christ and His church (because it is Christians to whom this letter was written) it must be accepted that ALL the redeemed of ALL THE AGES are just as RIGHTEOUS in God’s sight as those under the Law of Christ. Each are judged according to their works – thus by the commanded law of the dispensation (spoken will of Jehovah) under which they lived. Note also, that one law superseded the other law unless otherwise specified. The Patriarchal Law was superseded by the Mosaic Law … but only for the Jews AFTER the exodus! All others continued under the Patriarchal Law (Law of the fathers) until the Law of Christ which superseded all previous laws! Thus, no one today can abide by the “ten commandments” and claim a right of salvation. He is binding himself to a law that no longer exists for his soul!
All the dead … those in the sea (symbolic of those who died in bondage to the civil affairs of evil) and death and hell (symbolic of the confines of evil religious ways) – these also were judged every one according to their works. Death and hell (the wicked) were cast into the lake of fire – explained in the text as “the second death!” See also 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9. Death is “separation” – in this realm, separation from God. They will have literally a “living eternal death” (Matt. 25:31 – 46). Additionally, those not found written in the book of life shared this eternal fate. Thus, the final determination is this: If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that soul was cast into the lake of fire – the second death!