Andrea Hutchinson – June 22, 2017
This chapter is thought by some to be the darkest part of all of John’s visions or prophecy. The things contained in it are not yet accomplished; and therefore, as we have stressed throughout the study of Revelation, it is wiser to content ourselves with general observations, rather than to be positive and particular in our explications of it.
Here, in ch. 20 we have an account of:
* The binding of Satan for a thousand years, Rev. 20:1-3.
* The reign of the saints with Christ for the same time, Rev. 20:4-6. 3.
* The loosing of Satan, and the conflict of the church with Gog and Magog, Rev. 20:7-10.
* Of the day of judgment, Rev. 20:11-15
The Thousand Years
20 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
The angel here may be the same one who had the key to the abyss in ch. 9:1,2. The abyss is the place for the imprisonment of demons (Luke 8:31) and will be the place from which the beast ascends (17:8). The devil will be held there for a thousand years.
*A reminder from an earlier study, God had never intended the abyss for humans.
The dragon of ch.12:3,9, identified as satan was in the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). God has a sovereign plan for satan. Remember the teachings we had that identified satan as “God’s satan”, with Santosh? In this vision the angel also identifies God’s plan for satan. He (satan) will be locked and sealed in the abyss for 1,000 years, and then be briefly released to deceive the nations one final time (vv.7-9) before being cast into the lake of fire (v.10). “Must be released” indicates that satan will not escape from the pit but rather be permitted to go forth from the pit to fulfill God’s sovereign plan.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] 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 a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
The interpretation of the thousand year reign of Christ has been a subject of much controversy. Some understand it to be a specific statement of time, as we understand time. Some understand it to be figurative; as a long but undetermined period of time.
These passages indicate that believers will be a significant part of Christ’s millennial rule (vv. 1:6; 2:26,27; 5:10); it seems to partially fulfill Daniel 7. The aspect of judgment in ruling is referred to in 1 Corinthians 6:2-4. A new world order is forming with the overcoming saints ruling together with Christ in His kingdom (Rom.8:17). Those who had been beheaded are the believers martyred by the beast (13:7,15) and may be the victorious who sing praises to the Lamb in 15:2-4. John might have identified with those who lost their lives because of their witness to Jesus and God’s word because he was exiled to Patmos for the same reasons (1:9).
Did not come to life indicates that the resurrection of the dead will not be all people at the same time, as we can read in Daniel 12 and John 5. In 1 Corinthians 15 we find indication that there will be a first resurrection of the dead believers before the thousand years of Christ’s reign and a final resurrection after the millennium is finished.
Verse 6 begins the fifth of seven beatitudes of Revelation with blessed. The other six can be found in: 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; and 22: 9,14. All these beatitudes look toward a life with Christ beyond the first resurrection which is assured for all believers. However, the blessedness here belongs more precisely to those who have a part in the first resurrection. It is thought that maybe this refers to only those believers who qualify as king-priests in Christ’s kingdom.
The second death is the everlasting death of torment in the lake of fire for unbelievers who face judgement. John previously stated that the one who overcomes will not be harmed by the second death (2:11).
The Judgment of Satan
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
At the conclusion of Christ’s thousand year reign satan will be released by God to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, again, as he has throughout history. As a result of the deceptions the armies of the world will gather for battle against God, again as they had done before Christ’s second coming.
Gog and Magog was a common rabbinical title for the nations in rebellion against the Lord. The names recall the prophesied invasion of Israel in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Some hold that the battle is the one spoken of by Ezekiel. However there are both similarities and differences in both passages. The use of fire … down from heaven to devour them is also seen in Ezekiel 38.
10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
When the final rebellion is put down by the Lord, the devil will join the beast and the false prophet in torment forever in the lake of fire.
The Judgment of the Dead
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
The great white throne is a picture of God’s holy rule and judgement.
The one who is seated on it may be God the Father or both the Father and the Lamb as alluded to in ch. 22.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
The dead, referred to as the rest of the dead in v.5 are raised and made to stand before God’s throne of judgement. Some believe that only the martyrs will be exempt from judgement and that both believers and unbelievers will stand before the great white throne of God’s judgement. Others believe that the broad promises to Christians in 1:6; 2:26,27 and 5:10 is evidence that all Christians will experience the first resurrection and will not have to stand before God’s throne.
Books refers to the record of all the works done in this life. Since all have fallen short of God’s standard (Rom. 3:23) the opening of these books would certainly lead to eternal sentences in the lake of fire.
The Book of Life, God’s register of those saved is also opened. So although no one will be saved by works many will be saved by God’s grace received by faith in Jesus Christ.
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
The sea is the resting place of the unburied bodies.
Death and Hades refers not only to the dying, but to existence beyond the grave. The picture is that of all the resting places of human bodies giving them up to God’s judgement. This is where people get the idea of bodies physically rising from the grave.
While unbelieving humanity is judged according to its works, Death and Hades, the Lord’s final enemy is destroyed by being cast int to the lake of fire. The second death is spiritual and eternal. The just punishment of the wicked. The first death is physical dying. Both are included in the overall meaning of death. These deaths came upon humanity because of the original sin.
15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Only God’s elect, those whose names are in His Book of Life will escape the lake of fire. The rejection of the eternal gospel results in eternal condemnation.
a Revelation 20:4 Or God; I also saw those who