Today’s reading: Revelation 20
Today we read about the effect of Jesus’ triumph over the world.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.
The gospel is the “great chain” that binds the devil. It restrains him and prevents him from running loose over the world for “a thousand years”. As with numbers generally in the Book of Revelation, you should not take the use of a thousand years literally. We know for sure that two-thousand years have already passed since the resurrection. Nations, both pagan and Christian, have risen and fallen. The gospel has been preached and conquered great areas or land and great civilizations but is still taking root and spreading in many countries of the world. The work of the thousand years is clearly still ongoing, so the use of “a thousand years” is certainly a metaphor.
After the end of this period of the gospel spreading and conquering earth the devil will be released for a short time to bring about the final battle:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison
and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
What’s key here is two things. First, that the devil will only be released for the final battle when it is time to deceive the entire earth. This implies that the gospel will first have to be spread to the entire earth before the final end times. Second, notice that all the judgments and punishments associated with the horses, seals, and trumpets come before this final battle. This is where the Book of Revelation is at its most difficult. We know that many of the things predicted in Revelation repeat themselves. For example, we know that the “red horse” from Chapter 6, had the power to take peace from the earth. We know that down through history it is rare that there has been complete peace around the world. So we know that the red horse has been with us many times. So the question arises, will the judgments, plagues, and punishments of the early chapters come again in new and grander ways during this last reign/battle with Satan described in Chapter 20? It’s interesting to think about but in the end, it is mostly just speculation. What’s important is what happens next:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;
and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This time, the defeat of the forces of darkness are complete and final. Notice, again we see that all the dead are judged by their deeds, by “what they had done”.
Tomorrow: Revelation 21