A. Preview Blog Posts
- The Lamb and 144,00 at Mt. Zion (Rev 14:1-5)
- Three Angels Fly Through the Air (Rev 14:6-13)
- The Earth Is Harvested (Rev 14:14-20)
- The Song of Moses and Seven Last Plagues (Rev 15)
- The First Through Fifth Bowl Judgments (Rev 16:1-11)
- The War of Armageddon (Rev 16:12-21)
- Five Views on the Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18
- Judgment on the Great Prostitute (Rev 17:1-8)
- Jesus Christ’s Return (Rev 19:11-21)
B. Text of Revelation 20:1-10
“1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the keys of the abyss. He also held a large chain in his hand. 2He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent-who is the Devil and Satan, and tied him up for a thousand years. 3The angel threw him into the Abyss, shut it, and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were over. After this it is necessary for him to be released for a short time.
4Then I saw thrones and the ones sitting on them were given authority to judge. These are the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. They refused to worship the beast, his statue, and they did not take the mark on their forehead or on their hands. They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the 1,000 years were over.) This is the first resurrection. 6The blessed and saints have a share in the first resurrection. For them, 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.
7When the thousand years have ended, Satan will be let out of prison 8and he will go out to deceive the nations from the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for war. Their number will be like sand of the sea. 9They went up to the wide plain of the earth and they surrounded the saint’s headquarters and city which they loved. But! Fire came down from heaven and consumed them completely. 10Then the Devil—who deceives everyone—was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet are. There they all will be tortured day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:1-10)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own based on the NA28 Greek text[/ref]
C. General Remarks
“Jesus wins. All Christians can agree on a few things, and this is one of them.” (Hitchcock, The End, 399)
“At this point above all – above all the rest of the New Testament, itn my experience – it doesn’t do to be too dogmati. We must hold on to the central things which John has made crystal clear: the victory of the lamb, and theh call to share his factory through faith andpatience. God will then do what God will then do.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 181)
“This is one of the great chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that relate to the millennial reign of Christ on earth. In this future period of a thousand years, many expositors believe that hundreds of Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 297)
D. Prophecies of the Millennial Reign of Christ
- “May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass, like the showers that water the earth. May all the godly flourish during his reign. May there be abundant prosperity until the moon is no more. May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Desert nomads will bow before him; his enemies will fall before him in the dust.” (Psalm 72:6–9, NLT)
- “All kings will bow before him, and all nations will serve him.” (Psalm 72:11, NLT)
- “In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:2–4, NLT)
- “He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:4, NLT)
- “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD. In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people— those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth. Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end. They will not be rivals anymore.” (Isaiah 11:6–13, NLT)
- “And in anger I will reach out with my strong hand and powerful arm, and I will bring you back from the lands where you are scattered. I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will judge you face to face. I will judge you there just as I did your ancestors in the wilderness after bringing them out of Egypt, says the Sovereign LORD. I will examine you carefully and hold you to the terms of the covenant. I will purge you of all those who rebel and revolt against me. I will bring them out of the countries where they are in exile, but they will never enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:34–38, NLT)
II. BINDING SATAN (Rev 20:1-3)
A. An Angel with a Key (v. 1)
Καὶ εἶδον ἄγγελον καταβαίνοντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἔχοντα τὴν κλεῖν τῆς ἀβύσσου καὶ ἅλυσιν μεγάλην ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ.
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the keys of the abyss. He also held a large chain in his hand.” (Rev 20:1)
The “abyss” is the prison house of demonic spirits (1 Enoch 10:4; 18:14; 2 Peter 2:4). They they wait for their final destiny. The abyss (Rev 19:20) is a holding place and seems to be less severe than the lake of fire mentioned in Rev 19:20; 20:10.
B. Satan Bound (v. 2)
καὶ ἐκράτησεν τὸν δράκοντα, ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, ὅς ἐστιν Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς, καὶ ἔδησεν αὐτὸν χίλια ἔτη
“He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent-who is the Devil and Satan, and tied him up for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:2)
“He has been behind the beast and false prophet from the start. Now he is seized” (Robertson, Word Pictures)
2. One Thousand Years
When talking about the 1,000 years described here and in Rev 20:3, 5, 7 it is common for people to bring up two verses to supposedly “prove” that this 1,000 year reign of Christ is not literal. These two verses are:
- “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.” (Psalm 90:4, NLT)
- “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8, NLT)
The important point to acknowledge is that time to us is different than time to God. Yet, time is still according to “our perception.” Meaning, a thousand years to us might seem like a day to the Lord, yet that thousand years is still a thousand years according to our own perception. As Thomas states, “To say that the period with man is only one day with God, does not deny that it is actually a thousand years with God too. The point is that time does not limit an eternal God, not that He is ignorant of what time means with man” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 407).
With that said, I believe the 1,000 years will be a future, literal, 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth.
3. Satan Bound Now?
Some say that this event described in Rev 20:2 matches Luke 10:18 that Satan is bound now during the time we live in. However, the overall message of the New Testament states that Satan is free and reigns now.
- “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out” (John 12:31, NLT, emphasis added).
- “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NLT, emphasis added)
- “We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19, NLT, emphasis added).
- “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT, emphasis added).
- “Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself” (Acts 5:3, NLT).
- “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” (Ephesians 2:2, NLT, emphasis added).
- “We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18, NLT, emphasis added).
- “Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants” (2 Timothy 2:26, NLT, emphasis added).
In the words of the eloquent N.T. Wright, “The satan’s job was always to ‘accuse’ where accusation was due, to make sure (as a good Director of Public Prosecutions) that nothing reprehensible went unreprehended” (Wright, Revelation for Everone, 179).
C. One Thousand Years of Non-Deception (v. 3)
καὶ ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον καὶ ἔκλεισεν καὶ ἐσφράγισεν ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, ἵνα μὴ πλανήσῃ ἔτι τὰ ἔθνη ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη. μετὰ ταῦτα δεῖ λυθῆναι αὐτὸν μικρὸν χρόνον.
“The angel threw him into the Abyss, shut it, and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were over. After this it is necessary for him to be released for a short time.” (Rev 20:3)
Someone might say, “Hey, I thought Jesus laid waste to everyone in Rev 19?” Jesus did destroy everyone that was not faithful and loyal to him. However the people that survived are the ones that are loyal to him. And, those that are loyal to him will enter into the Millennium. These are “redeemed but nonglorified” people (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 411). The descendants of these people will make up the group of people that Satan deceives and gathers for war later in the chapter.
III. THOUSAND-YEAR REIGN OF THE SAINTS (Rev 20:4-6)
A. The Saints Judge (v. 4)
Καὶ εἶδον θρόνους καὶ ἐκάθισαν ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς καὶ κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἵτινες οὐ προσεκύνησαν τὸ θηρίον οὐδὲ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἔλαβον τὸ χάραγμα ἐπὶ τὸ μέτωπον καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτῶν. καὶ ἔζησαν καὶ ἐβασίλευσαν μετὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ χίλια ἔτη.
“Then I saw thrones and the ones sitting on them were given authority to judge. These are the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. They refused to worship the beast, his statue, and they did not take the mark on their forehead or on their hands. They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4)
1. They Came to Life Again
The best Greek-English lexicon describes the verb used here, ἔζησαν being used in a way “of dead persons who return to life become alive again.” It is also used in other parts of the Bible to describe humans that come to live again (1 Kings 17:23; Matt 9:18; Acts 9:41; 20:12; Rev 20:5). It is also used to describe Jesus coming back to life from death. Therefore, this seems to be describing the resurrection (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:5, 23; Acts 1:3; 25:19; Rom 14:9a; 2 Cor 13:4a; Rev 1:18b; 2:8). For more see BDAG, 425.
2. Who Sits on the Thrones
There are a few views on who these people are who sit on the thrones.
- 24 Elders – The Church. These are the members of the church—the twenty-four elders—described in Rev 5:10. Support is from Luke 22:29-30; Matt 19:28. This view is held by Walvoord, Revelation, 308.
- Martyrs. Some say these are the martyrs of the great Tribulation in Rev 6:9-11. Yet there are two weaknesses with this view: The martyrs are not resurrected till after Rev 20:4. Additionally, John promises that every faithful one (not just martyrs) will share in the future reign with Christ (Rev 2:26-28; 3:12, 21; 5:10; cf. 1 Cor 6:2-3). This is the view of Metzger, Breaking the Code, 93.
- Apostles. Based on Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor 6:2-3.
- All Saints of Christ’s Army in Rev 19:14. This is because they won with war with Jesus in Rev 19, therefore they get to rule.
B. The First Resurrection (v. 5)
οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔζησαν ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη.
Αὕτη ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡ πρώτη.
(The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the 1,000 years were over.) This is the first resurrection. (Rev 20:5)
1. Literal or Symbolic Resurrection
The Greek used for resurrection in Rev 20:5, 6 is the word ἀνάστασις and it’s used almost forty times in the New Testament. According to BDAG, the word is used for a literal physical resurrection in every occurrence except for one (Luke 2:34). See BDAG, 71-72. With that said, this reference here refers to the future literal resurrection of the dead. It does not—as the Amillennials would say—refers to the spiritual resurrection that believers receive when they become Christians. N.T. Wright is perhaps the most popular person today who believes this. The 1,000 years of reign and judging described in Revelation 20 is not a literal period of time in the future. No, according to Wright this is something happening right now (Matt 28:18; 1 Cor 15:25-28; Eph 2:6). The saints are already spiritually reigning with Jesus right now.
2. The First Resurrection
The phrase, “This is the first resurrection” likely functions to refer to Revelation 20:4. In Greek this is called “anaphoric” because there is an article before “first” and an article before “resurrection” in Greek. It refers to the saints that are resurrected for the 1,000 year reign (Mathewson, Revelation, 276-277).
I appreciate Walvoord’s clarity on this verse, “At the end of the church age the rapture of the church will take place, and the dead in Christ will be raised. At the end of the great tribulation, the tribulation saints will also be raised from the dead” (Walvoord, Revelation, 310).
3. The Rest of the Dead
The rest of the dead described here are the wicked who are physically dead. They will not be brought back to life until the thousand years have ended.
In a way, I am using the clarity of Rev 20:1-10 to interpret previous revelations about the resurrection described in Daniel and John:
- “Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.” (Daniel 12:2, NLT)
- “Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.” (John 5:28–29, NLT)
C. Blessings of the First Resurrection (v. 6)
μακάριος καὶ ἅγιος ὁ ἔχων μέρος ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῇ πρώτῃ· ἐπὶ τούτων ὁ δεύτερος θάνατος οὐκ ἔχει ἐξουσίαν, ἀλλʼ ἔσονται ἱερεῖς τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν μετʼ αὐτοῦ [τὰ] χίλια ἔτη.
“The blessed and saints have a share in the first resurrection. For them, 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.” (Rev 20:6)
1. Holy Priests
Also see Rev 1:6; 5:10; 22:3, 5. As well as Matt 19:28.
Thomas writes, “The function of being ‘priests of God and of Christ’ . . . will consist of the privilege of unlimited access to and intimate fellowship with God” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 422).
2. Second Death
The second death described here is the spiritual death that is also referred to in Rev 2:11; 20:14; 21:8. This second death punishes both the body and soul.
IV. SATAN’S RELEASE AND FINAL BATTLE (Rev 20:7-10)
A. Satan Released (v. 7)
Καὶ ὅταν τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη, λυθήσεται ὁ σατανᾶς ἐκ τῆς φυλακῆς αὐτοῦ
“When the thousand years have ended, Satan will be let out of prison” (Rev 20:7)
Satan was said to have been sent into the Abyss (Rev 20:3), but when he is released the Abyss is called “prison.” This holding place of “prison” probably is the same place that Peter describes Jesus going, “So he went and preached to the spirits in prison—” (1 Peter 3:19, NLT).
B. Gathering for Battle (v. 8)
καὶ ἐξελεύσεται πλανῆσαι τὰ ἔθνη τὰ ἐν ταῖς τέσσαρσιν γωνίαις τῆς γῆς, τὸν Γὼγ καὶ Μαγώγ, συναγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν πόλεμον, ὧν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν ὡς ἡ ἄμμος τῆς θαλάσσης.
“and he will go out to deceive the nations from the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for war. Their number will be like sand of the sea.” (Rev 20:8)
1. The Evil Are Still Evil
“This action is in keeping with God’s purpose to demonstrate in history that people left to their own devices will, nevertheless, sin against God. Even though the millennium provided a perfect environment for humanity with abundant revelation of God’s power, the evil heart of man is manifest in the fact that people reject this and follow Satan when he is loose” (Walvoord, End Times Prophecy, 179-180).
2. Gog and Magog
Ezek 38:1-39:20 describe a battle, but it appears different than the one described here in Rev 20:9.
- Gog—this is the ruler. Magog—this is the people. In this view the world follows Satan which includes the rulers (Gog) and the people (Magog) under the rulers.
- Symbolic Term. Kind of like “Waterloo” even though it does not have a historical connection. In this view it is a symbolic title and name used to describe the world powers opposed to God (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 93).
- Symbolic for Babylon. Mulholland, as he does with the rest of his commentary on the book of Revelation, states “Gog and Magog” is a term used to describe the entire fallen and evil Babylon (Mulholland, “Revelation” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 578).
“The most that one can discern from these names is that they are emblems for the enemies of Messiah during the end times” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 423).
3. Satan’s Last Stand
N.T. Wright states, “He [Satan] must be allowed a final moment to flail around with his lies and accusations, so that in his overthrow it will be clear beyond the slightest doubt that ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those in the Messiah Jesus.’ Like a boxer staggering to his feet to face the last punch, eh must come up one more time, even if only to be knocked out flat on the canvas for ever” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 179).
C. Fire from Heaven (v. 9)
καὶ ἀνέβησαν ἐπὶ τὸ πλάτος τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐκύκλευσαν τὴν παρεμβολὴν τῶν ἁγίων καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἠγαπημένην, καὶ κατέβη πῦρ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ κατέφαγεν αὐτούς.
“They went up to the wide plain of the earth and they surrounded the saint’s headquarters and city which they loved. But! Fire came down from heaven and consumed them completely.” (Rev 20:9)
The Greek word παρεμβολη is a common late Greek word for military camps. In the LXX it is used for the Israelites in the dessert (example is Exod 29:14 among many others). In the New Testmanet the word is used for Roman barracks (Acts 21:34, 37) and for an army in line for battle (Heb 11:34).
2. The Beloved City
Jerusalem is described as the beloved city twice in the Old Testament:
- “He chose instead the tribe of Judah, and Mount Zion, which he loved.” (Psalm 78:68, NLT)
- “He loves the city of Jerusalem more than any other city in Israel.” (Psalm 87:2, NLT)
3. Jerusalem as the Center of the World
Old Testament prophecies seem to predict that the city of Jerusalem will be the headquarters of Jesus during his 1,000 year reign.
- “In that day Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Throne of the LORD.’ All nations will come there to honor the LORD. They will no longer stubbornly follow their own evil desires.” (Jeremiah 3:17, NLT)
- “Then the glory of the moon will wane, and the brightness of the sun will fade, for the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will rule on Mount Zion. He will rule in great glory in Jerusalem, in the sight of all the leaders of his people.” (Isaiah 24:23, NLT)
- “The LORD said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died.” (Ezekiel 43:7, NLT)
- “Those who are weak will survive as a remnant; those who were exiles will become a strong nation. Then I, the LORD, will rule from Jerusalem as their king forever.”” (Micah 4:7, NLT)
- “And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one LORD—his name alone will be worshiped. All the land from Geba, north of Judah, to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become one vast plain. But Jerusalem will be raised up in its original place and will be inhabited all the way from the Benjamin Gate over to the site of the old gate, then to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed.” (Zechariah 14:9–11, NLT)
- “I will go to those formerly desolate cities that are now filled with people who have returned from exile in many nations. I will capture vast amounts of plunder, for the people are rich with livestock and other possessions now. They think the whole world revolves around them!’” (Ezekiel 38:12, NLT)
D. Satan Joins His Henchmen (v. 10)
καὶ ὁ διάβολος ὁ πλανῶν αὐτοὺς ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ θείου ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης, καὶ βασανισθήσονται ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.
“Then the Devil—who deceives everyone—was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet are. There they all will be tortured day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:10)
The prophecy of Gen 3:15 that Satan would be defeated finally runs its course. According to Walvoord, “He was first self-deceived in trying to be like God (Isa 14:14) and then began his career by deceiving Eve in the garden. Nothing has changed at his final judgment” (Walvoord, Revelation, 316).
V. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. Evil is powerful.
When Jesus gloriously returns one would think that the entire world turns to him and would follow him, love him, and be devoted to him. Yet, the sad reality is that in the twentieth chapter of Revelation Jesus returns and not everyone is committed to him.
B. Build agreement on the Big Three.
When living in Texas attending Dallas Theological Seminary I quickly learned about what occurs on Saturdays during the fall: college football. Everyone had their favorite teams. Yes, everyone! My wife and I had only lived their for a short time when we learned about the “big three” college football programs. University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. Those were the beg three college programs that had massive college football programs. According to Texas, the entire world knew about these schools, their cities, and the football history that went on there.
In Christianity, we too should have the big three when we talk about the end times. The big three should be that Jesus Christ will return, he will destroy the forces of evil, and he will establish an eternal kingdom. Whether someone is amillennial, postmillennial, or premillennial, hopefully we can all agree that Christ will return, destroy the forces of evil, and establish an eternal kingdom.