Monday, December 6, 2021

69. The Revelation: The Millennium - Four Essential Truths (Revelation 20:1-10)


Though not an exhaustive description of the earthly kingdom, Revelation 20:1–10 caps off all the biblical revelation about the millennium by revealing four essential truths about it.


"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time." (Rev. 20:1–3)

The first matter for the King’s attention as He sets up His kingdom is the confinement of the chief rebel. The removal of Satan will dramatically change the world. By this time, God will have destroyed all human rebels. Those who survived the tribulation judgments will have been executed at Armageddon (19:11–21) or the goat judgment (Matthew 25:31–46). The ringleaders of the worldwide rebellion, the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet, will have been thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). The final step in preparation for the kingdom will be the removal of Satan and his demons.

As it frequently does in Revelation, the phrase “And I saw” indicates chronological progression. The location of this passage in the chronological flow of Revelation is consistent with a premillennial view of the kingdom. After the tribulation Christ will return and set up His kingdom, followed by the new heavens and the new earth (21:1). The millennial kingdom comes after Christ’s second coming but before the establishing of the new heavens and the new earth.

The identity of the angel whom John saw coming down from heaven to bind Satan is not disclosed, but he may be Michael the archangel, the great adversary of Satan (cf. 12:7). Whoever the angel is, he possesses great power. He is sent to earth with a specific agenda: to seize Satan for the thousand-year duration of the kingdom, bind him, cast him into the abyss and seal it, and then release him at the end of the thousand years.

“Abyss” appears five times in Revelation (9:11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3), always in reference to the temporary place of incarceration for certain demons. The abyss is not their final place of punishment. The lake of fire is (Matthew 25:41). The abyss is a place of torment where demons fear to be sent (Luke 8:31).

The key given to the angel by God signifies his delegated authority. He has the power to open the abyss and shut it after casting Satan inside. This chain is a great one, because of Satan’s greatness and power as the highest created being (Ezekiel 28:14). The angel laid hold of Satan, who is unmistakably identified by the same four titles given him in 12:9. First, he is called “the dragon,” a title given him twelve times in Revelation and a reference to his ferociousness and cruelty. The title “serpent of old” returns readers to the garden of Eden and Satan’s temptation of Eve (Genesis 3:1–6). “Devil” means “slanderer” or “malicious gossip.” “Satan” means “adversary,” since Satan opposes God, Christ, and all believers.

The length of the period for which Satan will be bound is defined as a thousand years, the first of six precise and important references to the duration of the millennium (cf. verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). It is only then that he will be incarcerated in the abyss, which will be shut and sealed so he cannot deceive the nations any longer. (That does not mean that the living people in the millennium will be incapable of sinning. Amazingly, a vast part of the population, born of the believers who alone entered the kingdom, will in that perfect environment love their sin and reject the King. They will be judged with a rod of iron [2:27; 12:5; Psalm 2:9]).


"Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." (Rev. 20:4–6)

With Satan, his demons, and all God-rejecting sinners out of the way, the millennial kingdom of peace will be established. The supreme ruler in that kingdom will be Jesus Christ. He alone is “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (19:16). Yet He has graciously promised that His saints will reign with Him. They will rule subordinately over every aspect of life in the kingdom and will perfectly carry out His will.

In this vision, John sees the panorama of God’s people resurrected, rewarded, and reigning with Christ. He saw thrones, symbolizing both judicial and regal authority, and God’s people sat on them, and judgment was given to them. The glorified saints will both enforce God’s will and judge disputes.

As his vision continued, John saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.” These are the martyred believers from the tribulation (6:9; 7:9–17; 12:11). Because the tribulation saints were faithful to the death, they too came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Then John adds the parenthetical footnote that “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.” These are the unbelieving dead of all ages, whose resurrection to judgment and damnation is described in verses 11–15. John calls the resurrection of the saints from all ages “the first resurrection.” That resurrection is also called in Scripture the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15), the “resurrection of life” (John 5:29), the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23), and the “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).

The phrase “blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection” introduces the fifth of seven beatitudes in Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 22:7, 14). Those who have a part in the first resurrection are blessed because the second death has no power over them. The second death is eternal hell. The comforting truth is that no true child of God will ever face God’s eternal wrath (cf. Romans 5:9). Those who participate in the first resurrection are also blessed because they will be priests of God and of Christ. Believers are already “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Believers now serve as priests by worshiping God and leading others to the knowledge of Him, and will also serve in that capacity during the millennial kingdom.

A final blessing for the participants in the first resurrection is that they will reign with the Lord Jesus Christ for a thousand years, along with believers who survived the tribulation. The millennial rule of Christ and the saints will be marked by the presence of righteousness and peace (Isaiah 32:17) and joy (Isaiah 12:3–4; 61:3, 7). Physically, it will be a time when the curse is lifted (Isaiah 11:7–9; 30:23–24; 35:1–2, 7), when food will be plentiful (Joel 2:21–27), and when there will be physical health and well-being (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5–6), leading to long life (Isaiah 65:20).


"When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison..." (Rev. 20:7)

Satan and his demon hordes remain imprisoned in the abyss for the duration of the millennium, as the Lord Jesus Christ rules with unopposed sovereignty. They are not permitted to interfere in the affairs of the kingdom in any way. Satan’s binding will end, however, when the thousand years are completed and he is released from his prison to lead a final rebellion of sinners.

Though the initial inhabitants of the millennial kingdom will all be redeemed, they will still possess a sinful human nature. And as all parents have done since the fall, they will pass that sin nature on to their offspring. Each successive generation throughout the thousand years will be made up of sinners in need of salvation. Many will come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But amazingly, despite the personal rule of Christ on earth, despite the most moral society the world will ever know, many others will love their sin and reject Him (cf. Romans 8:7). Even the utopian conditions of the millennium will not change the sad reality of human depravity. As they did during His incarnational presence on earth, sinners will refuse the grace and reject the lordship of the King of all the earth.

When Satan is loosed, he will provide the supernatural leadership needed to bring to the surface all the sin and rebellion left in the universe. He will pull together all the rebels, revealing the true character and intent of those Christ-rejecting sinners, making it evident that God’s judgment of them is just.

Satan’s violent hatred of God and Christ will not be altered by his thousand years of imprisonment in the abyss. When he is released, he will immediately set out on his final act of rebellion.


"[Satan] will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:8–10)

At the end of his thousand-year imprisonment, Satan “will come out to deceive the nations.” He will find fertile soil in which to sow his seeds of rebellion, for many unsaved descendants of those who entered the millennial kingdom in their physical bodies (all of whom will be redeemed) will love their sin and reject Christ. They will be as unmoved by the peace, joy, and righteousness of the millennium as earlier sinners were by the devastating judgments of the tribulation (cf. 9:20–21; 16:9, 11, 21).

The actual strategy and method of Satan’s deception is not revealed, but it will succeed in duping the unregenerate people of the world into revolting against the Lord Jesus Christ. His deception, however, will fit within God’s purpose, which, as noted above, is to manifest His justice when He destroys the rebels. Satan’s actions are always under God’s sovereign control (cf. Job 1:12; 2:6), and his gathering together of these wicked rebels will be no exception.

Satan will collect the deceived nations from “the four corners of the earth” (7:1; Isaiah 11:12), an expression referring to the four main points of the compass: north, south, east, and west. In other words, the rebels will come from all over the globe.

John gives these enemies of the King of Kings the symbolic title “Gog and Magog,” naming them after the invasion force that will assault Israel during the tribulation (Ezekiel 38–39). Some believe that Ezekiel 38 and 39 describe this battle at the end of the millennium. There are, however, significant differences that argue against equating the two events. Ezekiel 39:4 and 17 describe the invaders perishing on the mountains of Israel, but according to Revelation 20:9 the rebels at the end of the millennium will be destroyed on a “broad plain.” Also, the language of Ezekiel 39:17–20 seems to be describing the same event depicted in Revelation 19:17–18. Third, the events of Ezekiel 38–39 fit chronologically before the description of the millennial temple given in chapters 40–48, while the battle depicted in Revelation 20:7–10 takes place after the millennium.

The name Gog appears to be used in Scripture as a general title for an enemy of God’s people. Most likely, Gog is used in verse 8 to describe the human leader of Satan’s forces. Some believe the people known as Magog to be the descendants of Noah’s grandson of that same name (Genesis 10:2). They later became known as the Scythians and inhabited the region north of the Black and Caspian seas. Others identify them with a people who lived farther south in Asia Minor. Whoever the historical people known as Magog may have been, the term is used in this passage to describe the sinful rebels from all the nations who will gather together for the final war in human history.

Amazingly, John saw that the number of the rebels will be like the sand of the seashore—a figure of speech used in Scripture to describe a vast, uncountable multitude (Genesis 22:17). The ideal conditions of prosperity and peace that will prevail during the millennium, coupled with the long life spans of its inhabitants, will lead to a massive population explosion. Vast numbers of those people will join Satan in his final act of rebellion against God.

The rebel forces will “[come] up on the broad plain of the earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” Jerusalem—the place of Messiah’s throne and the center of the millennial world. Here the saints will be enjoying the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ when the attack comes.

Yet, like Armageddon a thousand years earlier (19:11–21), the “battle” will in reality be an execution. As the rebel forces move in for the attack, “fire [will come] down from heaven and [devour] them.” They will be instantly exterminated. Satan’s forces will be physically killed, and their souls will go into the realm of punishment, awaiting their final sentencing to eternal hell, which will take place shortly (20:11–15). Nor will their evil leader escape his fate: The Devil who deceived them will be “thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone.” There he will join the beast and the false prophet, who by that time will have been in that place of torment for a thousand years (19:20).

Those sentenced to that terrible place will be “tormented day and night.” There will not be a moment’s relief. Scripture explicitly teaches that hell is eternal. The same Greek phrase translated “forever and ever” is used in 1:18 to speak of Christ’s eternity. Jesus taught that the punishment of the wicked is as eternal as the eternal life of the righteous (Matthew 25:46). Second Thessalonians 1:9 teaches that the destruction of the wicked in hell stretches throughout all eternity.

Believers are already citizens of God’s kingdom (Philippians 3:20; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:12), blessed to be in fellowship with the King. But a glorious future inheritance awaits them, “imperishable and undefiled [which] will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4).