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We are studying the Book of Revelation and today we come to the end of the book. We only have three chapters left in the book and the best part of the book is at the end. Today, we will be looking at Revelation 20. It is one of the most important chapters in the Bible.
Today, we will not be learning the basics. This chapter is deep. It is advanced. It is a gold mine. It is a short chapter. It is only fifteen verses but there is deep theology in this chapter.
It is the chapter that deals with the thousand-year reign of Christ. There is a lot of confusion today about the Millennium (what it is, when it happens, how long it lasts). There is confusion among Christians.
Revelation 20 is a very important chapter for the study of biblical prophecy. There are eight major prophetic events found here.
Eight Prophetic Events
- Satan’s Imprisonment (Revelation 20:1-3)
- The First Resurrection (Revelation 20:4)
- Christ’s Reign (Revelation 20:4, 6)
- Satan’s Final Deception (Revelation 20:7-8)
- Man’s Final Rebellion (Revelation 20:9)
- Satan’s Eternal Destiny (Revelation 20:10)
- The Second Resurrection (Revelation 20:5, 12)
- The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)
A Word of Caution
Revelation 20 is one of the most controversial chapters of the Bible. Entire schools of interpretation have arisen over this one chapter (amillennialism, premillennialism, post millennialism).
Three different schools of prophetic interpretation come out of this chapter. Entire denominations have been formed over the interpretation of this chapter. Churches have split over this one chapter of the Bible.
Whatever your view of the millennium, it should not be a test of fellowship. This is the only chapter in the Bible that talks about the thousand-year reign of Christ.
How you interpret this one chapter should not be made a test of fellowship among Christians. There will be people in heaven who held all three views. There are people who believe that the Bible is the Word of God who hold all three views.
That doesn’t mean that all three views are correct. It does not mean that you should not have your own personal conviction. You should recognize at the outset that there are some really good people who hold all three views.
What is the difference between these views? There are three main views but they all boil down to one question. Do you take the chapter literally or do you spiritualize it? Do you take it for what it says, or do you allegorize it? Is it literal or symbolic?
The chapter begins with an angel coming down from heaven, seizing the dragon, putting a chain on him and throwing him into the Abyss. Is that literal? Will it happen literally or is it all symbolic?
How can you put a physical chain on a spirit being? What can a steel chain do to a spirit? Spirits are immaterial. Can you bind a spirit?
Satan may not be bound by a steel chain, but he can still be bound. Satan puts chains on all kinds of people today and they are not physical chains. He puts people in complete bondage and slavery.
If this is spiritual, is it happening now? Some say that it is. Some say that Satan is bound right now. It is hard to say when you see that Satan is at work in the world today. He is very active in the world today.
The chapter mentions two resurrections. Are both literal? Are both spiritual? Is one literal one figurative? The real debate is with the first resurrection.
At the first resurrection, souls come to life and reign with Christ. Is this literal? Does it describe a physical resurrection or some type of a spiritual resurrection?
Is this talking about dead bodies who come to life physically or is it talking about people who are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins who instantly come to life through faith. Is the first resurrection spiritual or physical?
Revelation 20 mentions Jesus reigning for a thousand years. Is this literal or is it spiritual? Is the Millennium happening now or will it happen in the future?
Which view is correct? We will find out. One view makes perfect sense in the chapter, while other views make absolute nonsense of the text but whichever view you take, the applications are the same.
There are four important applications in this chapter. One, Jesus wins. Two, Satan loses. Three, the saints will be rewarded, and four, sinners will be held accountable. All four applications are found in this chapter.
Today, we are only going to have time to look at the first two of these applications.
This chapter is all about Jesus winning. Jesus comes back as a winner. He comes back with the armies of heaven and as He is coming back, He encounters armies on earth, who try to attack Him.
It will be the shortest battle in history. The battle will be over even before it starts. This battle will be over in seconds.
Jesus will return on a white horse with a sword coming out of His mouth and eyes as a flame of fire. All of the armies of the Antichrist will be instantly destroyed and there will be all these dead soldiers lying on the ground.
Jesus is not only going to win in battle; He is going to rule and reign after the battle is over. He is going to reign for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
Satan will no longer be reigning. Jesus will be reigning. One preacher called this the coming theocracy. It will be the climax of human history. Jesus will come back as King of kings and Lord of lords.
He will be the supreme ruler over the whole earth. His rule will not look anything like the type of government we have today. The Book of Revelation says that He will rule the nations with a ROD OF IRON (Revelation 12:5; 19:15).
His rule will not be a democracy. The people will not be ruling. Jesus will be ruling, and He is not going to follow the US Constitution. It is going to be a divine dictatorship. He will possess absolute power, but He will not use it in a sinful way. He will rule the world IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Four Millennium Myths
Myth 1 – The Millennium will not be a thousand years
Many do not believe the Millennium will last a thousand years. Many believe that this period is symbolic. It does not mean a thousand years. It just means a long period of time. The only chapter of the Bible that talks about a thousand-year reign is the Book of Revelation.
Revelation is the most symbolic book of the Bible. Other numbers in Revelation are symbolic, so this number MUST be symbolic as well but there are other reasons to see this as literal.
The phrase “thousand years” does NOT occur once in this chapter. It does NOT occur twice in the chapter. It occurs six times. The phrase “thousand years” occurs in Revelation 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. If God wants to emphasize something in the Bible, He says it repeatedly.
God says, “a thousand years…a thousand years…a thousand years…a thousand years…a thousand years…a thousand years…a thousand years.” If you claim that the Millennium is not a thousand years, it makes a mockery of the text.
It is true that Revelation is a symbolic book but not everything in the book is symbolic. Some numbers in the book are literal. All numbers in the book are not symbolic.
When it mentions 1260 days (Revelation 11:3; 12:6), it means 1260 days. When it mentions 42 months (Revelation 11:2), it means 42 months.
When it mentions two witnesses (Revelation 11:3), it means two witnesses. When it says that 7000 people will be killed in an earthquake (Revelation 11:13), means 7000 people.
That raises a really important question. How do you know when to take something literally in the Bible and when to take it symbolically?
There is a famous rule of biblical interpretation. If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense. If the literal sense does not make sense at all, it is clearly symbolic. When a literal interpretation would lead to complete absurdity, it is symbolic.
Jesus is not a literal door, even though He said, “I am the door”. He is not a literal lamb, even though He is called the Lamb in the Book of Revelation. The devil is not a literal dragon with a long tail. He is not a literal roaring lion.
The Antichrist is not a literal beast with seven heads and ten horns but Jesus ruling on earth for a thousand years is not ridiculous. It makes perfect sense.
Myth 2 – The Millennium will not be on earth
Revelation 20 talks about reigning with Christ for a thousand years
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. (Revelation 20:4 NIV).
However, it does not say where they are reigning. It does not say that they will reign on earth. Some Christians believe that the millennium will not be on earth. Will the Millennium be on earth? Yes. There is evidence in the Book of Revelation of an earthly reign.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom OF THE WORLD (not of heaven) has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NIV)
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign ON THE EARTH” (Revelation 5:10 NIV).
Saints will reign on the earth and since they are reigning with Jesus, according to Revelation 20:4, Jesus will reign on the earth. The Second Coming is a coming TO EARTH. He is coming with the saints. When He comes back, He is going to rule and reign on the earth.
At the end of this reign of Jesus, a rebellion takes place. What is the rebellion? It will be a rebellion of the nations in the four corners OF THE EARTH (Revelation 20:8 NIV)
The concept of earthly reign is also found in the OT. The OT teaches the same thing.
I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:2-4 NIV)
The LORD will be king over THE WHOLE EARTH. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (Zechariah 14:9 NIV)
The very same chapter of Zechariah which talks about Jesus returning to earth and standing on the Mount of Olives in Israel also talks about the Lord being king over the whole earth.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth (Jeremiah 23:5 NKJV).
The Jews believed that the Messiah would come back and one day rule on the earth. The earliest Christians also believed that. There is no debate about that point.
Philip Schaff is a famous church historian. He wrote an eight volume History of the Christian Church.
Schaff points out that this was the predominate view of the Ante-Nicene church (before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD). People like Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian held this view.
What does this tell you? It is not heresy to believe in a literal thousand-year reign on the earth. Some have called this view heresy. If that is the case, you would have to call all the Ante-Nicene fathers heretics.
It is also not a view that is recent. It is not just the view of some crackpot dispensationalists. It was the view of the early church. Irenaeus and Tertullian were the first theologians and some of the men on that list were disciples of John himself.
Papias knew the Apostle John. He sat under him. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who sat under the Apostle John. He was placed as leader in the Church of Smyrna by the Apostle John.
Myth 3 – We bring in the Millennium
Post millennialists teach that a millennium will take place on earth and then Jesus will come back. That is not what we see in Revelation. The world does not get progressively better in the Tribulation. The Tribulation gets progressively worse.
When Jesus comes back, He does not encounter a revival taking place on earth. He encounters war. People want to attack and kill Him. We do not bring in the Millennium. Jesus does.
The Millennium does not come before Jesus returns. It comes after He returns. He returns in Revelation 19. The Millennium is in Revelation 20. That is why we believe in premillennialism.
Myth 4 – The Millennium is already here
It has already come. We are living in it. That has to be the dumbest idea on the planet, but some people believe it. It is absolute nonsense.
All you have to do is to watch the news and you will see we do not live in a millennium. We live in a world full of high crime. People are kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered every day.
It is not even safe to walk the streets at night in some places. That is not much of a Millennium. Christians are persecuted all over the world. They are tortured and executed in some countries. Anyone can tell we are not living in the Millennium. How do we know the Millennium is not here now?
1) The Millennium will be a world WITHOUT SATAN
He will be thrown in the abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). You can’t have a millennium with Satan or demons running around tempting, deceiving and enslaving people.
That does not describe today. The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).
2) The Millennium will be a world WITHOUT WAR
That is not the world in which we live. Every day, there is a war going on somewhere in the world. In the Millennium, warfare will be abolished.
In fact, weapons will be abolished. No one will need a sword or a gun. Nations will not need tanks or missiles to defend themselves.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4 NIV)
And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. (Hosea 2:18 NIV)
3) The Millennium will be a world WITHOUT VIOLENCE
Our world is full of violence. People will not worry about violent crime in the Millennium. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders (Isaiah 60:18 NIV).
People will feel safe outside. They will not even have to worry about dangerous animals that might attack you. They won’t attack themselves.
“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25 NIV).
They will be so harmless that people will let their kids play with them and not be afraid for their safety. The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. (Isaiah 11:8 NIV).
4) The Millennium will be a world WITHOUT IDOLATRY
We have all kinds of cults and false religions in the world today but not in the Millennium.
“On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 13:2 NIV)
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9 NIV)
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:34 NIV)
The second thing we see in this chapter is that Satan loses. God will not only win but Satan will lose. Now, in many ways it looks like Satan has been winning.
He got one third of angels in heaven to leave and go with him. That is not a half but is a good amount of angels.
God creates a perfect world and he completely ruined it. He got the first people to sin. That wrecked the entire race. We are all born sinners.
He has become the god of this world. He has become the ruler of this world. He is the one who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).Satan is very active in the world in which we live.
During the Tribulation Period, he will persecute believers on the earth, possess politicians, supernaturally empower them to perform miracles so the whole world will worship the Antichrist.
He has influence even in some churches. Some in the church of Thyatira were taught “the deep secrets of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). He is not only deceiving the world; he is deceiving some Christians. Satan has his own synagogues (Revelation 2:9). He has his own churches.
It sounds like he is winning but if you look a little closer, you will see that he is losing. In the Book of Revelation, we see that Satan is on his way down and it actually describes his doom.
Seven Specific Defeats
1) Satan loses an important battle in heaven
In Revelation 12, there was a great battle in heaven between Satan and his angels and Michael and his angels. Satan is defeated (Revelation 12:7-8). The angels defeat him.
2) Satan is kicked out of heaven
Satan will not only lose that battle; he will be cast out of heaven and flung to the earth, along with all of his angels (Revelation 12:9). It was embarrassing and he was mad. He did not want to be limited to earth. He not only had a defeat; he experienced a demotion.
3) Satan’s demonically inspired politician is defeated
Satan supernaturally empowers and possesses the Antichrist. He gets the whole world to worship him. He gives him his power. The dragon gives his authority to the beast (Revelation 13:4). He becomes a world dictator but that power does not last long, and the Antichrist is thrown alive into the Lake of Fire.
4) Satan is cast into the Abyss
After the Battle of Armageddon, Satan is grabbed by the scruff of his neck, chained and thrown into the Abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). He goes from heaven to earth to the Abyss but that is not his final destination.
5) Satan’s final act of rebellion fails
After a thousand years later, Satan is let out of the Abyss. He deceives people all over the earth to rebel against the rule of Christ on the earth. Fire falls from heaven (Revelation 20:7-9) and Satan’s plan is a failure.
6) Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire
After tormenting people for thousands of years and ruining their lives, the devil is now tormented in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10).
The Devil will not be alone there. The Beast and the False Prophet will be there. They have been there for a thousand years.
Now, the three big enemies in the Tribulation Period are the Beast, the False Prophet and the Dragon (the Satanic Trinity) are gone. The demons will be sent there as well. Jesus said that the Devil and his angels will end up in the same place.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41 NIV)
The Binding of Satan
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. (Revelation 20:1-3 NIV)
An angel comes down from heaven with two things – a chain and a key. Satan is seized. He is arrested. It will only take one angel to arrest him, not all the armies of heaven.
In Christian circles, we talk a lot today about binding Satan. We talk about binding the enemy in spiritual warfare. We have the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 but do not do this binding. Jesus does not do it. An angel does it.
It does not even say there was a fight. This angel will grab him and take him. He has a warrant for his arrest. Apparently, Satan will be seized not by some strong or mighty angel but an ordinary one.
He will bind him. He will put a chain on him and incarcerate him. Satan will become an inmate in a maximum-security prison. This angel will throw him in the Abyss.
Why the Abyss? It is a special place of punishment for demons. We saw that in Revelation 9. It is where the worst of the worst go. It is not on earth but under the earth. Satan is thrown in the Abyss, and it is locked, so he can’t get out.
Satan will be on death row. He will be chained. He will be imprisoned and there will be no escape for a thousand years. That is a long prison sentence. It is a long time to be in prison.
This is poetic justice. For thousands of years, Satan has been enslaving other people and putting them in chains. Now, he is in chains himself. He bound others.
Luke 13 describes a woman who was cripples by a spirit for eighteen years (Luke 13:11). Jesus called her a “daughter of Abraham” and said that Satan kept her bound for eighteen years (Luke 13:16).
In fact, the Greek word for “bound” in Luke 13 is the same word used in Revelation 20. Satan loves to bind others and in Revelation 20 he is bound, and he is bound with shackles.
There is a very common interpretation in the church today. It is held by a lot of people. There are many who believe that Revelation 20:1-3 is being fulfilled right now. It is present, not future. Satan is bound today.
Some say that just because Satan is bound today does not mean that he can’t harm people. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t active or doesn’t tempt people. He can still do a lot in the world today. He is very active but has some limitations.
He is not able to deceive the nations. That is the one thing mentioned in the text that he cannot do when he is bound. If he is bound today, he would not be deceiving nations.
The problem is that Satan is still deceiving the nations today. He is called “the ruler of this world” three times in John (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
Paul calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2 KJV). He calls him “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4 KJV). Revelation 12:9 says that he deceives the whole world right now.
Satan has a lot of power today. Revelation 20 is a picture of total powerlessness. He is chained, thrown in the Abyss and it is locked. It is a completely different picture.
The other big problem is that Satan is not confined right now. He is not in the Abyss right now. He has access to the earth.
“Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and from walking back and forth in it.” (Job 1:7 NIV)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8 NIV)
According to that passage, the Devil is out prowling around looking for someone to devour. He is not locked up in the Abyss today.
Some Christians point out that there is another place in the Bible that talks about Satan being bound. In fact, the same word used for “bind” (δέω) in Revelation 20:2 is used in Matthew 12:29 and Mark 3:27.
The verse is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each one adds a different detail. Matthew gives us the context.
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:22-24 NIV)
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. (Mark 3:23-27 NIV)
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. (Luke 11:21-22 NIV)
Luke calls it a parable. We could call it “The Parable of the Strong Man.” It is a parable that most Christians have never heard before. It is only one or two verses.
In this parable, a man guards a house. He is strong. He is armed. Luke tells us that he has weapons (Luke 11:21). The only way to get in the house and take things is to beat up the strong man and tie him up or bind him.
It is a strange parable. It is even stranger when you find out that the one who attacks and overpowers the strong man is Jesus.
It looks like Jesus is pictured as a thief or burglar, until you realize that the strong man in the parable represents Satan. It is not a home invasion but a rescue mission. Jesus is freeing people in bondage. To do that, he has to be stronger than Satan.
The Parable of the Strong Man
What is the point of the parable? It says several things to us today.
1) We have an enemy. It is a real person. The person is not a physical being but a supernatural spiritual being.
2) The enemy is Satan. His kingdom is pictured as a household.
3) This enemy is strong. Never underestimate him. He has power over people’s lives. In this parable, he is armed.
4) Jesus is stronger. He can overpower him. Jesus is stronger than Satan. Never forget that.
5) When an exorcism takes place, Satan is overcome. His kingdom is plundered, and people are rescued. The captives are set free.
A Different Binding
Revelation 20 is talking about something completely different. Some have called the binding of Satan in the gospels an initial binding. This is his final binding.
- The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 follows the Second Coming, not the First Coming.
- The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 takes place in the Abyss, not earth.
- The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 affects nations, not just individuals.
- The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 deals with deception, not just exorcism.