Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. 9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.
The power of denial
In graduate school there are a few perks. By that point the university is no longer putting you through flunk-out courses, and rarely does anyone ever get a grade lower than a “C.” The graduate school also figures that as a college graduate you should be able to understand the manual for graduate school. Life is good!
I was tightly focused on my final exam in quantum mechanics when a sleepy-eyed grad-student met the professor at the nearby classroom door. “Sorry, Professor! I just didn’t have time to study, so I guess I’ll just have to take a ‘C’ in the course.”
Prof first looked puzzled, then sad, and said, “Unfortunately, the grade for failing is ‘F,’ not ‘C.’” The sleepy grad student suddenly woke up! Ignorance and denial are a powerful combination, are they not?
For a thousand years (by this point) Jesus has ruled the world, which began the Millennium with a large unbelieving population that knew the grim result of Armageddon. But children may not learn what their parents know, and grandchildren remember even less. Old facts become old stories. Satan, confined in the abyss, is not present to deceive, but self-deception is ever popular!
Why will Satan be released from his prison (20:7) at the end of the Millennium? Robert Mounce explains that it happens “to make plain that neither the designs of Satan nor the waywardness of the human heart will be altered by the mere passage of time.”
To put this explanation into other words, some might say that God was unfair to punish committed sinners since it was Satan who actually caused all the trouble. But removing Satan from the scene and putting the world under Christ’s righteous rule demonstrates that the tendency to rebel against God does not start with Satan or unfortunate circumstances. Shakespeare put these words in the mouth of one of his characters: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Indeed it is.
Grant Osborne speaks of the deceived nations when he says, “After fourteen lifetimes of enforced good . . . as soon as Satan is released, they allow themselves to be ‘deceived’ all over again.” The number committed to rebellion against Christ is far larger than that within the camp of the saints (20:9), but they are destroyed completely by fire from heaven (20:9). This is their first death, but a second will soon follow!
How miserably the rebels will fail soon becomes apparent. The devil will be hurled into the lake of fire where he will join the beast and the false prophet, “and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever” (20:10). The redundant phrases day and night and forever and ever (20:10) combine to mean without pause and without end. Demonic spirits have long known this would be their end (Matt. 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28). I think those who joined Satan’s rebellion refused to believe they would ever reach this punishment. Denial and ignorance will fail spectacularly!
Some years ago it occurred to me that those who become disillusioned were somehow illusioned in the first place! [Forgive me for making up a new word.] Those who rebel against God simply do not take images like the lake of fire seriously. The problem is that our thinking that something is so or is not so has no bearing on its factual existence. In some matters it simply is not reasonable to take such a chance of being wrong.
Paul Shepherd is one of my favorite Bible teachers. He says his mission is to do permanent damage to spiritual ignorance. That is a mission which can save a lot of lives, and you can adopt it yourself!
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Rev. Ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997) 371.
 Julius Caesar, act 1, scene 2, lines 138–139.
 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 703.