Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 20:7–10

Revelation 20:7–10
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.
(NET Bible)

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.”[1]

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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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!

Wishful thinking

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.



[1] 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.

[2] Julius Caesar, act 1, scene 2, lines 138–139.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 703.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 13:1–4

Revelation 13:1–4
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule. 3 One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: “Who is like the beast?” and “Who is able to make war against him?”
(NET Bible)

One Beast to rule them all: The Antichrist

When asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2003 to vote on the best-loved work in the history of Britain, the people voted for J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Infused with many Christian themes, Tolkien’s work fashions an ancient age of earth in which good fights a death-struggle with personal evil. Its thematic poem mimics Satan’s true plans for the last age of our world:

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

Revelation 13 introduces one of the most famous biblical personalities: the Antichrist, presented as the “beast coming up out of the sea” (13:1). He will be Satan’s primary leader to rule the world.

The hideous figure that rises from the sea bears a blasphemous name on each of its seven heads (13:1). Osborne says: “These blasphemous names probably allude to the titles of divinity attributed to the Roman emperor (‘lord,’ ‘savior,’ ‘son of god,’ ‘our lord and god’).”[1] Such titles would not only resonate for John’s original readers but would also fit in Satan’s plan to make the beast from the sea into a counterfeit Messiah at the end of history.

Satan, symbolized by the dragon, gives the Antichrist, symbolized by the beast from the sea, everything he needs to rule the world (13:2). But why does the world submit to such rule? The first reason is that they were dazzled by a miraculous mockery of Christ’s resurrection.

Grant Osborne describes the reaction of the whole world to the beast’s recovery: “They are deceived by the miracle (see also 13:13–14; 16:14) and do what the crowds failed to do in Jesus’ ministry: worship the beast.”[2]

In explaining 13:5–6, Osborne describes Satan’s deception: “Here we are at the heart of the ‘blasphemy’ (13:1, 5) of the beast, deceiving the nations into worshiping him as God.”[3] This sickening worship goes on for three and a half years (13:5). Worse still, only one group will refuse to worship the beast: those committed to the Lamb (13:8).

But a decision has to be made about the translation of 13:8b:

(NET) “everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed.”

(NIV 2011) “all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”

The correct translation hinges on which verb a Greek prepositional phrase modifies (see italics above), and numerous scholars take each side.[4] I side with Osborne in favor of the NIV 2011: “It is better here to respect the [original] word order and recognize that it is God’s plan that has been established ‘from the foundation of the world.’”[5]

Aside from the beast, the story of this chapter is told in 13:7, which says, “The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them.” He is assisted by a second beast, “another beast coming up from the earth” (13:11), who is often called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). Not only will the false prophet promote the worship of the Antichrist, but he will also organize the world’s commerce so that only those bearing “the mark of the beast” (13:17) can buy or sell anything.

“666”

Revelation 13:18 is legendary because of the number 666. I find Greg Beale’s idea simple and persuasive: “’The number 666’ is likely no exception to John’s figurative use of numbers. The number seven refers to completeness and is repeated throughout the book. But 666 appears only here. This suggests that the triple sixes are intended as a contrast with the divine sevens throughout the book and signify incompleteness and imperfection.”[6] Satan is not divine and neither is the beast; they can claim only to be perfect evil!

Do not take the fake!

A regrettable number of Christians have become caught up in following a teacher because of some complex interpretation of the beast or 666. Instead of speculation, we should focus on the revelation God provides us so that we can be prepared to represent Christ in a deceptive world.

In Tolkien’s fantasy world, evil did not prevail, but for a time its power was ascendant. Likewise, in our own future the beast will be given authority to conquer the saints for a little while, but his destiny is not rulership but torment. Instead, Jesus will rule and we who overcome will rule with him. The Lamb was slain, but he did not stay that way!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 491.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 497.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 498.

[4] The Greek word order favors the NIV translation (slain from the creation of the world”), but Rev. 17:8 favors the NET’s view (written since the foundation of the world”).

[5] Osborne, Revelation, 503.

[6] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 721-722.