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 didnt have time to study, so I guess Ill 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 Christs 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 Satans 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, Plano, Texas. 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 138139.

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

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 20:1-3

Revelation 20:1-3

Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. 2 He seized the dragon the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan and tied him up for a thousand years. 3 The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.)
(NET Bible)

The Millennium

There comes a point where you have to decide: is Jesus really Lord of all? Some live as if he only rules spiritual matters; others discount him altogether.

In a skeptical age, go all-in with Jesus! He is the All-Powerful Lord who will really return, really hurl Satan into the lake of fire, and really deliver you into a tangible eternity of joy!

NT commentators are agreed that Revelation 20 is the most debated chapter of all, and this debate hinges on the timing of Christs return in relation to a period of time known as the Millennium. The word millennium is borrowed from Latin into English, and it means a thousand years.

This post reflects my view that Jesus will physically return prior to the Millennium to establish a literal rule of righteousness upon the earth for a period lasting an actual one thousand years. For those familiar with the language, that is a premillennial position because Jesus returns before the Millennium. The earliest church fathers also held premillennial views.[1]

This phrase a thousand years is important because it occurs six times in Revelation 2-7 as a translation of the Greek phrase tachilia ete(a thousand years). What happens during this period of one thousand years? First, Satan will be bound securely in the abyss so that he cannot deceive the nations (20:3). Second, Christ will rule the nations of the world along with those who have believed in him, both living and resurrected (20:4). Third, the unbelieving dead will remain in Hades until the Millennium ends and final judgment occurs (20:5).

Recall that the military opposition to Christs return and the rulers leading that resistance were utterly destroyed (19:21). So, whom does Jesus rule? He rules the billions of largely unbelieving people who did not gather at Armageddon with those who were destroyed.[2] Jesus will not destroy the nations at Armageddon but rather the military forces gathered there in armed resistance.

Revelation 20:1-10 breaks into three parts: before the Millennium (verses 1-3), during the Millennium (verses 4-6), and after the Millennium (verses 7-10). Our passage for today shows how Satan will be securely confined for the thousand years during which Jesus will rule the world. We will elaborate on that rule in the next post.

If you expect some furious battle when the angel comes to seize and confine Satan, then you will be surprised. Satan is in no way equal to God in power, so the angel holding the key and the chain will have no difficulty securing the prisoner in the abyss (19:2-3).

You probably realize that the many views on this chapter arise from various assumptions made about which elements are literal and which symbolic. I have already revealed that I generally take the elements as literal. So, I conclude John saw an actual angel holding a real key and chain. The angel will confine Satan in a real place where he has no direct influence over humanity. Of his eventual and temporary release at the end of the age (19:3b), I will explain that another day.

Satans days are numbered

Though Satan will be bound after Christ returns, for now he remains at large as a desperate threat. If you do not take his existence seriously, then you may find yourself deceived by a world he covertly rules (1 Pet. 5:8). But the ease of Satans future capture should give you a jolt.

Never forget that even Jesus was tempted by Satan over an extended period (Matthew 4) and then later (Luke 22:39-46). You too will be tempted, but one day all temptation will end forever!

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

 


[1] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 470.

[2] 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. Tolkiens epic high fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Infused with many Christian themes, Tolkiens work fashions an ancient age of earth in which good fights a death-struggle with personal evil. Its thematic poem mimics Satans 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 Satans 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 Johns original readers but would also fit in Satans 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 Christs resurrection.

Grant Osborne describes the reaction of the whole world to the beasts 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 Satans 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 Lambs 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 Gods 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 worlds 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 Beales idea simple and persuasive: The number 666 is likely no exception to Johns 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 Tolkiens 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, Plano, Texas. 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 NETs 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.