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 17:1-5

Revelation 17:1-5

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke to me. Come, he said, I will show you the condemnation and punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality and the earth’s inhabitants got drunk with the wine of her immorality. 3 So he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 Now the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup filled with detestable things and unclean things from her sexual immorality. 5 On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth.
(NET Bible)

Babylon the Great Prostitute

Not all that glitters is gold. I invite you to think about the scramble for gold that is currently going in. Seeking gold, hording it and spending it are activities that drive multitudes today.

The Great Prostitute and the beast heartily approve! Does that give you pause?

Grant Osborne provides a great summary of chapters 17-18: Chapter 17 centers on Rome as the great prostitute who is drunk on the blood of the saints, while chapter 18 then looks at Rome as the great city destroyed. . . . Chapter 17 is complex and hard to understand while chapter 18 is far more clear.[1] The angel says, I will show you the condemnation [chapter 17] and punishment [chapter 18] of the great prostitute who sits on many waters (17:1).

To interpret this difficult chapter (17) requires all the help available. So, we immediately note that verse 15 defines the waters in verse 1 to be peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages on which the prostitute sits. We are also told in 17:18 that the woman ? identified in 17:5 as Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes ? is the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth. But which city?

Though the name Babylon is given, all agree the name is symbolic. The definitive clue comes in the clause The seven heads are seven mountains the woman sits on (17:9). The Seven Hills of Rome are legendary.

But in this case Babylon/Rome represents two kingdoms. First, it symbolizes the Roman Empire which persecuted the seven churches in Johns day. But we are also being informed about the nature of the beasts kingdom near the end of history. The beasts kingdom will have wealth, power and sexual depravity similar to that displayed by ancient Rome.

It is difficult for contemporary readers to understand what is meant by the prostitution depicted in Revelation 17. In the NT world much of the prostitution was carried out by temple prostitutes whose income helped support pagan temples. So, fornication was often an overtly religious matter as well as a sexual one.

Be clear on the fact that God expects and deserves exclusive worship from all humanity, and he regards worship of other gods as entirely illicit. This is conveyed using metaphors of practicing immorality and harlotry. Such metaphors relied upon the common knowledge of how sexual and polytheistic Roman culture was. The Roman Empire was filled with religions from other cultures.

Literal prostitution was pervasive in Rome. Indeed, our word fornication derives from the arched alcoves (called fornices) of the Circus Maximus — the chariot racing venue — where brothels set up shop during the frequent races. Scholars have found that brothels also riddled the urban area of ancient Pompeii (near modern Naples, Italy). An exhibit of Pompeiis artifacts and business signs, unless severely restricted, is not fit for adults, much less a family.

Two broad issues remain: (1) the relationship between the prostitute and the beast, and (2) the dramatic fall of the prostitute at the hands of the beast. Concerning the first, Osborne says:

While the beast is the political ruler of the empire, the woman represents the blasphemous religion that seduces the nations and the economic system that draws them into its earthly luxury.[2]

Clearly the beast plans to exploit the prostitutes allure of worldly wealth to entrap many in his schemes. That sounds familiar, does it not?

All in all, Revelation 17 presents a bleak picture of the world in the final days. Yet 17:16 offers a beautiful contrast: They will make war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those accompanying the Lamb are the called, chosen, and faithful. Do not forget that God will fully and finally deal with the beast and the great prostitute whose wealth and power so entice humanity.

Staying out of the trap

Sometimes people complain that Washington has been bought by the rich and powerful. The truth is that it is easier to talk about that than to focus attention to how much we have personally invested into the worlds values and pleasures.

Whether we are managing what we have for Christ or being used by our worldly holdings to strengthen the dark kingdom ruled by Satan is a live question. Make sure you are among the called, chosen and faithful (17:16).

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) 605.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 610.