Sunday, July 03, 2016

BINDING SATAN: REVELATION 20:1-3

The first six verses of chapter 20 are the source of many arguments. Although I have generally avoided turning this study of Revelation into a lecture about the doctrine of eschatology, the point has come where some extra knowledge may be helpful.

There are several schools of thought on the interpretation of Revelation. Some of these revolve around these six verses. The subject of discussion is the “millennium”. The word “millennium” does not appear in the English text. The word comes from the two Latin words meaning “thousand years”. Those words are “mille” for one thousand, and “annus” for years. In the Latin Vulgate, this would be the language used in these verses. Latin was also the language in which Biblical scholars and theologians wrote for centuries.

There are three main views of the millennium:
1. premillennialism;
2. postmillennialism; and
3. amillennialsim.

Premillennialism

Premillennialism is the view that Christ will return before the millennium. The believe that Revelation 19 and 20 are in chronological order. That means they believe the events of chapter 20 happen after the events of chapter 19.

This means they believe Christ’s return from heaven and the battle of Armageddon occur before the millennium.  He will come to earth and rule for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. Most premillennialists think it will literally be 1,000 years of 365, 24 hour days. Believers who have been resurrected will return with Jesus in their resurrection bodies. This means they will be sin free and curse free. This will be a golden age when the products of sin, such as violence and disease, will be suppressed. Those humans who do not have resurrection bodies when the millennium begins will still live to a ripe old age. This comes from Isaiah 65:20-25.

At the end of this period, despite the reign of Christ, Satan will be released and rebel with a vast army of fallen humans. They will attack Jerusalem in a great battle, but Jesus will Jesus will defeat him and send him to the lake of fire. God then will destroy or remove the present heavens and earth and create a new one.

Postmillennialism

This is the belief that Jesus will return after the millennium, which will be a golden age in which Satan is bound. They believe the gospel will spread over the world and dominate all human life during this period. However, at the end of this golden age of 1,000 years, there will be a period of intense rebellion against God. There will be persecution of the church. Christ will then return, raise the dead and judge them and create the new heavens and earth.

Amillennialism

Amillennialists believe that Jesus returns after the millennium, but that the millennium is the church age. Specifically, it is the time between Jesus’ exaltation and until right before Jesus’ return. The 1,000 years is symbolic of a long time, being 10 x 10 x 10. They see the end of the age as one big event: the return of Christ, resurrection, judgment and the new earth all happening at the end of this age. This is what I believe.

20:1-3
The 1st Vision of the Millennium: Satan Bound

Chapter 20 begins with “then I saw”, showing a shift of his attention from one vision to another. He has seen Babylon, the world of pleasure and greed, destroyed, followed by the defeat and destruction of the Beast and False Prophet and all of their followers by Jesus. In this vision, he will see the binding, or restricting, of Satan. He will later see him destroyed.

The vision began with John seeing an angel come down from heaven. He comes down from heaven, because Satan is not in heaven accusing the saints, but on earth. We saw this in chapter 9, as the star fell from heaven to earth at the sound of the fifth trumpet. This angel holds the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, bound him with the chain for a thousand years in the pit. He sealed it over him. But, John tells us the dragon must be released for a little while after the 1,000 year confinement.

Verse 2 makes clear the dragon is Satan, the devil. He is also called the serpent, reminding us of his deception of Eve, leading to the fall of mankind into sin. He is Satan, meaning accuser, who accused the saints. He is the dragon that tried to destroy the woman and her baby by deception that poured from his mouth. (12:15)

The visual factors here tell us this is a symbolic story. Satan is not a dragon, he is a spiritual being, a fallen angel. No physical chain would bind him.

The chain, though, is a symbol of binding. Satan is restricted. And we are told the reason: that he might not deceive the nations until the thousand years is ended. (3) We have seen from previous chapters this truth: Satan has deceived many to reject Christ and attack the church, but only at the end of the age, the end of the millennium, will Satan be able to deceive nations to gather together to attack Christ and the church with the aim of destroying them. We have seen John’s vision of the false prophet deceiving kings and those who dwell on earth (unbelievers) by his miraculous signs. (13:14) The kings gave their authority to the Beast and they all gathered to attack. This happens at the end of the age. So, Satan is bound, or restricted until then, in his ability to deceive the nations into an all out attack on the church.

The key is also a symbol of authority. If you hold the only key to a lock, you are the only one who can unlock or lock it. In 1:18, Jesus said he holds the key to Hades. Likewise, the seal is the symbol of ownership and control. We have seen the seal of the Beast is on those whom he controls. They worship him. But the seal of the Holy Spirit is on those owned by Christ.

One of the problems with the premillennial, chronological view, is that the battle in Revelation 19 results in the annihilation of the armies of the beast, including kings, the captains, the mighty men and all men, slave and free, that have the mark of the beast. (We know all people received the mark that were not sealed in Christ, according to 13:16) There would be no need to restrain Satan from deceiving them after this: they had already been deceived and destroyed.

This is actually the third time we have seen the restriction of Satan in the church age: First, with the two witnesses in chapter 11 who are protected for a period of time before the Beast is allowed to overcome them; second, with the heavenly woman who is protected from the dragon in the wilderness in chapter 12; and third, this vision in chapter 20 showing the dragon to be bound.

Before the coming of Christ, we see the nations deceived. Satan deceived Eve, certainly. But he certainly deceived the Gentile nations of the Old Testament. God chose Abraham’s descendants and revealed himself to them, protecting them as long as they kept his covenant. But the Gentile nations remained in spiritual darkness. In fact, they oppressed and attacked God’s people. Egypt, Philstia, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Syria and Rome all tried to destroy God’s people. Each nation worshipped idols and engaged in occult practices. They tried to force this worship on God’s people.

When Jesus appeared the first time, he repeatedly engaged Satan and exerted power over him. He bound him in several instances by casting out demons. Jesus told a parable about this. Matthew 12 records an instance where Jesus cast a demon out of a man who could not speak or see. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus said his casting out of the demon showed that the kingdom of God had come upon them. He spoke of entering a strong man’s house and plundering it. It is a metaphor for entering the kingdom of Satan and imposing the kingdom of Christ. That causes Satan to be limited or bound.

Matthew applied a prophesy of Isaiah to Jesus, saying the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light. (Matthew 4:14-17; Isaiah 9:1 and 42:7) He said this because Jesus had gone up north to preach, where the Gentiles lived. The Gentiles were in spiritual darkness, under the deception of Satan, until Jesus gave them light. Jesus had the authority to restrict Satan’s deception and bring understanding.

But, more so, when Jesus is resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father to reign, Satan is further restricted. Jesus disarmed rulers and authorities and put them to shame. (Colossians 2:15)

This binding or restriction is good news for the Gentiles, for when Satan was restricted in his ability to deceive, the gospel began spread to all of the Gentile nations. Jesus could command the disciples to go into all nations to make disciples because all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him, not Satan. (Matthew 28:18-19) Paul picked up that theme when preaching at Antioch of Pisidia. When the Jews opposed him, Paul said he was turning to the Gentiles and that turning was according to God’s command, saying “I have made you al light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 13:47 quoted verses from Isaiah together). In fact, Paul said the gospel was bearing fruit and growing in the whole world. (Colossians 1:6)

Since Satan was restricted, the gospel spread through Europe and Asia. This will happen until right before the end of the age. Only then is he allowed again to deceive the nations (“released”), so that he may bring about his own destruction and those of his followers.

One thing that happens with the placement of this vision of 1,000 years is that it shows that the end will not come soon for those in the Asian churches to whom this letter is written. They have seen that Jesus will triumph. They will see Rome and its successors destroyed. But it will not be soon. Indeed we are 20 centuries down the road of time and Jesus has not yet come nor defeated all of his enemies in a final battle. And, although we are barraged with those who tell us Jesus will surely come this year or next, we see that our job is endure to the end in faith, no matter if the end is soon or way off in the future.

End times fever sells a lot of books. Some guys write a book forecasting the end overtime anything unusual happens. Especially if the Middle East or Russia act up, or heaven help us both at the same time, the fever gets hotter and hotter. My favorites (meaning the ones I really dislike) are the ones who say “I know the Bible says we cannot know the date, but I am convinced it is about to happen and I do not see how you could think otherwise”. But then it does not happen. God wants us to endure in faith as opposed to trying to figure out the date of the end.

Post a Comment