Previously: The rest of the dead – Revelation 20:5-6
Rev. 20:7 – When the 1,000 years are completed, 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 gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. (HCSB)
Satan will be released
Verses 7-8 read, “When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea.”
Satan’s release from the abyss (Greek phulakes or prison) appears related to the well-known prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39. While there are similarities between these passages, there also are differences. The question has been raised as to whether the battle in Rev. 20:7-8 is the same battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38–39, where Gog and Magog also are mentioned (Ezek. 38:2).
These appear to be two different battles, however, for in the war of Ezekiel 38–39 the armies come primarily from the north and involve only a few nations of the earth, while the battle in Revelation 20 involves all nations. These two events are related, however, inasmuch as Israel is the focal point in both conflicts.
Why is Satan imprisoned for a time and then released? Why not cast him into hell before the 1,000 years? Joseph A. Seiss writes, “God uses even the wickedest of beings, and overrules the worst depravity, to his own good and gracious ends. He allows Satan liberty, and denies him liberty, and gives him liberty again, not because the Devil or the Devil’s malice is necessary to him, but to show his power to bring good out of evil, to make even the worst of creatures praise him, and to turn their very wickedness to the furtherance of the purposes they would fain defeat” (The Apocalypse, p. 476).
Previously: For 1,000 years – Revelation 20:2-3
Rev. 20:4 –Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. (HCSB)
The saints reign with the Messiah
In verse 4 John records, “Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years.”
Who are the people seated on thrones and given authority to judge? Certainly they are God’s people, as indicated in Daniel and the writings of Paul.
In Daniel 7 we read, “As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat…. But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever…. the Ancient of Days arrived and a judgment was given in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, for the time had come, and the holy ones took possession of the kingdom…. The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey Him” (Dan. 7:9, 18, 22, 27).
The apostle Paul builds on this when he writes, “Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest cases? Don’t you know that we will judge angels – not to mention ordinary matters?” (1 Cor. 6:2-3). Finally, earlier passages in Revelation assure us that Jesus is to share His sovereign rule with believers (Rev. 2:26-28; 3:21; 5:9-10).
Previously: He seized the dragon – Revelation 20:2-3
Rev. 20:2 – He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time. (HCSB)
For 1,000 years
Revelation 20 is the only place in scripture that refers to 1,000 years during which Satan is bound. Few time periods in the Bible have been written about with so much conviction – and debated with so much contention. Before surveying the various views of the “millennium,” let’s look at every reference to 1,000 years in this chapter:
- Verse 2 – The angel seizes the Devil and binds him in the abyss for 1,000 years.
- Verse 3 – Satan is not able to deceive the nations until the 1,000 years are completed.
- Verse 4 – People that have been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, and who have not worshiped the beast or his image, and who have not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands, come to life and reign with the Messiah for 1,000 years.
- Verse 5 – The rest of the dead do not come to life until the 1,000 years are completed.
- Verse 6 – Those who share in the first resurrection will reign with Jesus for 1,000 years.
- Verse 7 – After the 1,000 years are completed, Satan is released from the abyss and goes out to deceive the nations.
Are we to take the 1,000 years literally or figuratively? Is this period of time past, present, or future? And are there other passages of scripture that shed light on the meaning of the millennium? With respect to these questions, there are three general schools of thought. But before we briefly survey them, let’s begin with some general observations about these verses.
Few passages of scripture cause more controversy among evangelical Christians than Rev. 20:1-10, in which John mentions a 1,000-year period six times. The main point of debate is whether the “millennium” should be understood literally or figuratively.
Generally, those who believe the 1,000 years are literal and in the future are called premillennialists. They look for Christ to return and establish a “millennial kingdom,” or a reign of 1,000 years, after which He puts down Satan’s final revolt, resurrects and judges unbelievers (Christians are judged before the millennium), and creates new heavens and a new earth.
Those who believe Christ is returning after the millennium are called postmillennialists. The 1,000 years are not necessarily a literal time frame, but they represent a period during which much of the world turns to faith in Jesus.
Those who see all references to the 1,000 years as figurative and without merit as a reference point concerning the timing of the Lord’s return are called amilllennialists.
There is diversity within each of these camps as to the order of events surrounding the second coming.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s important to follow a biblical principle for exploring tough passages: Start with the simple and straightforward teachings of scripture, and seek to understand the difficult passages in the light of the simpler ones.
With that in mind, let’s rally around 10 simple truths regarding the return of Jesus.