Over at Justin Taylor’s blog, there’s been talk of the millennium and Revelation 20. That has prompted me to trot out (portions of) some transcribed sermons from a few years ago. This first message is part of my first sermon on Revelation 20:1-6.
Now let’s come to Revelation 20. You’ll notice quickly that I believe that the text lends itself to an amillennial interpretation. And hopefully, that’s not just because I want to pick a camp that Reformed people are in, but because it is, in fact, biblical. But I encourage you to be Bereans and search the scriptures for yourselves on these things. The millennium question does matter, but I certainly think it’s less important than many people have made it to be. So, let’s look at the text, and try to answer three questions. Number 1: When does the millennium occur? And if I convince you of that, well then you’ve bought it all. Number 2: What is meant by Satan being bound for 1000 years? And then, in the following sermon, we’ll do Number 3: How are we to understand verse 4, where it says they came to life and reigned with Christ 1000 years?
Question Number One: When does the Millenium occur?
Here’s the simplest way to put it. The millenium occurs before Christ’s second coming, before Christ’s second coming. Look at verse 7. “When the 1000 years are over”–so this is after the millenium–“Satan will be released from his prison.” This is what I understand to be a time of tribulation where Satan is given a short time to persecute the church as he never has before. “Satan will be released from prison and will go out to deceive the nations and the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They march across the breadth of the earth, surrounding the camp of God’s people. Fire came down and devoured them, and the devil is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.”
All of this happens after the Millenium. Now anybody can see that. It says right here, when the 1000 years are over. So, the key is understanding that this battle scene describe here is the same as the battle scenes we’ve seen described three or four times in Revelation already. The premillennialists, again not our enemies, I just disagree with them on this point, the premillennialists would say Chapter 19, Christ comes, he takes up the believers, and then he sets up his kingdom. And then Chapter 20, there’s some sort of coming again, at least if you’re dispensational. And there’s a final battle where he destroys the devil, after the Millennial Age. And I want to argue, as I have before, that the battle in Chapter 20 is the same as the ones we’ve seen before.
So, turn back to Chapter 9. I did this last week, I’ll do it very briefly this week. There are at least four times where there is a final battle scene described. Chapter 9, verse 13, the sixth angel sounded his trumpet, said release the four angels who were bound at the great river Euphrates. And they were released to kill a third of mankind, and the number of the mounted troops was 200,000,000. So, there is a final battle scene–all these troops gathering at the Euphrates, which I understand to be symbolic.
That was the sixth trumpet, now look also at 16:12, the sixth bowl poured out on the river Euphrates. The waters dry up, three spirits looking like frogs perform miraculous signs. They go out to the kings of the whole world. They deceive them, they gather them for battle on the great day of the Lord. There’s another – same battle scene,
Chapter 19, verse 19, then I saw the beasts and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse, and the beast was captured and with him, the false prophets. There’s another final battle scene. Three times in Revelation, we have ho polemos. Polemos is the word for war in Greek. Ho is the definite article, the. Three times, Chapter 16, Chapter 19, and Chapter 20, we read of THE battle, or THE war.
So, Chapter 20, the beginning takes us back prior to the end of Chapter 19, and we’ve seen this time and time again in Revelation. That Revelation works in parallelism. You have the three seals, and boom, the end of the world, lighting thunders, and then let’s look at it again, and there’s three trumpets, end of the world. Back up, three bowls. And each time it’s not exactly the same. Each time gets a little more intense, and it catapults us a little closer to the end. We keep zooming in closer to the end. So, the trumpets look a little bit more at the end. The bowls look a little more at the end, and now we’re focusing mostly on the end of the age. But it’s repeating. This has happened before in Chapter 6, the seals. At end, who can stand the wrath of the Lamb. And then Chapter 7 opens with a vision of the 144,000 who are sealed. Which takes us back prior to those events to show us who will stand.
Or, if you look in Chapter 16, at the very end, verse 19. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine and the fury of his wrath. So, Babylon is taken down in Chapter 16. But then we back up the truck in Chapters 17 and 18, and we zero in on Babylon again. And so time and time again, we see Revelation does not work in a strictly chronological order. And so that’s what’s happening here. Chapter 19, we have the battle, Christ returns at the end, and then we take a step back now and we’re looking at what happens before that battle, leading up to one more final battle scene in Chapter 20, verse 7. You with me? This is why nobody gets the book.
Now, if the binding of Satan takes place chronologically after Chapter 19, we are left with a puzzling question. What’s the point? Look at Chapter 19, verse 17. An angel stands, calls to the birds, come and gather together for the great supper of God so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, mighty men, horses, riders, flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great. That’s pretty comprehensive. I mean the bad guys are totally wiped out. So, if that happened and then the binding of Satan happens, you have to ask, “What’s the point? Why does Satan need to be bound? There’s nobody left.” Christ has already destroyed everybody. The birds are circling. They’re poking their eyes out. So, it makes much more sense that we’re looking back now before this end. So, I would argue that the Millennium is the age of the triumph of the gospel inaugurated by Christ in his death, resurrection, and ascension. Let me say that again. The millenium is the age of the triumph of the gospel inaugurated–that means begun–by Christ in his death, resurrection, and ascension. So, this church age, stretching from Christ’s first coming to his second coming, is the Millennium. So, I argue that we are in the Millennium. So, amillennial doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the Millennium. It means I don’t believe in earthly Millennium where Christ is sitting on the throne reigning. But we are in this Millennial Age.
And it goes without saying by this point that I don’t believe that the Millennium is a literal 1000 years. We’re already over 2000 years getting there. But you think what number in Revelation has been literal? We’ve argued the 144,000 are not literal. The 1260 days, the times, times, and half of times, the 200,000,000 mounted troops, all of the sevens, the twelves, the fours. The numbers are symbols. And think of all the symbols that have not been taken literally. Even, I think the strictest dispensationalist would not take most of these literal. A prostitute, a beast, a second beast, a pregnant woman, a bride, a groom, eating a scroll, seven heads, ten horns, fire coming from the mouths of the two witnesses, Christ killing people with a sword in his mouth, blood as high as a horses bridle for 200 miles. John saw all of these things. It’s not that they’re untrue, don’t hear that. But they point to something else. Just look at the immediate context here. Think of what John sees. Well, we had the dragon chained up in an abyss. To me, this seems to be more than a little metaphorical. There’s not literally a dragon somewhere in the core of the earth chained up. And so it makes sense that the 1000 years are also part of the symbolism not to be taken literally. So, when does the Millennium occur? It’s occurring right now, prior to Christ’s return.
Question Number Two: What is meant then by Satan being bound for 1000 years?
This is our last question for this morning. We’ll do number three next week.
At this point you may be saying, “I’ve been here for enough of Revelation. I’m sort of tracking with the first question. I understand the parallelism. I mean goodness, you say that every single week. I think I’m getting the hang of it now. Okay, I can get that, but is Satan really bound right now? Come on. Look at my life. Look what’s going on in the world. Is Satan really bound?”
I’m going to take you to a few passages in the gospels. First is Mark, Chapter 3. I will explain in just a few minutes what it means that Satan is bound, because it certainly doesn’t mean he’s inactive in the world. But I do believe that the binding of Satan occurred in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Turn to Mark 3:23. This is where some of the teachers of the law are accusing Jesus of being possessed by demons. And Jesus says, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” In other words, “I’m casting out demons. I can’t do that by the power of demons.” “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possession unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He is guilty of eternal sin. He said this because they were saying he has an evil spirit.” I want to look in particular at verse 27. Jesus is implicitly giving an explanation of what his ministry is like. He’s saying, “I don’t cast out demons by demons. A house divided against itself can’t stand.” And he describes himself as one who is entering a strong man’s house to carry off his possessions, to expel these demons. He says you can’t do that unless you first tie up the strong man, who is Satan. Now, the word translated “ties up” is the Greek word deo. And it is the same word used in Revelation, Chapter 20, that’s translated bound. Satan is tied up. The strong man is tied up. Jesus understood himself, that in his ministry, he was, in effect, tying up Satan in knots.
Let me give you another example. Luke, Chapter 10. Luke Chapter 10, verse 17, Jesus here has sent out the 72 disciples to go on a short-term mission trip, and to go preach about the kingdom, and to do signs and wonders. And then they return in verse 17. It’s says the 72 return with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Then verse 18, he replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” In other words, Jesus tells the disciples, in your ministry, in your gospel kingdom ministry, I saw Satan fall. I saw him cast down. The word here is similar to the word – actually, to the concept in Revelation, Chapter 12, which we’ll see in just a moment, where the great dragon is hurled down. So, Jesus understands that, in the ministry of the gospel, Satan has already fallen. He’s already been cast down.
One more passage. John, Chapter 12. And this is maybe most significant. John, Chapter 12, verse 31. Jesus says, “Now is the time. Now is the time for judgment on this world. Now the prince of this world will be driven out.” Jesus says in my ministry, in my death and resurrection, the prince of this world, Satan, will be driven out. The word is ekballo. The word used in Revelation 20, verse 3, when it says Satan was thrown down into the abyss is ballo, they’re cognates. And then look at verse 32, because this is significant. But when I, “when I’m lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Now why is that significant? Because in Revelation, Chapter 20, as we’ll see more in just a moment, the purpose of binding Satan is so that he can no longer deceive the nations. And so you see the connection. In Revelation, Chapter 20, Satan is bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations. In John 12, Jesus says the prince of the world is cast out, he’s thrown down, he’s driven out. And then “I’ll draw all men unto myselves.” Not meaning every person everywhere will believe, but all men, all types of men, all peoples. It’s the truth of Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them trifling over them by the cross.” We underestimate what Jesus did on the cross, and the defeat that he handed to Satan.
Now let me show you a couple of other places in Revelation, and then we’ll conclude with some application. Look at Revelation, Chapter 11. We won’t read through the account of the two witnesses, but the two witnesses are metaphors for the church. And Chapter 11 shows us a picture of the church that is both vulnerable and invincible. They’re trampled upon, but they also breathe out fire. And they’re also brought back to life. This is a picture of the church in this age. Yes, persecuted. Yes, attacked. Yes, under assault. But ultimately, God has promised us she’ll be victorious. Which is the point of Chapter 20.
Let me show you the other passage, which is more to the point. In Revelation, Chapter 12, look at verse 7. Now if we had time, I could show you, there’s about seven or eight parallels between Revelation 12 and Revelation 20. Verse 7 says there was war in heaven. So, we’re looking at heaven. Revelation 20 is a scene of throne rooms and souls in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was not strong enough. They lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down. That ancient serpent called the devil or Satan. It’s the same fourfold description of the devil that we have in Chapter 20.
But what about, “Who leads the whole world astray?” Now here’s where we need to hold two truths intention. And there’s a word that’s very important, that’s different. Satan is the one who leads the whole world astray, and yet Satan is bound so that he may no longer deceive the nations. Not the same thing. The world is according to John the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, fleshliness, its corruption. Satan leads the world astray. But he’s bound such that the nations, people groups, countries, missions can be successful. So, he is a deceiver. He is leading astray. But the nations are also coming to Christ. And it goes on in Chapter 12 and it talks about those who are martyrs for the testimony. It’s very similar scene. We don’t have time to look at it any more than this.
Two Points of Application
So, here’s where we need to finish. You’re saying, I see some parallels with the gospels, and Satan maybe is bound and he’s defeated. But what exactly does it mean to say Satan is bound now? Look at verse 3 of Chapter 20. It gives us the answer. They threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it over him to keep him from deceiving the nations any more till the 1000 years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. The binding of Satan does not mean that he can’t harm, or that he isn’t active, or that he doesn’t tempt you, or that he doesn’t need to be resisted, or fled from. The binding of Satan means two things in particular.
First, the binding of Satan means that he cannot deceive the nations and gather them together to wipe out the church. When it says in verse 3, cannot deceive the nations, compare that with verse 7. Here’s what he will do when he deceives the nations. When the 1000 years are over, Satan will be released from his prison, will go out to deceive the nations, and the four corners of the earth, to gather them for battle. So, the deception here is to gather all of his forces, to gather the nations against Christ and his church. And because of Christ’s work in the gospel, Satan is unable to do that. No matter what persecution there is, he will not be able to wipe out the church. If Satan were not bound, the church would’ve been gone long ago. That’s the first thing.
Second, the binding of Satan means that the nations will no longer be in times of ignorance, but will be responsive to the gospel. That’s where it says “he will keep him from deceiving the nations anymore.” So, Paul, in Acts, Chapter 14, speaking in Lystra, says, “In the past, God let all nations go their own way.” In Athens, he said, “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. In Ephesians 2, he says, “The nations used to be strangers and aliens to God’s promise.” And in John’s gospel we read that Christ is drawing all men, all peoples to himself. Revelation 20, read in light of these passages, becomes a missions text. Satan’s reign has come to an end and Christ is conquering the nations.
In A.D. 100, less than 1% of the world’s population was Christian. And only 6% had been evangelized. By A.D. 500, 20% of the world were Christians, 30% had been evangelized. And then Christendom takes place, and the growth of the church numerically stagnates. But then by the end of the 18th Century, the modern missionary movement begins, so that by 1900 now 35% of the world were Christians, and 46 % had been evangelized. And by the year 2000, roughly the same percentage of the world, much larger in total number, are Christians, and now 73% of the people, 3/4th have a viable witness to Jesus Christ. There are 12,000 people groups on the planet, and most of them have a church. Now there are still thousands, small ones, interior tribes, that don’t. But peoples have been coming to Christ. Matthew 24:14, “The gospel of the kingdom will be preached and the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” So, I am confident that evil will grow. And I am equally confident that the gospel will go forth and the great commission will be completed. Nobody likes goals that you never intend to make. But the church will fulfill the great commission. And all nations will hear of Christ. So let this be an encouragement.
Here’s the application. Go to the hard places if you hear Christ calling you there. Far away places that scare mom and dad. Urban centers, not just the cool ones where all the young professionals live, the burned over ones. Dangerous ones. Let this be a call to pour ourselves into international ministry. Resources, time, people, prayers, because the nations will come to Christ. Because Satan is bound. Let this be an incentive for personal evangelism. Who know who Christ is right now drawing unto himself. I hope that by the fall we can have an evangelism program and some people trained to do an evangelism program in our church, and maybe in our communities, and your office, in your neighborhood. Backyard vacation bible schools going on.
Be bold in your witness. Christ has conquered. The nations belong to Him. We are not serving a defeated king, but one who is triumphed and has so bound Satan, not so that we will never be tempted. But so that the nations, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq, Japan, the Netherlands, Ireland, can come to know Christ. And there will be a witness among every people to Jesus because of his work.