Dr. Richard L. Strauss
July 15, 1979
"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while" (Revelation 20:1-6).
It is the unmistakable affirmation of Scripture that the God of heaven will ultimately put down all opposition and establish His sovereign rule over the earth, His everlasting Kingdom. The Old Testament is filled with predictions of that great day. The most famous we have referred to is in Daniel 2:44. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
That eternal kingdom is associated with God's Son, the Messiah of Israel. It is to be a Messianic kingdom. Daniel 7:13-14 makes this incontrovertible. It is the Son of Man that comes to the Ancient of Days and receives the right to rule this kingdom. "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
The Old Testament is filled with predictions and promises and particulars about this kingdom on earth. For instance, Isaiah 2--a great kingdom passage--indicates that it will be a kingdom of peace. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation" (Isaiah 2:4).
In Isaiah 11 we learn that it will be a righteous kingdom. The Messiah described in Isaiah 11:1-2 will judge the poor with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4); righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins (Isaiah 11:5); the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9). Other great kingdom passages like Isaiah chapters 35 and 65 reveal that the earth itself shall be delivered from its curse and its bondage to corruption. God's kingdom on earth is a glorious and blessed Old Testament hope. It will be a utopia on earth.
When the New Testament dawns, one of the first things we learn is that the one who shall establish God's righteous kingdom has come. Before He was born, the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that her son would be great, "and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father, David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).
The kingdom, however, was still future during his earthly ministry. He taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). When the disciples thought that the kingdom of God should appear immediately, Christ told them a parable which clearly establishes the fact that He would depart, and that the establishment of the kingdom would await His return (Luke 19:11-27). While there is an aspect of God's kingdom in operation today, and we as believers have been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13), the Lord Jesus makes it perfectly clear in one of His most famous prophetic discourses that the kingdom of all its fullness will be established "...when the Son of Man shall come in His glory" (Matt 25:31-34).
It is to this very moment that the Apostle John has been building in his great prophetic treatise. He anticipated the moment in Revelation 11:15 when he reported great voices in heaven saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever." And now the moment has arrived.
Revelation 20 describes the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, under the regency of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is a new feature of this kingdom revealed in Revelation 20 that up to this point we did not know. We read starting from Genesis and in almost every book of the Bible, we read something about this kingdom on earth, but there is one thing we don't learn until now. It is that the initial stage of God's eternal kingdom will last 1000 years. It will be 1000 years between two resurrections: the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. It will be a period of time during which Satan shall be bound so that righteousness may reign supreme. That is told to us six times in the first seven verses of Revelation chapter 20. It seems to be a major emphasis of this revelation of God's kingdom on earth. From the time period of 1000 years in this passage, comes the name we apply to this initial phase of God's everlasting kingdom: the Millennium (from Latin mille, "thousand," and annus, "year"). So we're studying in Revelation 20, the Millennium.
Three Major Millennial Viewpoints
Before we move to an actual exposition of this passage, it might be profitable, particularly for those who may be unfamiliar with Biblical doctrine, to review the three major Millennial views held in different circles today.
The most widely held view, the one generally accepted by most major denominations, is known as Amillennialism, or nonmillennialism. In plain words, they hold that there will be no literal 1000 year period of Christ's reign on earth. The most common form of Amillennialism understands the saints' reign with Him in heaven right now. They say the 1000 years simply describes this present age, the period between the death of Christ and His second coming, "1000" being a figurative description of a long and undisclosed period of time. In other words, we are in the Millennium right now. The binding of Satan refers to Christ's victory over him at the cross described in such passages as John 12:31 and Colossians 2:15. They say the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5 is either the spiritual regeneration that happens the moment we get saved, or the translation of the believer's soul to the presence of God at the moment of death. The second resurrection--which is not named but is clearly implied in this passage--is held to be the general resurrection of all men at the second coming of Christ.
The second view we must discuss is known as Postmillennialism. Now, immediately upon hearing "post" or "pre," people start thinking we are referring to the Tribulation, but that is not what we're talking about. Rather, the prefix "post" is used to locate the return of Christ in relationship to the Millennium. So Postmillennialism says that Christ will return to earth after the Millennium.
There aren't many Postmillennialists today; that theory has pretty much died out. Postmillennialists generally believe that the Millennium will be the final period of this age, a period during which the gospel will ultimately triumph, after which Christ will return for the general resurrection and judgment of all men. Most Postmillennialists hold that the Millennium is still future, and with some exceptions, that it will be a literal period of 1000 years. Jesus will come after that Millennium and there will be one general resurrection and judgment for believers and unbelievers alike. This is the most recent and the least popular of the three Millennial views.
Two world wars have happened since this theory was popular and pretty much expelled the idea that the world is getting better and better and through the proclamation of the gospel the kingdom will be ushered in. There are, however, still remnants of this theory in our hymns--even in our hymnal--where the lyrics says we will bring in the kingdom. Folks, we are not going to bring in the kingdom. God wants us to preach the gospel and share the gospel with those who don't know it, and pray for unbelievers, and sacrifice to bring them to Jesus Christ--but God tells us very clearly that we are not going to reach the whole world with the gospel and bring in the kingdom. In fact, He tells us that in the last days, evil men will act worse and worse. Things are not going to get better; they're going to get worse. Now, that doesn't mean we ought to wring our hands and give up and think there's no point in trying to do anything. No. God wants us to share Christ and live for Him, seeking to rescue people from eternal condemnation through the proclamation of the gospel. We're to give ourselves to it whole-heartedly. But He doesn't say we're going to bring in a utopia on earth.
The third view is the one we adhere to, Premillennialism, the view that Christ will return before the Millennium. He will return to the earth before this 1000 year reign and He personally will establish it. While there are different approaches and different emphases among Premillennialists, the most widely held form understands the Millennium as a literal 1000 year period during which Christ will reign on earth as the supreme political leader, fulfilling the many Old Testament promises concerning a kingdom on earth in which the nation Israel is prominent and the Gentile nations are blessed. A normal understanding of the words in Revelation 19 and 20 demand the Premillennial point of view. Most Amillennialists and Postmillennialists will agree to that. The only way to avoid it is to allegorize and spiritualize, and thus explain away the plain meaning of the words. And there is no sound contextual reason to do that, except a conscious willful effort to avoid Premillennialism.
I believe the Apostle John has inserted a chronological note at progressive stages through this revelation that makes the order of events conclusive, and unquestionably substantiates the doctrine of Premillennialism. That phrase is "And I saw." Look at its use at key intervals.
In Revelation 19:11, he saw heaven open and Christ return. In Revelation 19:17 and the following verses he saw the downfall of the beast and his armies. In Revelation 20:1, he sees Satan bound. In Revelation 20:4, he sees believers reigning with Christ. In Revelation 20:11 and 12, he sees a great white throne and the final judgment of unbelievers. These events build on one another, each succeeding event depending on the one that preceded it. Such chronological notes like "until the thousand years were finished in Revelation 20:5 and "when the thousand years are ended" in Revelation 20:7 make it clear that John in relating the events in their proper order.
There is no way to allegorize these words and say that these words do not mean what they say (yet that is what Amillennialists and Postmillennialists do). If you believe that these words mean what they say, then this demands a Premillennialist viewpoint. We in this church believe firmly in the Premillennial point of view because we believe very strongly that the Scripture teaches it. There is no question that Christ is going to come back before the Millennium to establish His kingdom on earth.
Now, with that introduction--that was probably the longest introduction to any message you've ever heard! We're only going to expound six verses today. And the first three tell us about Satan's removal.
1. Satan's Removal
If Jesus Christ is going to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace, then it stands to reason that the one who opposes all righteousness and peace must be confined. Satan must be removed and bound. And that is exactly what we find when we read the first three verses. An angel comes down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
This is not the first time we have encountered this bottomless pit, which would be more accurately translated from the Greek as "the abyss." In chapter 9, the abyss was opened and a plague of demonic locusts was released to torment the earth. At that time we learned that the abyss is the place of confinement for evil spirits, a sort of prison house, where they are temporarily incarcerated awaiting their final judgment (see Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4). Whether the chain in the angel's hand is a metal chain as we think of it, or whether that was merely its appearance in John's view really makes little difference. With that chain and that key this angel is going to render Satan totally inoperative for a thousand years. He is going to be cast into the abyss, and a seal will be set upon him, and he will not possibly be able to continue his ministry of deceiving the nations for a period of 1000 years.
At the end of Revelation 20:3 we are given a brief preview of something that will occur in the next passage we study, that Satan will be loosed for a little season when the 1000 years are finished. That happens in verse 7. That disturbs many Christians who ask, "Why in the world must Satan be released after the 1000 years?" Well, I'm only going through six verses today, so you'll have to come back next week to find out!
This first event of chapter 20--where Satan is bound for 1000 years--again substantiates the Premillennial position. I ask you, dear friends, could you possibly come to the conclusion today that Satan is now bound?! The total thrust of the entire New Testament would dispute that Amillennial contention. I know that Satan was defeated at the cross and that victory over him is assured. But you get to Acts 5:3, which is shortly after the cross, and Ananias and Sapphira were filled with Satan and led to lie to the Holy Spirit. Peter says to them, "Why has Satan filled your hearts?" It's hard to believe Satan is filling their hearts if he's bound. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Satan is actively blinding the minds of unbelievers lest the light of the gospel should dawn upon them. Satan is not bound, dear friend. He's blinding the mind of unbelievers tonight. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, we find out that Satan has the power to transform into an angel of light for the purpose of giving credence to false teachers in the church and deceiving God's people. He's not bound if he can do that. In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is called the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. In 2 Timothy 2:26, Satan is said to have taken unbelievers captive at his own will. And probably most obvious of all is 1 Peter 5:8 where Satan is likened to a roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour. That is the very opposite of being bound. No, Satan is not bound. The Millennium is not in existence today. It is a future period of time that will follow the return of Christ (Revelation 19:11-16), the defeat of the Antichrist (Revelation 19:17-21), and the removal of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3).
What a blessed time that's going to be! Don't you look forward to the time when Satan will be bound? There will be many, many things to enjoy during the Millennium, but one thing I am going to rank high on my appreciation list is the binding of Satan. He won't be there to propagate lust, greed, murder, theft, adultery, envy. He won't be there to turn nation against nation, and so inspire wars. He won't be there to goad unbelievers into resisting and ridiculing the work of the Lord. He won't be there to instigate believers to hold grudges and harbor hard feelings against one another. He won't be there to plant the seeds of false doctrine in susceptible hearts and minds. Oh, what a wonderful period of time it will be. What blessed freedom we shall enjoy in our relationship with the Lord, and our accomplishment of His will. Satan will be bound!
Since the term "thousand years" is first mentioned in verses 2 and 3, we should pause here to discuss our contention that those words ought to be taken literally. The Amillennialist insists that we must understand them figuratively. He points to such passages as Psalm 90:4, and Peter's evident paraphrase of that passage in 2 Peter 3:8. "On days is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." But what the Amillennialist fails to admit is that even in these verses the words "thousand years" are used literally. A thousand literal years with a man are just like a day to an eternal God. But with man this is not so. A thousand years to man are still a thousand years, and the Scriptures were written for man's learning and edification. The repetition of the words "thousand years" six times over in Revelation 20:1-7 would leave no doubt but that God wanted us to understand this as a literal period of time.
2. The Saints' Reign
The Apostle continues, "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).
Who are these people that reign with Christ? The immediate context is not much help to us. It just says "they," and we find no antecedent to identify them. But I think the Scripture as a whole will help us. Look first at Daniel 7. Daniel chapter 7 is a great book for studying the kingdom because he has a lot to say about it. Daniel 7:18 says, "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever." The saints of the Most High. Daniel 7:27 says, "Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High."
In both verses, those who reign are called the saints of the Most High. While this is a prophetic passage, there is little doubt but that the believing Israelites who read Daniel's prophecy in Old Testament times identified themselves with the saints of the Most High, in contrast to the unbelieving Gentile nations around them. In other words, saints of the Old Testament are going to share in this reign.
In Luke 22:29-30, the disciples are promised a place of authority in the future kingdom. The New Testament epistles include other references to church-age saints--reigning and judging as 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 3:21, and Revelation 5:10. In other words, we New Testament saints shall share in this rule as well.
Old Testament saints. New Testament saints. But that's not all. Rev 20:4 does specify one particular group which we have not mentioned. "And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands." In other words, Tribulation martyrs. We've seen them referred to several times in this book already: Revelation 6:9, 7:9-17, 12:11, and 13:15.
Then concerning all of them--Old Testament saints, New Testament saints, and Tribulation martyrs--he says, "And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." What a blessed thought! Reigning with Christ. We are going to share in all the joys and blessings of His triumph over sin and Satan. We are going to share in the thrill of ruling this great kingdom. I don't know how we'll rule. I don't know exactly what authority we'll enjoy. All I know is that when the kingdoms of this sin-scarred, war-torn earth are overthrown, and Jesus Christ establishes His kingdom of righteousness and peace, we as believers are going to share in its administration.
There is one more comment that needs to be made before we move on to the last two verses in this section. The fact that we are going to reign with Christ for 1000 years in this context has led some to assume that our reign will end after that time. The Millennium is only the first phase of God's eternal kingdom, the specific time between the two resurrections when Satan is bound. But God's kingdom will last forever, and Daniel 7:18 and 27 make it clear that the saints will participate in that reign forever. The fact that we will reign for 1000 years does not limit our reign to 1000 years.
The Millennium is the subject of Revelation 20:1-6, and what we are told here is simply that during this Millennium, we shall reign with Christ. This is just the beginning. That reign will last forever. At the conclusion of the Millennium, time ceases and the eternal state begins. Of course, eternity is in existence today above the framework of time, but time will stop and the reign will go on forever. The book of Revelation says that. This is not contradictory. We're simply studying the initial phase on earth in time. But over in Revelation 22:5, we read concerning eternity that there shall be no night and they need no lamp or have need for the light of the sun because the Lord God gives them light and they--there's that "they" again; we know who it is now because back up in verse 3 it says "His servants"--they shall reign forever and ever. You see, Revelation doesn't contradict Daniel. We're just studying the initial phase of God's eternal kingdom.
3. The Separate Resurrections
I would have to say that the most common view in Christendom today is the idea of one single, common resurrection, where both the righteous and unrighteous are raised. This is one of the things Amillennialists and Postmillennialists have in common. They say that up to this point in Revelation 20, two resurrections have not been mentioned. This is the first time this is mentioned so we have to allegorize these words away in Revelation 20. They turn to such passages as our Lord's statement in John 5:28-29, where Jesus talks about the resurrection of the just and the unjust and He puts it all in one verse. He doesn't distinguish them here and so the argument is that the idea of two separate resurrections must be discounted when it appears in Revelation 20.
But we're not taught everything at one time in the Bible. There is progressive revelation. As we move on through God's revelation, more and more details are given to us. The Lord Jesus wasn't trying to give us an outline of future things in John 5; He was merely establishing His right to judge both the just and the unjust. He is not trying to establish any kind of chronology for us. But when we reach Revelation 20, the Apostle John clearly does. He says in verse 4 that some lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
"And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4b).
While that word "lived" does not in itself necessarily imply bodily resurrection, the same word occurs in verse 5 with the word "again" occurring after it, referring to the same kind of event.
"But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5a).
To live again could only be a bodily resurrection. The Amillennialists who say that the first resurrection (verse 4) is a spiritual resurrection, or what we know as regeneration, are inconsistent in their interpretation at this point. You can't get spiritual life twice. You can't "live again" in a spiritual sense. The second "live" (verse 5) is clearly a bodily resurrection. If the second resurrection is physical, then the first must be, too. So we have two resurrections separated by 1000 years in verse 5.
Now notice carefully, the Old Testament saints, the New Testament saints, and the Tribulation martyrs "live" at the beginning of the Millennium. And this is called "the first resurrection." While the words "second resurrection" or "last resurrection" do not occur in the text, it is made perfectly clear that there is another resurrection. John says, " But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished." The Scripture teaches two resurrections, separated by 1000 years.
Now notice who is raised in the first resurrection: only believers! "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). They are the same group we met in verse 4: Old Testament saints, New Testament saints, and Tribulation martyrs.
Now that raises a question. Are these all raised at the same time after the Tribulation? Please note this carefully: The first resurrection is not an isolated event. It is an order of resurrections including ultimately all the righteous dead who are raised before the Millennium begins. They are first in comparison to those who are last, the unbelievers who are raised after the Millennium to stand before the Great White Throne. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 23. Here we read of an order of resurrections.
"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
"But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:23).
There is an order to the first resurrection, and we need to remember that. First, there is Christ. And that resurrection was almost 2000 years ago. [This message was delivered in 1979.] Second, the saints of this Church Age (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16) who shall be raised before the Tribulation. Third, Old Testament saints and Tribulation martyrs, who shall be raised at the end of the Tribulation to enjoy the Millennium (Daniel 12:1-2, Revelation 20:4).
Whenever we have a question and answer session about prophecy, one question that always comes up is, "When are Old Testament believers raised?" Daniel chapter 12 tells us.
"At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time"--that's the time of Jacob's Trouble, the Great Tribulation. "And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:1-2).
So the order of the first resurrection is Christ as the first-fruits, then we're going to be raised when He returns--any day; could be today--to take His church home to be with Himself at the conclusion of the seven years known as Daniel's Seventieth Week, or the Great Tribulation. Then Old Testament saints and Tribulation martyrs shall be raised at the end of the Tribulation and "they"--all of us--shall reign with Him during the Millennium.
Now, just as there are two resurrections (first and last), so there are two deaths: physical death and what the Scriptures call the second death. The second death is defined for us in Revelation 20:13. It says, "And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hades delivered up the dead that were in them, and they were judged, every man according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast down into the lake of fire."
The second death is a reference to eternal judgment. The lake of fire. So those who are a part of the first resurrection shall reign with Christ. Those who are a part of the second resurrection shall experience eternal agony in the lake of fire.
Now you don't have to wait for the second resurrection. That's the best news I have for you today. There is not a person living today who needs to wait for the second resurrection. You've heard the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He rose again that we might be declared righteous and acceptable to God. And those who put their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior from sin will be raised at the first resurrection and enjoy life in a utopia on earth: a kingdom of righteousness and peace. If you want to go on ignoring the Lord Jesus, neglecting Him, denying Him, refusing Him, then someday you're going to die. That will be your first death. And the Scripture says that someday your body will be reunited with your soul in another physical resurrection, at which time you will stand before God (which we'll see next week) and hear God's condemnation and assignment to a lake of fire.
That lake of fire is described in verse 10. It says, "Then the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." Now that's not a pleasant thought. We don't pound the pulpit and preach hellfire and damnation and try to scare people into the kingdom of God, but it is part of God's revelation. It is the truth of God's Word. The fact that some people over-emphasize it and preach little else but that, doesn't mean it isn't true. It's still the truth of God's Word.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
If you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior from sin, then you need to believe the truth of God's Word and put your trust in Jesus Christ. Receive Him as your Savior and He'll forgive your sins and give you everlasting life.
Continue to RV-14B: The Last Judgment