Satan’s Chain and the Saint’s Reign Revelation 20
Revelation 20 is one of the great chapters of the Bible. It presents the tremendous events that relate to the reign of Christ on earth. Before we begin our examination of the chapter, it would be good to present the various views regarding the principal subject of this chapter—the Millennium. There are three views about this millennial period.
- Post-millennialism teaches that, through the gospel, world conditions will gradually improve until the Millennium arrives, after which Jesus will return to earth. Postmillennialism is not espoused as widely today as it was in the 19th century, although it is experiencing some renewal of interest in “Dominion Theology.”
- Amillennialism teaches that there will be no future millennial period but that the present Church age is the Millennium. Satan is bound now, and the saints are currently reigning with Christ during a spiritualized thousand years. At the end of this so-called Millennium, Christ will return, and a general resurrection and judgment will take place.
- Premillennialism teaches that Christ must come first, and then the Millennium will take place. This is the view espoused by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. It is based on a literal interpretation of prophecy and the divine covenants of the Old Testament. A careful interpretation of Revelation 20 reveals that premillennialism is clearly taught in this chapter.
The Restraint of Satan 20:1–3
This chapter describes two great events that will follow the coming of Christ in glory, which was previously described in Rev. 19:1–16: (1) the restraint of Satan (20:1–3) and (2) the reign of the saints (20:4–6).
The Place of His Restraint
John saw an angel coming down from Heaven (Michael the Archangel?, cp. Dan. 10:13; 12:1; Jude 9). This mighty angel seized “the dragon, that old serpent, who is the Devil and Satan” (v. 2), bound; him with a great chain, and cast him into the “bottomless pit” (v. 3). This is literally the “abyss” (cp. 9:12, 11; also “the deep” of Lk. 8:31; Rom. 10:7) and is the home of demons and unclean spirits. In addition, the angel shut the abyss and sealed it over Satan. No clearer language could be used to express the truth that Satan’s activity will be entirely removed from the earth during this time.
The Period of His Restraint 20:2
Satan will be bound in the “abyss” for a thousand years. In other words, during the entire millennial period his influence will be absent. The fact that Satan will be bound for a thousand years is confirmed by a multitude of passages dealing with the Kingdom period in which Satan is never found working in the world (e.g., Isa. 2:1–4; 11:1–9; Jer. 23:5–6; Mic. 4:1–5; Zeph. 3:9–20). It is impossible to conceive that John intended this as a description of the present age.
When the thousand years expire, Satan will be released for a little while, during which time his malevolence will be manifested again by leading a rebellion that will be summarily put down by God (20:7–9). Then the great deceiver and enemy of men’s souls will be cast into the lake of fire where he will join the beast and the false prophet, and the Satanic trinity will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10). The reason for Satan’s release for this short period is not stated. It is probably to indicate that even in an outwardly perfect environment, people can still be deceived inwardly.
The Purpose of His Restraint 20:3
Why is Satan bound for a thousand years? John tells us that it is so “he should deceive the nations no more” (v. 3). It should be remembered that amillennialists teach that this passage is a description of the present age. Opposed to this idea is the uniform revelation of the New Testament that Satan is currently very active. An examination of the following passages reveals that it is unscriptural to think that Satan is now bound and is no longer deceiving the nations (Acts 5:3; 2 Cor. 4:34; 11:14; Eph. 2:2; 1 Th. 2:18; 2 Tim. 2:26). First Peter 5:8 should settle the matter beyond dispute: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Why are we premillennialists? There are many biblical reasons, but the reader should consider the following two facts from these chapters of the Revelation.
(1) It is clear that Revelation 19:11–16 describes Jesus’ coming in glory to the earth. As a result of that coming, the beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire (19:20). Satan is then bound for the Millennium (20:13). It is obvious, therefore, that His coming precedes the Millennium. Therefore, premillennialism is the only possible view that makes sense of these two chapters. (2) Revelation 20:1–3 clearly teaches that Satan’s activity is removed from the earth for the Millennium. Only the premillennial view affirms this truth. If Satan is bound today, as amillennialism affirms, he must have an extremely long chain!
The Reign of the Saints
Having described the severe judgments associated with the triumphal reentry of Christ, John turned His attention to the blessedness of the saints’ reign with Christ in the Millennium.
The Groups of the Saints 20:4
This verse reveals that two groups of people are mentioned. John saw people sitting on thrones, “and judgment was given unto them.” Most probably, these throne sitters are the 24 elders who are said to reign on the earth (5:10) and are representative of the Church. This agrees with Jesus’ promise to His disciples in Luke 22:29–30 and Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”
The others are the Tribulation martyrs. They will be beheaded because of their witness for Jesus and because they refuse to worship the beast (the Antichrist) and receive his mark. The background for this experience is found in Revelation 13:15–17. The great privilege now afforded these sufferers is in answer to their heartrending prayer recorded in Revelation 6:10, “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, cost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Although the details of the millennial government are not entirely clear in Scripture, we do know that Christ will be the head, David will be a co-regent (cp. Jer. 30:9; Hos. 3:5), and the apostles will lead the regathered twelve tribes (Mt. 19:28). In some way, believers will also exercise a judging authority (cp. 1 Cor. 6:3).
The Government of the Saints 20:4, 6
These glorified saints reign with Christ for a thousand years during Satan’s imprisonment. To them will be given the special privilege of being both priests and kings—offices that were always separated in the Old Testament. Believers are called “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9) under their great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Although some commentators have suggested that this reign will be in glory, Revelation 5:10 states that it will be “on the earth.”
The Glory of the Saints 20:5–6
The saints will be physically raised from the dead. John uses a verb which means “they came to life” and calls this great event “the first resurrection.” Those who will participate in the “first resurrection” are Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:20) and the saved of all ages (Dan. 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:51–54). They will receive the benediction, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power” (20:6).
The bodies of the unsaved dead, however, will remain in their graves and their souls in Hades until after the thousand years, when they will be resurrected at the Great White Throne Judgment described in 20:11–15. The resurrection of the unsaved dead is so that they might be cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). While a number of books are opened at that great assembly (20:12), the most important one is the Book of Life. Absence from that book means eternal judgment. The other books will probably be to determine the extent of punishment on the basis of the principle, “more light, more responsibility.” The lake of fire is called “the second death.” It is a sobering thought that if you have been born twice (physically and spiritually) you will only have to die once (physically); but if you have been born only once (physically), you will have to die twice (physically and spiritually).
What a gathering that will be! His coming will certainly be a triumphal reentry, and we who know Him will share His triumph. Will you be among those who come with the Lord at His coming, or will you be among those who stand naked before Him, only to hear His word of judgment?