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A. This morning we cover a passage which is at the center of eschatological debate. I know for some of you, there’s nothing you’d rather do that to dive it and dig at it. But I’m going to save that part till next week during SS. If you know the issue, you will certainly be able to tell what interpretation I take, but I’m going to avoid the debate and focus on the beautiful and helpful spiritual truths here, because I know that some people here aren’t interested in the debate, and everyone needs the spiritual food from the passage.
B. There are two parts of this passage, and we’ll read them separately.
II. Revelation 20:1-3 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
A. So, John sees an angel who comes down from heaven with a key and chain, takes hold of the dragon who is Satan, binds him and throws him into the pit and seals it over him for 1000 years.
B. We’re told the dragon is Satan. The angel must either be Jesus or an angelic representative of God.
C. But what is the 1000 years, and what does it mean that Satan was bound?
D. Well, we’re not told here what the 1000 years are, but we ARE told what kind of restraining is meant by Satan being bound and thrown into the pit.
1. Rev.20:3b tells us that Satan was bound for a thousand years and thrown into the pit, “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” Now what does that mean?
2. Well, the first thing is that the Greek word here for nations is ETHNE, plural for ETHNOS, from which we get our word ETHNIC. About 40% of the time this word is translated NATIONS, and the other 60% of the time this word is translated GENTILES.
3. You see, from the perspective of Israel, there were Jews, and then there was everybody else, the nations, the Gentiles.
4. All through the OT, God revealed Himself to Israel but the rest of the nations were locked in satanic deception. But, as you know, when Jesus came, it was time for this to end. It was time for Satan to be held back from his lock grip of deception over the Gentiles/nations.
5. And that’s what this binding of Satan in Rev.20:2 seems to be about. It was preventing Satan from maintaining the almost total deception over the Gentile people groups he’d enjoyed until that time.
6. It is not that Satan stopped functioning or having an influence completely. He was allowed to continue deceiving many, just not to hold the nations in a headlock of deception, which prevented all of them from coming to know God.
7. Now his hold is broken and the gospel is free to penetrate even to the uttermost parts of the earth.
8. PICTURES OF BEING BOUND: Satan is bound not in THIS way, but in THIS way.
9. It’s not preventing Satan from being active on the earth, it’s only preventing him from continuing to prevent the Gentiles from coming to know the God of Israel. That’s what v.3 says.
10. We see this in the gospels. Jesus Himself spoke of His work of binding the devil in several places:
a. One is Matthew 12:22-29. Jesus cast a demon out of a man, and He explained His ability to do this by asking, “How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Cf. Luke 11:21, Mark 3:27.)
b. The idea here is that, in delivering this man from Satan’s domination, Jesus had plundered one of Satan’s treasures. And in order to do that, He had to first bind the strong man (Satan), enabling Him to plunder Satan’s house and take Satan’s treasures.
c. Who are those treasures who Jesus is plundering from Satan’s house? They are the souls of men and women who have been chosen by Christ since before the foundation of the world. And these dear ones of Christ are being freed from Satan’s dark dominion and collected into the kingdom of Christ’s light.
d. In both Matt.12 & Rev.20, the binding of Satan means that, in this present age, Christ is rescuing His chosen ones from Satan’s grip. Satan is bound so that sinners like us can be freed.
e. Hebrews 2:14 tells us that Christ took on human flesh “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
f. The evening before His crucifixion Jesus said, “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31-32)
E. Now let’s talk about the 1000 years.
1. The first thing we can see is that if this is talking about no longer allowing Satan to keep the Gentiles away from God, then it’s obvious that the 1000 years began with Jesus.
2. It’s also obvious that the 1000 years must be continuing because Gentiles all over the world continue to come to Christ.
3. This means the 1000 years in Rev.20 isn’t a literal 1000 years. This shouldn’t surprise us because many of the numbers in Revelation are not literal. The number 1000, in particular, if frequently used in a non-literal way in the Bible.
a. “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (Ps.105:8; see 1Chron.16:15).
b. “The cattle on a thousand hills is Mine.” (Ps.50:10)
c. “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” (Psalm 90:4)
d. “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Pet.3:8)
4. The nature of the book of Revelation is not to be precise and clear. It is full of symbols and images. If Jesus wanted to spell out exactly what was going to happen, He could have done so.
5. So, when does the 1000 years end?
a. Well, we’re told that after the 1000 years, Satan will be released for a short time.
b. And next week, we’ll see in v.7-10 that after he’s released, he initiates the confrontation which will come at the end of history.
c. So, the 1000 years seems to be the period of time from Christ’s first coming to the end of history, the time period when many Gentiles are drawn to Christ.
6. But while Satan is bound on earth during the 1000 years, something else has been going on in heaven during the same period of time. And we read about that in the second half of our passage...
III. Rev.20:4-6 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
A. So, in this second part of the vision, John sees a number of thrones, and sitting on these thrones are certain people.
B. Now, there are some translation questions in this section, but the basic meaning seems clear. These people sitting on the thrones are God’s people who have died and are now in heaven.
1. They are the ones “to whom the authority to judge was committed.”
2. They are “those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God.”
3. They are “those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.”
4. They are those who “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
5. They are the ones over whom “the second death has no power.”
6. And they are the ones who “will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him for the thousand years.”
C. So, during the period of time represented by the 1000 years, the period we are in right now, while Satan is being prevented from stopping the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles, up in heaven the saints of God who remained true to Christ – in spite of opposition and even death – are enjoying life as kings and priests, knowing that they’ve been set free from the powers of hell.
D. We’re not given many details about what their lives are like: What is life like as a disembodied spirit? How much do they know about what’s happening on the earth? Do they have any role in earthly affairs? What does it mean that they are priests?
E. But we are told that they are not only alive, but that they are living good and meaningful and triumphant and even glorious lives as they wait to be reunited with their fellow-believers who still dwell on earth.
F. And that means that if our faith is real, if our faith endures to the end, we’ll then join them in that life, that life which Jesus Himself called paradise in Luke 23:43.
G. It’s no wonder that Paul says, “To die is gain.”
H. So what about the first resurrection & the second death, which John mentions here in v.6? “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power.”
1. First resurrection
a. Rev.20:4-5 those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for 1000 years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1000 years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
b. The first resurrection is when those who believe in Christ die and then go to heaven, they come to life and reign with Christ for the rest of the 1000 years.
c. The second resurrection must be the final resurrection of all people on the last day (Acts 24:15; Rev.20:12-15). The first is spiritual, the second is physical.
2. Second death = being cast into hell (Revelation 20:14 “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”)
a. First death = physical dying.
b. This is what Jesus has in mind in Matt.10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body (the first death) but cannot kill the soul (the second death). Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
IV. Brothers and sisters, there are many things happening in the world which are discouraging, frustrating. We need the encouragement of God’s word. And there are three very precious truths here in this passage which can uplift us and sustain our spirits in the face of many burdens and troubles.
A. God is able to restrain Satan.
1. This doesn’t take anything away from the enmity between God and Satan, or God’s hatred of evil.
2. Revelation has made clear over and over again that God has charge over Satan and that he does only what God allows him to do. Here we see it again.
3. What confidence this gives us when we pray, “Deliver us from the evil one!”
4. And what comfort this gives! The One who has power even over the most potent of creatures, creatures that make us look puny and impotent, such that His servants can grab them and throw them down and tie them up and restrain their power for 1000 years, that One is the One who loves His people, who will stop an nothing to secure their welfare and their holiness. He is the One who will not allow one hair on our heads to be harmed, unless it is in our best interests.
5. That’s a God who deserves much honor and praise! He certainly deserves a lot more than I give.
6. We should not only be grateful for a God who has power over Satan, we should also be grateful for a God who is mercifully restraining him in this world and for His people.
7. It is because God is restraining Satan in this age that you and I have come to know Christ!
8. When he got shackled, we got unshackled!
B. We live in an age when the gospel continues to spread. Sinners all over the world are being won to Christ.
1. Therefore it is an age of boldness. We can act as if Satan’s power is being restricted, and go forth in boldness and in confidence of God's desire to break through to many people with the light of His love. We are given authority to proclaim the gospel & call people to come to Christ.
2. I remember when I was in college, there were people coming to Christ all around. It was like popcorn popping. It’s not that way anymore around here, it seems.
3. But it IS happening in some other places of the world. We’ve had the amazing privilege as a congregation of hearing about it happening in west Africa. And we know it’s happening in much of Africa, and in China, and in Iran. God is building His kingdom, even to the far corners of earth.
4. When the prophet Isaiah was called to speak for God in Is.6, he was specifically told his message would fail. The people wouldn’t listen (Is.6:9-10).
5. But in this age, the age of Christ, God has not ordained His gospel to fail.
6. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-21)
7. Jesus is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt.16:18).
8. Certainly there are many times when the gospel will not be listened to.
9. But overall God has not chosen His gospel to fail, but to succeed, to conquer, to subdue, to destroy the works of the devil.
10. Jesus is going into every nation, tribe and language group to rescue those who are His. And Satan is powerless to stop Him.
11. This is the age of missions! In every land there are those who will respond.
12. We can send missionaries into lands where there are no believers in Christ and “contest Satan’s right to rule” in that place of darkness. (Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priests, 305)
13. We’re not Christ’s only treasures. He’s going to houses and fields and offices and prisons all over the world and plundering treasures for Himself. I want that one! And this one is mine!
C. One day we will reign with Christ in heaven, but even now we are already conquering.
1. Three weeks ago in Chicago, Kelvin Kiptum from Kenya broke the world record in the marathon, 34 seconds faster than any person had ever run the race before. Now he reigns as world champion. But those 2 hours and 35 seconds of running were grueling. He was not smiling. He was not laughing. He was not relaxing. He was fighting. He was pressing. He was pushing. The truly remarkable part of his feat was not the way he crossed the finish line. It was not the way he fell on his knees and lifted up his hands after he was done. It was the way he pressed on step after step even when his body was longing to stop.
2. And that illustrates the beauty of Christian perseverance.
3. It’s pressing through the ordinary parts of life because of Christ.
4. It’s doing your duty, not to gain human approval, but because Christ calls you to do it.
5. It’s accepting disappointments, not because there’s nothing you can do about it, but because you know that God’s will is better than yours.
6. It’s loving someone who drives you crazy, because Jesus loves you when you aren’t very lovable.
7. It’s thanking God for your blessings even when your unmet felt needs scream louder.
8. These little moments don’t get heralded; no trumpets get blown; no confetti falls.
9. But those things are precious in the sight of the Lord. And He remembers them.
10. The Book of Revelation was written in a time of intense persecution. Many of the believers were deeply grieved to see their believing friends killed senselessly by those who hated Christ and His people. One of the main purposes of this book is to encourage those who remain to understand where their martyred friends are and what they’re doing in the intermediate state: that death is an enthronement, not only will our souls be raised up to be with the Lord, but we will reign with Him in a place of glory and power.
11. In Romans 8, when Paul has been talking about things like tribulation, distress, persecution and danger, he says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (37)
12. We live in an age of opposition and progress, of persecution and an unstoppable gospel.
13. In each of the letters to the seven churches in Rev.2-3, Jesus promises a great reward to those who conquer. How do we conquer? We conquer by persevering, by taking one step after another even when you feel like giving up, maintaining our faith in spite of opposition, in spite of failures, in spite of tragedies.
14. The story of Jesus looked like it was going to end in failure and humiliation. But it did not.
15. And there are days when it looks like we’re losing the battle. But He won’t let that happen!
16. Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken! Hebrews 12:28