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A. Review millennium – last week, in the first part of Rev.20, an angel came down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He bound the dragon, Satan, for a thousand years, 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.
B. I believe we are in this millennium now, that Christ has Satan is bound in this sense: before Christ, he held the nations in the darkness of his deception. Only Israel enjoyed the light of God’s word. But now in Christ, Satan is being prevented from deceiving the Gentile nations as he had been doing since the beginning. And because he is bound, many Gentiles (like us) are free – in Christ.
C. Revelation 20:7-10 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
D. This morning’s passage tells us three things which are going to happen after the millennium.
1. Satan will be released.
2. The nations will be gathered to make war against the saints.
3. The Lord will intervene and judge Satan.
II. This description of God’s people being surrounded by their enemies seeking to devour them, but then being rescued by God does not just appear here in Rev.20:7-10 out of the blue. It follows a pattern.
A. First of all, it follows a pattern in the OT.
1. We get an indication of this in v.8, with the mention of Gog & Magog: “When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.”
2. This is the first and only time Gog & Magog are mentioned in the book of Revelation.
a. Gog and Magog may sound like demonic monsters (just when we thought we were getting rid of all the monsters). But that’s not what they are.
b. Rather, they’re identified with the nations of the earth: “Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.” (7-8)
c. But what’s the point of calling the nations Gog and Magog? And of mentioning them at all?
d. Well, we’ve seen this a lot in Revelation. God inserts little signals in the text to direct our attention to another portion of the Scripture which we are supposed to read in conjunction with this. And the Scripture He wants to draw our attention to in this case is Ezekiel 38-39, the only other place in the Bible where “Gog and Magog” are mentioned (esp. Ezek.38:2-7 & 39:2).
e. In Ezek.38-39 Gog, who is the ruler of a nation called Magog, is joining with other nations, gathering together to oppose the people of God. Sound familiar? This signal tells us that the Ezekiel passage points forward to this event when the nations of the earth would gather against the people of God. And the Ezekiel passage is part of a larger theme of OT prophecies which foretell the time when God will allow the nations to gather together against His people for the final war of history, and then rescue them (e.g. Joel 3:2-16, Daniel 12:1-2, Is.31:4-5, Zech.12:3).
3. But it doesn’t only fit into a pattern in the OT prophets, it fits into a pattern in the OT story:
a. It goes back to the Exodus: pinned against the sea by the Egyptian army, till God splits the sea.
(1) All looks lost until the last minute when comes a very impressive deliverance.
b. We see the same theme in the story of Sennacherib (Is.36-37), when the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem and it looked like all hope was lost. Till God sent His angel.
c. Daniel and the lions’ den
d. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace
e. Many psalms (e.g. Ps.48:4-8, and messianically in Ps.22:11-13, 16)
B. But the life of Jesus also reflects this same pattern, doesn’t it? He bound Satan and had dominion over Satan, casting out demons left and right, until one day Satan was released to have his way with Him. He referred to this brief period of time when evil was unleashed:
1. John 16:2-4 “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that WHEN THEIR HOUR COMES you may remember that I told them to you.”
2. Luke 22:53 (Jesus to the priests and elders) “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
3. All this culminates in the cross, of course, when even the sky turned dark.
4. But that darkness didn’t last long, did it? Just when it seemed hopeless, there was divine intervention and triumph.
C. This also follows a pattern in the book of Revelation.
1. Revelation 20:7 is at least the fifth time we see this in the book of Revelation.
2. We’re told in Revelation 9:1-5 that the shaft of the bottomless pit was opened and satanic powers were released, but only for a short time.
3. In Revelation 11:7 the two witnesses (representing the witnessing church) finish their testimony and then the beast rises from the bottomless pit to make war on them and kill them.
4. In Revelation 16:12-16 demonic spirits assemble the kings of the earth to battle on the great day of God the Almighty at Armageddon.
5. In Rev.17:8 we’re told the beast was about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.
6. And then here in Rev.20:7-8, when the thousand years are ended, Satan is released from prison to deceive the nations of the earth, to gather them for battle against the saints and the beloved city.
7. There’s one more thing. In English, we have a definite article, THE, and an indefinite article, A or AN, as in ‘THE war’ or ‘A war.’ In the Greek language, however, there IS no indefinite article. If a word has no article, it generally refers to ‘A war,’ not ‘THE war.’ If the word DOES have the definite article, it generally refers to ‘THE war,’ as opposed to ‘A war.’ Well, here in Revelation, three of these four times the word WAR is used, the Greek definite article is used. That means those verses don’t refer to ‘a war’ but ‘the war.’ All but Rev.11:7, the first reference to this great war. In other words, 11:7 introduces a war, and then through the rest of the book, each of the references (16:14; 19:19, 20:8) refers back to this same war introduced in 11:7. So, this makes it seem that they’re all talking about the same final war at the end of history.
III. Fire from heaven in v.9b “they...surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them”
A. We’ve seen before that the instrument of judgment will come from the mouth of Christ:
1. The sharp sword in Rev.19:14 “The armies of heaven...were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations... He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God.”
2. We compared this to 2Thessalonians 2:8 “Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”
3. And see Matt.25:41, where Christ executes final judgment by the mere pronouncement of His words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
B. Here all that is said is, “fire came down from heaven and consumed them”
C. Another place which speaks of this same event is 2Thessalonians 1:7-10, which speaks about the time “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus...10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”
D. All these seem to be talking about the same thing, though it’s not spelled out in detail.
A. Again, from my perspective, the Bible paints a picture of the future which includes continued progress of the gospel as He restrains Satan’s ability to deceive the nations, along with tribulation and persecution. But then before Christ returns, there will be an unleashing of Satan’s power and the world will experience a short time of evil during which believers will be persecuted and threatened even more intensely by the non-believing world. Then, just when it looks like the church will be completely wiped out by the powers of darkness, Christ will return and vanquish the powers of hell finally and permanently, and there will be a new heavens and a new earth.
B. It might seem far-fetched that the non-believing world would try to annihilate the people of Christ. I mean, this would have to involve people attacking their own family members!
1. But remember that Satan has been released to deceive the nations to gather them for war.
2. Think about Nazi Germany. Normal people did dastardly things.
3. Think about the Civil War, when brother killed brother over something far less.
4. Think about what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
5. Think about Jesus, when His fellow Jews shouted, “Crucify Him!”
C. What’s it going to be like for the Christians who are alive during this time when Satan is released?
1. The Bible paints a very bleak picture of that time.
2. Matthew 24:9-13 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
3. Zech.14:1-2 “Behold, a day is coming for the LORD... 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped.”
4. This may be why the time is so brief. Jesus says in Matt.24:21-22 “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Though it is hard to know for sure which era Jesus is talking about.)
5. Scary stuff!
D. Is your Christianity robust enough to get you through those dark days?
1. And if we’re not the ones who will have to go through the days of Satan’s release, whatever Christianity we live by is the Christianity we are going to pass down to our children and those who come after us. Is it robust enough to get them through the dark days?
2. It’s not just that WE need to be ready. Our children – and their children – must be ready.
3. Let's begin preparing now. This is no time for relaxing and taking it easy. There’s a deadly hurricane coming. We can’t afford to delay our preparations.
4. We can’t afford to be caught up in the little luxuries of life. We can’t be preoccupied with our favorite food or having just the right outfit to wear or the best car to drive or the perfect decorations for Christmas. We must live with a warfare mentality.
5. Now, we have to deal with life, but we can’t be focusing on the minute things and missing the elephant in the room.
E. But we don’t need to be afraid.
1. The true and living Christ is not only big enough to intervene, He is big enough to carry His people through UNTIL He intervenes.
2. And if He is able to carry His children through those days, He is able to carry you and me through our days! We “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us! (Phil.4:13)
F. When will these things happen? Well, before Jesus went to the cross, He taught His disciples about His return and about things which would happen in the future.
1. Mt.24:14 This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come...36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only...42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
G. We’re not supposed to busy ourselves trying to figure out when it is going to come, we’re supposed to busy ourselves getting ready. How? By building our house on the rock before the storm comes (Matt.7:24-27), and by being faithful in doing what He’s called us to do (Matt.24:44-51).
H. I wish things were different. I wish things were easy. I wish things were going to get better & better.
1. I wish God had only health and wealth and fun and ease in store for us as His children.
2. I wish we could have heaven here – and now.
3. But God knows that that’s not good enough for His beloved children.
4. He knows that suffering is needed for us to achieve joys we are unable to experience as we are.
5. But in our hearts and in the church, there’s always a temptation to improve the Bible’s version of Christianity. There’s a temptation to leave out the hard stuff and just pay attention to the pleasant stuff. It is the lure of an easy Christianity.
6. Now if you read the Bible seriously, it’s clear that the Christian life is not easy.
7. But if I get to pick which verses to show you, I can easily paint a picture of an easy Christianity.
8. But easy Christianity must ignore an awful lot of the Bible. That’s not a problem for many Christians because they ignore an awful lot of the Bible anyway.
9. And guess what? Easy Christianity is not enough to prepare God’s people for what’s coming.
10. God has given us the whole Bible, the whole counsel of God, as Paul calls it (Acts 20:27).
11. And He wants us to pay attention to the whole thing, not just our favorite parts.
I. Why will God release Satan from the pit? Why does God allow the enemy to attack His people? Why doesn’t God just make Satan stay in the pit?
1. I think the Bible answers this question, if we’re willing to hear the answer. I think the answer is in Exod.9 and Romans 9.
2. In Exod.9:15-16 God explains why He put up with Pharaoh instead of just annihilating him: “By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show My power in you, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.”
3. Why was Pharaoh necessary for God to show His power and proclaim His name?
4. Well, God showed His power and proclaimed His name through the parting of the Red Sea. That couldn’t have happened without Pharaoh, could it?
5. Paul uses these verses in Exod.9 in Rom.9:17, to pull back the curtain and explain some of God’s mysterious purposes. “The Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’”
6. And then, he rewords Exod.9:15-16 and applies it not just to Pharaoh, but to all the monsters God allows in our lives.
7. Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?”
8. In other words, God raises up Satan – and all the rest of the wicked – for His own good purpose, to make known the riches of His glory to His chosen ones, the vessels of His mercy.