· Revelation 17-18 dealt with the destruction of the great prostitute.
· Revelation 19:1-10 described heaven’s reaction to the news of God’s judgment of the great prostitute , which then ushers in the marriage supper of the Lamb.
· Revelation 19:11-21 describes the judgment of the beast (the anti-christ) and the false prophet–who are caught alive and thrown into the lake of fire at the time of Christ’s return. It also speaks here of the destruction of all Christ’s enemies “ free and slave , small and great” (19:18).
The text before us is very challenging, and I tell you why. Revelation 20 is the text that many believe to be the proof text that there will be after Christ’s coming a literal, millennial reign on earth when Christ reigns over the nations. In fact, this group of Christians  speak of two comings of Christ. The first is called the rapture and the other which is called the revelation.  The rapture , they say occurs when the Lord Jesus takes His people secretly out of the world (i.e. not a public event) before the great tribulation, and the revelation is said to be that time, after some time after the tribulation He comes visibly with the raptured saints, taking the anti-christ and the false prophet captive. Following this they teach that Satan will be bound and thrown into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. At this time it is said that Christ will rule the nations on earth from Jerusalem. However, after a 1 000 years of peace they say that Satan will be released for a short time to cause havoc on earth , after which the ultimate judgment and end will come.
But is this what Revelation 20 is teaching? The problem begins with the way we read the book of Revelation. Two principles govern our understanding and reading of the book of Revelation
(i) Spiritual truths are described in symbolic and not literal language
(ii) the book of the Revelation does not present a linear history of events. The Revelation is a series of cyclical repetitions of the events that occur between Christ’s ascension and descension, as seen from different angles. This is not to say that there is no “ forward movement” in the book of Revelation. There is ! Everything steadily progresses and moves to the end, but as we said , in cyclical fashion.
We shall see in this regard that Ch.20 does not follow the events of Ch. 19. We shall see that Ch. 20 depicts another vision, which like the others describes the entire period of time between the first coming and second coming of Jesus.
What follows now in ch.20 is another retelling of the final judgment from yet another perspective. Just ask yourself the question : If all people and nations are judged at Christ’s return in Revelation 19:18, why do they resurface in Revelation 20:3,8 ? This means that the relationship between these two chapters is not a chronological one. This is important for us to understand.
What then is happening in Revelation 20 ?
In order to make sense of this we will have to go back to 12: 7 -9. Here is a description of what happens to Satan, when he was engaged in a war in heaven with the heavenly angels under the leadership of the archangel Michael. At that time we read that Satan was thrown down to the earth, and he lost his place in heaven. This all happened when Jesus began His messianic ministry on earth, at His first coming. Remember that Satan did his outmost to kill Jesus the Messiah – first at his birth, when under Herod there was an edict to kill all baby boys, which was in reality an attempt made to kill Christ (Matt 2:16-18). Then Satan tried to tempt Christ in Matt. 4:1-11 ,in order to get him to compromise and sin as our first parents did. But Jesus resisted Satan and did not sin. And then Christ demonstrated that the kingdom of God had come with every demon cast out, with every healing and miracle, with every person raised from the dead – all these were signs that someone greater and mightier than Satan was here ! Satan’s ultimate defeat however occurs after he thought that he had Christ killed on the cross. So, when Christ rose from the dead, He not only overcame death, but He triumphed over Satan, fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 : “ he shall bruise your head , and you shall bruise his heel”. Colossians 2:15 says that “ He (Christ on the cross) disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Now what is the effect of Christ’s first coming upon Satan? The answer is that Satan had been bound by Christ’s appearance! How was Satan bound? Was he bound with literal chains? No! Satan is a spirit being. He cannot be bound with literal chains. Satan is however bound by the preaching of the gospel! In Luke 10:1-20 Jesus sends 72 disciples out to preach the gospel. They came back and reported to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons submit in your name”, to which Jesus replied: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Satan is bound by the preaching of the gospel!
We are going to argue that Revelation 20 is not reflecting a literal future, earthly, millennial reign of Christ over the nations from Jerusalem. We will argue that the millennial reign of Christ is NOW. It follows the cross , resurrection and ascension, after which the ascended Christ is enthroned in heaven , ruling there from His throne. In His presence there will be all those who have faithfully followed Him and who died in the service of the gospel, and who have suffered at the hands of the great prostitute, the anti-christ and the false prophet.
We maintain that Revelation 20 is a description of this present gospel age and not of a future age to come. Let us now follow the logic of Scripture as it unfolds in Revelation 20 :1-10 .
Begins a new vision - Throughout the Book of Revelation, whenever John uses the phrase “kai eidon” (And I saw) he is introducing a new vision.
What John sees: He sees an angel coming down from heaven holding the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain with which Satan is bound. Who is the angel and what is the meaning of the key to the bottomless pit and the chain? In Rev. 1:18 we see that Christ holds the keys of death and hades in his hand. Take note also of Rev. 9:1-2 where a star that had fallen from heaven was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit etc. The bottomless pit is a reference to death and Hades–the realm of Satan. So, having been cast of out heaven (Rev.12:7-9), John now sees an angel (either Christ himself, or an angel exercising Christ’s authority) confining Satan to the realm of the dead for a specified time (1000 years) and for a specific purpose (so he cannot deceive the nations). The binding of Satan does not mean that his evil activities completely cease during this time. It simply means that he is not as free to do as he pleases . Satan is bound like a dangerous dog on a long chain. In John Bunyan‘s Pilgrims Progress, there is a picture and an anxious moment where Christian on the way to the heavenly city has to pass between some lions. He grows fearful, but a man called ‘Watchful’ reminded him that these lions were kept on a chain. If he would keep on the path he would be safe. This is a great illustration in terms of how Satan is bound. If you keep your distance from his territory you will be safe. If you get within the radius of the chain you will be in trouble. If you stay with Christ you are safe.
So then it is not that Satan ceases all activity during Christ’s millennial reign. He is thrown down to the earth, but he is bound by the gospel so that he cannot hinder the work of the true church. Jesus said : “ I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18,19). We have seen this in the history of the world of the last 2000 years. The Roman empire tried to get rid of the church. Today we go and visit the Roman ruins! Mao Tse Tung and Lenin and Stalin and Hitler and many other communist dictators tried to get rid of the church. Well they are all dead, and the church continues.
It will only be at the very end , just before Christ’s second coming that Satan will be set loose for a little while and he will achieve what is described in 11:7-10! But until that time comes, he is bound.
In verses 4-6 the scene now shifts to heaven.
Throughout the Book of Revelation, thrones are always in heaven, not on the earth. Therefore, this scene is in heaven. On the thrones are those to whom authority is given to judge (see the allusion of Jesus in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30) And then there are according to John “souls,”(psuchas) - the spirits of those who were killed for refusing to worship the beast. When they die, John says, they immediately come to life and they reign with Christ for a 1000 years! They are reigning with Him in heaven right now !
The rest of the dead (who did not die as martyrs) did not come to life until the 1000 years were ended (i.e. until the second coming) . They have shared in the first resurrection over which the second death has no power . This needs some explanation ! The first resurrection
is not a reference to the bodily resurrection at the end of the age, but it refers to a believer’s salvation in this life through regeneration, conversion, and finally through entrance into heaven at death, a point confirmed by a number of New Testament passages, most notably John 5:24-25, where Jesus says “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” In his gospel, John very clearly teaches that all those who come to faith in Jesus Christ, do so because they have already crossed over from death to life. When you become a Christian you experience the first resurrection . You cross over from death to life !
What happens at the end of the thousand years! (vv 7-10)
According to v. 7, “when the thousand years are ended , Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations…” etc .
The focus shifts back again to the earth, to those days before the return of Jesus Christ. Satan will be released from his prison. With the help of the great prostitute, the anti-christ and the false prophet Satan will now be able to deceive the nations for the purpose of getting rid of the church of Jesus Christ. Notice the reference to Gog and Magog (cf Ez. 38 & 39 ) a prophecy of in which gentile nations attack Israel en masse – like a cloud covering the land (Ez. 38:16) John has referred to this final battle when the nations gather to make war on the church in Rev. 16:12-16 , the battle of Armageddon at which the devil and all his associates are finally and definitely defeated .
SUMMARY : So then the point is that Revelation 20:1-6, is not a description of a future millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. It is a description of the present reign of the saints in heaven. And in heaven, those who have suffered at the hands of the beast are now protected from Satan’s assaults, for Satan no longer has access to heaven, having been cast down to earth and confined to bottomless pit. The saints now rule and reign for a thousand years as priests of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Revelation 20:7-10 describes what happens when Jesus Christ returns to earth in judgment. Jesus comes to rescue his church in it’s greatest trial, at which time Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire together with the great prostitute , the beast and the false prophet. All that remains then is the final judgment, described in verses 11-15. We will keep that for next year when I want to finish this series in revelation with a series of sermons on heaven .
You may look forward to the second coming of Christ, which will be visible (and not secret or in two stages) . When Jesus comes no one will be mistaken . Every eye will see Him . You may look forward to the end of the age and to the recreation of the heavens and the earth – the idea of a millennial reign on earth seems muddled and problematic . You may look forward to your resurrection body and to life everlasting in a perfect world where there are no traces of sin and Satan when Christ returns at His second coming . Even so Lord Jesus , come ! Amen