(c) Victory over Satan, 20:1-3
This victory is pictured in the chaining of Satan for a thousand years.
From chapter 12 to this point three enemies have been allied in their opposition to Christ
and His people.
Of these three, the first two were overcome by the Victorious Christ in 19:19-20.
There can be no full, complete victory so long as this third part of the alliance is at large.
In this paragraph, his fate is indicated.
John is not entering upon a new subject at this point.
He is continuing the previous discussion.
This is another point at which the modern device of chapter divisions is a hindrance
rather than a help.
Review again the way these three great enemies of the Christians have been working
-- the devil, the beast, the false prophet.
They were the main opponents of the Lamb in one way or another stirring up all the efforts
that had been made against Him by the kings of the earth, their armies, and followers.
For a time they appeared to succeed.
The saints were robbed, persecuted, exiled, or slain.
But this could not continue.
It must be shown that the final triumph remains with those who have suffered
for the sake of righteousness.
This triumph is pictured in various scenes:
The fall of imperial Rome.
The fall of Rome's allies.
The fall of municipal Rome.
The rejoicing of the saints.
The disposal of two of the great enemies -- the beast and the false prophet.
The complete disposal of the third, the devil, remains and it is finally effected in 20:10.
The verses which follow that describe the judgment of those who had listened to the devil,
and the complete triumph of the Christians and their union with Christ.
These considerations are of themselves sufficient to show that the overthrow of Satan,
and not the reign of a thousand years, is the main theme of the first 10 verses of this chapter.
In this scene, there is a symbolic setting forth of the final victory
of the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor.
The chapter needs to be approached with great humility of spirit, a recognition of its difficulties,
an avoidance of dogmatic statements, and respect for the honest interpretation of others.
This chapter has been a bitter debating ground for Christians for many centuries.
Richardson's states in his book, " The Revelation of Jesus Christ," that your interpretation
of this chapter will determine whether you take your stand with the premillennarians, postmillennarians,
John, in his vision on the isle of Patmos, never dreamed that his readers would debate
and divide over the contents of this chapter.
No doubt that that is true.
John did not record the scene to give us a series of connected events to satisfy our curiosity
about the future.
He gave it to set forth the promise of the ultimate and certain triumph of the cause of Christ
and those who were being so sorely persecuted.
The limitations of this work preclude a detailed discussion of the rival interpretations
of this passage.
All these rival interpretations center around the " millennium."
The word which means " thousand" does not appear in the New Testament.
It is derived from the term " a thousand years" which is used in this passage.
If verses 4, 5, and 6 of Revelation 20 had been omitted, no one would ever have dreamed
of a literal thousand years of Christ's reign upon the earth -- His setting up a temporal throne
in Jerusalem and inaugurating a millennial reign as an earthly monarch.
Yet whole systems of eschatology, theology, and philosophy of history have been constructed
on this precarious basis of highly symbolical verses.
Briefly, here is the action of the paragraph.
An angel came down from heaven with a key to the abyss and a strong chain in his hand.
He chained the devil and cast him into the bottomless pit for a thousand years in order that
he might not practice his act of deception of upon the nations for a thousand years.
After this, he was to be loosed for a short time.
Another scene showed the fate of those who had lost their lives for the testimony of Jesus,
those who refused to worship the beast or his image.
They are shown alive and reigning with Christ for a thousand years.
This is called the first resurrection, and blessings are pronounced upon those who have a part in it.
When the thousand years of the devil's being bound were up, he was loosed and entered again
upon his old tactics of deceiving the nations and gathering them for an attack on the city of God.
Fire came down out of heaven and destroyed them.
The devil was cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet had been cast in chapter 19.
Judgment from the great white throne followed.
Forgetting premillennialism, and postmillennialism and all preconceived interpretations,
we need to ask: "What was the probable meaning of this scene to John
and the persecuted Christians in A.D. 95."
We must remember their condition, that two of their enemies have just been deposed,
and here is the act of the pageant which reveals the fate of the power behind
the other two --the dragon, which is the devil.
Very little comfort would come to them even if they knew that several hundreds
or thousands of years from then, there would be a restoration of Jewish theocracy,
a personal Antichrist, a bloody Armageddon and victory (premillennialism).
Very little comfort would have come to them even if they knew that after a few thousand years
of gospel preaching world affairs would be so good and human government so perfect
that the efforts of the devil would be of no avail (postmillennialism).
These things would not help them, and the book was given first of all for them.
What did they see in it to comfort and strengthen them?
This, if we can find it, will be the safest and most sure interpretation.
They saw their great adversary, the devil, effectively stopped from deceiving the nations
in a matter of emperor worship.
This has been the deception he has been practicing since chapter 13.
Now he is chained and cast into the abyss that he may not practice this deception
for a thousand years.
Keep in mind that " deceive the nations" is not to be applied to all his work.
It applies at the particular point of deceiving them into believing that the emperor is divine
and is to be worshipped.
The chain is not literal.
One would hardly use a literal chain on a spiritual being.
The thousand-year-period is no more literal than the chain.
Numbers in Revelation are symbolical.
" Ten" is a complete number, and " one thousand" is a high multiple of ten.
The number is to be understood as an idea of completeness.
It does not represent a period of years either before or after the second coming of Christ.
It tells John's readers that the devil is going to be completely restrained from
deceiving the nations into worshiping the emperor.
True, just when he appears to be absolutely bound, he breaks fourth in one last effort
to continue his work (20:3, 7-10), but his power is then completely destroyed.
Next: (d) Victory with the Martyrs, 20: 4-6