From Revelation 20-22
John is presenting an interlude between significant battles. Babylon and the two beasts have been defeated. Satan is bound and silenced for a thousand years. The martyrs have been raised to life and they reign with Christ for a thousand years as priests. The overall intent appears to be a final word of comfort to those who are yet to be martyred for their devotion to Christ rather than offering unqualified allegiance to the emperor.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In the previous chapters Jesus is predicted to win some very significant victories over the forces of evil. Babylon, the great city of immorality and vice is defeated (Rev 18). There is rejoicing in heaven (Rev 19.1-10). Soon afterwards the two beasts are defeated in battle and thrown into the lake of fire alive (Rev 19.11-21). With his lackeys gone, only Satan and death itself remain.
The imagery is spectacular. Straight out of a fantasy. Behind the imagery of course is a pointer towards a future reality I can only guess and glimpse at.
20 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. (Rev 20:1–3)
God is at war with Satan. He sends an angel to deal with him but doesn’t destroy him yet. There is a key to the bottomless pit because the pit can be locked tight. The angel which is obviously massively powerful, seizes the dragon (possibly by the neck), throws him into the bottomless pit and seals it.
Why did he do this? The text says to shut him up, ‘so that he might not deceive the nations any longer’.
Satan will be silenced for one thousand years.
4 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. (Rev 20:4)
‘Thrones’. John sees another scene. This one focuses on the people of God. Those who have suffered and died without giving in to idolatry under the reign of Babylon, the work of the two beasts and Satan.
They are raised to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years.
There are two thousand year periods. The thousand years Satan is locked up and silenced for. And the thousand years the raised martyrs reign with Christ. How these thousand year periods relate together we are not told. I suspect the thousand year periods are concurrent.
It might be helpful to remember at this point John is passing this epistle on to churches who are experiencing the persecutions he is writing about here. Who perhaps know the people who have died under the reign of the evil power Rome. The message hopefully would encourage them to persevere, let them know the time of Roman power is short and their brothers and sisters are with Christ.
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. (Rev 20:5-6)
We are given some more information about the thousand year reign of the martyrs with Christ. ‘First resurrection’ and ‘Second death’. There is more than one period of time when God’s people will be raised from the dead. There is more than one kind of death.
When the martyrs came to life we are told this is the first resurrection. They are blessed. They are priests. They will reign with Christ for a thousand years. Again I think this may comfort those who have lost brothers and sisters in persecutions. They will know they are with Christ (reigning) and are looking out for them (priests).
Meanwhile others will die in the interim and they will be raised also when the thousand years is up.
7 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, (Rev 20:7-9)
Satan is released after a thousand years. He begins his campaign of deceit again and raises up an army. They surround God’s people and his city. This may look bad, but remember he was released. God intended this to happen because he is about to lose badly.
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. (Rev 20:9–10)
God’s people will be persecuted. They will suffer and die.
John gives us a helpful reminder of these facts. He encourages us that those who have died standing by their faith, refusing to bow to false idols are with Christ.
However we try and calculate when these things will happen. We are also reminded of the long term count down until the time when all evil will be defeated by God and Christ. Tick, tick, tick.
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