Revelation 20 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven,
having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
an angel- Perhaps Michael, who had earlier cast Satan to earth (12:7-9).
the key- he has authority to open & shut the abyss.
a chain- he has authority to bind.
As demonic beings were bound in ages past (2Pet 2:4; Jude 1:6),
so, Satan will be bound, during the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent,
which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Satan alone, of the unholy trinity, remains to be dealt with.
The beast & false prophet were previously cast into the Lake of Fire (19:20).
1000 years- Satan's binding is required prior to Christ's Millennial reign of righteousness.
Three views concerning the Millennium:
  1. Post-millennial view- The millennium is figurative of the Church Age.
    The Church will present a fully Christian world to Christ at His (post-millennial) return.
    According to this view, Satan was bound at the start of the Church Age.
    [On the contrary: See 1Pet 5:8,9]
    [Also, the normal reading of ch.19-20 places Satan's binding after Christ's return.]
  2. A-millennial view- There is no literal millennial kingdom on earth.
    The 'millennium' is symbolic of heavenly things and the eternal Kingdom.
    [This view also ignores the normal reading of scripture, which reveals substantially different environments in ch.20 versus ch.21-22. Near the close of the Millennial Kingdom, there will be a satanic rebellion involving the nations 'of the earth' (20:7,8). That is not a heavenly matter. Furthermore, Satan and all forms of rebellion are forever excluded from the Eternal Kingdom (21:27).]
  3. Pre-millennial view- Christ will bodily return to earth to bring in the Millennium
    which is the literal Davidic Kingdom foretold by all of the biblical prophets (major & minor). cp. 2Sam 7:12-17; Psa 89:34-37; Jer 30:7-11; Mic 4:1-8
    Only in Rev. ch.20 is the length of that kingdom given (stated 6x in this chapter).
Neither the post-millennial nor the a-millennial view sees the 1000 years as literal.
Yet, all other time references in Revelation are literal (eg., 42 months, 1260 days).
The persons, events, and time periods, in ch.20, should also be taken literally.
The literal reading assumes that God is capable of saying what He means.
20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit {ie., the abyss},
and shut him up, and set a seal upon him,
that he should deceive the nations no more,
till the thousand years should be fulfilled
{ie., be finished}:
and after that he must be loosed a little season
{ie., a little time}.
the abyss- is a temporary holding area, distinct from the Lake of Fire (cp. v.10).
shut him up- ie., locked up in prison (See 'shut' in Acts 5:23).
set a seal- ie., to secure his prison (cp. Mat 27:66).
that he should deceive the nations no more.-
Armies were destroyed at Armageddon, but nations survive.
For 1000 years, they will be in submission to the King of kings (Zech 14:16),
until Satan foments a rebellion.
Why is Satan loosed after 1000 years? Dr.L.S.Chafer, quoted by McGee:
"If you will tell me why God let Satan loose in the first place,
I'll tell you why God will let him loose in the second place."
God has not fully shown us His purposes in allowing evil.
Yet, the child, who does not fully understand his father's wisdom, is wise to trust him.
(At v.8, we are given a glimpse of God's dispensational purpose.)
20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them,
and judgment was given unto them:
and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded
{lit., killed with an axe}
for {because of} the witness of Jesus, and for {because of} the word of God,
and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image,
neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands;
and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
They lived- ie., came to life again. cp. word usage in Joh 11:25; 14:19.
These are the saints of all ages including...
  • The throne sitters, representing the Church.
    cp. 4:4; 5:8-10; 19:4 and Mat 19:28; Luk 22:29,30; 1Cor 6:2,3
  • The Tribulation martyrs (6:9; 11:3,7, etc.)
    Those who forfeited their lives, by being faithful to Christ in refusing submission to the Antichrist during the 7 years of trouble, will enter into 1000 years of earthly blessing under the King of righteousness and peace.
    Note: Because of the word 'beheaded' (v.4, in most English translations), some have presumed that Islam, which prefers that mode of execution, will have dominion under the Antichrist. However, the GK word {pelekizo} means 'to chop (or, kill) with an axe,' which may refer to violent slaughter by various means. In the first century AD, the Romans did use this means to 'behead' criminals. According to tradition, Paul was executed in that way. Beheading is not unique to Islam. As recently as 1977, the guillotine was the official mode of capital punishment in France.
  • The OT saints. Though not specifically mentioned here,
    other passages indicate that OT saints will be raised, following the tribulation, to participate in Christ's Millennial Kingdom: Isa 26:16-21; Dan 12:1-2,8-13; Joh 5:21-29
20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.
This [is] the first resurrection.
the rest of the dead- The unsaved remain in hades
awaiting their judgment at the Great White Throne, where all are condemned (v.11-15).
the first resurrection- is of the Just. The last resurrection is of the Unjust.
Wherever these two resurrections are mentioned together, it is always in this order.
cp. Dan 12:2; Joh 5:28,29; Acts 24:15
The Resurrection of the Just is "first" because it preceeds that of the Unjust.
However, it is not one isolated event. The first resurrection includes:
Resurrection- GK= anastasei, to stand up.
Those who deny bodily resurrection have difficulty explaining how this applies to a spirit. [McGee]
20:6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection:
on such the second death hath no power
{ie., authority},
but they shall be priests of God and of Christ,
and shall reign with him a thousand years.
holy- The first resurrection is of the saints (holy ones).
cp. Mat 5:8; Col 1:21-23; Heb 12:14; Rev 22:11
Note: The supposed fires of purgatory cannot make dead men holy.
After 1000 years in hades, the unsaved remain unsaved (v.11-15).
the second death- (see v.14)
they shall be priests... and shall reign...-
20:7 And when the thousand years are expired {finished},
Satan shall be loosed out of his prison
{ie., the abyss, v.1-3},
20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations
which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog,
to gather them together to battle: the number of whom [is] as the sand of the sea.
to deceive- Satan remains incorrigible despite 1000 years of incarceration (v.3).
Men remain sinners at heart despite 1000 years of Christ's reign of righteousness. Jer 17:9; Rom 8:7
Thus, the seventh dispensation (the Millennial Kingdom), like those preceding it, demonstrates the utter failure of man.
[See the study on the Seven Dispensations, in "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth" on the Resource Menu.]
This raises a question:
Since the Millennial Kingdom begins with few men in the flesh (Isa 24:6),
and since only the righteous will enter the Kingdom of Messiah (Mat 25:31-34,41),
from where does this rebellious multitude come?
     Apparently, these are the unregenerate offspring of believing parents. Children will be born during the Millennium (cp. Isa 11:4-10; 65:18-25). But from their parents, they will inherit the Adamic nature which is susceptible to Satan's seductions. As now, so then, the great need of the natural man is to be born again, through personal faith in Christ and His finished work of salvation (Rom 8:5-9; Joh 1:11-13).
Gog & Magog- Does the war of Ezekiel ch.38-39 fit here?
Compare the following differences:
Revelation 20:7-9Ezekiel 38-39
An army --
-- led by Satan.
-- led by Gog (38:1,2).
-- from the 4 quarters of the earth
  (implies alliance of all nations outside of the Beloved City).
-- from the North (39:2),
  with specific allies: Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer and Togarmah (38:5,6).
Objective --
-- against the camp of the saints.
-- to make war with the saints.
-- against the land of Israel (38:8).
-- to take a spoil (38:12).
Timing --
-- at the end of Satan's 'little season,'
  which follows both the Tribulation
  and the Millennium.
-- in the latter days (38:16),
  in a time of peace,
  soon after Israel's regathering (38:8),
  ie., early in the Tribulation.
-- at the end of Christ's 1000 yr reign.-- before Armageddon (39:17-20).
-- while the Glory of God dwells
  among the nations, in Christ.
-- before God sets His glory
  among the nations (39:21).
Disposal of combatants --
-- Fire from heaven devours them.
  (There is no need for burial.)
-- Those slain in battle are devoured by birds
  and/or buried by Israel. 39:2-4,11-15
Outcome of the conflict --
-- Satan cast into the Lake of Fire (v.10-f),
  the final judgment of unsaved men.
  (The reign of sin & death is ended.
  Christ's eternal sinless Kingdom begins.)
-- Israel will know the LORD their God,
  the nations will understand His purpose for Israel (39:22,23). (This applies to the start of the Millennial Kingdom.)
  • McGee suggests that as we speak of distinct world wars (eg. WWI and WWII), we should also consider Gog & Magog I (Eze 38-39) and Gog & Magog II (Rev 20) as distinct conflicts.
  • JBSmith suggests that the defeat of Gog & Magog just prior to, or, early in the Tribulation (at 'Gog & Magog 1'), makes these northern people an insignificant factor during the Tribulation and the War of Armageddon. This may result in the survival of a relatively high percentage of their population, and a corresponding advantage over other nations during the period of the Millennial Kingdom, thus explaining their prominence at 'Gog & Magog 2'.
20:9 And they {ie., the deceived nations} went up on the breadth of the earth,
and compassed
{ie., encircled} the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city:
and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
the beloved city- ie., Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the Beloved One.
cp. Psa 78:68; 87:2; Isa 1:24-26; 2:1-5
(cf. Jerusalem during the Tribulation, Rev 11:8)
20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,
where the beast and the false prophet [are],
and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
the devil that deceived- The biblical account has come to its end.
Satan's first act of deception is recorded in the third chapter of the Bible (Gen ch.3), his last in the third chapter from the end.
The first prophecy regarding Satan is the last fulfilled: Gen 3:15
There will be no future seasons of release for him. Justice is sealed permanently.
Note that the Lake of Fire is not symbolic of annihilation:
  1. After 1000 years, the beast and false prophet are still there.
  2. Their torment is "for ever and ever."
    These words are used elsewhere to describe the eternal continuance of God, His Glory, and Dominion
         (cp. 1:18; 4:9,10; 5:13,14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7).
    Hell is no less enduring (Mat 8:12; 13:42; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48).
20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it,
from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away;
and there was found no place for them.
a great white throne-
The lack of the definite article indicates that this is a special throne for judgment, distinct from the normal throne of God (which, at John's first glimpse of it, was referred to as "a throne" [4:2], but as "the throne" in the 32 subsequent occurrences).
This throne of judgment may be located in space, since it is apparently neither in earth nor heaven.
him that sat- lit., the one sitting thereon. Joh 5:22,26-29
the earth and the heaven "fled away"- has a similar sense to "passed away."
cp. Mat 24:35; 2Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1
20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;
and the books were opened:
and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life:
and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books,
according to their works.
the dead- ie., "the rest of the dead" (v.5)
These are the unsaved dead, who were not included in the First Resurrection.
small and great- God is no respector of persons. The ground is level before His throne.
the books... another book...- A single book holds the roll of the redeemed.
But volumes are required to record the names and deeds of the unsaved.
the dead were judged-
  • out of those things written- ie., the record of each person's life.
    Psa 90:8; Luk 12:2-5; 1Cor 4:5
  • according to their works- God is fair and just.
    But by their works, no one measures up to God's standard of righteousness.
    Rom 2:5-12; 3:10-12,19-20
Note: This event should not be confused with the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is a judgment of believers (cp. 2Cor 5:10; 1Cor 3:11-15).
Judgment Seat of Christ Great White Throne Judgment
Subjects: --Those who are alive in Christ.--Those who are dead in their sins.
Timing:    --Shortly after the Rapture.--After the Millennium and Satan's little season.
Basis:      --According to their works.--According to their works & the Book of Life.
Consequence: --Degree of reward.--Eternal damnation.
20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it;
and death and hell
{hades} delivered up the dead which were in them:
and they were judged every man according to their works.
the sea gave up- The resurrection to judgment is not limited to those who are stored
neatly away in graves. All will be present, including those beyond man's accounting.
death and hades- All will return from physical death and from the place of lost spirits.
Christ will raise them up for the final accounting. (1:18; John 5:25,28,29)
20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.
This is the second death.
cast- GK= ballo, thrown out (ie., as trash), also: poured out, emptied.
The unsaved (the content of death & hades) are dumped into Hell, not to be retrieved.
But death & hades themselves are also cast out, no more to affect the saved (21:4).
the second death- It is "second" relative to their preceding physical death in unbelief.
The first death is physical & temporal (pending an appointment with God, Heb 9:27).
The second death is spiritual & eternal (unending separation from God).
A second birth (from being spiritually dead in sin, into being alive in God's Spirit), is the only way of escape from the second death. Joh 3:3-6; 8:21-24; Eph 2:1-9
20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life
was cast into the lake of fire.
not found- ie., after search was made
the book of life-
  • There is no inclusion in this book for those who serve sin and Satan (Rev 13:4,8; 17:8).
  • There is no escape from sin and its consequences apart from the blood of the Lamb.
    All claims for exception, based on works, are rejected. Mat 7:21-23
    A sinner can do only one acceptable work: Joh 6:28,29; Acts 16:30,31
whosoever... was cast into the lake of fire.- All present, at this judgment, will perish in their sins.
Yet, as you read this, the invitation, for deliverance from sin and death, is still open to 'whosoever' places his full trust in the Savior. Joh 3:16-18,36; Rom 10:8-11; Titus 3:3-7

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