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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15


Satan conquered. The Last Judgment

In this chapter the visions of the overthrow of Christ's enemies are continued. The devil is bound for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3); the martyrs reign with Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6). It is foretold that, at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed, and will make a last assault against the saints, after which he is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). A vision of the Last Judgment follows (Revelation 20:11-15).

The binding of Satan and the reign of the saints with Christ, both for 1,000 years, is known as 'the Millennium.' Many of the later Jews expected that the Messianic kingdom, of which the prophets spoke, would come in the present age, and they distinguished it from the Pinal Judgment and new heaven of righteousness which would follow. By some it was said that the Messianic kingdom would last 1,000 years, though other periods were also named.

It is plain that St. John made use of this Jewish expectation in his prophecy. But it does not follow that he meant it to be understood literally. It is more in harmony with the character of the book to suppose that he meant this Jewish apocalyptic expectation to be understood spiritually. The same conclusion seems probable from the general circumstances. The Christians had just been told that the persecuting city and empire would be overcome. They might ask whether the devil, the author of all evil would not raise up fresh enemies against them.

1-3. For a thousand years the devil will be bound and shut up in the abode of spiritual evil (the 'abyss,' see on Revelation 9:1, not 'the lake of fire,' which is the place of final punishment, see on Revelation 19:20). The meaning is, that for '1,000 years' the power of evil would not be able to gather itself into an organised attack upon Christianity. The '1,000 years' are not to be understood numerically, but as a period of rest and happiness. For 1,000 is a multiple of 10, which was regarded as a sacred number because the commandments are 10;and it is the number which was considered to stand for the sabbath in the history of the world, 1,000 years' rest coming after 6,000 years' toil: cp. Psalms 90:4.

4-6. The Christians for whom St. John wrote would ask what share they had in these joyful tidings. Although generations to come would enjoy rest and peace, it was not to be in their day, and many of them must suffer death. So they are told that good things are in store for them. Although they die, yet their souls will live and reign with Christ (Revelation 20:4). 'The rest of the dead,' i.e. the ungodly dead, the men of the earth, 'lived not,' i.e. did not share in the presence of Christ, but remained for the Judgment: cp. Revelation 20:11. The life of the saints with Christ is called 'the first resurrection' (cp. John 5:25), because it depends upon the resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. As such, it belongs to all who are Christ's, whether on earth or in paradise (Revelation 20:5). Over them 'the second death' (cp. Revelation 20:14, Revelation 2:18) has no power, because they 'have passed from death unto life,' 1 John 3:14;(Revelation 20:6).

7-10. After the time of rest, and when the Final Judgment is near, the power of evil will gather force again (Revelation 20:7). Gog and Magog, i.e. the world hostile to God's people, cp. Ezekiel 38 f. (Revelation 20:8), will assail the Church (the 'camp of the saints and the beloved city,' i.e. the spiritual Jerusalem). But God will overthrow these last enemies (Revelation 20:9), and the devil will be cast into the lake of fire, i.e. the power of evil will be destroyed for ever (Revelation 20:10).

11-15. God sits on a 'great white throne,' i.e. in glory and purity (Revelation 20:11), to judge the wicked dead. They are not written 'in the book of life' (cp. Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 21:27), and they are judged according to their works (Revelation 20:12.), and 'cast into the lake of fire.' Into the lake of fire. Death and Hades (i.e. the abode of the de"into attacking the Church"ad) are also cast, for 'the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' (1 Cor 5:26; cp. Revelation 21:4). This is the 'second death,' for it is the final separation from eternal life (Revelation 20:14.). This judgment does not apply to Christ's people: cp. John 5:24. They are in the book of life. They already 'live' (cp. Revelation 20:4), and, therefore, are not reckoned among the 'dead' of Revelation 20:11.

It is plain that St. John's view is, as it were, foreshortened. He sees the overthrow of the anti-Christian persecution. He sees, farther on, the Last Judgment. But he does not specify the length of the time of rest and then of conflict for the Church which lies between.

1, 3. Bottomless pit] RV 'abyss.'

3. Him up] RV 'it.' Set a seal upon him] RV 'sealed it over him.' Deceive] i.e. into attacking the Church: cp. Revelation 20:8, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 19:20; John 8:12, John 8:44.

Fulfilled] RV 'finished.'

4. Thrones] cp. Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28. They] i.e. the martyrs.

Witness] RV 'testimony,' i.e. the revelation made by Christ, 'the faithful witness': cp. Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10. Mark] cp. Revelation 13:14. Reigned] The saints share Christ's triumph over sin and death, and also, in ways which we know not, share the glories of His kingdom: cp. Revelation 5:10; Romans 8:17.

6. Priests] cp. Revelation 1:6 note, Revelation 5:10.

8. Deceive] see on Revelation 20:3.

10. Shall be] RV 'they shal be.'

11. Throne] cp. Isaiah 6:1; Daniel 7:9.

12. The books] RV 'books': cp. Daniel 7:10.

Works] cp. Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6.

13, 14. Hell] RV 'Hades.'

14. The second death] RV 'the second death, even the lake of fire': cp. Revelation 2:11; Matthew 25:41.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/revelation-20.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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