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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-3

19:11-20:15 THE TRIUMPH OF GOD

Up till now the visions have mainly been concerned with the power of evil and the sufferings of believers. Persecuted Christians have been encouraged to endure their trials by the assurance that God is still in control. He guards his people, allowing the wicked to exercise their power only within the limits that he has set according to his eternal plan. Leaving behind the subject of the power of evil in the world, the visions now move on to their climax. They picture the final triumph of God over all enemies and his complete conquest of evil.

The holy war (19:11-20:3)

God’s victory over a rebellious humanity and its satanic leaders is now pictured in a terrifying war (cf. 16:12-16). Jesus descends majestically to judge in righteousness and rule in power. His secret name indicates his unique authority (11-12). His blood-soaked robe signifies that his triumph has come through his death on the cross. Armies of angels are with him, but his conquest is not by armies or weapons. It is by the sword that goes out of his mouth. He is the living Word, the active agent of God who expresses God’s will and carries it out. He speaks and it is done. As King of kings and Lord of lords he exercises God’s rule over all humankind, and in divine wrath punishes the wicked (13-16).
An angel calls flesh-eating birds to prepare for a feast such as they have never had before, for the corpses on the battlefield will be beyond number (17-18). Once Jesus enters the battle, it is soon over. The antichrist and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, signifying punishment from which there is no escape. Meanwhile the armies of the antichrist perish in battle (19-21).
With the antichrist and the false prophet destroyed, only the first member of the evil trinity remains to be dealt with, Satan himself. However, Satan is not yet destroyed. He is thrown into the abyss (see 9:1; 11:7; 17:8) where he is imprisoned for a long period, symbolized by a thousand years, so that he is no longer able to tempt the human race to rebel against God. At the end of this time he will be released for a short while (20:1-3).

Verses 4-6

Reigning with Christ (20:4-6)

Persecuted believers are now encouraged with a further revelation of their assured victory. Whereas Satan’s brief time of apparent triumph is replaced by a lengthy imprisonment, the Christians’ brief time of suffering is replaced by a lengthy reign with Christ. They may have been martyred, but now they are raised from death to share the resurrection life with Christ (4; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

This raising of the believers is called the first resurrection. It is followed by the reign with Christ, symbolized by a thousand years. The believers share with Christ in the life of a new era where he rules as King, a position that the ungodly refused to acknowledge when he lived among them in the world. At the end of this reign with Christ there is a second resurrection, this time involving those who are not believers. Theirs, however, is not a resurrection to life, but a resurrection to damnation. They suffer that final punishment which John calls the second death (5-6).

Verses 7-10

Defeat of Satan (20:7-10)

At the end of the time of Christ’s reign Satan is released, but he soon shows that he has not changed his ways. As usual he deceives people and incites them to rebel against God (cf. 16:12-16; Genesis 3:1-6). Rebels across the world unite against God and his people. As in a similar apocalyptic vision in the Old Testament, the anti-God leader is symbolized by a man called Gog who lives in the land of Magog. But, as in the Old Testament vision, Satan is allowed to draw all the rebels together so that God might destroy them all at the same time in one decisive act of judgment (7-9; cf. Ezekiel 38:1-9,Ezekiel 38:16,Ezekiel 38:18; Ezekiel 39:1-8). God then throws Satan into the lake of fire to join the antichrist and the false prophet. This is an imprisonment from which there is no release. It is the final punishment (10).

Verses 11-15

The last judgment (20:11-15)

When the rest of the dead are raised to life (see v. 5) the final judgment takes place. The one who carries out the judgment is the Lord of the universe, and he carries it out with absolute justice. At this judgment people face two independent witnesses. The first is the record of their works, according to which they will be judged. The second is the list of names in the book of life, which confirms whether or not they accepted God’s offer of pardon (11-13). All people, in the end, share either the blessings of heaven or the horrors of the lake of fire. Finally, death and the world of the dead are made as powerless as all other enemies (14-15; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26,1 Corinthians 15:55).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Revelation 20". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/revelation-20.html. 2005.
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