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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-15

(c) XX 1-10 A Double Vision interposed —(1-6) The Binding of the Dragon and the Reign of the Saints. (7-10) The Destruction of the Dragon.

1-3. An Angel chains and imprisons the Dragon for 1,000 years: the Saints and Martyrs are enthroned and reign with Christ for the same time: this is the First Resurrection.

4-6. Over these the Second Death has no power.—John had shown, first, the Dragon: then, the Beasts: then, the City Rome. He now shows their destruction in the inverse order— Rome; the Beasts; the Dragon. But first, the Dragon is ’chained’ only for a while, the direct consequence of his defeat by Michael. These visions do not show events following one another in time: the ’events’ are simultaneous spiritually: it is the Seer whose eye is looking ever deeper.—The Abyss, Satan, the Serpent: see 9:11, etc.

4. ’Thrones of Judgement.’ Cf.Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Corinthians 6:3. The Faithful and especially the Martyrs are associated with Christ in passing verdict on the world.

2, 4, 5. The ’thousand years’ and the ’first resurrection’ have been a crux for commentators, but almost wholly because these have struggled to make the events of the visions successive. Yet the destruction of the Beast (the sum-total of human anti-Christian forces) cannot but take place at the end of the world and so must synchronize with that of the Dragon. Therefore the ’millennium’ coincides with the preceding period, persecutions included. The Apparition of Christ, his ’Parousia’, is the End, already related under varying images several times, and nothing new can follow it. In the OT (cf. esp. Is 54 and 60; Ez 40-47) we see the disasters of the People followed by a triumphant rebuilding of Jerusalem and a Messianic, but earthly, period of well-being indefinite in duration. Towards the Christian era this notion was more spiritualized, but (on the whole) involved the reign of the Messias on earth for a considerable time (the number of years varies), followed (sometimes accompanied) by the bodily resuscitation of good Jews and the beginning of eternity. John was certainly aware of these floating ideas (see below on Gog and Magog), but all critics would agree that he adapts his symbols to his own purpose: we disregard, then, the theory of a ’Jewish millennium. Some Christian writers (Papias—not a prudent authority: Irenaeus, far more serious: Tertullian, heretic: a few others, but second-rate) were influenced by the Jewish notions prevalent especially after the sack of Jerusalem ( a.d. 70), Out do not speak with one voice and seldom with conviction. St Augustine ( Civ. Dei, 20, 7-13, etc.) retracts his earlier inclination to believe in a millennium after the final Judgement, and the break with any earlier interpretations was definite: the Council of Ephesus already spoke of ’aberrations’ and ’fabulous doctrines’. Augustine and Jerome are to be followed: they regard the chaining of Satan and the reign of the Saints as the whole period siibsequent to the Incarnation. The power of Evil is in fact broken: Christians in whom Grace is are in fact ’kings and priests’ however they be harassed. These, then, are not only the martyrs or ’confessors’ already in heaven, but all who do not ’worship the Beast’, even though yet unborn: cf. ch 7; 15:2-4; esp. 14:1-5.

The number ’1,000’ may be suggested by the Jewish notion that the world existed 7,000 years, corresponding to the 7 ’days’ of creation, of which the last (year or day) was one of ’rest’: after this, an 8th ’millennium’ was to be created—eternity. But in Apoc it means the grace-age in which the Faithful are living, whether on this earth or forthwith after bodily death in heaven (Apoc 14:13). There is, then, a First Death (Sin) an, a Second (Damnation), and parallel to this, a First Resurrection, by grace: cf.Ephesians 5:14; Colossians 3:1, and all St Paul’s treatment of the effects of baptism, and John 5:25 where not only those who shall hear Christ’s word shall live, but (24) ’he that heareth hath "eternal life"’.

Yet St John himself makes it clear that Satan has been no more than crippled, for he still has power over the souls numerous as the ’sands of the sea’ who compose the hostile troops of the next little section.— After the 1,000 years, Satan is unbound and comes forth to deceive the nations of all the world. ’Gog and Magog.’ They besiege the ’camp of the Saints’ and the ’beloved city’. But fire descends and devours them, and the Devil is cast into the fiery lake to rejoin the Beast and his Prophet. ’Gog and Magog’: see Ez 38:39. They summed up, and afterwards symbolized, the ’enemies of God’ especially at the Last Day. Useless to dwell on their original signification, i.e. northern peoples, the Scythians in particular. For John, they come from everywhere and invest the Church but are decisively defeated. The spiritual Tempter himself, after a final explosion of iniquity, is destroyed, as the 7th Vision will show

(d) XX 11-15 The Seventh Vision —’A great white Throne’: from before him who was enthroned there, ’heaven and earth fled away’. All the Dead stood before it; books were opened, and ’another book’, that of Life: The Sea and the Grave gave up their dead and all were judged according to their works written in the books. And Death and the Grave and all not written in the Book of Life were thrown into the fiery lake—this is the Second Death.

11. The ’white’ throne ? because of the purity of this Judgement? of the divine triumph? Here too the Judge is not named; cf. 4:2. Heaven and earth ’fled’— as it were, cowered back, conscious that nothing is ’pure in thy sight’ (Job 25:5): but the whole universe, in fact, remains present or becomes so.

12. The books are the history of each, and, the Register of the Saved. 13. Death and the Grave (identical) are personified. All, whether they had died on land or sea, are judged: after that, there is no more death, temporal or spiritual.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Revelation 20". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/revelation-20.html. 1951.
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