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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

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Verse 1

Revelation 20:1

Chapter 20 - Judgment Against the Dragon

The Binding of Satan, Revelation 20:1-3

The Reign of Saints, vv. Revelation 20:4-6

The Loosing of Satan, vv. Revelation 20:7-10

The Final Judgment, vv. Revelation 20:11-15

[ See the "Topic Notes" on Revelation 20 ]

The pronounced judgment on the four enemies are in the reserve order of their introduction in the Book.

And . . (then) . . The "and" supports the idea of chronological sequence. "Babylon" (Jerusalem) has fallen and now the Book centers on Satan himself.

It is logical that having judged the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 19:20) Jesus Christ should next deal with Satan. God assigned an angel to bind Satan. - Constable

angel coming down from heaven . . He has God’s authority, symbolized by the key that controls the bottomless pit (or the abyss, or the underworld; also in 20:3) and the power to put chains on God’s great enemy (cp. 12:7–9) for a thousand years. - FSB

He may be the "star" of Revelation 9:1, and we have seen earlier Revelation 1:18 that it is now Christ who has the keys to Death and Hades.

Angels as falling stars are often found in the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature (Utley). Because of the contest this could be just another servant angel involved in a task God has assigned him. (Utley)

the key . . A key is a symbol for authority, Revelation 9:1; 2 Peter 2:4; Here it shows God’s authority over the "underworld" of Satan and all those sided with him.

This is the fourth mention of a key in the book (see Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 9:1).

The angel is pictured as "holding" or "having" this key.

key to the abyss . . Represents complete authority over the realm of the dead, which belongs to the risen Christ (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 9:1). - NIVZSB

key of the bottomless pit . . The abyss, where demons and fallen angels are restrained under chains. 2 Peter 2:4. One having the key to this places shows he holds authority to perform his actions.

of the bottomless pit . . Lit. of the pit (or well) of the abyss: the depth of Hell, the home or penal prison of the demons (see Luke 8:31, where the word translated “the deep” is the same), is conceived as a pit in the earth’s surface, no doubt literally bottomless, but of finite area, so that it can be fitted with a cover which can be fastened down with a padlock or seal. Cf. Revelation 11:7, Revelation 17:8, for the notion of evil beings issuing from the pit; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3, for their being confined there.

But notice (i) that this pit is nowhere identified with the “lake of fire,” the final destination of the Devil and his angels: (ii) that we are not told that the Devil himself is cast into it yet; rather the contrary is implied. - CBSC

It seems to be synonymous with the term “tartarus” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4 and I Enoch 21:7), a place where evil angels are held in prison (cf. Luke 8:31; Judges 1:6; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1-3; and I Enoch 10:4; 86:1; 88:1; Jubilees 5:6–11). Paul used this term in Romans 10:7 for the place of the dead (cf. Isaiah 24:21-22). Later the rabbis said it was the name of the unrighteous part of Sheol/Hades. - Utley

great chain in his hand . . A chain is something that restrains and limits one’s activities. cf. Matthew 12:29; the chain of the gospel; Luke 11:21-22; Hebrews 2:14 ; Luke 10:17-18.

A chained dog is restrained. He has as move movement (liberty) as the chain allows. Satan today only has so much power, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The binding of Satan is real, though the chain must be figurative since it is impossible to bind spirit beings with physical chains (cf. Revelation 9:14). - Constable

Verse 2

Revelation 20:2

the dragon . . No doubt about the identity of the Dragon (The old Serpent - Genesis 3:1 ; Genesis 3:15 ff ), he is the Devil, or Satan.

serpent of old . . A reference to Satan’s first appearance in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1 ff.), where he deceived Eve (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14). - MSB

seized … bound . . Typical language for arrest and imprisonment (cf. Matthew 14:3); alludes to Isaiah 24:21-22; Isaiah 27:1. - NIVZSB

bound . . by the chain of the gospel. (Under some restraint. Even a dog on a chain is dangerous if you get within the range of his chain!)

Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 11:22; Hebrews 2:14; Judges 1:6 2 Peter 2:4

#Colossians 2:14-15; John 12:31-32; Luke 10:18;

The dragon’s being bound with a great chain and thrown into the bottomless pit, which is shut and sealed, symbolizes God’s restriction of Satan’s ability to inflict harm for a long but limited era. God’s purpose is that Satan might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. - EBCNT

Amillennialists note that the NT affirms that Jesus’ first coming has bound Satan (Matthew 12:29) and brought God’s light to the nations (Matthew 4:14-16; Luke 2:32; Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:30-31). This binding of Satan for “a thousand years” refers to the gospel’s spread among all nations during the present age, and to the present restraint of the church’s persecutors until an outbreak of rebellion before Christ’s return (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). (cf. ESVSB)

one thousand years . . 1,000 used symbolically of a totality. The 1000 is not quantity but quality - Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 50:10 [Does this mean the cattle on the 1001st hill doesn’t belong to God? ]

What restraint is Satan under? He will not work miraculous signs til he is released, nor would there be demon possession today like in the time when God empowered miracle working men to excel them. In what ways God has limited the power of the gospel today, he has limited Satan, and allows him no power but what we have been supplied to deal with 1 Corinthians 10:13. - WG

There are twenty figures of speech in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters alone. In a series of symbols such as these, it is not reasonable to make a literal application of the thousand years and a figurative application of all the rest of the symbols, without a contexual or historical reason for doing so. - Wallace

- - - - - - - - - - -

1) Premillennialism sees this as a literal 1,000 year period during which Jesus Christ reigns on the earth from literal Jerusalem.

2) Amillennialism understands the 1,000 years to be symbolic of a long period of time

3) Postmillennialism understands the reference to a 1,000 year period as symbolic of a golden age of righteousness and spiritual prosperity before Christ’s second coming.

1. Premillennialism: Christ will return before the millennium to inaugurate a literal 1,000-year rule on earth with his holy people before the final judgment.

2. Amillennialism: 1,000 years is a metaphor representing the current age between Christ’s first and second comings. Christ reigns spiritually with his people. At the end of this age, Christ will return, execute the final judgment, and inaugurate his eternal Kingdom.

3. Postmillennialism: The Good News will triumph on earth, and Christ will establish through the church an age of peace on earth. Then Christ will return and inaugurate his eternal Kingdom. - NLTSB

Verse 3

Revelation 20:3

bottomless pit . . The Abyss, where Satan is confined for 1000 years. - Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20

set a seal . . The angel also set a seal upon him, as an authoritative act; such as the seal of state stamped on the documents signed by officials of government. - Wallace

deceive the nations . . Satan in Revelation had deceived nations into persecuting the church. There has been no world-wide universal persecution of Christianity since the time the Woman-Babylon was destroyed and the Beasts (ch. 19) were slain with the gospel.

The purpose of Satan’s binding, allowing the gospel’s spread among the nations during the present church age - cf NIVZSB

a little season . . Just as the souls under the altar were to wait "a little season", Revelation 6:11 , after the "1,000" years he will be loosed and go out to deceive the nations again and gather them against the camp of the saints. (Revelation 20:7-8). 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

released . . (set free for a short time) . . Satan’s final rebellion, Revelation 20:7-9.

Verse 4

Revelation 20:4

thrones . . Who are the "they" that sat on them? As John looks to see who they are he "then" sees they are the souls who had been beheaded that are now on the thrones and have "judgment" committed to them.

judgment . . was given to them, the souls who had been beheaded. For what did these souls cry? Revelation 6:9-10 Revelation 3:21; "Vengeance!"

Then I saw . . [and, kai ] Then John realizes who it is that is sitting on these judgment thrones. cf. Revelation 3:21.

souls ... who had been beheaded . . These souls had been previously seen under the altar in Revelation 6:9. The souls are now pictured victorious and as reigning with Christ. Nothing said about "us" reigning (though we are in a prefigure sense Revelation 1:6 etc 1 Corinthians 4:8 ; Romans 5:17.Romans 11:15

those who had been beheaded . . Beheading was a common method of capital punishment exacted on citizens and prisoners of the Roman Empire. This group may represent martyrs only, or it may include all who remained faithful in the face of pressure to worship the beast. - FSB

The Greek word translated “beheaded” became a general term for execution, not necessarily a particular method. - MSB

who had not worshiped the beast . . They were the faithful who "overcame" Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 21:7;

they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years . . (1 Corinthians 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:12) In what sense do they "judge" and "reign" with Christ?

They are vindicated for the cause for which they died. Their influence and achievement lasts a 1000 yrs. [I wonder if John might have recognized the soul of his brother James? Acts 12:1-2 ]

The "beheaded" saints are VINDICATED.

In this "1000 year" reign John did NOT see:

1. A bodily resurrection of bodies and spirits

2. A reign on earth from literal Jerusalem;

3. A literal throne of David;

4. "Us" (but it is rather the martyred "souls");

5. Christ on earth;

6. Doesn’t mention Jerusalem or Palestine;

7. No mention of the Second Coming


1. "They" and not "us";

2. Past Tense... not "we will reign";

3. Reign of souls is "with" Christ, not a 1000 year reign "of" Christ;

4. No mention of an earthly reign

Verse 5

Revelation 20:5

rest of the dead . . The "rest" are the wicked, those persecutors, who, when they die are forgotten. - Isaiah 26:13-14;

the rest of the dead . . If those who came to life in the previous verse are only the martyrs, then these are Christians who were not martyred. Alternatively, this may refer to the wicked only, who will be raised for judgment. Either way all the dead are ultimately described as being judged (Revelation 20:12-15; compare Daniel 12:1-4). - FSB

the rest of the dead . . The bodies of unbelievers of all ages will not be resurrected until the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:12-13). - MSB

did not live again until . . Note the word for "live again" (ἔζησαν G326) is used figuratively in Luke, Luke 15:24, Luke 15:32. That is, they are forgotten, they did not succeed in their plans to eradicate Christ’s disciples.

first resurrection . . The "First Resurrection" seems to be the resurrection of the souls from beneath the altar (Revelation 6:9) to thrones with the Lord. This resurrection is a figurative or symbolic one like that in Ezekiel 37 in the Valley of Dry Bones Vision (Ezekiel 37:4-6; Ezekiel 37:11-12 ) . Revelation 3:21; Romans 11:15; Foy Wallace says their cause was resurrected.

With the destruction of the Harlot Babylon, the saints are vindicated. All that they had prophesied about (Matt 24, Luke 18-21; Mark 13) had come true and they were VINDICATED.

[The First Resurrection also in one sense is as our own resurrection from the grave of baptism with Jesus. Romans 6:3-4 ]

The resurrection in Revelation 20:12-15 (Daniel 12:1-4) refers to the time when all the dead will be raised for the day of judgment. John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10;

(cf. John 5:28-29; Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Verse 6

Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy . . The fifth of seven beatitudes in Revelation.

first resurrection . . The "First Resurrection" seems to be the resurrection of the souls from beneath the altar (Revelation 6:9) to thrones with the Lord. This resurrection is a figurative or symbolic one like that in Ezekiel 37 in the Valley of Dry Bones Vision (Ezekiel 37:4-6; Ezekiel 37:11-12 ) . Revelation 3:21; Romans 11:15; Foy Wallace says their cause was resurrected.

Those leading the way would probably include James Acts 12:2 ; Stephen Acts 7:59-60; Antipas Revelation 2:13; Peter and Paul (martyred c. AD. 64) (cf. Revelation 2:10 ; Matthew 5:10 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 1 Peter 4:12-16; Revelation 2:10

With the destruction of the Harlot Babylon, the saints are vindicated. All that they had prophesied about (Matt 24, Luke 18-21; Mark 13) had come true and they were VINDICATED

First resurrection = figurative of first Christians, those could be living as well as those martyred. Resurrection to take souls from under altar to thrones.

The First Resurrection could also be one’s resurrection from the grave of baptism with Jesus. Romans 6:3-4. -

The resurrection in Revelation 20:12-15 (Daniel 12:1-4) refers to the time when all the dead will be raised for the day of judgment. John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; (cf. John 5:28-29; Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Some think there are two kinds of resurrections: the "resurrection of life" (also called the "resurrection of the just" Luke 14:14; ) and "the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29; Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:15). This looks at the resurrection as to two different outcomes.

first resurrection ... second death . . cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:14; cf. Romans 6:9-10. Death is a separation. The first death is the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26, Genesis 35:18 ) and the Second Death is eternal separation of the spirit from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 10:28; Judges 1:6).

The “second death” is spiritual death beyond physical death (cf. Revelation 20:14; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 21:8). It involves death of the soul (whole person) as well as the body (Matthew 10:28). - Constable

Specifically the first resurrection involves deliverance from the lake of fire. Those who participate in the first resurrection are also blessed because they will be priests of God and Christ, ... - Constable

priests and kings . . -- Revelation 1:6 ; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:10; This is an allusion to Exodus 19:5-6 where it refers to Israel as God’s instrument to bring light and revelation to the Gentile world. In the NT is includes all saints as priests to do the same thing for the entire world today cf. 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6.

Priests have unlimited access to and intimate fellowship with God. - Constable

of God and of Christ . . (Philippians 2:5-8);

The strongest proof, perhaps, in the book of the doctrine of Christ’s coequal Deity. If we read these words in the light of St John’s Gospel, or of the Nicene Creed, they suggest no difficulty, but without the doctrine there taught, they make salvation to consist in the deadly sin which the Moslems call “association”—the worshipping the creature by the side of the Creator. Notice, however, that the word “God” in this book always means the Father; and so throughout the N. T., with few exceptions. - CBSC

shall reign with Him a thousand years . . The ones who have a part in the first resurrection are the subjects. The thousands years is a symbol for a long period of time, versus "ten days" Revelation 2:10 and the "three and half" years, etc. (Revelation 12:14; Revelation 11:2-3) and other short periods.

It is the time they are with Christ in heaven awaiting the time of Christ’s second coming and the resurrection of their bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 2 Corinthians 5:6; see the NOTE at 2 Corinthians 5:8) "Where are the dead?"

John is about to speak now of the resurrection at the last day.

John 5:29 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff; 1 Cor. 15 ; John 5:24 ; John 11:24-25 John 12:48 ;

Verse 7

Revelation 20:7

Revelation 20:2

Verse 7 separates the BEFORE the "1000 yrs" from that AFTER

thousand years have expired . . That is, after a very long time! Not to be taken as a literal 1000 years.

Satan loosed . . And what he will do for "a little season" before the final resurrection. The restrictions (see Revelation 20:1-2) on Satan’s ability to deceive the world’s nations is loosed. He again deceives nations into persecuting the saints and, like a dragaon, is ready to pounce on them.

Verse 8

Revelation 20:8

go out to deceived the nations . . Satan’s greatest weapon is deception. He makes people think/reason incorrectly. Revelation 20:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 2:4; 2 John 1:7; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10.

A thousand years have wrought no change in Satan’s methods; no sooner has he been set free than he is at his old work of deceiving the world (Revelation 20:3, note), and turning it against the Church; his limitations removed - Swete

four corners . . The N-E-S-W directions of the compass, in every direction, of the world. (Revelation 7:1)

It was a mis-interpretation to think this is proof of a flat rectangle shape earth.

Gog and Magog . . An allusion to Ezekiel 39:1 ff. and Ezekiel 38:2 ff. who became a symbol of all heathen nations. (Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5; Ezekiel 38:2-3; Ezekiel 38:14; Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 39:6; Ezekiel 39:11; Ezekiel 39:15)

An allusion to Ezek 38–39. Here, Gog and Magog probably represent the resurgence of evil nations, perhaps having been deceived by Satan to rebel against the Lamb’s rule (see Revelation 20:10) - FSB

Magog was the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:2) and founder of a kingdom located N of the Black and Caspian Seas. Gog is apparently the leader of a rebel army known collectively as Magog. - MSB

Magog is given in Genesis 10:2 as the name of a son of Japhet, the eponymus, there is no doubt, of one of the nations lying near the Black Sea, and called by Europeans Scythian in the wide sense. Gog appears in Ezekiel 39:1 .c. to be not a national name, but the name, whether personal or dynastic, of the king of Magog and the neighbouring or kindred tribes of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. The resemblance of two of these names to the modern Russia and Muscovy is merely accidental: - CBSC

The phrase “Gog and Magog” (v. 8) evidently refers to the world’s rulers and nations in rebellion against God. Gog, the ruler, and Magog, his land, probably have symbolical significance as well as literal meaning much as Babylon does, and they signify Messiah’s enemies. People will come from all over the world to rebel against Christ (Ezekiel 38:3-6). - Constable

Gog refers to the prince of a host of pagan invaders from the North, especially the Scythian hordes from the distant land of Magog. Here in Rev 20, however, the names are symbolic of the final enemies of Christ duped by Satan into attacking the community of the saints. - EBCNT

to battle . . To wage war against God’s people, to refute them and their cause, to persecute, and kill them.

number is as the sand of the sea . . The opposition to the saints becomes so very numerous .Innumerable (see Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49; Isaiah 10:22; Jeremiah 33:22; etc.).

Verse 9

Revelation 20:9

They went ... the breadth of the earth . . Perhaps rather, of the land; (CBSC); Enemy from many nations (Revelation 20:8) join in attacking (persecuting?) the saints.

surrounded the camp . . The enemy is ready to ambush the saints. Is this a literal physical attack upon the saints, or again is it symbolic of persecution? It sounds like an attempt to eradicate God’s people and The Truth.

the camp of the saints . . The "camp" and the "beloved city" would be the spiritual Jerusalem, the Lord’s church. There is no indication on the part of the saints’ camp that they are aware of the imminent danger about to attack them.

Not earthly Jerusalem - but the church - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 tells of their dangers to church - Revelation 21:10 - Abraham looked for the city - Hebrews 11:10.

The ‘Camp of the Saints’ and the ‘Beloved City’ are two aspects of one body, the Universal Church, which is threatened by Gog and Magog. - Swete

The gathered army, which is extensive and world-wide, advances and in siege fashion encircles the “camp of God’s people, the city he loves.” Most commentators take the expressions “camp” and “city” as different metaphors for God’s people. “Camp” (GK 4213) in the NT refers to either a military camp or the camp of Israel (Acts 21:34, Acts 21:37; Acts 22:24; Hebrews 11:34; Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13). It reminds us of the pilgrim character of the people of God - EBCNT

camp . . παρεμβολή (parembolē), ς (ēs), (): n.fem.; ≡ DBLHebr 4722; Str 3925—1. LN 1.94 camp (Hebrews 11:34; Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13; Revelation 20:9 +; Hebrews 13:12 v.r. NA26); 2. LN 7.22 barracks (Acts 21:34, Acts 21:37; Acts 22:24; Acts 23:10, Acts 23:16, Acts 23:32+; Acts 28:16 v.r. NA26) - DBL Greek [G3925]

and the beloved city . . The New Jerusalem as we shall see. Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2. Paul uses "Jerusalem" and "the Jerusalem above" as symbols for the the Old Covenant people and the New Covenant people (the Christ’s church) Galatians 4:24-31.

Many less literal interpreters understand this verse as a description of the church’s final victory over her enemies. They equate this city with the New Jerusalem. - Swete, pp. 268–69.

More likely, the beloved city is equivalent to “the camp” of God’s people (Exodus 16:13; Exodus 33:7) and describes the oppressed, pilgrim community of believers who will inherit the new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12) - NIVZSB

fire came down . . This is an allusion to Ezekiel 38:22 and Ezekiel 39:6. The victory is God’s! He delivers His saints from the ambush.

from God . . God intervenes and saves his saints.

devoured them . . God will destroy the rebels with fire from heaven (cf. Genesis 19:24; Leviticus 10:2; 2 Kings 1:10, 2 Kings 1:12; Ezekiel 38:22; Ezekiel 39:6; Luke 9:54). John described the destiny of these mortal rebels in verses Revelation 20:12-15.- Constable

Verse 10

Revelation 20:10

devil . . That is, Satan, the old Serpent, etc. His final judgment now comes to him.

Babylon, the Harlot (Jerusalem) and the two beasts (Rome and paganism) had been judged already and conquered. Now at the end-time judgment Satan himself is dealt with and cast into the lake of fire. (Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46)

everlasting: Matthew 25:46, Matthew 3:12, Matthew 13:40, Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:10-11, Revelation 20:10-15

prepared: John 8:44; Romans 9:22-23; 2 Peter 2:4; 1 John 3:10; Judges 1:6; Revelation 12:7-9

Lake of fire . . Revelation 20:14.

The final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, angelic or human (cf. Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:15). The NT says much of eternal punishment (cf. Revelation 14:10-11; Matthew 13:40-42; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Luke 12:47-48). - MSB

brimstone . . Brimstone is a yellowish, sulfuric rock that often attends fire and smoke in Revelation (Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10). Common in the Dead Sea region, when ignited such deposits melt and produce burning streams and suffocating gas. - MSB

where . . Read where also. - CBSC [πυρὸς καὶ]

the beast and the false prophet . . Their judgment had been rendered earlier, Revelation 19:20. Nations are judged in this life time, but individuals will be judged at the last day.

tormented ... forever . . Hell and "torment" will be just as eternal and everlasting as heaven will be for the righteous.

These verses describe the final judgment of all the unbelievers of all ages (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22, Matthew 11:24; Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:41-42; Luke 10:14; John 12:48; Acts 17:31; Acts 24:25; Romans 2:5, Romans 2:16; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:7; Judges 1:6) - MSB

for ever and ever . . Lit. to the ages of the ages, as strong an expression for absolute endlessness as Biblical language affords. - CBSC

This is very similar to Revelation 14:10-11 and Revelation 19:3. The concept of a permanent separation is alluded to in Matthew 25:46 where the same term (aiōnios), used for heaven, is used for hell. - Utley

It is hard for humans to conceive of how literal fire can bring torture to nonphysical beings, but the reality of unbearable pain inflicted on Satan is unquestionable. However the Bible may speak of that future punishment—whether as the lake of fire, outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30), wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28), a never-dying worm and unquenchable fire (Mark 9:48), or fire and brimstone—it presents a picture of mental agony and corporeal suffering combined in proportion to the guilt of those who have sinned (Luke 12:47-48) . . .” - Thomas, Revelation 8–22, p. 426.

- - - - -

Full sermon


(“Ten Surprised Men”

2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:10-15

1. What a day of surprise the judgment day will be!

a. On that day we might be surprised some were saved who we didn’t think would be saved, and we might be surprised some were not saved who we thought would be.

b. The judgment day will be a day in which the hearts of men will be laid bare and things will be seen as they really are.

“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with eery secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” - Ecclesiastes 12:14.

2. It will be a day of surprises for men but not for God. God is never surprised, for “no thought can be withholden from him” - Job 42:2.

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” - Hebrews 4:13.

3. Not how Jesus depicts the surprise of some in Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

a. How surprised so many will be! Why?

b. Not because God kept them in the dark, but because they didn’t examine the scriptures to see for sure whether or not they were pleasing unto Him.

4. Will you be surprised on that day? If there is something lacking on your part, or if you are in error, it would be better that someone shocked you now by pointing out your failure than wait and be shocked and surprised at the judgment day!



1. How surprised the atheist and infidels will be! How surprised will be those who all along have ridiculed the idea of God! “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” - Psalms 14:1.

a. How foolish for a man so to believe, when there is such irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

2. Before the Almighty all men must come at the judgment day - 2 Corinthians 5:10. Then all will know there is a God! No one that day will go away still believing there is no God, for all will see Him and stand face to face before Him. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”Hebrews 10:31.



1. Here is what the great Apostle had to say long this line: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11.

2. Now we have the privilege of voluntarily confessing Jesus to be the Christ, but at the Judgment all will have to acknowledge that He is the Christ. No one will go past the judgment without knowing for sure Jesus is everything He claimed and everything God proclaimed.

3. Those who go to the judgment not having believed in the virgin birth will go away from the judgment knowing that He was that He was born of a virgin.

4. Those who formerly contended that Jesus was nothing more than a mere man will be convinced that they were wrong, but this change of mind will then do no good as far as their salvation is concerned.

5. One had better change his mind now than to have to change his mind them. What a day of surprises that day will be!



1. Some don’t believe there will be a judgment day, but the Bible says there will be. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27.

a. Acts 17:30-31.

2. Everybody will have to stand before God on that day. Are you ready for that judgment day?



1. Some believe that death is an annihilation, and that there is nothing beyond the grave! How wrong they are! How surprised they will be later to find they were in error. “If a man, shall he live again?” - Job 14:14. What about that question? Will man live after death? Is there a hereafter?

2. Let Jesus answer that question: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”John 5:28-29.

3. Jesus’ word should once and for all answer Job’s question. Man will live again, either in heaven or perdition. Let angels proclaim it; let demons fear it; let men believe it! How greatly surprised thousands will be on that resurrection morning.



1. Some believe in heaven but do not believe in hell. Some can’t conceive of an eternal punishment for the wicked. Didn’t God say that He and man don’t always think alike? “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” – Isaiah 55:8

a. God says there will be punishment for the wicked, and men had better believe it!

2. How surprised some will be to find God was right! Here is what God says about it:

a. “7. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

“8. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“9. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

b. Rest assured, my friends, that God will do what He says!



1. If God didn’t mean what He said, what kind of God is He? How could He be trusted? God has never said anything He didn’t mean! When He says that He will condemn those who do certain things, rest assured that he will do just that!

2. On the other hand, when God says He will bless whose who do certain things, rest assured He will do just that. God cannot lie,Titus 1:2, hence, men who don’t think really mans some of the things He has spoken will certainly be surprised at the judgment – Hebrews 6:18; John 6:68.



1. My friends, don’t think for one moment that anything ever escapes the attention of the Almighty. Nor is He unrighteous to forget, (Hebrews 6:10). David said, “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee”Psalms 69:5.

2. The sooner people realize this, the better concept they will have of God. God is unaware of nothing. “Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee,” said the Psalmist, – Psalms 139:12.

3. The Psalmist further exclaimed, “Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.”Psalms 139:2.

a. “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.” – Psalms 94:9, Psalms 94:11

b. God knows those that are His – 2 Timothy 2:19. No mistake will ever be made on God’s part. He likewise knows them who are not His. God know everything.

4. How surprising this will be to some who have thought God might not have noticed certain things. “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23.

a. Don’t try to hide any sin from God for it will be brought out into the open at the judgment day.



1. God no longer excuses ignorance – Acts 17:30. One will do it to no avail if he pleads ignorance at the judgment. We are told to examine the scriptures, and to show ourselves approved unto God – 2 Timothy 2:15. There is no excuse for man’s not knowing what God requires of him.

2. That day will be a day of surprises for some who thought they were right. Merely thinking you are right doesn’t make you right. One must be sincere, but sincerity alone is not sufficient. It is the truth that makes one free, not merely sincerity alone – John 8:32.

3. Saul of Tarsus thought he was right, but he wasn’t. He had lived in all good conscience, but had been misguided – Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:13.

a. Conscience is a safe guide only when the conscience is safely guided by the scriptures.

b. Don’t wait and be surprised at the judgment.



1. The Bible says that Christ is the savior of the body – Ephesians 5:23, and likewise tells us that the body is His church – Colossians 1:18.

a. The Bible says that the saved are added to the church – Acts 2:47.

b. According to the Bible there are no saved people outside the church.

c. How surprised so many will be who have thought the contrary!

2. This brings up another thing. Some don’t think that baptism has a place in God’s plan of our salvation. In this they are mistaken.

a. It is by baptism we come into the Lord’s church – 1 Corinthians 12:13. The Holy Spirit teaches us the truth that we are baptized into the one body, the church.

b. How then could one argue that one can be saved without baptism.

c. Furthermore, Peter plainly declares that baptism saves us – 1 Peter 3:21.

3. It goes without saying that before one is “baptized for the remission of sins,” as commanded in Acts 2:38, he must believe in God, Christ, and all God has said, “for without faith it is impossible to be pleasing unto him”Hebrews 11:6.

a. It also goes without saying that man cannot be saved until he repents of his sins; hence, Peter said to those who had become pricked with is message from on high, “Repent and be baptized ... for the remission of sins” Acts 2:38.



1. Man often gets to thinking that if he makes some preparation that ought to be sufficient, but in this he is greatly mistaken.

a. In the parable of the ten virgins, mentioned in Matthew 25:1-13, we see the necessity of making adequate preparation.

b. Five of the virgins were foolish, though they were morally unquestioned. The other five, started out to met the bridegroom. They, along with the other five, started out to met the bridegroom.

c. They had lamps, and even had some oil in their lamps.

d. The whole of this parable is that they just didn’t make enough preparation.

e. They didn’t take enough oil in their lamps. When the hour came for them to arise and go forth to meet the bridegroom, their lamps began to flicker and went out.

f. How much like the five virgins are we today?

2. How much preparation have you made to go to heaven? Are you sure you have done everything the Lord requires of you?

a. Have you believed in Christ, repented of your sins, confessed Jesus before men, and been baptized into Christ?

b. Are you a faithful member of the Lord’s spiritual body - His church?

c. Are you worshipping Him faithfully, and serving Him devotedly?

d. How much thought have you given to this admonition: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves.”2 Corinthians 13:5.

Only by studying your Bible faithfully can you do this.


1. I say that the judgment day will be a day of great surprises.

a. I wonder how many of us listening today will be among those surprised and shocked at the judgment?

b. How many things that have been said today have surprised you?

c. With how many things said are you prone to take issue?

2. My friends, it would be better to be surprised and shocked now to find out that you have been wrong, then to wait and be shocked and surprised at the judgment!

3. I beg of you to check the scriptures given in our lesson today, examine them closely, and see if you have been doing the things suggested in those scriptures.

a. May the Lord so help us in our study and in our efforts to please Him that we may not be among those who will surprised in the judgment.

4. If you realize in your heart there are things you need to do to make yourself right with God, please respond to the invitation today.

a. If you are unfaithful as a Christian, bring your life back to the Lord.

b. If you have never confessed the Lord as the Son of God and been baptized into the spiritual kingdom, come to Him this morning, and obey the Lord in making that good confession and being baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins.

-- George Bailey, Herald of Truth, sermon

Verse 11

Revelation 20:11

20:11–15 John here narrates the final judgment, in which all the dead stand before God’s throne and receive His justice.

[If it is a reference to God’s final judgment on Jerusalem, it is a type of the judgment we will face. God operates in every age the same way - judgment and blessings. ]

Then I saw . . This “And I saw” introduces something else John saw in this vision (cfRevelation 19:11, Revelation 19:17, Revelation 19:19; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:1-2). The continuation of chronological progression seems clear from the continued use of “And” to introduce new information. Note that almost every verse in this chapter begins with “And.” [καὶ]- Constable

a great white throne . . Victory and judgment; white symbolizes pureity, justice, and righteousness.

Nearly 50 times in Revelation there is the mention of a throne. This is a judgment throne, elevated, pure, and holy. God sits on it as judge (cf. Revelation 4:2, Revelation 4:3, Revelation 4:9; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:7, Revelation 5:13; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:15) in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. See Revelation 21:5-6; John 5:22-29; Acts 17:31. - MSB

a great white throne . . Probably not absolutely the same as that of Revelation 4:2 &c.: the King is to sit now not as Lawgiver or Administrator but as Judge. Possibly it is called “great” as compared with the thrones of Revelation 20:4; “white,” of course, as symbolical of the holiness and purity of the judgement to be administered. - CBSC

...in the final judgement there is but one throne, since there is but One judge; cf. Hebrews 12:23 - Swete

Him sat on it . . The one sitting on this throne is God. This is probably a general reference to the Father and Jesus Christ since both will judge finally (cf. Revelation 3:21; Revelation 4:2-3, Revelation 4:9; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:7, Revelation 5:13; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:15; Revelation 19:4; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:12; Daniel 7:9-10; John 5:22-23, John 5:26-27; John 8:16; John 10:30; Heb. 1:3). - Constable

In the NT God has made Christ the Judge (cf. John 5:22, John 5:27; John 9:39; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1 and 1 Peter 4:5). - Utley

from whose face the earth and haven fled away . . Heaven in this context does not refer to God’s throne, but to the atmosphere above the earth as in Genesis 1:1.- Utley

earth and the heaven fled away . . John saw the contaminated universe go out of existence. Peter described this moment in 2 Peter 3:10-13 (see notes there). The universe is “uncreated,” going into non-existence (cf. Matthew 24:35). - MSB

fled away . . This was not flight from one locality to another--the phrase fled away indicated complete disappearance. - Wallace

This seems to indicate that we have come to the end of His dealings with this earth as we know it (cf. 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 3:10-12). - Constable

And there was found no place for them . . The language of poetic imagery captures the fading character of everything of the world (1 John 2:17). Now the only reality is God seated on the throne of judgment, before whom all must appear (Hebrews 9:27). - EBCNT

That the destruction will be by fire is not stated here, or anywhere but in 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12, and perhaps 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. In St Peter l.c. we have this destruction of the world by fire compared with the destruction by the Flood, and this parallel seems to have been recognised in popular Jewish belief. - CBSC

Verse 12

Revelation 20:12

The dead small and great . . Includes believers and unbelievers (see Dan 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). Both will have their lives evaluated by the perfect judge. - FSB

Revelation 20:6; Daniel 7:9 Revelation 19:18 John 12:48

In God’s eyes there are no "big I and little you," so the phrase is used only to denote that all human beings will be brought before the judgment. -ZerrCBC

standing before God . . Standing before the throne, in the judicial sense, standing to receive justice.

books were open . . An allusion to Daniel 7:10; Remember that the Holy Bible is a book of 66 books. The standard by which we will be judged are the Holy Scriptures John 12:48; (There is no article "the" here before books, or in Daniel 7:10).

When the books were opened that contained the record of their works they were judged accordingly. In the same symbolism, the beasts of Daniel’s vision, Revelation 7:10, were judged by the books which were opened. These books symbolized the record of evil deeds, a book of remembrance. - Wallace

The other book that was open contains the deeds of men’s lives, etc. 2 Corinthians 5:10

Another book was opened . . Our salvation is not by our own works but by our response to the grace of God. Yet reference to our works is not ignored. The “books would be as it were vouchers for the book of life.” (Alford); shewing that those written in that book had lived as became the grace given to them (CBSC).

The Book of Life . . Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 21:27. cf. Philippians 4:3. It contains the names of all the redeemed, Daniel 12:1.

See also a near reading in Psalms 69:28; and in Exodus 32:32-33. Words and meaning are exactly the same here as in Philippians 4:3. (CBSC)

There are two books mentioned: the book of deeds or remembrances and the book of life (cf. Revelation 3:5; and Revelation 13:8).

The book of life is described in Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27.

The book of deeds or remembrances is described in Psalms 56:8; Psalms 139:16; Isaiah 65:6; Malachi 3:16 and Revelation 20:12-13.

These are metaphors for God’s memory. God will deal fairly with His creation; humans are responsible for their actions and motives and are accountable to God (cf. Galatians 6:7). - Utley

But the reference to another book . . . which is the book of life symbolized the registry of the approved, which are written in heaven. - Wallace

dead were judged according to their works . . Their thoughts (Luke 8:17; Romans 2:16), words (Matthew 12:37), and actions (Matthew 16:27) will be compared to God’s perfect, holy standard (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and will be found wanting (Romans 3:23). This also implies that there are degrees of punishment in hell (cf. Matthew 10:14-15; Matthew 11:22; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 12:47-48; Hebrews 10:29). - MSB

“The teaching of judgment by works runs throughout both the OT and the NT [cf. Psalms 62:12; Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17].”. Mounce, p. 365. (Constable)

We see then that “the books” contained the record of “their works.” Thus this passage justifies, in some measure, the modern popular myth of “the recording Angel.” - CBSC

by the things which were written in the books . . Do their deeds and actions, and obedience to God’s Word, conform to the Truth found in the Holy Scriptures which is the standard for judgment, John 12:48; Hebrews 5:9;

Verse 13

Revelation 20:13

sea gave up the dead . . Bodies lost at sea, and a metaphor for any body lost in a way not buried.

... but all, whether buried or unburied, are raised and judged. - CBSC

This does not refer to the fact that the dead are kept in three different places; the parallel metaphors assert that all of the dead stood before God (cf. Philippians 2:10-11). - Utley

Wallace understands the "sea" a symbolic reference to thejudgment of persecuting rulers and their subjects. "The use of the word sea applied to the heathen society, consistent with the employment of the symbol elsewhere in the apocalypse."

Death and Hell . . The bodies and spirits of all the lost, will be resurrected at Jesus’ coming and stand before God. John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15) 1 Corinthians 15:35-42;

It is the body that is in the sea, or the earth - a bodily resurrection. John 5:28-29. All will have new bodies - all raised to eternal life or eternal damnation.

All the places that have held the bodies of the unrighteous dead will yield up new bodies suited for hell. - MSB

The words death and hades were used as a synecdoche--a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole; the genus for the species, the name of the substance for the thing. So death and hades were used here for the subjects of the diabolical and infernal powers. - Wallace

Death . . The location of dead spirits. [Thanatos 118x (death = 115)]

Death and Hades here meaning the same.

Hades . . The word hades is used 11 time. (translated hell (AV) 10 times; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31 ; Matthew 16:18 Luke 10:15 Revelation 1:19 Revelation 6:4 Revelation 20:13; Revelation 20:14 (grave =1 Corinthians 15:55 )

(Tartarus = 2 Peter 2:4 )

(Gehenna = The place of eternal abode of the wicked.)

judged, each according to his works . . The final judgment is not by nations, races, or groups, but individually.

Another reference to judgment on the basis of deeds again stresses personal responsibility (cf. Revelation 20:12; Revelation 2:23; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Pet. 1:17). God will judge all people on the basis of their works (Revelation 20:12; cf. Psalms 62:12; Matthew 25:41-46; Hebrews 4:12-13). This is also true of Christians at the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10). - Constable

Verse 14

Revelation 20:14

Death and Hades . . The outcome of the judgment on all the wicked.

Revelation 19:20; Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 1 Corinthians 15:53

lake of fire . . Revelation 21:8; A description of the final abode of all the wicked, both Satan, his angels, and all wicked men. Matthew 25:41.

We learn that there is a resurrection of the wicked to an everlasting existence in terrible torment separated from God. John 5:29;

This is the second death . . It is called a second death because those who have already died bodily now die spiritually (Revelation 20:12-13; compare Daniel 12:1-4).

Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26; Genesis 35:18) and the second death is the eternal separation of the spirit from God, lost in everlasting hell (Gehenna).

That there will be a resurrection to death as well as to life is taught already in Daniel 12:2. - Swete

This final death is permanent and inescapable (see Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6 and note; Revelation 21:8). - FSB

The first death is spiritual and physical, the second is eternal in the lake of fire, the final, eternal hell (Revelation 20:6; Revelation 21:8) - MSB

This judgment on the evil instigators of the persecutions and martyrdom of the saints of God and Christ was specifically named the second death, which again was as visional and metaphorical as "the first resurrection." It denoted in symbolic language the destruction of the evil forces which had moved against the church to destroy it. - Wallace

Note corresponding points, first and second death, and first and second resurrection.


Revelation 20:14-15, lake of fire, (Matthew 18:9)

Matthew 25:30, outer darkness (Matthew 22:13)

Revelation 14:11, torment, (Luke 16:23)

Matthew 25:46, eternal punishment

Mark 9:47-48, Matthew 10:28

Who will be there?

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Revelation 21:8, 2 Peter 2:20-21, 1 Peter 4:18, Revelation 20:15, Matthew 5:22, 2 Peter 2:4

Verse 15

Revelation 20:15

anyone not found . . [This] assumes that there will be those who are not written in the book of life (a metaphor for those who have not trusted Christ). - Utley

This refutes both universalism (that all will be saved) and annihilation (that the lost are only unconscious and do not suffer any torment or receive any reward of blessings).

Book of life . . Revelation 13:8 ; Daniel 7:10 See notes on Revelation 20:12

Lake of fire . . Revelation 20:10 Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 20:15;

The final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, angelic or human (cf. Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:15). The NT says much of eternal punishment (cf. Revelation 14:10-11; Matthew 13:40-42; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Luke 12:47-48). - MSB

“If we once saw sin as God sees it, we would understand why a place such as hell exists.” Wiersbe, 2:621.

See ZerrCBC commentary on Revelation 20:15 for Wallace’s statement that this vision was intended for the first readers of and not for future and general application.


Revelation 20:14-15, lake of fire, (Matthew 18:9)

Matthew 25:30, outer darkness (Matthew 22:13)

Revelation 14:11, torment, (Luke 16:23)

Matthew 25:46, eternal punishment

Mark 9:47-48, Matthew 10:28

Who will be there?

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Revelation 21:8, 2 Peter 2:20-21, 1 Peter 4:18, Revelation 20:15, Matthew 5:22, 2 Peter 2:4

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 20". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/revelation-20.html. 2021.
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