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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 20



Revelation 20:2 . ὁ ὄφιςἀρχαῖος . So A, Lach., Tisch. The accus. (B, א , Elz.) appears to be a modification.

According to A, B, min., the art., which is wanting in the Rec. before διάβ ., and before σατ ., but occurs in א in both these places (so Tisch. IX.), belongs only in the latter place (Lach., Tisch.).

Revelation 20:3 . The αὐτὸν after ἔκλεισεν (Elz.) is spurious (A, B, א , al., Verss., Beng., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]). The present πλανᾷ (Griesb., Tisch.) is not sufficiently attested by B, and, besides, appears suspicious as an interpretation. Lach., also Tisch. IX. [and W. and H.] have properly maintained the Rec. πλανήσῃ according to A ( א : πλανήσει ).

Revelation 20:4 . The art. τὰ before χίλ . ἔτη (Elz.) is properly (A, א , min.) deleted already by Beng.

Revelation 20:8 . τὸν πόλ . So A, B, א , 7, 8, 9, al., Lach., Tisch. cf. Revelation 19:19 .

Revelation 20:9 . ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ , which occurs also in א 1, al., before ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (Elz.), but in other witnesses stands last (Beng.), while still others transpose the positions of the prepositions ἀπὸ and ἐκ , belongs probably (cf. Revelation 21:2 ) in no way to the text (A, 12, al., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]).

Revelation 20:14 . Read οὗτοςθάν . ὁ δεύτερός ἐστιν , ἡ λίμνη τοῦ πυρός (A, B, al., Verss., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]). The last words are lacking in the Rec. א modifies: οὖτ . ὁ δεύτ . θάν . ἐστ ., ἡ λ ., κ . τ . λ .

Already has judgment been executed upon the harlot, [4140] upon the beast and his accomplice the false prophet, [4141] and upon the dwellers on earth who worshipped the beast; now follows the judgment upon the proper first enemy, Satan himself, who [4142] has used all those antichristian powers only as his instruments. The judgment upon Satan, decreed from all eternity, is executed in Revelation 20:10 . But previous to this, there is the binding of Satan for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3 ), during which time they who are to partake of the first resurrection are to reign with Christ (Revelation 20:4-6 ), and an attack upon the camp of the saints on the part of Gog and Magog, excited by Satan, who is let loose again for a short time, which is terminated by fire falling from heaven and consuming those nations (Revelation 20:7-9 ); but, on the other hand, there is, after the final casting of Satan into the lake of fire, the proper judgment of the world (Revelation 20:11 sqq.) at which all men appear, and they who are not written in the book of life are cast into the same lake of fire as that wherein are the beast and the false prophet already since Revelation 19:20 , into which Satan also has been eternally cast (Revelation 20:10 ) before the final judgment of the world, and wherein now also at that final judgment death and hell are cast (Revelation 20:14 ).

It is, therefore, to be noted: (1) with respect to the succession of the individual judgments, that this is the reverse of the succession in which the antichristian forms are presented; for the description of the latter begins (ch. 12) with the original enemy, then proceeds to the beast and his accomplice, viz., the second beast or the false prophet (ch. 8), [4143] and finally shows the woman carried by the beast, i.e., the definite city of the world (ch. 17), ay, the individual sovereigns in whom the beast is embodied (Revelation 17:11 ); while, on the contrary, the judgment descends first upon the city (Revelation 18:1 , Revelation 19:10 ), then upon the beast, together with the false prophet, and the mass of dwellers on earth worshipping the beast (Revelation 19:11-21 ), and, finally, upon Satan (Revelation 20:10 , cf. Revelation 20:4 sqq.). (2) Nor is the kind of judgment without natural distinctions: the city perishes in a terrible conflagration, and the beast and false prophet, as well as Satan, are cast alive into the lake of fire of hell; while the dwellers on earth, after having suffered bodily death (Revelation 19:21 , cf. Revelation 20:9 ), are again awakened at the final judgment (Revelation 20:11 sqq.), and not until then cast into the lake of fire for eternal torment.

[4140] Cf. chs. 17 19.

[4141] Revelation 19:20 .

[4142] Cf. on ch. 12.

[4143] Where also the relation of the dwellers on earth to the beast is shown.

Verses 1-3

Revelation 20:1-3 . An angel, descending from heaven, binds Satan with a great chain, and casts him into the abyss for one thousand years.

ἄγγελον . The comparison of Revelation 1:18 cannot prove that the angel [4144] is Christ. [4145]

ΤῊΝ ΚΛΕῚΝ ΤῊς ἈΒΎΣΣΟΥ . The key of the abyss which, according to the analogy of the in other respects not entirely conformable presentation, Revelation 1:18 , is to be regarded as being in the hands of Christ was “given,” Revelation 9:1 , under particular circumstances, for a definite purpose to another; in this passage the angel, who likewise needed the key for a definite purpose (Revelation 20:2 sq.), brought it from heaven, where he, therefore, had received it when he was sent. Ew. ii. is accordingly incorrect in identifying the angel in this passage with the one who is represented as being active in Revelation 9:1-11 . ἍΛΥΣΙΝ . Cf. Mark 5:3 sq. [4146]

ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ . Cf. Revelation 5:1 . “In” the hand, [4147] the chain could not be held because of its great weight; it lies “on” the hand, and hangs down on both sides.

ἘΚΡΆΤΗΣΕΝ . Vivid representation of the event. Cf. Revelation 19:20 .

ὌΦΙς , Κ . Τ . Λ . The nominative of apposition, without construction, is like Revelation 1:5 . On the designation, cf. Revelation 12:9 ; the complete harmony in this passage shows that now that original enemy was bound, who, after he had been cast from heaven to earth, became the proper originator of every thing antichristian in the world.[See Note LXXXVI., p. 472.] ΧΊΛΙΑ ἜΤΗ . The accus. [4148] designates the length of the time during which Satan is to be bound. Cf. in other respects on Revelation 20:10 .

ΕἸς ΤῊΝ ἌΒΥΣΣΟΝ . Cf. Revelation 20:1 ; Revelation 9:1 ; Revelation 11:7 ; Revelation 17:8 . The abyss of hell is the place where Satan properly belongs, and whence he himself, like the demoniacal powers, has proceeded in order to work upon earth. But since for a thousand years he will be confined against his will to one place, [4149] so long is his agency on earth interrupted ( ἳνα μὴ πλαν ., κ . τ . λ .).

καὶ ἔκλεισεν καὶ ἐσφράγισεν ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ . With ἔκλεισεν the object τὴν ἄβυσσον is understood; but just because this is not expressly added, the limitation ἐπάνω αὐτοὺ can the more readily qualify the ἐσφράγισεν : “upon him,” i.e., Satan, who has been cast into the bottomless pit, the angel “set a seal,” in order to give the greater assurance of the secure guarding of the one imprisoned. [4150]

ἴνα μὴ πλανήσἔτι τὺ ἔθνη . As he had previously done, [4151] as long as unbound, he could exercise his wrath on earth. [4152] The subj. aor., with a future meaning, [4153] presupposes that during the one thousand years, and, therefore, after the act of judgment, Revelation 19:21 , there would still be nations who also, at the end of the one thousand years, would be actually led astray. [4154] This seeming difficulty would be avoided by the reading πλανᾷ , which depends upon the view customary in the Church fathers, but absolutely in violation of the context, that the worldly period of one thousand years began with the birth or death of Christ, and, therefore, is the present. [4155]

μετὰ ταῦτα ; viz., τὰ χίλια ἔτη . The definite numerical specification immediately precedes, and to it corresponds also the temporal statement: μικρὸν χρόνον .

δεῖ . Cf. Revelation 1:1 , Revelation 4:1 .

[4144] Beng., De Wette, etc.

[4145] Against Hengstenb., Alcas., Calov., Vitr. Cf. also Coccej., who again understands the Holy Ghost.

[4146] Etym., M.: ἅλυσις , ἡ ἔκ χαλκοῦσιδήρουἀργυρίουυχρυσοῦ πεπληγμένη σειρά [ ἅλυσις is a chain forged either from brass, or iron, or silver, or gold].

[4147] Ew. ii. א reads even ἐν τ . χ .

[4148] Cf. Revelation 9:5 .

[4149] Cf. Revelation 20:7 : φυλακή .

[4150] Cf. Matthew 27:66 .

[4151] Cf. Revelation 13:14 , Revelation 16:13 .

[4152] Revelation 12:12 .

[4153] Cf. Winer, p. 472.

[4154] Cf. Revelation 20:8 sq.

[4155] See on Revelation 20:10 .


LXXXVII. Revelation 20:4 . κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς

Gebhardt suggests, that, by αὐτοῖς , either no definite persons are intended, so that it was simply intended to express the idea, “here was a judgment;” or, as he thinks more probable, believers alive at the coming of Christ.


LXXXVIII. Revelation 20:4 . τὰς ψυχὰς τὼν πεπελισμένων , κ . τ . λ .

Gebhardt: “The seer had, in his eye, two classes of the dead: first, those who have, for the gospel, surrendered their lives, the witnesses of Jesus in a special sense (Revelation 17:6 ); not only those whose souls (Revelation 6:9 ) are under the altar, but those also who come after (Revelation 6:11 ; cf. Revelation 13:7 , Revelation 10:5 , Revelation 16:5-6 , Revelation 17:6 , Revelation 18:24 ); the full number of those who, according to the will of God, should die; until the completion of which, those already killed must rest in heaven (Revelation 6:9-11 ); then, all other believers who, notwithstanding affliction and threatened death, remain faithful, and have died in the Lord (Revelation 14:13 , Revelation 13:15-16 ); in a word, all real Christians who have died either a violent or a natural death.” The second resurrection he regards as including not only the condemned, but also the godly of the O. T. The emphasis here is sometimes thrown on ψυχὰς , as though this were sufficient to prove that the first resurrection of this chapter is spiritual. But, in this sense, had the souls of the martyrs ever died? How could they be said to live again , for that is the clear implication of Revelation 20:5 , if nothing more than a continuance of their spiritual life were indicated? Alford: “If in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain ψυχαὶ ἕζησαν at the first, and the rest of the νεκροὶ ἕζησαν only at the end of a specified period after that first, if, in such a passage, the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave, then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to any thing. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which, I suppose, none will be hardy enough to maintain; but, if the second is literal, so is the first.” On the other hand, the difficulty must not be ignored, which is stated by Carpenter: “There will be faithless people during the millennium, the nations to be deceived (Revelation 20:8 ). Are we then to picture saints with glorified bodies living on the earth, which, at the same time, is tenanted by men and women still in the natural body?”

Verses 4-6

Revelation 20:4-6 . The one thousand years reign which begins with the first resurrection. The allusion to the glory to be expected in the same, which is at the same time the pledge of participation in the blessedness of the eternity to be opened with the second resurrection, is made not without an express emphasis of the paracletic point which lies in this goal of Christian hope. [4156]

καὶ εἱδον θρόνους . The prototype of Daniel 7:9 ; Daniel 7:22 , and the κρίμα , expressly mentioned in this passage, show that the θρόνοι come into consideration not as thrones of kings, [4157] but only as seats of judges. [4158] The interchange of the definite idea of a judicial session with that of further dominion possibly also manifested in judging coheres with the decided misunderstandings that the πεπελεκισμένοι and οἱτινες οὐ προσεκύνησαν are to be regarded as the subjects of ἐκάθισαν ἐπʼ αὐτους , that the βασιλεῦσαι μετὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ ascribed to these must be esteemed synonymous with the assumed sitting of the same on thrones, and thus belongs to a conception of the whole, Revelation 20:4-6 , that is in violation of the context. Thus, especially, Augustine and his successors. [4159] Who they are that sit upon thrones, and to whom judgment is given, is not said, and hence scarcely any thing except a negative determination is possible. According to what follows, they are not the martyrs and the other faithful believers who rather, by the judgment, become partakers of the one thousand years reign. [4160] The ἐδόθη αὐτοις forbids us to refer it to God himself and Christ. [4161] Ew. i. refers it to the apostles, [4162] but at the same time to martyrs and Christians in other respects distinguished; and Beng. to the ἅγιοι , Daniel 7:22 . The most plausible explanation, if the idea is at all to be made more definite than is presented in the text, is to refer it to the twenty-four elders; [4163] for it is especially appropriate to ascribe the reward of victors to these representatives of the Church, who offer the prayers of the saints to God, [4164] and repeatedly testify to their blessed hope. [4165] [See Note LXXXVII., p. 473.] καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς

ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτῶν . They, to whom the κρίμα refers, are represented in two classes: the martyrs, viz., not only those whose souls already cry for vengeance, Revelation 6:9 , but also those additional ones [4166] who have been slain throughout the whole earth by the beast, and with whose blood the harlot was drunken; [4167] and all other believers who, notwithstanding the persecution and threatening death, have not rendered homage to the beast [4168] The last class of believers also ( οἵτινες οὐ προσεκύν , κ . τ . λ .) is to be regarded, at the point of time fixed in Revelation 20:4 , as dead; [4169] partly because of the explicit ἔζησαν ; [4170] partly because of the contrast οἵ δὲ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν , and the expression οὐκ ἔζησαν , applied to this death, from which a clear light falls upon the first ἔζησαν ; partly also because of the definite and in no way allegorical designation ἡ ἀνάστασιςπρώτη . The meaning of the text which is expressed regularly in all these points is, therefore, manifestly this, that while “the rest of the dead” are not revived until the second resurrection (Revelation 20:12 sqq.), in the first resurrection only the two classes of dead believers take part, viz., in order to reign with Christ during the one thousand years. It is just by the κρίμα (Revelation 20:4 a ) that this first especial reward of victors is promised them. [4171] [See Note LXXXVIII., p. 473.] But the description of this glory, of this first part of the blessed mystery of God, which is fulfilled now for believers [4172] after the judgment already executed upon their enemies, John cannot give without repeating with especial emphasis the consolation (Revelation 20:6 ) which was united previously already, [4173] with the references to the future reward of fidelity: μακάριος καὶ ἅγιος , κ . τ . λ . The item of holiness here especially emphasized has a reference to the priestly dignity ( κ . ἔσονται ἱερεῖς , κ . τ . λ .) of those who participate in the one thousand years reign; [4174] then the priestly, as well as the royal, character of believers comes forth in complete glory. [4175]

μέρος ἐν . Revelation 21:8 . Cf. John 13:8 ( μετά ).

ὁ -g0- δεύτερος -g0- θύνατος -g0- . Cf. Revelation 20:14 ; Revelation 21:8 . They who after they have suffered bodily death, viz., the first are revived at the first resurrection, intended only for believers, are thereby withdrawn from the power of the second death; for them the judgment of the world impending at the end of the one thousand years (Revelation 20:11 sqq.) brings only the eternally valid confirmation of the priestly and kingly glory which, during the former period, had formed for believers the beginning of the blessedness to be bestowed upon them eternally.

[4156] Revelation 20:6 . Cf. Revelation 14:13 , Revelation 16:15 .

[4157] Eichh., Züll.

[4158] Heinr., Ewald, De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard, Bleek, Volkm.

[4159] See on Revelation 20:10 .

[4160] Against Augustine, Züll., ete.

[4161] Against Grot., who, however, comprises the angels.

[4162] Cf. Matthew 19:28 .

[4163] De Wette, Ew. ii.; cf. Hengstenb., who, besides the twelve apostles, understands the twelve patriarchs.

[4164] Revelation 5:8 .

[4165] Revelation 5:9 , Revelation 7:13 sqq., Revelation 11:16 sqq.

[4166] Revelation 6:11 .

[4167] Revelation 13:7 ; Revelation 13:10 ; Revelation 13:15 , Revelation 16:5 sq., Revelation 17:6 , Revelation 18:24 .

[4168] Cf., especially, Revelation 13:15 sqq.

[4169] Ewald, De Wette, Ebrard; against Hengstenb., etc.

[4170] Cf. Revelation 2:8 .

[4171] Cf. Revelation 2:11 .

[4172] Cf. Revelation 10:7 .

[4173] Cf. Revelation 19:9 , Revelation 14:13 .

[4174] Beng., etc.

[4175] Cf. Revelation 1:6 , Revelation 5:10 .

Verses 7-10

Revelation 20:7-10 . After the completion of the one thousand years, Satan is let loose; then he leads the heathen nations, Gog and Magog, to an attack upon the saints. But fire from heaven consumes those nations, and Satan is cast eternally into the lake of fire.

λυθήσεται . Here and in Revelation 20:8 ( ἐξελεύσεται ) the statement has the express form of prophecy, which also is repeated in Revelation 20:10 b ( βασανισθήσονται ); in Revelation 20:9 and Revelation 20:10 a , however, the prophet speaks so as to report the revelation imparted to him concerning the events impending at the end. [4176]

τὰ ἕθνη . The difficulty that here the heathen nations once again enter into conflicts against the saints, after, Revelation 19:21 , all nations and kings (rendering allegiance to the beast) have been annihilated, to which also the other difficulty is added, that enemies to be found in the earthly life contend against believers who are partakers in the first resurrection, [4177] is not explained fully by emphasizing [4178] the fact that these ἔθνη , Gog and Magog, dwell at the extreme ends of the earth. Vitr., Ewald, De Wette, etc., are indeed right when in harmony with the prototype, Ezekiel 38:3-9 , [4179] and the idea of Revelation 20:9 ( ἈΝΈΒΗΣΑΝ ἘΠῚ ΤῸ ΠΛΆΤΟς Τῆς Γῆς ), they regard the farthest ends of the earth as the abode of these nations; [4180] but in the entire description of ch. 8. it was presupposed that all unbelieving inhabitants of the earth without exception, all kings and nations, had served the beast, and with him had perished. It is also to be acknowledged that the introduction of ἔθνη in this passage is a similar inconsistency as was previously shown in that the winds prepared at Revelation 7:1 for destruction do not afterwards come into activity; but this inconsistency which is in general a material, and that, too, an inexplicable difficulty, only when the entire description, Revelation 20:1-10 , is regarded in all its individual parts as a prophecy to be thus actually fulfilled, instead of distinguishing the ideal character of the Apocalyptic mode of representation, and the actual contents of the prophecy to be determined from the analogy of the Holy Scriptures is modified by the fact that the nations here presented, Gog and Magog, stand in no relation whatever to the beast, and dwell at such a distance that also, in this respect, they may appear with the dwellers on earth formerly found in the empire of the beast. For it is also in harmony with this, that these heathen nations are led to the conflict against the saints immediately by Satan himself. [4181]

τὸν Γὼγ καὶ τὸν Μαγώγ . Even in Jewish theology these two names occur, of which the first in Ezekiel, l. c., designates the king of the land and people of Magog [4182] as names of nations belonging together. [4183] Already, in Ezek., Magog appears, whose ethnographical determination, [4184] of course, nevertheless, lies in the background of the description [4185] as the representative and leader of the heathen nations in general, who rage against the people of God ruled by the Messiah, and are then destroyed by God. This prediction of Ezekiel was made use of already at Revelation 19:17 sqq.; [4186] but only in this passage is it expressly interwoven in the description of the final catastrophe. Therefore the art. of the ΤῸΝ ΠΌΛΕΜΟΝ refers to the final attack to be made on the part of those heathen nations, as a conflict which is confessedly to be expected. [4187] [See Note LXXXIX., p. 473.] ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ πλάτος τὴς γὴς . From the ends of the earth (Revelation 20:8 ) those nations come up to the broad plain of the earth, [4188] in order thus to reach the city in which the saints are encamped. The ἀναβαίνειν , which is a common expression for military expeditions, [4189] because the position of the attacked is naturally regarded as one that is to be found at an elevation, [4190] is here the more appropriate, because the going up of the nations is properly regarded against Jerusalem. [4191]

καὶ ἐκύκλευσαν τὴν παρεμβολὴν τῶν ἁγίων καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἠγαπημένην . The expression first of all distinguishes between the camp of the saints and the beloved city, i.e., Jerusalem, of course not in the sense wherein, e.g., Grot. understands by the camp, the seven churches, chs. 1 3, and by the beloved city, Constantinople; but the saints are to be regarded as gathered in the camp, in order to defend the holy city against the attacks of the heathen. [4192] The camp possibly surrounds the city, so that enemies at the same time enclose both. [4193] That the beloved city is the earthly Jerusalem, not the new Jerusalem [4194] coming from heaven only at Revelation 21:1 sqq., after the judgment of the world (Revelation 20:15 ), is acknowledged with substantial unanimity; but it is an ordinary eluding of the context when Jerusalem is regarded as having the force only of a symbolical designation of the Church. [4195]

καὶ κατέβη πῦρ , κ . τ . λ . Already, even in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:6 ), this means of destruction alone is mentioned, [4196] because it is represented in the most terrible manner as an immediate instrument of the Divine judgment of wrath. [4197]

πλανῶν αὐτοὺς . Here, where, with the final judgment upon the Devil, there is an allusion to his peculiar guilt, the pres. [4198] marks in a general way his seductive influence.

βασανισθήσονται , κ . τ . λ . Eternal torture; cf. Revelation 14:11 .

[4176] Cf. Revelation 19:9 sq., 17 sq.

[4177] See on Revelation 20:10 .

[4178] Vitr.

[4179] Cf. especially Ezekiel 38:15 . ἀπʼ ἐσχάτου βοῤῥᾶ .

[4180] Against Hengstenb.: “The corners comprise whatever lies within the corners,” so that the four corners of the earth designate, in fact, the same as τὸ πλάτος τῆς γῆς .

[4181] Cf., on the other hand, Revelation 16:13 sq.

[4182] Genesis 10:2 . Cf. Winer, Rwb. , on this word.

[4183] “At the end of the extremity of the days shall Gog and Magog, and their army, come up against Jerusalem; but by the hand of King Messiah shall they fall, and seven years of days shall the children of Israel kindle their fire with their weapons of war” ( Targ. of Jerusalem on Numbers 11:27 ). Avoda Sara I.: “When Gog and Magog shall see war, the Messiah will say to them, Why hast thou come hither? They will reply, Against the Lord and his Christ.” Cf. Wetst.

[4184] Cf. Joseph., Ant. Jud. , I. Revelation 6 : Μαγώγης δὲ τοὐς ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ Μαγώγας ὀνομασθέντας ᾥκισε , Σκύθας δὲ ὑπʼ αὐτῶν (sc. Ἑλλήνων ) προσαγορευομἑνους [Magog colonized those named from him Μαγώγαι , but called by them (sc. the Greeks) Scythians]. M. Uhlemann ( Zeitschr. für Wissenschaftl. Theol. herausg. von Hilgenfeld , 1862, p. 265 fl.) has in an exceedingly instructive way shown that Magog originally meant nothing but “dwelling-place, the land of Gog.” But the name of the people, Gog, means “mountain.” All etymological and geographical marks show that we are to recognize the actual people of Gog in the inhabitants of the Caucasus, as also the Greek καυκάσιον οὖρος in Herodotus really says nothing else than “the Asiatic Kauk (Gog), or the Asiatic high mountain” (p. 283).

[4185] Cf. Ezekiel 38:15 .

[4186] Cf. Revelation 16:13 sqq.

[4187] Cf. Revelation 16:14 : τὸν πολ . τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκέιν , κ . τ . λ .

[4188] Cf. Habakkuk 1:6 .

[4189] 1 Kings 22:4 ; Judges 1:1 .

[4190] Hengstenb.

[4191] Cf. Luke 18:31 .

[4192] De Wette.

[4193] ἐκυκλ . Cf. Luke 19:43 .

[4194] Cf. Andr., who, indeed, if the text is correct, says expressly τὴν νέαν Ιερουσ ., but in his other remarks presupposes the earthly Jerusalem.

[4195] Augustine, Beda, Andr., Vitr., Hengstenb. Likewise Klief.: “The essential meaning is “that finally also the peripheral nations shall in a mass arise somewhere against the Lord and his people, and that thereby, at some place, the Divine judgment of destruction shall occur” (p. 280).

[4196] Cf., on the other hand, Ezekiel 38:22 .

[4197] Cf. Genesis 19:24 ; Leviticus 10:2 ; Numbers 16:35 ; Luke 9:54 .

[4198] Cf. Revelation 14:13 .

With respect to what is said Revelation 20:1-10 , we must distinguish between the unprejudiced establishment of the exegetical results, and the theological judgment of what is found based upon the analogy of Scripture; and only from the former can we arrive at the latter. The exegetical comprehension of Revelation 20:1-10 , as a whole and in its details, has its most essential condition in the recognition of the fact that what is here described lies immediately before the proper judgment of the world (Revelation 20:11 sqq.) and after those judicial acts of the entire final catastrophe which are described in Revelation 19:19-21 ; i.e., in other words, every exposition must utterly fail which in Revelation 20:1-10 maintains a recapitulatio , [4199] which can occur only if the interpretation here be also allegorical. This false mode of exposition is expressly applied by Augustine, [4200] and that, too, from polemical interests against the Chiliasts. [4201] But the exegetical principle determining it is followed also by all those who [4202] have found in Revelation 20:1-10 predictions whose fulfilment could be recognized in certain historical events and states of the Church or the world, i.e., such as still occur within the present development of time. That mode of exposition must be comprehended as allegorizing, which necessarily is most arbitrary in points of the text that most clearly demand another mode of explanation. Augustine, e.g., in order to be able to recognize the one thousand years reign in the present state of the Church, [4203] must find its beginning, viz., the binding of Satan, in the earthly life of Christ, and interpret the ἜΒΑΛΕΝ ΑὐΤῸΝ ΕἸς ΤῊΝ ἌΒΥΣΟΝ : “The innumerable multitude of the godless is signified, whose hearts are very deep in malignity towards the Church of God.” The resurrection, Revelation 20:5 , he interprets in the sense of Colossians 3:1 ; and on Revelation 20:4 remarks: “It must not be thought that he speaks concerning the final judgment, but the thrones of rulers and the rulers themselves, by whom the Church is now governed, are to be understood.” He accordingly explains Revelation 20:8 sq., since Gog means “roof,” and Magog “from a roof:” “They are, therefore, nations in which we understand the Devil enclosed, as it were, from above, and he himself proceeding in some way from them, as they are the roof and he, from the roof.” As to the declaration also: “They went up on the breadth of the earth,” they are indicated not at all as having come, or about to come, to one place, as though the camp of the saints and the beloved city were in one place, although this is nothing but the Church of Christ spread abroad throughout the whole world. Similar misconceptions occur in Victorin., [4204] Beda, [4205] Luther, [4206] Hammond, Grot., etc., [4207] Wetst., [4208] Hengstenb, [4209] and others.

[4199] Introduction, p. 13 sq.

[4200] De Civ. D. , XX. c. 9, Revelation 2 : “Afterwards by recapitulating what the Church is doing in those thousand years.” Cf. Beda: “Recapitulating from the origin, he explains more fully as he said above: The beast,” etc. Cf. Revelation 17:8 .

[4201] Id. , XX. c. 7, Revelation 1 : “They call them χιλιαστάς from a Greek word, whom we, by a literal rendering, may call millenarians. It is tedious, however, to give a refutation in details, but we ought rather to show how this scripture is to be received.”

[4202] As especially also Hengstenb.

[4203] l. c., c. 7, Revelation 2 : “The thousand years, moreover, may be understood in two ways, either because in those last years, this is done: i.e., in the sixth millennium of years, as on the sixth day, whose later spaces are now passing, and finally on the sabbath that shall follow, which has no evening, viz., during the repose of the saints which has no end; or he certainly represented the one thousand years as all the years of this age.”

[4204] Who, regarding the number 1000 as composed of 10 which is to be interpreted as indicating the Decalogue, and 100 as intended for “the crown of virginity,” explains: “He who has maintained with integrity his purpose of virginity, and has faithfully fulfilled the commandments of the Decalogue, is a true priest of Christ, and, perfecting with integrity the millenarian number, is believed to reign with Christ, and for him the Devil is bound aright.”

[4205] Who, e.g., refers the first resurrection, to baptism.

[4206] Who reckons from the time of John to the Turks.

[4207] Who put the binding of Satan in the time of Constantine, and by Gog and Magog understand, like Luther, the Turks.

[4208] Who understands the thousand years as “the times of the Messiah,” whose duration also is specified as forty years, occurring in the forty years from the death of Domitian, and, by Gog and Magog, understands Barcocheba.

[4209] Who finds the beginning of the thousand years’ reign in the coronation of Charlemagne in the year 800.

More correct than the interpretations of all these allegorists is that of the chiliasts, inasmuch as they do not maintain the recapitulation, so greatly cherished by the former, but rather leave the thousand-years’ reign in the place in which it occurs in the Apocalyptic description of the entire end. Nor have all who upon the basis of the Apoc. seriously believed in the future entrance of the thousand-years’ reign, [4210] indulged in such sensuous portrayals of the Apocalyptic picture, as were peculiar to Cerinthus [4211] and Papias, [4212] and in general to heretics regarded as chiliasts. In accordance with the text, Justin and Irenaeus especially maintain the points, that the thousand-years’ reign follows the first resurrection, that of the righteous, and that it occurs upon earth, as they properly regard the beloved city as Jerusalem. The thousand years, both these Fathers take literally. [4213] Their interpretation of the former reference is more correct than that of Auberlen, who upon the presumption that “the earth, as yet not glorified, could not be the place for the glorified Church,” [4214] infers that believers coming forth with Christ from the invisibility of heaven shall be invested with glorified bodies ( ἈΝΆΣΤ . ΠΡ . , Revelation 20:5 ), and then are to return with Christ to heaven, in order thence to rule over the earth [4215] in connection with which the contradictory Revelation 20:9 is not at all taken into consideration. In regard to the second, viz., the chronological reference, the ancients have seen more correctly than Bengel, who even traced two periods of one thousand years each, of which the former was to begin in the year 1836, with the destruction of the beast (Revelation 19:20 ) and the binding of Satan, and the second was to begin with the loosing of the Devil, and to cease immediately before the end of the world (Revelation 20:11 ).

[4210] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho , c. 81. See Introduction, p. 74 sq. Cf. Iren., Adv. Haer. , V. c 36: “John, therefore, with delight foresaw the first resurrection of the just, and their inheritance in the kingdom of the earth.” Cf. V. c. 34 sq.

[4211] Euseb., H. E. , III. 28.

[4212] Iren., V. 33.

[4213] Cf. Psalms 90:4 ; Genesis 2:17 ; Genesis 5:5 . Adam is regarded as dying “on the day” of his eating, because he was not fully a thousand years old.

[4214] p. 381.

[4215] p. 378 sqq.

The biblical-theological discussion of Revelation 20:6 , which John Gerhard [4216] directs against the chiliasts, [4217] he opens by recalling the fact that the expressions of the Apoc. must be explained the more certainly from the analogy of Holy Scripture, for the reason that it is a deutero-canonical book. Moreover, from this analogy it is maintained, [4218] first, that the kingdom of Christ on earth never, even not at the end of days, is to be one that is to prevail externally; then that all the dead are to arise on one day; that there will be only one general resurrection of the dead at the coming of the Lord; therefore so Gerhard evades by incorrectly interpreting what stands written, Revelation 20:1-10 the beginning of the thousand-years’ reign is probably to be discerned in the time of Constantine, Gog and Magog are to be taken as Turks, etc. It is, however, rather to be decided, that neither the distinction made by the writer of the Apoc. between a first and a second resurrection, nor the insertion of a thousand-years’ reign in the space of time thus obtained, nor the binding and loosing of Satan, and the attack of the heathen, coincide with the eschatological statements of the Holy Scriptures in such a way that this Apocalyptic description could be understood in dogmatical seriousness; but the text itself makes us acquainted with an ideal description, whose particular features appear in harmonious connection only when the ideal character of the entire poetical picture is correctly estimated. What according to the real doctrinal prophecy of Scripture fall upon one day of the coming of the Lord, viz., the resurrection of all the dead (among whom believers have indeed the priority, [4219] but in no way in the sense as though a special period of time, as the thousand-years’ reign, intervened between the resurrection of believers and that of other men) and the judgment of the world, appears in the Apocalyptic description distributed into a long series of special, but coherent, acts. Upon this depends the vivid beauty of the Apocalyptic drama; but this poetical beauty is not only destroyed, but also perverted to a chiliastic want of judgment, if the ideal representation be taken as a theological statement of doctrine. The ideal character of the entire description is unambiguously presented, especially in that the risen saints have their camp in the earthly Jerusalem, and are attacked by earthly heathen nations; and yet the presence of heathen enemies, after all the dwellers on earth have been slain (Revelation 19:21 ), is an inoffensive inconsistency, only if the treatment be neither in the one case nor the other of actual things. Klief. also approximates this view by avoiding the extension of time, and finding in the symbolical number only the idea indicated that the Lord’s victory is one that is absolute.

A vain attempt to put in a favorable light chiliasm, supposed to be based upon the analogy of the Holy Scriptures, has recently been made by L. Kraussold. [4220] He denies that in Revelation 20:4-5 a resurrection of dead believers is indicated, and says: [4221] “The souls of the righteous live before God and with God, that is their first resurrection.” But by thus ascribing to the righteous a twofold “resurrection,” he emphatically asserts that the souls of the righteous, after the first resurrection, are still without glorified bodies, and at the same time understands the thousand-years’ reign of which these righteous souls are participants as referring to a finally impending, actually historical time of the peaceful development of the kingdom of God on earth. [4222]

[4216] Loci Theol. , T. XX., p. 124. Ed. Cotta, Tüb., 1781.

[4217] Cf. also Aug. Conf., Art. XVII.

[4218] l. c., p. 121.

[4219] 1 Corinthians 15:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; cf. Introduction, p. 85.

[4220] Das Tausend-jährige Reich u. die Offenb. Joh. Erl. , 1863.

[4221] p. 72.

[4222] p. 75.

At all events, Luthardt is in better agreement with the text, when correctly estimating Revelation 20:4-5 , he finds the hope pledged of the future dominion of Christ and his glorified Church, over the rest of mankind, but is content with not being able to determine that which lies beyond the present order of things. [See Note XC., p. 474.] If the ideal character of the entire description be acknowledged, the numerical designation of a thousand years can be stated only in a schematical sense, [4223] and can give no occasion, as even in Hengstenb., for an Apocalyptic reckoning. For there is no reason for ascribing to John the play-work by which the Talmudists and the Church Fathers, combining such passages as Isaiah 63:4 , Zechariah 14:7 , Genesis 1:0 , with Psalms 90:4 , have inferred that the Messianic reign will last a thousand years, [4224] or that the world will stand for six millenniums, and in the seventh millennium the eternal sabbath will follow. [4225] [See Note XCI., p. 474.]

[4223] Cf. Psalms 90:4 .

[4224] Cf. De Wette.

[4225] Barnab., Epistl . c. 15.


LXXXIX. Revelation 20:8 . τὸν Γὼγ καὶ Μαγώγ

Gebhardt: “Christianity has a period before it, and, indeed, a long one, of unimpeded, powerful, and blissful extension and authority in this present world; but this period must one day come to an end; the earth, in its present sin-ruined form, or rather state, cannot become the eternal or absolute state or manifestation of the Christian ideal world. Evil, though so long and so extensively kept in abeyance, will once more arouse itself for the struggle with the kingdom of God. After the course of a thousand years, the personal principle of all ungodliness will be loosed from his prison, and, according to the purpose of God, will again become active on earth; the Devil has still a footing there; evil yet exists, and must show its activity in opposition to God and his kingdom. Christianity has spread and triumphed even to the end of the earth; but there are yet heathens who are not subject to it, but who, enslaved and led by the Devil, seek to destroy it.”


XC. Revelation 20:1-10

Luthardt’s very words, in the passage here alluded to by Düsterdieck, are important: “Not a carnal dominion (cf. Augsburg Conf. , xvii.), but a spiritual heavenly dominion of peace, and state of blessedness on earth, whereof, since it does not belong to the present order of things, we neither have nor can frame any idea, but should be content in that we shall always be with Christ, and this his Church shall be glorified before the world.”


XCI. Revelation 20:1-10

A condensed summary of the modern historical relations of this doctrine is found in Cremer and Zöckler’s Dogmatik (in Zöckler’s Handbuch , vol. ii. p. 762 sq.): “Neither Roman nor Greek Catholicism acknowledges a thousand-years’ reign as still impending. In the grosser Judaizing sense in which the Anabaptists (Denk, Hetzer, Münzer, etc., recurring to the sensuous, voluptuous ideas of a Cerinthus, etc.) comprehended the chiliastic idea, it is rejected by the fundamental confession of the Reformation (see Augsburg Confession , art. xvii.; also the Helvetic Confession , ii. 11). The orthodoxy of the seventeenth century, as well as, in modern times, Hengstenberg (who makes the spiritually interpreted millennium coincide with the period 800 1806), Althaus, H. O. Kohler, Thomasius, Diedrich, Philippi, Kahnis, the “Missourians,” consider each and every form of chiliasm incompatible with Scripture and Church doctrine. To them, all such doctrines are to be condemned: the chiliasmus crassus of the Anabaptists, as well as the moderate and refined types of doctrine of the two last centuries, viz., the chiliasmus subtilissimus of a Spener (“the hope of better times”), Vitringa, A. Hahn, Rothe, Löhe, Vilmar, v. Hofmann, Flörcke, Schoeberlein, Volck, Auberlen, Beck, Franck, Dorner, etc. [post-millennarians]; and the chiliasmus subtilior of a Petersen, Bengel, Crusius, Oetinger [pre-millennarians].”

Verses 11-15

Revelation 20:11-15 . The judgment of the world. All the dead appear before the enthroned God as Judge. They who are not written in the book of life are cast together with Death and Hades into the lake of fire.

Καὶ εἰδον . Designation of a new vision. [4226]

ΘΡΌΝΟΝ ΜΈΓΑΝ ΛΕΥΚῸΝ . The greatness , as well as the whiteness , corresponding to the glory and holiness of the Judge sitting thereon, distinguishes this throne from that beheld previously (Revelation 20:4 ).

τὸν καθήμενον ἐπʼ αὐτοῦ . The one meant is not the Messiah, [4227] but God speaking (Revelation 21:5-6 ), [4228] and designated at Revelation 4:3 . [4229] Ew. ii. understands God and Christ. [4230]

ῈΦΥΓΕΝ , cf. Revelation 16:20 . Beng. explains the visible representation excellently: “Not from one place to another, but so that it has no longer a place.” Cf. Revelation 21:1 . ἈΠῊΛΘΑΝ , 2 Peter 3:10 .

A new part of the vision proceeding still further ( ΚΑῚ ΕἸΔΟΝ , Revelation 20:12 ), attests the view thereof, as all the dead [4231] stand before the throne, and receive their sentence.

The ἑστῶτας ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου (Revelation 20:12 ), in the connection of the whole, has a precisely similar relation to the description Revelation 20:13 ( κ . ἔδωκεν , κ . τ . λ .), as in ch. 15 Revelation 20:1 has to Revelation 20:6 , since it is not reported more definitely (Revelation 20:13 ) whence the dead who stand before the judgment-seat have come. [4232] Bengel improperly regards the νεκρούς (Revelation 20:12 ) as those who live to see the day of the parousia , [4233] by understanding the νεκερούς figuratively, [4234] and distinguishing this from the resurrection of those actually dead (Revelation 20:13 ).

καὶ βιβλία ἠνοίχθησαν . Cf. Daniel 7:10 . In these books the ἔργα are to be regarded as written, in accordance with which men are judged. [4235]

καὶ ἄλλο βιβλίον . This book, “the book of life,” is only one; it contains the names of all those who [4236] will be partakers of the eternal blessed life in the new Jerusalem. [4237] According to the ethical fundamental view, which is supported especially by the promises, ch. 2, 3, both kinds of books are to be received in their inner relation to one another, that always according to the works which stand indicated in the βιβλίοις , the names of men are, or are not, found in the βιβλίον τῆς ζωῆς . [See Note XCII., p. 474.] As in Revelation 20:12 the entire number of the dead was designated by a natural specification referring to their personality, so in Revelation 20:13 this idea is presented by a specification of another sort; every place where there are any dead, gives them back. The more manifest this is as an exhaustive designation of all places of concealment of the dead, the more perverted appears the assertion of Hengstenberg and Ebrard, [4238] that the θάλασσα means not the actual sea, but only “the sea of nations;” [4239] but from the text ( καὶθάν . κ . ὁ ἅδης , κ . τ . λ ., cf. Revelation 20:14 ), it does not, therefore, follow that John seriously advocated the view according to which those contained in the sea had not reached Hades. [4240] John does not indeed refer to a wandering of souls in a watery grave, but simply represents those lying dead in the sea as coming forth from the same. Thus, in Revelation 20:13 , that is described which, according to the analogy of Revelation 20:5 , may be termed the second resurrection. Since Revelation 20:5 is understood as applying to all believers, this is only the resurrection of those who are to be delivered (Revelation 20:15 ) to the second death, i.e., to eternal torture in the lake of fire. But from this it does not follow that Revelation 20:12 , in its clearly designated entirety of all the (risen, Revelation 20:5 ; Revelation 20:13 ) dead, does not comprise those saints; [4241] but in the general judgment of the world, that is expressly affirmed of those saints which was already guaranteed to them by the first resurrection and their thousand-years’ reign, [4242] because their names were found written in the book of life. [4243] But that the statement (Revelation 20:15 ) expressly describes the fate only of the unbelieving, is natural for the reason that in this passage the entire judgment of condemnation is concluded, in connection with which, then, the description of the eternal glory of believers, to which the entire Apocalypse is directed, [4244] may be given the more fully for their consolation and encouragement.

ΚΑῚ ΘΆΝΑΤΟς ΚΑῚ ᾍΔΗς ἘΒΛΉΘΗΣΑΝ , Κ . Τ . Λ . Death and Hades, which (Revelation 20:13 ) [4245] are locally represented here, [4246] appear personified as demoniacal powers, whose eternal removal [4247] is a presupposition to the eternal life of the glorified [4248] [See Note XCIII., p. 474.] ΟὙΤΟς ΘΆΝΑΤΟς ΔΕΎΤΕΡΟς ἘΣΤΙΝ . “This death is the second” (death). Thus the correct reading is to be translated. [4249] The apposition ΛΊΜΝΗ ΤΟῦ ΠΥΡΌς , construed according to sense, declares that the second death which is followed by no resurrection consists in the ΒΛΗΘῆΝΑΙ ΕἸς Τ . ΛΊΜΝ . Τ . ΠΥΡ . (Revelation 21:8 ). The first death is easily understood as the end of the earthly life.

[4226] Revelation 20:1 ; Revelation 20:4 ; Revelation 19:11 ; Revelation 17:18 .

[4227] Matthew 26:31 . Beng, Eichh., Ew. i., etc.

[4228] Cf. Revelation 1:8 .

[4229] Cf. also Daniel 7:9 . Züll., De Wette, Hengstenb.

[4230] “One of two in complete undividedness” (?).

[4231] Concerning the exhaustive specification τ . νεκρ . τοὺς μεγάλους καὶ τοὺς μικροὐς , cf. Revelation 11:18 , Revelation 13:16 .

[4232] Züll., De Wette.

[4233] Cf. also Hengstenb.

[4234] Matthew 8:22 .

[4235] Revelation 20:12 b , Revelation 20:13 . Cf. Revelation 2:1 ; Revelation 2:5 ; Revelation 2:19 ; Revelation 3:1 ; Revelation 3:8 ; Revelation 3:15 .

[4236] Revelation 20:15 . Cf. Revelation 3:5 .

[4237] Revelation 21:1 sqq.

[4238] Cf. Augustine, etc.

[4239] Hengstenb.

[4240] Cf. Achilles, Tat., V. 313: λἐγουσι δὲ τὰς ἐν ὕδασι ἀνρημένας μηδὲ εἰς ᾄδου καταβαίνειν ὅλως , ἀλλʼ αὐτοῦ περὶ τὸ ὑδωρ ἔχειν τὴν πλάνην [“They say that those swallowed up in the waters do not entirely descend to Hades, but wander there about the water”]. Wetst., De Wette.

[4241] Against Hengstenb., etc.

[4242] Cf. Revelation 20:6 with Revelation 20:14 sq.

[4243] Cf. Revelation 21:21 .

[4244] Revelation 21:1 sqq.

[4245] Cf. Revelation 1:18 .

[4246] Cf. Revelation 6:8 .

[4247] Cf. Isa 25:8 ; 1 Corinthians 15:26 .

[4248] Cf. Revelation 21:4 .

[4249] Cf. the Critical Notes. The א gives: This is the second death.


XCII. Revelation 20:12 . βιβλία

ἄλλο βιβλίον

As Hengstenberg notes, there is a contrast. No name can be both in the βιβλία and the ἄλλο βιβλίον . When erased from the one, by the blood of the Lamb (1 John 1:9 ; Revelation 13:8 ), it is inserted in the other. Luthardt: “He whom God finds standing in life enters into eternal life.” Thus the idea of the ζωῆς is not restricted to future life, but comprehends that also which then is both present and past.


XCIII. Revelation 20:14 . καὶθάνατος καὶἅδῃς , κ . τ . λ .

Luthardt: “Death and the state of death that have hitherto prevailed have now an end, not judged, but annihilated (1 Corinthians 15:26 ), first for the Church, then for humanity; but for unbelieving humanity, to give place to eternal fire.” Gebhardt: “Death is not simply destroyed; but as a diabolical power, the auxiliary or instrument of the evil one (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15 ), it is abolished forever, made innocuous, condemned, and annihilated (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26 ).”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 20". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.