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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he gave his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself a thousand years.

The key of the bottomless pit - transferred from Satan's hands, heretofore permitted to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth: he is now to feel himself the torment which he inflicted on men: his full torment is not until he is cast into "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10).

Verse 2

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

That old - ancient (Revelation 12:9).

Thousand years. As seven implies universality, so a thousand implies perfection, whether in good or evil, (Aquinas, on Revelation 11:1-19.) Thousand symbolizes the world is perfectly pervaded by the divine: since thousand is ten, the number of the world, raised to the third power, the number of God (Auberlen). It may denote literally a thousand years.

Verse 3

And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Shut him. 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syriac, Andreas, omit "him."

Set a seal upon him, [ epanoo (G1883)] - sealed up the door of the abyss 'over' his head. A surer seal than his seal over Jesus in Joseph's tomb burst on the resurrection morn. Satan's binding at this juncture is not arbitrary, but the necessary consequence of the events, Revelation 19:20; just as Satan's being cast out of heaven, where he was previously accuser of the brethren, was the legitimate judgment passed on him through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Revelation 12:7-10). Satan imagined that he had overcome Christ on Golgotha; but the Lord in death overcame him, and, by His ascension as our righteous Advocate, cast out the accuser from heaven. Time was given him on earth to make the beast and harlot powerful, then to concentrate all his power in Antichrist. The anti-Christian kingdom, his last effort, being destroyed by Christ's mere appearing, his power on earth is at an end.

He thought to destroy God's people by persecutions (just as previously to destroy Christ); but the Church is not destroyed from the earth, but raised to rule over it; and Satan himself is shut up for a thousand years the 'abyss' ("bottomless pit"), preparatory to the "lake of fire," his final doom. As before he ceased, by Christ's ascension, to be accuser in heaven, so during the millennium he ceases to be seducer and persecutor on earth. As long as be rules in the darkness of the world, we live in an atmosphere impregnated with deadly elements. A mighty purification will be effected by Christ's coming. Though sin will not be abolished-for men will still be in the flesh (Isaiah 65:20) - sin will no longer be a universal power, for the flesh is no longer seduced by Satan. He will not be, as now, 'the god and prince of the world;' nor will the world 'lie in the wicked one:' the flesh will become ever more overcome.

Christ will reign with His transfigured saints over men in the flesh (Auberlen). The nations in the millennium will be prepared for a higher state, as Adam in Paradise, supposing he had lived in an unfallen state. Compare Revelation 21:1-27, notes, at beginning. This will be the manifestation of "the world to come," already set up invisibly in the saints, amidst "this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 5:5). The rabbis thought, as the world was created in six days, and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenaries, followed by a Sabbatical millennium. Of seven years, every seventh is the year of remission: so of the seven thousand of the world, the seventh millenary shall be the millenary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, 200 AD, states, the world is to endure 6,000 years: 2,000 before the law, 2,000 under the law, and 2,000 under Messiah. Compare note and margin, Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian, expected a millennial kingdom on earth: not until millennial views degenerated into carnalism was this doctrine abandoned.

That he should deceive. So A; 'Aleph ('), 'shall;' but B, 'that he deceive' [ plana (G4105), for planeesee (G4105)].

And. So Coptic, Andreas; but 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, omit "and."

Verse 4

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

They sat - the twelve apostles, and the saints in general.

Judgment was given unto them (note, Daniel 7:22) - the office of judging, (2 Corinthians 5:1-21.) Though having to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), yet they 'do not come into judgment (condemnation) but have already passed from death unto life' (John 5:24).

Souls. This term is made a plea for denying the literal first resurrection, as if the life and reign of souls were raised in this life from the death of sin by vivifying faith. But "souls" expresses their disembodied state (cf. Revelation 6:9) at first; "and they lived" implies their coming to life in the body again, so as to be seen by John, as Revelation 20:5, "This is the first resurrection," proves: for as "the rest of the dead lived not (again) until," etc., must refer to the bodily general resurrection so must the first resurrection refer to the body. If the first resurrection be not corporeal, then the saints do not rise at all; for they do not rise with "the rest of the dead." This also accords with 1 Corinthians 15:23. Compare Psalms 49:11-15. "Souls" is in counting used for persons dead." This also accords with 1 Corinthians 15:23. Compare Psalms 49:11-15. "Souls" is in counting used for persons (Acts 27:37; 1 Peter 3:20: cf. Septuagint; Leviticus 22:4): 'a dead body.'

Beheaded, [ pepelekismenoon (G3990)] - 'smitten with an axe:' a Roman punishment, though crucifixion, casting to beasts, and burning, were the common modes. The guillotine, in revolutionary France, still continued in imperial France, is a revival of the capital punishment of imperial Rome. Paul was beheaded, and shall share the first resurrection, in accordance with his prayer that he 'might attain unto the resurrection from out of the rest of the dead' [ exanastasis (G1815)] (Philippians 3:11).

For ... for, [ dia (G1223)] - 'on account of.'

And which - `and the which:' and prominent among this class (the beheaded), such as did not worship the beast, etc. So Revelation 1:7. The extent of the first resurrection is not spoken of here. In 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, we find, all "in Christ" shall share in it. John himself was not "beheaded;" yet who doubts he shall share in it? The martyrs are put first, because most like Jesus in suffering and death, therefore nearest Him in life and reign; for Christ implies there are relative degrees and places of honour in His kingdom, the highest being for those who drink His cup of suffering (Matthew 20:22-23; Luke 22:28-30). Next, those who have not bowed to the world-power, but looked to the things unseen and eternal.

Neither - `not yet.'

Foreheads ... hands - `forehead ... hand.'

Reigned with Christ - over the earth.

Verse 5

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

But. B, Coptic, Andreas, 'and;' A, Vulgate, omit.

Again. A B, Vulgate, Coptic, Andreas, omit. Lived is used for lived again, as in Revelation 2:8. John saw them not only when restored, but in the act of reviving (Bengel).

First resurrection - `the resurrection of the just' (Luke 14:14). Earth is not yet transfigured, so cannot be meet for the transfigured saints; but from heaven they with Christ rule the earth, there being a much freer communion of the heavenly and earthly churches (a type of which is seen in the forty days during which the risen Saviour appeared to His disciples); they know no higher joy than to lead their brethren on earth to the same salvation as they share themselves. The millennial reign on earth does not rest on an isolated passage, but all Old Testament prophecy goes on the same view (cf. Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 35:8). Jesus, while opposing the Jews expectation of a carnal kingdom, confirms the Old Testament view of a coming earthly Jewish kingdom of glory: beginning from within, and spreading now spiritually, the kingdom of God shall manifest itself outwardly at Christ's coming again. The papacy is a blasphemous anticipation of the visible Headship which Christ shall then assume. It is reigning as kings without Christ (1 Corinthians 4:8; Irenaeus, 5:, 36, 1; 35:, 1, 2; Justin Martyr, 'Dial.,' 51:, 80). Melito and Tertullian ('Adv. Marcion'), in the age next after John, held that Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and the saints enjoy the sight of the Lord in various degrees in the holy city for a thousand years, and in heaven; and that this is part of the entireness of sound Christian faith. 'When Christianity became a worldly power under Constantine, the future hope was weakened by joy over present success' (Bengel). Becoming a harlot, the Church ceased to be a bride going to meet her Bridegroom. The rights which the harlot usurped shall be exercised in holiness by the Bride. They are "kings" because "priests" (Revelation 20:6; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10); their priesthood unto God and Christ (Revelation 7:15) is the ground of their kingship toward men. Men will be willing subjects of the transfigured priest-kings, in the day of the Lord's power. Their power is that of attraction, winning the heart; not counteracted by devil or beast. Church and State shall be co-extensive. Man, created 'to have dominion over the earth,' is to rejoice over his world with unmixed joy. John saith that instead of the devil, the transfigured Church-Daniel, that instead of the paganish beast, the holy Israel-shall rule (Auberlen).

Verse 6

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Blessed - (cf. Revelation 14:13; Revelation 19:9.)

On such the second death hath no power - even as it has none on Christ now risen.

Priests of God. Apostate Christendom being destroyed, and the believing Church translated, there will remain Israel and the pagan, the majority of men then alive, who, not having come into contact with the Gospel, have not been guilty of rejecting it. These will be subjects of a general conversion (Revelation 11:15). "The veil" shall be taken off Israel first, then from off "all people" (Isaiah 25:7). The glories attending Christ's appearing, the destruction of Antichrist, transfiguration of the Church, and binding of Satan, will prepare the nations for embracing the Gospel. As individual regeneration goes on now, so a "regeneration" of nations then. Israel, as a nation, shall be 'born at once-in one day' (Isaiah 66:8). As the Church begins at Christ's ascension, so the kingdom at His second advent. The humiliation of civilized nations will be, that nations which they despise-Jews and barbarians, the negro descendants of Ham, under the curse of Noah, Kush, and Sheba-shall supplant them, (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21; Romans 10:19; Romans 11:20, etc.) Since the Jews' rejection, revelation has been silent.

Both Old and New Testaments are written by Jews. If revelation is to recommence in the millennial kingdom, converted Israel must head humanity. Jews and Gentiles stand on an equal footing, as both alike needing mercy; but as regards God's instrumentalities for establishing His kingdom on earth, Israel is His chosen people. The Israelite priest-kings on earth are what the transfigured priest-kings are in heaven. A blessed chain of giving and receiving-God, Christ, the transfigured Bride, the Church, Israel, the world of nations. A new time of revelation will begin by the outpouring of the Spirit (Zechariah 12:10). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:29; Ezekiel 40:48), son of a priest, sets forth Israel's priestly character; Daniel, the statesman, its kingly; Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:17-21), both its priestly and kingly. In the Old Testament, Israel's national life was religious in an external legalism. The New Testament Church insists on inward renewal, but leaves outward manifestations free. But in the millennial kingdom, all spheres of life shall be Christianized from within outwardly. The Mosaic ceremonial corresponds to Israel's priestly office; the civil law to its kingly office. The Gentile Church, adopting the moral law, exercises the prophetic office by the Word working inwardly. But when the royal and the priestly office shall be revived, then-the principles of the letter to the Hebrews remaining-the ceremonial and civil law also will develop its spiritual depths in divine worship (cf. Matthew 5:17-19). Now is the time of preaching; then the time of liturgy of "the great congregation" shall come. Our present defective governments shall give place to perfect rule in Church and State. Under the Old Testament the Jews exclusively, in the New Testament the Gentiles chiefly, enjoy salvation; in the millennium both Jews and Gentiles united, under the first-born brother, Israel, walk in the light of God, realizing the full life of humanity.

The human race is not an aggregate of individuals and nationalities, but as organic whole, laid down once for all (Genesis 9:25-27; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:18; Genesis 10:25; Genesis 10:32; Deuteronomy 32:8, declares that from the first the division of the nations was made with relation to Israel). Hence, arises the importance of the Old Testament to the Church. Three grand groups-Hamites, Japhethites, and Shemites-correspond respectively to man's three fundamental elements-body, soul, and spirit. The flower of Shem, the representative of spiritual life, is Israel: as the flower of Israel is He in whom all mankind is summed up, the second Adam (Genesis 12:1-3), Israel is mediator of divine revelations for all times. Even nature and the animal-world will share in the millennial blessedness (Isaiah 65:20-25). As sin loses its power, decay and death will decrease (Auberlen). Earthly and heavenly glories shall be united in the twofold election.

Elect Israel in the flesh shall stand at the head of the earthly; the elect spiritual Church, the Bride, in the heavenly. These elections are not merely for the good of the elect, but for those to whom they minister. The heavenly Church is elected, not merely to salvation, but to rule in love, and minister blessings over the earth, as king-priests. The glory of the transfigured shall be a blessing to men in the flesh; as at the transfiguration the three earthly disciples enjoyed the glory of Jesus, and of Moses and Elias, so that Peter exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here:" 2 Peter 1:16-18 makes the transfiguration the earnest of Christ's coming in glory. The privilege of "our high calling in Christ" is limited to the present time of Satan's reign; when he is bound, there will be no scope for suffering for, and so afterward reigning with, Him (Revelation 3:21: cf. note, 1 Corinthians 6:2). None are saved in the present age, in the Christian pale, who shall not also reign with Christ, the preliminary to which is suffering with Christ now. If we fail to gain the crown, we lose all-`the gift of grace as well as the reward of service' (DeBurgh).

Verse 7

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

Expired - `finished.'

Verse 8

And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Quarters - `corners.'

Gog and Magog - (notes, Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29.) Magog represents northern nations of Japheth's posterity, whose ideal head is Gog (Genesis 10:2). A has but one article to "Gog and Magog," whereby the prince and the people are closely connected; B reads the second article before Magog. Hiller ('Onomasticon') explains both as lofty, elevated.

To battle - `to the war,' in 'Aleph (') A B; but Andreas omits 'the.'

Verse 9

And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

On the breadth of the earth - completely overspreading it. Perhaps translate, ' ... of the (holy) land.'

The camp of the saints ... and the beloved city - the camp of the saints encircling the beloved city, Jerusalem ( Sir 24:11 ). Contrast "hateful" in Babylon, (Revelation 18:2; 'Jacob, the beloved,' Deuteronomy 32:15; Septuagint) Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog refers to the attack on Israel before the millennium; but this attack is after the millennium; so that "Gog and Magog" represent the final adversaries led by Satan. Ezekiel's Gog and Magog come from the north, but those here 'from the four corners of the earth.' Gog is by some connected with a Hebrew root, 'covered.'

From God. So B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Andreas; but A omits. Even during the millennium there is a separation between heaven and earth, humanity transfigured and humanity in the flesh. Hence, an apostasy can take place at its close. In the judgment on this the world of nature is destroyed and renewed, as the world of history was before the millennium: it is only then that the new heaven and new earth are perfected. The millennial heaven and earth, connected but separate, are but a foretaste of this everlasting state, when the upper and lower congregations shall be no longer separate, and new Jerusalem shall descend from God out of heaven. Man's birth-sin, the flesh, shall be the only influence during the millennium to prevent the saving of all souls. When this time of grace shall end, no other shall succeed. For what can move him in whom the Church's visible glory, while evil is restrained, evokes no longing for communion with the Church's King? As the history of nations ended with the manifestation of the Church in glory, so that of mankind in general shall end with the separation of the just from the wicked (Revelation 20:12) (Auberlen).

Verse 10

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

That deceived - `that deceiveth,' etc.

Lake of fire - his final doom: as "the bottomless pit" (Revelation 20:1) was his temporary prison.

Where. So 'Aleph ('), Coptic; but A B, Vulgate, Syriac, 'where also.'

The beast and the false prophet are - (Revelation 19:20.)

Day and night - without intermission (Revelation 22:5), such as now night interposes between day and day. The same phrase is used of the eternal state of the blessed (Revelation 4:8). As the bliss is eternal, so the woe must be, As the beast and the false prophet led the former conspiracy against Christ and His people, so Satan in person heads the last. Satan shall be permitted to enter this paradise regained, to show the security of believers, unlike the first Adam, whom Satan robbed of paradise; and shall, like Pharaoh at the Red Sea, receive in this last attempt his final doom,

Forever and ever - `to the ages of the ages.'

Verse 11

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Great - in contrast to the "thrones" (Revelation 20:4).

White - emblem of purity and justice.

Him that sat on it - the Son, to whom 'the Father hath committed all judgment.' God in Christ, i:e., the Father represented by the Son, before whose judgment-seat we must all stand. The Son's mediatorial reign is to prepare the kingdom for the Father's acceptance, which having done, He shall give it up to the Father, 'that God real be all in all,' coming into direct communion with His creatures, without a Mediator's intervention, for the first time since the fall. Christ's Prophetical mediation was prominent in His earthly ministry; His Priestly is prominent now in heaven between His first and second advents; His Kingly shall be so during the millennium and at the general judgment.

Earth and ... heaven fled away. The final conflagration precedes the general judgment, followed by the new heaven and earth, (Revelation 21:1-27.)

Verse 12

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

The dead - `the rest of the dead' who did not share the first resurrection, and those who died during the millennium.

Small and great. B, 'the small and the great.' A 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac, Andreas, 'the ('Aleph (') has 'both' for 'the') great and the small' (Revelation 6:15). The wicked who died from Adam to Christ's second advent, and all the righteous and wicked who died during and after the millennium, shall then be judged. The transfigured godly, who reigned with Christ during it, shall also be present, not to have their portion assigned (for that was fixed long before, John 5:24), but to have it confirmed for ever, and that God's righteousness may be vindicated in both the saved and the lost, before an assembled universe. Compare "We must ALL appear," etc. (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The saints having been pronounced just by Christ out of "the book of life," shall be assessors of the Judge, Compare Matthew 25:31-32; Matthew 25:40, "these my brethren." God's omniscience will not allow the least to escape: His omnipotence the mightiest must obey. The living are not mentioned: as these shall probably first (before the destruction of the ungodly, Revelation 20:9) be transfigured, and caught up with the saints long previously transfigured; and though present for confirmation of their justification by the Judge, shall not then first have their eternal state assigned, but sit as Christ's assessors.

The books ... opened - (Daniel 7:10.) The books of God's remembrance, of evil and good (Psalms 56:8; Psalms 139:4; Malachi 3:16): Conscience (Romans 2:15-16), Christ's Word (John 12:48), the Law (Galatians 3:10), God's eternal counsel (Psalms 139:16).

Book of life - (Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 21:27.) Besides the general book of all, there is a special book for believers, in which their names are written, not for their works, but for Christ's work for, and in, them: 'the Lamb's book of life.' Electing grace has singled them out from the mass.

According to their works. We are justified by faith, judged according to (not by) our works. The general judgment is designed for the final vindication of God's righteousness before the universe, which in this chequered dispensation, though really ruling, has been less manifest. Faith is appreciable by God and the believer alone (Revelation 2:17). Works are appreciable by all. These, then, are the evidential test to decide men's eternal state, showing that God's government is altogether righteous.

Verse 13

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Death and hell - Hades. The essential identity of the dying and risen body is shown; for the sea and grave give up their dead. The body that sinned or served God shall, in righteous retribution, be the body also that shall suffer, or be rewarded. The "sea" may have a symbolical (Cluver from Augustine) meaning, as in Revelation 8:8; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 18:17; Revelation 18:19. But the literal sense holds good: all the different regions, wherein men's bodies and souls were, gave them up.

Verse 14

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Death and Hades personified, cast into the lake of fire, express that Christ and His people shall never more die, or be disembodied spirits. The yawning, craving Sheol, that can never be satisfied, is abolished. "In Christ ALL shall be made alive" (Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:22). The dark ABYSS and the first death are destroyed, and the "LAKE (not an abyss or sea) of fire," surrounded on all sides by Immanuel's land, substituted: wherein the second death is, admitting of no rebellion of thought, word, or deed against God, but a deep everlasting woe, shame, and irreversible separation from the saints, though in their presence and that of God. No empire of evil shall be tolerated, rivalling in extent and continuance the empire of the holy and loving God. Satan's power of rebellion must cease: for Death being the last enemy destroyed, Satan too is so (Hosea 13:14; 1 John 3:8). The continual spectacle (Revelation 14:10) of what the creature is in itself, vanity and shame (Daniel 12:2), will be one means of retaining the unfallen, ransomed universe, in its only true position of safety, humble dependence on Yahweh: it will eternally show how the God of love repels the spirits in which pride and selfishness reign. Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21, both hint [ kalon (G2570)] that eternal forfeiture of HONOUR is the doom of the lost (Birks).

This is the second death - "the lake of fire" is added in 'Aleph (') A B, Andreas. In hell the ancient form of death, one of the enemies destroyed by Christ, shall not continue, but a death far different reigns there, 'everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord:' an abiding testimony of Christ's victory.

Verse 15

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The bliss of the righteous is not here specified, as it commenced before the final judgment. Compare, however, Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/revelation-20.html. 1871-8.
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