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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-15

Revelation 20:1 . I saw an angel come down from heaven, the high sheriff, as it were, with a divine commission, probably the same angel who had descended with glory like a morning star, and unlocked the abyss, out of which a smoke ascended, instigating the Turks to universal war and conquest: chap. 9. Now, he that opened, is sent with plenary powers to shut up, and seal the prison of hell. And if the binding of Satan be better for earth, it will be worse for hell. The kings which have lent their power to support the beast, and burn the martyrs, must bear their punishment there. Archbishop Fenelon says, in his Telemaque, Dans l’abyme de tenebres on traitè surtout avec rigueur les rois, &c. “In the abyss of darkness, they treat severely the kings who, instead of being good and vigilant shepherds of the people, have dreamed of nothing but to fleece the flock as devouring wolves.”

The mythology of the gentiles, referred to in Job 26:4-5, with one consent fixes hell in the subterranean abodes of darkness. Virgil, who closely follows Homer, says, that in the side of the vast Euboicean rock is cut a cave, where a hundred paths lead to a hundred gates, or caves, whence resound so many voices, which are the responses of the Sibyl.

Excisum Euboïcæ latus ingens rupis in antrum;

Quò lati ducunt aditus centum, ostia centum:

Unde ruunt totidem voces, responsa Sibyllæ.

Æneid. 6: 42-44.

Revelation 20:4 . I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, to judge and consider the ways of providence, and the diversified works of God. The promise of our Saviour to the apostles is to the same effect. Matthew 19:28. But the thrones and the glory of the first resurrection are assigned to characters the most illustrious in the church of God; characters who have followed the Saviour in the regeneration, who have loved their Master more than life, and who scorned to worship the beast.

Neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. The Ninevites are said to have branded their slaves in the forehead. It was a practice among many gentile nations to tattoo some part of a slave’s body with the name of his master, the soldier with the name of his commander, and the child of an idolater with the name of the idol to which his parents had devoted him. Our sailors often work anchors and other figures in their hands, by punctures which cause soot or gunpowder to enter the skin.

They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Here the righteousness of God appears; the lives of the martyrs were shortened on earth, and now they are requited with an earlier resurrection.

Revelation 20:6 . On such the second death hath no power. The jewish targums expound this of the punishment of the wicked after death.

Revelation 20:7 . When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. That age shall then have its state of probation, as all other ages have had. In the millenium, Isaiah says, “as the days of a tree, so are the days of my people, and they shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” We have oaks in England, which have braved the winters of seven hundred years.

Revelation 20:8 . Gog and Magog. This seems not to be the Gog of Ezekiel, but the Gog of the latter day, more severely punished than the others, having sinned against greater light.

Revelation 20:11 . I saw a great white throne, of which Solomon’s was but a faint emblem. And him that sat on it, Jehovah, the Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead. There must be a day of final scrutiny; the relation of kings and subjects, of parents and children, of masters and servants, require it. How else can the apparent inequalities of the ways of God be justified to men.

Revelation 20:12 . I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. Numerous as the vesicles of vapour which compose the clouds, irradiated by the sun. What a bar, what a tribunal, and what a Judge! And the books were opened. Biography here is written with a partial hand: there it is written with the finger of God. As a man walking over soft ground leaves the print of his feet behind, so our steps shall be traced there, and the portrait be presented to the naked soul. Alas, we have erred and strayed like lost sheep. But another book was opened, which is the book of life, the record of regeneration. May our names be found there, and the fair copy in our own heart.

Revelation 20:13 . The sea gave up the dead, the countless bodies which were in it; and death, the grave, and hell, or hades, delivered up the dead which were in them. The rabbins say, In hades there are two roads, the one for good men, and the other for the bad. Virgil, respecting tartarus, has precisely the same thought, but he adds, that good men take the right hand road, and bad men the left. Isaiah 14:0. It must however be noted, that death here signifies more than the grave, as stated on Psalms 9:17.

Revelation 20:14-15 . And death and hell, the spirits or dæmons, and the souls of men not registered in the book of life, were cast into the lake of fire. Awful figure, from the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. No hope that God will overlook a single crime, or spare a single culprit dying in his sins.

Sinner, escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither linger in all the plain. Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. Genesis 19:17.


The visions of prophecy here proceed in order. The infidel being slain, the beast and the false prophet being taken alive in the flesh, and sent into the lake, Satan’s turn is next. An angel, one of the highest servants of Christ, descends from heaven, and arrests the grand enemy of the human kind, and binds him with a chain, and imprisons him for a thousand years. Yes, and when a thief is apprehended, his name and his character are investigated. He is called the dragon on account of his ferocity, and the serpent because of his secret propensity to wickedness. He is called the devil because he is the slanderer, and Satan because he is the adversary of all good men. The throne, Mr. Mede (who here gives us seven folio pages on the millenium) proves to be a continuation of Daniel’s vision in chap. 7.

The first resurrection is that of the martyrs. Of the thousand years reign I have spoken at large in the general reflections at the end of Isaiah. But there is no positive declaration that Christ shall visibly reign on earth. On the millenium the jews had a constant tradition that the world should continue six thousand years; viz. two thousand under the patriarchs to Abraham, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under the Messiah; and consequently, according to the days of the week, the sabbatical thousand years should follow: for a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. So St. Peter and St. Barnabas both quote the text.

Gog and Magog, whether infidels, apostates, or what else, are sufficient tests to us that all ages of the world shall have their trials, and their difficulties. Hence people in my judgment set the millenium much too high. When wickedness shall abate, God will abate the calamities of men, and multiply their temporal and spiritual good.

The day of judgment, the last and great day follows next. The Lord Christ shall sit on his white throne of spotless purity. The judge of men is the God-man, who was himself tempted as man. The dead, small and great, the prince and the peasant, shall stand in order at the great tribunal. The husband and the wife, the master and the servant, the child and the parent shall be there, and tried in the presence of one another. Yea, and the books of conscience shall be opened, and nothing forgotten, nothing covered, nothing disguised. Oh what a day of naked simplicity, and what a day of disclosure of secret things! Oh what a day for the study of providence, and for tracing the wisdom and righteousness of God! In those books our sins will be fairly recorded, and we shall be found guilty. We shall be weighed and found wanting. Happy that another book is opened, which is the book of life. Happy to have our name erased from the records of death, and enrolled by regeneration among the living.

Death and hell, thanatos and hades, all who were found in their sins, or had died in their sins, were cast into the lake burning with fire and brimstone. And oh may gehenna, unfolding its jaws, affright my soul from every sin, and awe me to keep in the good way. As God is graciously pleased to encourage repentance by promising to remember our sins no more, let us make a covenant, but not in our own strength, that we will sin no more against his forbearance and love. So shall we have boldness in this great day, and sit on thrones at his right hand.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 20". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-20.html. 1835.
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