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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

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Verses 1-3

Satan Thrown Into the Abyss

Revelation 20:1. The great henchmen of satan – the beast and the false prophet – are caught and cast into hell. Their leader, who is satan, is still freely walking around but he also gets caught. That happens by an angel that comes down from heaven. Because satan has been cast to the earth since chapter 12:9, it is necessary that an angel “comes down from heaven” to bind him. This angel has “the key of the abyss” to lock up the bottomless pit. In chapter 9:1 the key was used to open abyss or the bottomless pit in order to release the demons from there. Then the beast also rises up from the bottomless pit (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8). The angel has also “a great chain in his hand”. What he will do with that chain is told in the next verse.

Revelation 20:2. This is an historic moment. There have been several historic moments, but this one is indeed a specially memorable event. The angel catches him who is the cause of all misery of people because he has brought sin into the world. Then he binds him with the chain that he brought with him, so that satan will not be able to move for a thousand years. Every opportunity to deceive men with his craftiness and to drag them into destruction will be taken away from him. He will no longer be the prince of the world and the god of this age (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4). His control over man will be over.

That he as a person with his fourfold expression – “the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan” – will be bound and locked up, indicates that he in all his variations of wickedness will be locked up and in no way be able to manifest himself. With the judgment over satan the judgments that introduced the kingdom of peace of Christ will be finished. Now Christ can exercise His beneficial kingdom of peace and righteousness for man and creation. The number ‘thousand’ that appears six times in Revelation 20:2-Judges : and which is nowhere else mentioned in the Scripture, indicates the duration of the Messianic empire of which we else would not have known the duration. That’s why the expression ‘millennial’ kingdom or ‘millennium’ (Latin) is used.

Here the four names for the great deceiver and enemy of God are used for the second time (Revelation 12:9). He is called “the dragon” because of his horribly violent and relentless performance. He is also called “the serpent of old”. That indicates the deadly crafty nature of this monster that winds itself around its prey, in order to suffocate it and devour it. As the “devil” he is the tempter, the deceiver of men. As “Satan” he is the adversary of God. Both these characteristics – violence and lie – are the main characteristics of sin.

Revelation 20:3. Satan is mighty, but not almighty. Nor is he mightier than the angel that approaches him with the authority of God, seizes him and casts him into the bottomless pit. There is no mention of a fight, like it was the case when he was cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:7).

The angel works in a thorough way. When he has thrown satan into the bottomless pit, he shuts him up. There is no connection for satan anymore with the world above him. As an extra security the angel puts a seal on the cover. Satan will in no way be able to exercise any destructive influence on people.

“The nations” here are the citizens, for the armies of these nations were killed in Armageddon. The sheep from these nations will enter into the millennial kingdom of peace (Matthew 25:32-Nahum :).

It will be a time of unprecedented peace and safety, although the heart of man will not be changed, like it will become apparent when satan will be released for a little while. Righteousness will then rule on the earth, but not be dwelling there yet. That will only be in the everlasting condition (2 Peter 3:13), when sin has been taken away (John 1:29). Men can and will still sin in the kingdom of peace, but at that time it will immediately be judged (Psalms 101:8; Isaiah 65:11; Isaiah 65:20; Zephaniah 3:5).

Those who will be born in the kingdom of peace and will not have been born again at the end of it, will come into rebellion against God. The wickedness of their heart will be exposed at the release of satan. With a view to that this release “must” take place. This ‘must’ represent a Divine necessity. This happens “after these things”, which is after the thousand years have come to an end and not a single day earlier. It is also “for a short time”, which means that he is allowed to operate as long as God determines it.

It is incomprehensible that people can think that satan is now already bound and doesn’t deceive the nations anymore. There are indeed angels now already bound with chains (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6), but that is a totally different category.

Now read Revelation 20:1-3 again.

Reflection: Why will satan be bound for a thousand years?

Verses 4-9

Thousand Years Peace and the Last Rebellion

Revelation 20:4. In Revelation 20:4-Joshua : the actual kingdom of peace is described, and reigning with the Lord is mentioned twice. That implies that Christ Himself is reigning. This is described here very briefly. From chapter 21:9 it is described more extensively. The Old Testament is full of characteristics about this kingdom. That it is about ruling, is to be derived from the end of the verse, but also from the thrones that John sees. He also sees that “they”, which are the twenty-four elders, are taking their seats on those thrones. Daniel has also seen thrones, but he saw no one sitting on them (Daniel 7:9). John sees how judgment is given to those who sit on the throne, which means that authority is given to them to reign.

The thrones that John sees are on earth, for Christ reigns on earth, where His throne also is. Earlier you have already seen thrones on which twenty-four elders are seated, but then they are standing in heaven (Revelation 4:4). Here they stand on earth and are seated on their thrones in order to reign with Christ for a thousand years. He has promised that to His disciples in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). And Paul says to the believers of the church that they will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2). The twenty-four elders represent the believers of the Old Testament and of the New Testament.

Then John sees yet two other groups of believers. These second and third group are believers that came to faith after the rapture of the church and died the martyr’s death for the sake of their faith. The second group consists of believers that were killed before the great tribulation, ‘the souls under the altar’ (Revelation 6:9). They were beheaded because of the testimony that they bore of the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness to the Word of God.

When they cry for revenge, they hear that they must wait until the other group, which is mentioned here, will also be killed (Revelation 6:10-1 Kings :). This third group was killed during the great tribulation. This group had to suffer because of the beast, but they have not bowed to him or to his image. It cost them their lives, but now they get the reward.

Both groups have been killed by their enemies who thought that by killing these witnesses they got rid of the Jesus they hated. In the same way the enemies of the Lord Jesus thought to have got rid of Him themselves when He hung dead on the cross. But as the Lord Jesus became alive, these martyrs become alive. To become alive means to rise physically. It is becoming alive from the dead. Only after this becoming alive there is mention of a reigning with Christ. This is all the more a proof that now in our days, there cannot possibly be a mention of a millennial kingdom of peace wherein Christ reigns and wherein everyone takes part who are related with Him.

“They came to life and reigned.” Man now finally gets his actual destination. In Genesis 1:26 he was already called to reign over creation and in Genesis 2:7 he received life from God. But man lost both because of his sin. Through Christ he gets back what he has lost and that in an even more glorious way. He actually reigns with Christ and indeed as a resurrected saint and certainly not as a subordinate. Faithfulness to God will never cause loss of any blessing, but in fact only a richer enjoyment of it, richer than we have ever been able to enjoy (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Here everyone who has ever been humiliated will be exalted in His time (1 Peter 5:6). They have all abstained themselves from their own throne and have bowed themselves before God and are now allowed to sit on their throne, a throne that has been given to them.

Revelation 20:5. “The rest of the dead” are the unbelievers, for all believing dead have been raised. They will not rise at the beginning of the millennial kingdom of peace, but they will remain in the grave, in hades, the place of torment (Luke 16:23). From the moment that the Lord Jesus reigns, no believer will ever die anymore (cf. Isaiah 65:22). With the becoming alive of the believers of the previous verse “the first resurrection” has been fulfilled.

The first resurrection will happen in phases:
1. Firstly, Christ rises (He has already risen);
2. then all who are of Christ will rise at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Also the coming of Christ will happen in phases:
1. He will come first to take up the church and all Old Testament believers in the air to be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:15-Job :). On this occasion the believers who are dead will be resurrected and the believers who are alive will be changed.
2. Then the wedding of the Lamb will take place, as you have seen in chapter 19 (Revelation 19:7).
3. Then the Lord Jesus will come from heaven for the second time, this time together with the church and the other believers, in order to defeat His enemies and to establish His kingdom. That is the moment that the martyrs of the previous verse will rise in order to participate also in the government of Christ.

Then the first resurrection will be finished.

The unbelievers will become alive only after the kingdom of peace and will be judged before the great white throne where only unbelievers will stand. The body of the unbelievers will be made alive, but the spirit will remain spiritually dead. With this body they will be in hell forever and also be dead. They will stand as dead before the great white throne.

So there are two resurrections:
1. a resurrection of the righteous, or the first resurrection, and
2. a resurrection of the unrighteous (Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15).

Between both resurrections lies a period of a thousand years. The two resurrections are mentioned by John in his gospel (John 5:29):
1. the resurrection of life and
2. the resurrection of judgment.

Revelation 20:6. It is an extraordinary privilege to participate in the first resurrection. He who takes part of that is fully unreachable for the power of the second death, which is hell. The first death is physical and temporary; the second death is physical and eternal. Death and life are actually definitions that you should read in their context in order to understand their meaning. So you may find that it is said of the physically dead that they live (Matthew 22:32) and of the physically living is said that they are dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Everyone who has part in the first resurrection, are priests “of God and of Christ” and not ‘for’ God and ‘for’ Christ. They in fact pour out the priestly blessing on behalf of God and on behalf of Christ on to creation over which they will reign with Christ. ‘Reigning’ literally means ‘ruling as kings’. They come from heaven to be priests on earth. They are not priests who represent people before God, but priests who represent God before men. In this view they also look like the Lord Jesus as the King-Priest (Zechariah 6:13; Genesis 14:18).

Revelation 20:7. The word “completed” doesn’t only mean that the thousand years have passed and are ‘over’, but it also implies that they have been ‘fulfilled’, in the sense that a pre-determined goal has been achieved. The earth has had its sabbath’s rest.

Now before the peace of the kingdom of peace will lead into the peace of eternity, it is necessary for the human race to be subjected to a final test. For this purpose what was already announced at the end of Revelation 20:3 will happen, namely that satan has to be “released” for a little while “from his prison”.

Revelation 20:8. The nature of satan has not changed by his stay in the bottomless pit, nor has the nature of man. Satan is unchangeably wicked. When he is released he immediately acts just as he always did. He will go out over the whole earth, to all its corners (cf. Isaiah 11:12; Ezekiel 7:2) with the purpose to deceive the nations. The corners of the earth literally means that these people find themselves far from the center of blessing, which is Jerusalem.

From the deception by satan it also appears that the sinful flesh of man has not changed under the greatest blessing. Many have pretended to be obedient to the Lord Jesus (Psalms 18:45; Psalms 66:3; Micah 7:17). They simulated that they acknowledged Him as their Lord, but they only did that because they were (justly) afraid for the judgment. But the flesh always remains enmity against God (Romans 8:7), even though it simulates to be submissive. In this way man loses the argument of always blaming satan to justify themselves (cf. Genesis 3:13). That is absolutely out of order here. Also without the devil the heart of man will not change for the better.

The Gog and Magog which John mentions, are not to be confused with Gog in the land of Magog which Ezekiel mentions (Ezekiel 38:1-Joshua :; Ezekiel 39:1-Exodus :). The army that Ezekiel refers to comes from a certain area, the far north, and will wage war against Israel and be defeated when the Lord Jesus will already be ruling in Jerusalem. The Gog that John mentions comes from everywhere. John uses this name because of the great demonical similarities between both attacks.

Satan has great success in the recruitment of men for the sake of his army. An enormous, uncountable army rises up.

Revelation 20:9. Under the influence of satan this enormous army passes across the breadth of the earth. The goal is the camp of the saints and Jerusalem, which is here called “the beloved city” (Psalms 78:68; Psalms 87:2), the center of the earth. The beloved city is also the place where the saints encamp, where they have rest. They are separated from the pagans that find themselves in the corners of the earth.

This enormous army is as blind for the power of the Lord Jesus as the armies were, that went to Jerusalem before the kingdom of peace (Revelation 19:19-Proverbs :). God sends His consuming fire from heaven and there are no more enemies left. The description of this war is even briefer than the one in the previous chapter.

Now read Revelation 20:4-9 again.

Reflection: Which groups of people are allowed to reign with the Lord Jesus?

Verses 10-15

The Great White Throne – the Lake of Fire

Revelation 20:10. The devil gets a special treatment. He is the instigator of the mass rebellion, but this is the last time that he was allowed to do his diabolic work. His eternal destiny is “the lake of fire and brimstone” into which he is “thrown”. In that way he receives the absolute, unchangeable lowest point of his fall which has been executed in four phases.

1. First he has fallen into sin by his pride (1 Timothy 3:6). As the liar and the father of lies (John 8:44) he has spread deceptions and committed his murderer’s work from the beginning of creation. This is how he has been occupied for thousands of years.
2. But you have noticed that at a certain moment he is cast to the earth (Revelation 12:9), where he with the greatest wrath causes death and destruction because he knows that he has got only a little while.
3. After a course of three and a half years God makes an end to his rage and has him thrown into the bottomless pit in order to be locked up there for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-Leviticus :). From there he will be released
4. in order to make his definite fall and make him end up in hell, that has been prepared for him and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

There he meets two vassals who were thrown down there before him (Revelation 19:20). They will not be able to help one another, for their own torments and tortures will be sufficient for themselves, which they will endlessly suffer.

Revelation 20:11. The defeated rebels will be spending their lives for only a little while in hades, because immediately after them being consumed by God’s fire, the judgment follows before the “great white throne”. That they have been consumed by God’s fire therefore does not mean that they have stopped to exist.

John saw a great white throne. It is a ‘great’ throne, because He Who sits on it is great in majesty and great in authority. It is a ‘white’ throne, because He Who sits on it is perfect and pure. His throne as a symbol of His kingdom and His Person are perfectly in agreement with one another. The Judge is perfectly pure in His judgment. He judges perfectly righteous. In His judgment there is not a single impure element. He is incorruptible. Every examination in His faithfulness has ended up on earth in a testimony of His perfect honesty.

No one can oppose the judgment that He sentences and executes. He will convince everyone who appears before His throne of the righteousness of His sentence and everybody will agree to that. Every mouth that is still braggingly opened to heaven will then be stopped. The pure whiteness of the throne is the reflection of the glory of God Who is light and in Whom is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

In the Scripture there is mention of three sittings of court held by the Lord Jesus:
1. The first one takes place in heaven, right after the rapture of the believers. When the believers are in heaven, they will first appear before “the judgment seat of Christ” or “the judgment seat of God” (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10). Every believer will get to see there what he has done in the body during his life on earth and see whether he has done that for the Lord’s sake or for his own sake. He will be rewarded for the good.
2. The second sitting of court will take place when the Lord Jesus will return to earth with the believers, in order to judge the evil and establish the kingdom of peace on earth (Matthew 25:31). Before that judgment seat, the “throne of His glory”, the nations that will be living on earth will appear. They will be judged according to the attitude that they adopted towards the messengers of the Lord Jesus during the great tribulation.
3. The third sitting of court will take place at the border between time and eternity. Only unbelievers will appear before the “great white throne”. They will be judged by what is written of them in the books.

When the moment of this third sitting of court has come, “earth and heaven” will flee away. That concerns the old earth and heaven. With the sitting of court and the judgment attached to it, the entire old state of affairs has come to an end. The old heaven and the old earth flee away, in order to make room for the new heaven and the new earth. They flee away, not so much for the throne, but for the face of Him Who sits on it. The Lord Jesus, Who as the Son of Man has received all the judgment from the Father, sits on the throne (John 5:22; John 5:27; see also 2 Timothy 4:1).

Revelation 20:12. John sees the dead. It is the ‘the rest of the dead’ from Revelation 20:5. They do not stand on the earth, for that has passed away. But even though the earth has passed away, man will remain to account himself towards God for all his rebellious deeds and to receive the deserved wages. Through the power of the Almighty they stand before the throne.

John sees great and small dead people. That is not so much about the size of the body, but more the extent of the crimes that they have committed. There are the mass murderers, but also the petty criminals. There are the bragging politicians that have spoken great words, but also the unremarkable housefather that has diligently taken care of his family. They have one thing in common: they have never condemned themselves as sinners in the light of God and have all died in their sins. To whatever extent they have been sinners, the judgment will be justified.

The proofs that form the ground for the judgment come from the books. All of their deeds are presented to them again. The gravity of their judgment is determined according to the severity of their crimes and the extent of their responsibility (Luke 12:47). Nobody will have a reply. Everybody will be convinced that God is righteous in His judgments. Another convincing evidence of their judgment is the missing of their names in the book of life. This means it is absolutely right that they will be cast into hell.

Revelation 20:13. The dead will be called to come out of the places where they have ended up after their death. In the first place the sea is mentioned. The sea will have to return all the dead that it has swallowed like a great monster. The sea is put in the same line like “death and Hades” of which is also said that they “gave up the dead which were in them”.

A person who has died is physically dead. For that state of physical death it doesn’t matter whether the dead body is on the earth or in the sea. That the sea is mentioned as a residence of dead, will have to do with the untraceable state of a body that has had a seaman’s grave. It can also be said of people who have been torn to pieces by for example wild animals, that their bodies are untraceable. But the point is the general thought.

The dead come from the death and the hades. You may say that the death is the condition in which man finds himself and hades is the place where man finds himself. The body that has been in the death is united with the soul, that has found himself in hades (which is the realm of the dead) and the spirit. God is able to make each dead alive and to bring him to court. Each call to come out will be answered by His mighty arm.

Although it is said that they have been made alive (Revelation 20:5), they are still called “the dead”. They have no life from God; there is no connection at all with the living God. When they were born they received their lives from God. However, they chose to live their owns lives, without considering God Who gave it to them. That caused them to be already dead when they were still living on earth, because they lived in trespasses and sins, without any connection with the living God (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13; John 5:25). Now they have been made alive again, nothing has changed in their spiritual condition. They stand as dead before the great white throne, in order for them to be judged, “every one [of them] according to their deeds”.

That each dead is judged according to his deeds implies that babies that die and children that die in the womb or are murdered, will not appear before the great white throne as dead. They have after all, not been able to do deeds yet according to which they should be judged. All who die in the womb or as a baby will be forever with Him in heaven, on the basis to the work of the Lord Jesus.

Revelation 20:14. Then you see the final result of the work of Christ and His resurrection, through which He has conquered the death. Now the last enemy is destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 21:4). Death finds its end here; this is the end of death, as it was foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14). After this ultimate judgment there will be no more physical death and therefore the residence of souls of the dead will no longer exist.

Death and hades are presented here as persons that are cast into hell. All evil and all who have served evil will be locked up forever in hell. This is “the second death”. The first death was the physical death and the residence in the realm of the dead. The second death is the physical existence of man without life from God in the place where the judgment of God prevails forever.

Revelation 20:15. Now it appears why in Revelation 20:12 the book of life had to be opened. Their evil deeds have been written down in the other book (Revelation 20:12). That’s according to which they have been judged. Those deeds have never been removed from it, because they have refused the sacrifice of Christ. This is why their names have never been added “in the book of life”. The convincing evidence has been delivered. The fate which is their part is terrible and horrifying. That should stimulate us, because we know the fear of the Lord, to persuade people to accept the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:11)!

Now read Revelation 20:10-15 again.

Reflection: Where does the great white throne stand? Who sits on it as Judge? Who are standing before the throne? What is their judgment?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 20". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/revelation-20.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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