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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

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Verses 1-15



EMINENT expositors, ancient and modern, regard the opening of this chapter as referring to an early period in the history of the Church, but there are many writers who consider the events as occurring in immediate succession to those foreshown in the end of chap. 19. Stuart points out the intentional brevity with which this portion of the prophecy is treated. “The events of a thousand years; the invasion of Gog and Magog, with their defeat; the ultimate confinement and punishment of Satan; and, lastly, the general judgment;—are all crowded into the space of twelve verses. This shows that the very distant future is designed to be merely glanced at by the writer. So it is with the Hebrew prophets. But here there is a special reason for brevity. The main object of the book is already accomplished. Christians have been consoled by assurances that all the enemies with whom the Church was then conflicting, would surely be overthrown. To complete an epic plan which involves a climactic progression of events, and to gratify the taste and feelings, the last part of the book is added. It seems to be added mainly for this purpose. Mere touches and glances are all which it exhibits, or which were intended to be exhibited. The eye of hope is directed forward, and sees the thousand years of uninterrupted prosperity; then the sudden destruction of a new and final enemy, and all the rest is left to joyful anticipation.

Revelation 20:1. Bottomless pit.—Explained in note on Revelation 9:1.

Revelation 20:2. Old serpent.—See on Revelation 12:9. Thousand years.—A figurative, not literal, period. With the Lord “a thousand years is as one day.” It is safer to regard it as representing a prolonged, in contrast with a limited, period.

Revelation 20:4. Thrones.—Compare Daniel 7:9; Daniel 7:22. There seem to be two classes of faithful souls introduced: those who had made the martyrs’ testimony, and those who had given the testimony of noble lives. Reigned with Christ.—A figure for that kind of ruling power and influence which steadfast and heroic men and women always gain and exercise wherever they may be, even as Christ gained and exercised.


The Millennium-Picture.—The millennium-vision is, like so many of the apostolic visions, an ideal picture; it exhibits a state of things which is possible to mankind at any time. The vision has its approximate fulfilment, as the Church, in the faith of the reality of her Lord’s victory, carries on her warfare against the prince of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. That this approximate fulfilment is not unreal may be seen in the fact that Christendom has replaced heathendom; Christ has taken the throne of the world; the prince of this world has been judged; the ascendency of Christian thought and Christian principles has marvellously humanised and purified the world. To an Irenæus, a Polycarp, a Justin Martyr, a Tertullian, the picture of the world during the Christian centuries would have the aspect of a millennium, when contrasted with the age of Pagan dominion and Pagan persecution. In their eyes, accustomed to the darkness of heathenism, the world, as influenced by a widely-diffused Christianity, would seem to be a world in which Christ ruled. They would see, in the acknowledgment, of apostles and martyrs and confessors, the wondrous resurrection-power of God’s truth; they would see how they, who fell for Christ, had stepped from their forgotten graves to sit down with Christ in His throne. The apostles, the martyrs, the faithful, do reign with Christ. The sovereignty of the world belongs far more to St. Paul and St. John than to Nero or Galba. But though thus the saints rise and reign with Christ over Christendom, we can see that this is only an approximate realisation, and falls short of the ideal picture. Christendom established and heathendom overthrown would be a millennium in the eyes of an Ignatius; but the Church of to day looks for a further and higher fulfilment. Is she justified in this expectation? If the principles we have laid down are correct, she is justified. She can accept the first-fruits of God’s promises, but she will not mistake them for the harvest; she can rejoice in the growth of her Lord’s kingdom, but she looks for the day when the powers of evil will be more effectually curbed, and the gospel will have freer course. Then the fulness of Christ’s victory will be more clearly seen.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.


Revelation 20:12. The Final Judgment; The Certainty of Its Decisions.—There is a machine in the Bank of England which receives sovereigns, as a mill receives grain, for the purpose of determining wholesale whether they are are of full weight. As they pass through, the machinery, by unerring laws, throws all that are light to one side, and all that are of full weight to another. That process is a silent but solemn parable for me. Founded as it is upon the laws of nature, it affords the most vivid similitude of the certainty which characterises the judgment of the great day. There are no mistakes or partialities to which the light may trust; the only hope lies in being of standard weight before they go in.—Arnot.

The Record of Our Lives.—With every turn of the turnstile on Waterloo Bridge a record (in the old time) was made against the gatekeeper, and he could not recall or obliterate it. Every movement of the wind over Greenwich Observatory, steady or capricious, fast or slow, is self-registered, with pencil and paper, by an apparatus communicating to a room below, in which blank paper is presented to the pencil by clockwork; and these autobiographical memoirs are carefully preserved. So constant and unerring is the record kept in the book of God’s remembrance concerning all our actions, and even “every idle word that men shall speak” (Matthew 12:36).

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Revelation 20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/revelation-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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