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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 20

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Coming down out of heaven (καταβαινοντα εκ του ουρανου). As in Revelation 10:1; Revelation 18:1.

The key of the abyss (την κλειν της αβυσσου). As in Revelation 9:1.

A great chain (αλυσιν μεγαλην). Paul wore a αλυσις (alpha privative and λυω, to loose) in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16;, as did Peter in prison in Jerusalem (Acts 12:6).

In his hand (επ την χειρα αυτου). "Upon his hand," ready for use. See επ with the genitive in Revelation 1:20.

Verse 2

He laid hold on (εκρατησεν). First aorist active indicative of κρατεω, to seize.

The dragon (τον δρακοντα). Accusative after εκρατησεν instead of the genitive as in Revelation 2:1. He has been behind the beast and the false prophet from the start. Now he is seized.

The old serpent (ο οφις ο αρχαιος). Precisely the description in Revelation 12:9, only the nominative is here retained, though in apposition with the accusative τον δρακοντα, a frequent anacoluthon in the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:5, etc.). Swete calls it a parenthesis.

Which is (ος εστιν). The relative here relieves the construction and takes the place of ο καλουμενος in Revelation 12:9 before Διαβολος κα ο Σατανας.

And bound him (κα εδησεν αυτον). First aorist active indicative of δεω.

For a thousand years (χιλια ετη). Accusative of extent of time. Here we confront the same problem found in the 1260 days. In this book of symbols how long is a thousand years? All sorts of theories are proposed, none of which fully satisfy one. Perhaps Peter has given us the only solution open to us in 2 Peter 3:8 when he argues that "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day." It will help us all to remember that God's clock does not run by ours and that times and seasons and programs are with him. This wonderful book was written to comfort the saints in a time of great trial, not to create strife among them.

Verse 3

Into the abyss (εις την αβυσσον). The one in Revelation 9:1 and the one spoken of by the legion of demons in Luke 8:31 under the charge of the angel of the abyss (Apollyon, Revelation 9:11) who is either Satan himself or a kindred power. "Already he has been cast out of Heaven (Revelation 12:9), now he is cast out of the earth, and returns to his own place" (Swete).

Shut it and sealed it (εκλεισεν κα εσφραγισεν). Effective first aorists active indicative of κλειω and σφραγιζω.

That he should deceive no more (ινα μη πλανηση). Negative purpose clause with ινα μη and the first aorist active subjunctive of πλαναω. Glorious relief after the strain of the previous visions of conflict. Small wonder that Christians today cherish this blessed hope whatever the actual meaning may be.

Until should be finished (αχρ τελεσθη). Temporal clause of future purpose with αχρ (as a conjunction like εως) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεω. Repeated in verse Revelation 20:5 and see αχρ and the subjunctive in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8.

He must be loosed (δε λυθηνα). Sad necessity, alas, with δε and the first aorist passive infinitive of λυω.

For a little time (μικρον χρονον). Accusative of time. Whatever the thousand years means, it is here said plainly that after it is over the devil will again have power on earth "for a little time."

Verse 4

And they sat upon them (κα εκαθισαν επ' αυτους). First aorist active indicative of καθιζω. Another period here apparently synchronous (verse Revelation 20:7) with the confinement of Satan in the abyss. No subject is given for this plural verb. Apparently Christ and the Apostles (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30) and some of the saints (1 Corinthians 6:3), martyrs some hold.

Judgment was given unto them (κριμα εδοθη αυτοις). First aorist passive of διδωμ. Picture of the heavenly court of assizes.

The souls (τας ψυχας). Accusative after ειδον at the beginning of the verse.

Of them that had been beheaded (των πεπελεκισμενων). Genitive of the articular perfect passive participle of πελεκιζω, old word (from πελεκυς an axe, the traditional instrument for execution in republican Rome, but later supplanted by the sword), to cut off with an axe, here only in N.T. See Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2 for previous mention of these martyrs for the witness of Jesus (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10). Others also besides martyrs shared in Christ's victory, those who refused to worship the beast or wear his mark as in Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20.

And they lived (κα εζησαν). First aorist active indicative of ζαω. If the ingressive aorist, it means "came to life" or "lived again" as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to verse Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in verse Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14.

And reigned with Christ (κα εβασιλευσαν μετα του Χριστου). Same use of the first aorist active indicative of βασιλευω, but more clearly constative. Beckwith and Swete take this to apply solely to the martyrs, the martyrs' reign with Christ.

Verse 5

The rest of the dead (ο λοιπο των νεκρων). "All except the martyrs, both the righteous and the unrighteous" (Beckwith). But some take this to mean only the wicked.

Lived not until the thousand years should be finished (ουκ εζησαν αχρ τελεσθη τα χιλια ετη). See verse Revelation 20:4 for the items here. "To infer from this statement, as many expositors have done, that the εζησαν of v. Revelation 20:4 must be understood of bodily resuscitation, is to interpret apocalyptic prophecy by methods of exegesis which are proper to ordinary narrative" (Swete). I sympathize wholly with that comment and confess my own ignorance therefore as to the meaning of the symbolism without any predilections for post-millennialism or premillennialism.

This is the first resurrection (αυτη η αναστασις η πρωτη). Scholars differ as to the genuineness of this phrase. Accepting it as genuine, Swete applies it to "the return of the martyrs and confessors to life at the beginning of the Thousand Years." According to this view the first resurrection is a special incident in the present life before the Parousia. It has no parallel with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the dead in Christ are raised before those living are changed. Some think that John here pictures the "Regeneration" (παλινγενεσια) of Matthew 19:28 and the "Restoration" (αποκαταστασις) of Acts 3:21. No effort is here made to solve this problem, save to call attention to the general judgment out of the books in Revelation 20:12 and to the general resurrection in John 5:29; Acts 24:15.

Verse 6

Blessed and holy (μακαριος κα αγιος). A fifth beatitude (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9) already and two more to come (Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:14, seven in all). Here αγιος is added to the usual μακαριος. The second death (ο δευτερος θανατος). The spiritual death of Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8 in contrast to the first or physical death. This language raises a question about the interpretation of the first and the second resurrections, whether both are of the body or one of the spirit. There seems no way to reach a solid conception about it. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 there is no mention of the resurrection of any save "those of Christ" (ο του Χριστου), though the end follows (verse Revelation 20:24). However, Paul elsewhere (Acts 24:15) speaks of the resurrection of the just and of the unjust as if one event.

Priests of God and of Christ (ιερεις του θεου κα του Χριστου). As in Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 22:3; Revelation 22:5.

Shall reign with him (βασιλευσουσιν μετ' αυτου). As promised in the same passages. The servants of God are to be priests with Christ and to reign with him (Matthew 19:28). In Revelation 5:10 επ της γης (upon earth) occurs, but this item does not appear here. "No hint is given as to where this service is to be rendered and this royalty to be exercised" (Swete).

Verse 7

When are finished (οταν τελεσθη). Indefinite future temporal clause with οταν and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεω, "whenever are finished."

Shall be loosed (λυθησετα). Future passive of λυω, no longer bound as in Revelation 20:2. He uses the future as a prophet in verses Revelation 20:7; Revelation 20:8, but in Revelation 20:9; Revelation 20:10 he uses the aorist as a seer.

Out of his prison (εκ της φυλακης αυτου). For φυλακη in this sense see Revelation 2:10. Out of the abyss of verses Revelation 20:2; Revelation 20:3.

Verse 8

To deceive the nations (πλανησα τα εθνη). First aorist active infinitive of purpose of πλαναω, Satan's chief task (chapters 12 to 18, in particular Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:10).

Which are in the four corners of the earth (τα εν ταις τεσσαρσ γωνιαις της γης). Clearly the reign with Christ, if on earth, was not shared in by all on earth, for Satan finds a large and ready following on his release. See Revelation 7:1 (Isaiah 11:12) for "the four corners of the earth."

Gog and Magog (τον Γωγ κα Μαγωγ). Accusative in explanatory apposition with τα εθνη (the nations). Magog is first mentioned in Genesis 10:2. The reference here seems to be Ezekiel 38:2, where both are mentioned. Josephus (Ant. I. 6. 1) identifies Magog with the Scythians, with Gog as their prince. In the rabbinical writings Gog and Magog appear as the enemies of the Messiah. Some early Christian writers thought of the Goths and Huns, but Augustine refuses to narrow the imagery and sees only the final protest of the world against Christianity.

To gather them together to the war (συναγαγειν αυτους εις τον πολεμον). Second aorist active infinitive of purpose of συναγω, a congenial task for Satan after his confinement. See Revelation 16:14 for this very phrase and also Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:19.

Of whom (ων--αυτων). Pleonasm or redundant pronoun as in Revelation 3:8 and often (of whom--of them).

As the sand of the sea (ως η αμμος της θαλασσης). Already in Revelation 12:18. Clearly then the millennium, whatever it is, does not mean a period when Satan has no following on earth, for this vast host rallies at once to his standard.

Verse 9

They went up (ανεβησαν). Second aorist active indicative of αναβαινω, a return to the manner of the seer as in verses Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:5.

Over the breadth of the earth (επ το πλατος της γης). Πλατος is old word, in N.T. only here, Revelation 21:16; Ephesians 3:18. The hosts of Satan spread over the earth.

Compassed (εκυκλευσαν). First aorist (prophetic) active indicative of κυκλευω, to encircle, late verb (Strabo) from κυκλος (circle), in N.T. only here and margin in John 10:24 (for εκυκλωσαν from κυκλοω).

The camp of the saints (την παρεμβολην των αγιων). Παρεμβολη (παρα, εν, βαλλω) is common late word for military camp, in LXX for the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 29:14, etc.), in N.T. for Roman barracks (Acts 24:34; Acts 24:37) and for an army in line of battle (Hebrews 11:34; Revelation 20:9).

The beloved city (την πολιν την ηγαπημενην). Perfect passive participle of αγαπαω, "the city the beloved." See Psalms 78:68; Psalms 87:2 for Jerusalem so described. So Charles takes it here, but Swete holds it to be "the Church the New Zion" that is meant.

And fire came down out of heaven (κα κατεβη πυρ εκ του ουρανου). Second aorist (prophetic) active indicative of καταβαινω. Cf. Genesis 19:24; Genesis 39:6; Ezekiel 38:22; 2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12; Luke 9:54 (about John).

Devoured them (κατεφαγεν αυτους). Second aorist (prophetic) active of κατεσθιω, to eat up (down). Vivid climax to this last great battle with Satan.

Verse 10

Was cast (εβληθη). First aorist (prophetic, affective) passive indicative of βαλλω (verse Revelation 20:3).

Into the lake of fire and brimstone (εις την λιμνην του πυρος κα θειου). As in Revelation 19:20 with the two beasts, as he adds, "where are also the beast and the false prophet" (οπου κα το θηριον κα ο ψευδοπροφητης).

They shall be tormented (βασανισθησοντα). Return to the prophetic future of verses Revelation 20:7; Revelation 20:8. For βασανιζω see Revelation 9:5; Revelation 14:10. For "day and night" (ημερας κα νυκτος) see Revelation 4:8; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:11. For "for ever and ever" (εις τους αιωνας τον αιωνων) see Revelation 1:6; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 4:9; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 10:6; Revelation 11:15, etc. The devil was cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:9), then imprisoned (Revelation 20:2), now he received his final doom.

Verse 11

A great white throne (θρονον μεγαν λευκον). Here μεγαν (great) is added to the throne pictures in Revelation 4:4; Revelation 20:4. The scene is prepared for the last judgment often mentioned in the N.T. (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). "The absolute purity of this Supreme Court is symbolized by the colour of the Throne" (Swete) as in Daniel 7:9; Psalms 9:1; Psalms 97:2. The name of God is not mentioned, but the Almighty Father sits upon the throne (Revelation 4:2; Revelation 4:9; Revelation 5:1; Revelation 5:7; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 19:4; Revelation 21:5), and the Son sits there with him (Hebrews 1:3) and works with the Father (John 5:19-21; John 10:30; Matthew 25:31; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1).

From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away (ου απο προσωπου εφυγεν η γε κα ο ουρανος). Second aorist (prophetic) active of φευγω. See Revelation 16:20. The non-eternity of matter is a common teaching in the O.T. (Psalms 97:5; Psalms 102:27; Isaiah 51:6) as in the N.T. (Mark 13:31; 2 Peter 3:10).

Was found (ευρεθη). First aorist passive indicative of ευρισκω. All is now spiritual. Even scientists today are speaking of the non-eternity of the universe.

Verse 12

The dead, the great and the small (τους νεκρους τους μεγαλους κα τους μικρους). The general resurrection of verse Revelation 20:13 is pictured by anticipation as already over. No living are mentioned after the battle of verses Revelation 20:7-10, though some will be living when Jesus comes to judge the quick and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). All classes and conditions (Revelation 11:18; Revelation 13:16; Revelation 19:5; Revelation 19:18) John saw "standing before the throne" (εστωτας ενωπιον του θρονου).

Books were opened (βιβλια ηνοιχθησαν). First aorist passive of ανοιγω. Like Daniel 7:10. The record of each human being has been kept in God's books.

Were judged (εκριθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of κρινω. The sentence upon each rests upon written evidence.

Another book which is the book of life (αλλο βιβλιον ο εστιν της ζωης). This book has already been mentioned (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). "It is the roll of living citizens of Jerusalem" (Swete), "the church of the first born enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23). The books are "the vouchers for the book of life" (Alford). We are saved by grace, but character at last (according to their works) is the test as the fruit of the tree (Matthew 7:16; Matthew 7:20; Matthew 10:32; Matthew 25:31-46; John 15:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:10; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

Verse 13

Gave up (εδωκεν). Just "gave" (first aorist active indicative of διδωμ), but for the sea to give is to give up (effective aorist). Sea as well as land delivers its dead (all kinds of dead, good and bad). Swete notes that accidental deaths will not prevent any from appearing. Milligan is sure that the sea here means "the sea of the troubled and sinful world."

Death and Hades (ο θανατος κα ο αιδης). "An inseparable pair" (Swete) as in Revelation 1:18; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 20:14. So in Matthew 16:18 "the gates of Hades" means the power of death. Etymologically Hades is the unseen world where all who die are as opposed to this visible world, but in actual use Hades is sometimes treated as the abode of the unrighteous (Luke 16:23). Charles thinks that this is true here, though there is nothing to show it apart from the personification of death and Hades and the casting of both into the lake of fire in verse Revelation 20:14. Here again "each man" (εκαστος) receives judgment according to his deeds (Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23).

Verse 14

Were cast (εβληθησαν). As the devil (Revelation 20:10) followed the two beasts (Revelation 19:20) into the same dread lake of fire. Death is personified and is disposed of, "the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26) and Paul sings the paean of victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54, from Hosea 13:14). Hades has no more terrors, for the saints are in heaven. There is no more fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), for death is no more (Revelation 21:4). The second death (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 21:8) is here identified as in Revelation 21:8 with the lake of fire.

Verse 15

If any was not found written in the book of life (ε τις ουχ ευρεθη εν τη βιβλω της ζωης). Condition of first class with ε and the first aorist passive indicative of ευρισκω. In this short sentence the doom is told of all who are out of Christ, for they too follow the devil and the two beasts into the lake of fire (the counterpart of the Gehenna of fire, Matthew 5:22). There is no room here for soul sleeping, for an intermediate state, for a second chance, or for annihilation of the wicked. In Daniel 12:2 there is a resurrection to death as well as to life and so in John 5:29; Acts 24:15.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 20". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/revelation-20.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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