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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

Satan Bound for 1000 years

Though the Beast and the False Prophet have been (in Revelation 19:1-21) consigned to the Lake of Fire, the wicked spirit Satan who influenced them is not immediately sent there. Rather an angel (not the Lord) is delegated to take Satan captive and to secure him in the pit of "the abyss" for the specified time of one thousand years (vv. 1-3). A seal is set upon him: there is no possibility of escape. The object of this limited imprisonment is that he might not deceive the nations for a thousand years. "After that he must be loosed a little season."

Of course the great wisdom of God is in this. While this thousand years will be a time of unparalleled peace and blessing on earth for mankind, with the Lord of glory establishing peace on earth and reigning from heaven (v. 4), yet sin will still be present. There will be great numbers at the end of the millennial reign who are not born of God. Some will have entered the Millennium unregenerate, for Psalms 18:43-45 (J.N.D.) speaks of strangers coming cringing to Messiah, obeying Him because of fear, not faith. Great numbers also born during that time will not bow the heart to the Lord Jesus, though outwardly subject because circumstances of every kind will be pleasant and favorable (Isaiah 65:17-25). The loosing of Satan at the end will serve to manifest what is really in their hearts.

The First Resurrection Completed

(Three Distinct Groups)

Another sight attracts John's attention (v. 4), this time clearly in heaven, for thrones are seen along with those raised to live and reign with Christ. First there is a company who sit upon thrones, with judgment (administrative rule) given them. These are manifestly the elders whom we have before seen enthroned (Revelation 4:4) as representing all saints of the Old and New Testaments who were raptured at the Lord's coming just before the beginning of the Tribulation Period.

A second company is comprised of those who had been martyred for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God during the first half of the Tribulation Period. That company was seen in Revelation 6:9-11 (though possibly at that time not yet complete). A third company is comprised of those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and therefore martyred during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 13:15). These are all raised from the dead.

While these three companies are distinguished, they are linked together as living and reigning with Christ (in heaven, of course) for a thousand years. This therefore includes all of those who at this future time have been raised from death as well as the living taken at the Rapture. The rest of the dead will not be raised until the end of the thousand years (v. 5). They will have their part in the second resurrection-a resurrection to damnation or judgment (John 5:29). Referring to verse 4 the declaration is made, "This is the first resurrection: " it will be complete when the martyrs are raised at the end of the Tribulation, but of course it includes all who have been raised before. Thus the first resurrection includes all true believers who have left this world. Christ was the firstfruits of the first resurrection, then all who are His at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23). "His coming" here embraces both aspects of it, the Rapture and His Appearing.

Those who have part in the first resurrection are blessed and holy (v. 6): their happiness is complete and they are set apart for God's glory for eternity. The second death (eternal separation from God) has no effect whatever in regard to them, but it will in regard to all who are raised in the second resurrection to judgment. The first or physical death is separation of the spirit and soul from the body. The second death is eternal separation of the unsaved (though physically resurrected) from God under His judgment in hell, the Lake of Fire. All of those in the first resurrection are said to be priests of God and of Christ, though not all are of the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Many Old Testament scriptures speak of the blessedness of the thousand years' reign of righteousness. A few samples of this are: Psalms 21:1-6; Psalms 24:1-10; Psalms 36:5-9; Psalms 96:1-13; Psalms 98:1-9 and Isaiah 11:1-10; Isaiah 12:1-6. But these wonderful things are not mentioned here in Revelation.

Satan Loosed: His Last Effort of Rebellion

The thousand years will prove the faithfulness and goodness of God to His creation in every public way. There will be no cause of complaint. Yet at the end of this, Satan will be loosed from his prison (v. 7). Immediately he resumes his deceiving tactics (v. 8). It seems hard to imagine that people then will become so grossly unreasoning as to receive his false witness against a God who had proven His unfailing goodness toward them. But unrenewed mankind hates authority, no matter how good and considerate. All the unbelieving world blindly accepts Satan's authority which leads them to a final earthly destruction. God allows Satan's activity to expose what is in their hearts, and earth is cleansed of the last unbeliever.

When Satan is loosed and allowed to again deceive the nations, the number of those revolting against God is astonishing. They come from every direction of the earth (vv. 8-9). They are characterized as "Gog and Magog." In Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29 we also read of Gog and Magog, but in a different connection, for there they come from "the far north" (Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15) and are addressed as "the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal" (Ezekiel 38:3). Of course the furthest north nation today is Russia. This great northern attack, (with the help of Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer and Beth-togarmah) will take place at the beginning of the Millennial reign, when they attack "a land that is brought back from the sword" (v. 8)-Israel,-but will fall on the mountains of Israel. The King of the North comes from immediately north of Israel. Gog and Magog is from the far north.

This second "Gog and Magog" embraces far more than the first, for its forces come from every quarter of the world. Its name denotes its atheistic character, just as it does in the former attack, but now affecting a far larger territory. Gog means "to surmount" or "to top" while Magog means "to overtop." This reminds us of Agag, king of Amalek (1 Samuel 15:32-33), meaning "I will overtop," for it involves the pride of people always seeking to dethrone God so that they may rule.

God allows them to come so far as to surround the city of Jerusalem (v. 9), for He will wait until they are congregated there with their full show of united force before the awesome judgment of fire from God out of heaven falls on them in sudden, devastating destruction. There is no indication of Israelites being involved in this rebellion, for they then will be a nation born of God, with Jerusalem called "the beloved city." Because that city will represent God in His dealings with the earth, it will be made the object of attack. This will be the last attempt by mankind, energized by Satan, to seek to overthrow the authority of God. If not born again, people refuse to learn, though surrounded by innumerable witnesses. This attack will not be simply against the Son of Man, but directly against God: therefore it is appropriate that the judgment of fire is from God out of heaven.

At this time (not at the Great White Throne) the devil who had led this senseless revolt, comes to the end of his history of wicked deception. God has allowed the evil of his character to serve God's great purposes of truth and faithfulness, but Satan's long history only confirms his stubborn, unbending hatred against God. He is assigned to the Lake of Fire with its eternal, incessant torment, which he and the Beast and the False Prophet share (v. 10). It seems likely that at this time also the devil's fallen angels receive the same doom (Isaiah 24:21), for we know that this everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). However, the time they are consigned there is not specifically stated.

The Great White Throne

Following this, the Great White Throne is set, awesome in its pure, spotless magnificence (v. 11). He who sits on it is the Son of God, the Son of Man, for the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22). The earth and the heavens flee from the glory of His face.This appears to be the fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:10, the earth and the heaven passing away by a fire of great heat. Nothing is said as to how the godly who lived through the Millennium will be preserved, but it is likely that their bodies will be changed at that time, and that they will be present to witness the Great White Throne judgment, as will the heavenly saints, for John represents them all when he says, "I saw a Great White Throne" (v. 11). It seems evident that this stupendous event will call for the witness of all creation. The heaven here spoken of is the firmament (the sky) that surrounds the earth, not "the heaven of heavens" (Deuteronomy 10:14 -KJV) or "the third heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2).

The dead small and great stand before the throne (v. 12). They formerly were physically dead and remain spiritually dead. Their physical resurrection is not mentioned here, but verse 5 has already referred to that and John 5:29 speaks of "the resurrection of judgment" which obviously refers to this final, individual judgment of the Great White Throne. In what character of body the unsaved are raised we are not told, but since it is the things done in the body that must be brought to account (2 Corinthians 5:10), then it is in their literal body that people will receive their judgment.

The books are opened, for in these are recorded all the works of all who stand there. No believer will be among them, for all believers who ever die will have been raised in the first resurrection. The book of life also is opened to confirm that the names of all who stand there are not written in it. They are all judged according to their works. This being the case, there is no possibility of their escaping the Lake of Fire. They have depended on their works to save them, but those works can only condemn them. Their works will not all have been the same, and the judgment will be perfectly just. Luke 12:47-48 shows that some will receive many stripes in the way of punishment, others fewer. The degree of guilt will determine the degree of punishment, but the place and duration of punishment is the same for every unbeliever. They were before under condemnation, having not believed in the Son of God (John 3:18). Now sentence is carried out.

While this chapter shows that all who stand before the Great White Throne will be judged according to their works, John 5:24 is very clear that believers will not come into judgment: Christ has borne the judgment for them in His sacrifice of Calvary (1 Peter 2:24). Their works, however, will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) with rewards given for everything done for God's glory, while works to the contrary will be burned up.

On the other hand the ungodly have refused the Son of God whose sacrifice is the only atonement for human guilt. Therefore they themselves must bear the judgment that their sins deserve. Nothing is missed. Things they had hoped were forgotten will face them in all the horror of their character of rebellion against the living God.

The sea giving up the dead (v. 13) involves millions who perished in the flood of Noah, thousands who have drowned in maritime disasters, and even those whose bodies were cremated and their ashes consigned to the sea in an attempt to hide from God. God knows where to find the physical remains of all. Those in death and hades are not a separate company, but include all who have died unregenerate. Death is the physical state of the body while hades (meaning "the unseen") is the state of the spirit and soul as separated from the body. By resurrection they are brought out of those two conditions of death and hades.

Death and hades are said to be cast into the Lake of Fire, indicating that there will be no more separating of the soul and spirit from the body. The second resurrection has ended these conditions. Yet consignment to the Lake of Fire is called "the second death." It is not a physical separation of the spirit from the body, but a most solemn separation of the entire person from God, and as verse 10 has shown, it means "torment day and night forever and ever."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/revelation-20.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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