Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 20:1

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Chains;   Key;   Millennium;   Pit;   Satan;   Vision;   Thompson Chain Reference - Keys;   The Topic Concordance - Devil/devils;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Creation;   Pit;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Millennium;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Abyss;   Pit;   Second Coming of Christ;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Croisade, or Crusade;   Millennium;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Amillennialism;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Millennium;   Pit;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Angels;   Devil;   Pit;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abyss;   Bottomless Pit;   Dispensation;   Dragon;   Jesus Christ;   Millennium;   Prison, Prisoners;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Chiliasm;   Time;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abyss;   Angels;   Ascension of Isaiah;   Chains;   Day of Judgment;   Descent into Hades;   Dragon ;   Key;   Keys;   Lake of Fire;   Resurrection;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Bottomless Pit;   Dispensation,;   Millennium;   Prophets, the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Fire;   Gog;   Satan;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Chain;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Abyss;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abyss, the;   Bottomless Pit;   Chain;   Key;   Keys, Power of;   Print;   Revelation of John:;   Satan;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Abyss;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Apocalypse;   Eschatology;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

An angel came down from heaven - One of the executors of the Divine justice, who receives criminals, and keeps them in prison, and delivers them up only to be tried and executed.

The key of the prison and the chain show who he is; and as the chain was great, it shows that the culprit was impeached of no ordinary crimes.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And I saw an angel come down from heaven - Compare the notes on Revelation 10:1. He does not say whether this angel had appeared to him before, but the impression is rather that it was a different one. The whole character of the composition of the book leads us to suppose that different angels were employed to make these communications to John, and that, in fact, in the progress of things disclosed in the book, he had contact with a considerable number of the heavenly inhabitants. The scene that is recorded here occurred after the destruction of the beast and the false prophet Revelation 19:18-21, and therefore, according to the principles expressed in the explanation of the previous chapters, what is intended to be described here will take place after the final destruction of the papal and Muhammedan powers.

Having the key of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 1:18; Revelation 9:1. The fact that he has the key of that underworld is designed to denote here, that he can fasten it on Satan so that it shall become his prison.

And a great chain in his hand - With which to bind the dragon, Revelation 20:2. It is called great because of the strength of him that was to be bound. The chain only appears to have been in his hand. Perhaps the key was suspended to his side.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And I saw an angel come down from heaven,.... All Christ's enemies, and Satan's instruments being removed, the devil is left alone, and only stands in the way of Christ's kingdom; and what will be done to him, and how he will be in the issue disposed of, this vision gives an account: by the "angel" John saw, is not to be understood Constantine the great; for though he is the man child that was taken up to God, and his throne, being advanced to the empire, yet he cannot, with that propriety, be said to come down from heaven; and though he vanquished the Heathen emperors, in which the dragon presided, and cast Paganism out of the empire, by which the devil ruled in it, yet the binding of Satan is another kind of work, and seems too great for him; and besides, did not take place in his time, as will be seen hereafter: nor is an apostle, or a minister of the Gospel intended; such are indeed called angels in this book, and may be said to come down from heaven, because they have their commission from thence; and particularly the apostles had the keys of the kingdom of heaven, but not the key of the bottomless pit; and a chain and system of Gospel truths, which they made good use of for the establishing of Christ's kingdom, and weakening of Satan's, but not such a chain as is here meant; and they had the power of binding and loosing, or of declaring things lawful or unlawful, but not of binding and loosing of Satan; nor was he bound in the apostolic age: nor is one of the ministering spirits, or a deputation of angels designed; for though Christ will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, and will make use of them, both to gather together his elect, and to cast the wicked into the lake of fire, yet not to bind Satan; but the Lord Jesus Christ himself is this angel, who is the angel of God's presence, and of the covenant; and who is in this book called an angel, Revelation 7:2 to whom all the characters here well agree, and to whom the work of binding Satan most properly belongs; for who so fit to do it, or so capable of it, as the seed of the woman, that has bruised serpent's head, or as the Son of God, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, yea, to destroy him himself; and who dispossessed multitudes of devils from the bodies of men, and is the strong man armed that dislodges Satan from the souls of men, and is the same with Michael, who drove him from heaven, and cast him out from thence before, Revelation 12:7. And his coming down from heaven is not to be understood of his incarnation, or of his coming from thence by the assumption of human nature; for Satan was not bound by him then, as will be seen hereafter; but of his second coming, which will be from heaven, where he now is, and will be local, visible, and personal: of no other coming of his does this book speak, as seen by John, or as future; nor will the order of this vision, after the ruin of the beast and false prophet, admit of any other.

Having the key of the bottomless pit: the abyss or deep, the same out of which the beast ascended, Revelation 11:7. And the key of this becomes no hand so well as his who has the keys of hell and death, Revelation 1:18 who has all power in heaven and in earth, and has the power of hell, of opening and shutting it at his pleasure, which is signified by this phase; see Revelation 9:1. The Ethiopic version reads, "the key of the sun", where some have thought hell to be; and yet the same version renders the word, the deep, in Revelation 20:3.

And a great chain in his hand; the key in one hand, and the chain in another; by which last is meant, not any material chain, with which spirits cannot be bound, nor indeed sometimes bodies possessed by evil spirits, Mark 5:3 but the almighty power of Christ, which he will now display in binding Satan faster and closer than ever.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And 1 I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key 2 of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

(1) Now follows the third part of the prophetic history, which is of the victory by which Christ overcame the dragon, as I noted in (Revelation 7:1). This part must necessarily be joined with the end of the twelfth chapter and be applied to the correct understanding of it. This chapter has two parts, one of the dragon overcome, to (Revelation 20:2-10): the other of the resurrection and last judgment to (Revelation 20:11-15). The story of the dragon is twofold: First of the first victory, after which he was bound by Christ, to the sixth verse (Revelation 20:1-6). The second is of the last victory, by which he has thrown down into everlasting punishment, there to the fifteenth verse (Revelation 20:7-15). This first history happened in the first time of the Christian Church, when the dragon thrown down from heaven by Christ, went about to molest the new birth of the Church in the earth, (Revelation 12:17), (Revelation 18:1). For which cause I gave warning, that this story of the dragon must be joined to that passage. {(2)} That is, of hell, where God threw the angels who had sinned, and bound them in chains of darkness to be kept till damnation, (2 Peter 2:4)
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Revelation 20:1-15. Satan bound, and the first-risen saints reign with Christ, a thousand years; Satan loosed, gathers the nations, Gog and Magog, round the camp of the saints, and is finally consigned to the Lake of Fire; The general resurrection and last judgment.

The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he had given his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself for a thousand years.

the key of the bottomless pit — now transferred from Satan‘s hands, who had heretofore been permitted by God to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth; he is now to be made to feel himself the torment which he had inflicted on men, but his full torment is not until he is cast into “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Coming down out of heaven (καταβαινοντα εκ του ουρανουkatabainonta ek tou ouranou). As in Revelation 10:1; Revelation 18:1.

The key of the abyss (την κλειν της αβυσσουtēn klein tēs abussou). As in Revelation 9:1.

A great chain (αλυσιν μεγαληνhalusin megalēn). Paul wore a αλυσιςhalusis (alpha privative and λυωluō to loose) in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16, as did Peter in prison in Jerusalem (Acts 12:6).

In his hand (επι την χειρα αυτουepi tēn cheira autou). “Upon his hand,” ready for use. See επιepi with the genitive in Revelation 1:20.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Of the bottomless pit

See on Revelation 9:1. This is to be distinguished from the lake of fire. Compare Revelation 20:10.

Chain ( ἅλυσιν )

See on Mark 5:4. Only here in John's writings.

In his hand ( ἐπί )

Lit., upon: resting on or hanging upon.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And I saw an angel decending out of heaven - Coming down with a commission from God. Jesus Christ himself overthrew the beast: the proud dragon shall be bound by an angel; even as he and his angels were cast out of heaven by Michael and his angels. Having the key of the bottomless pit - Mentioned before, Revelation 9:1 . And a great chain in his hand - The angel of the bottomless pit was shut up therein before the beginning of the first woe. But it is now first that Satan, after he had occasioned the third woe, is both chained and shut up.
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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

A great chain; such as was used for the confinement of prisoners.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

Ver. 1. And I saw an angd] Constantine the Great, the Church’s male child, Revelation 12:5.

Having the key] Not that key, Revelation 9:1, but another.

A great chain] The succession of Christian emperors.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 20:1.— This chapter represents a new state of the church, upon its deliverance from the persecution and corruption of the third period, or during the reign of the two beasts, or 1260 prophetic days or years. That long state of oppression is to be followed by a long continuance of peace, and prosperity. A fourth period is described, which, among other characters, is to last for a thousand years. The two first periods ended in a deliverance of the church; but those deliverances were of short continuance, and attended with considerable defects; but now, after the church shall have passed through this third trial of faith and patience, it is to attain a state of very great prosperity, and to remain in it for a considerable length of time. This is that happy state of the church, which, from the continuation of it for a thousand years, is usually called the Millennium. The description we have of it in this chapter, is very short,containedinthefirstsixverses:interpreters,however,have abundantly supplied what they thought wanting in the propheticaccount,—out of their own invention, it is to be feared, rather than from sure and well-grounded principles of judgment. No wonder then that they have differed so much about the true meaning of a prophesy, in which they have mixed so many of their own imaginations; so that the disputes seem not so much what is the intention of the Spirit of prophesy, as which of the interpreters has the finest or the warmest imagination. Let us then carefully endeavour to distinguish what the Spirit of prophesy plainly intends, from what uncertain conjectures or doubtful reasonings may suggest to our minds, for a more distinct and particular account.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

This chapter begins with a fresh and glorious vision which St. John had of an angel's descending from heaven, to bind Satan for a thousand years; and herein we have observable,

1. The person binding, the angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus (for he only has the keys of the bottomless pit, of hell, and of death, Revelation 1:18. This angel is here said to come down from heaven, and with a great chain in his hand, denoting his omnipotent power and sovereignty over Satan, and his ability to restrain him.

Observe, 2. The person bound, Satan; where mark, that he is set forth here by five names, he is called the Dragon, the Serpent, the Old Serpent, the Devil, and Satan.

And note, Christ's power is set forth in as many terms as the devil has titles, he is said to lay hold on him, to bind him, to cast him into the bottomless pit, to shut him in, or seal him up for a thousand years, that is, to restrain him and render him incapable of doing such mischief to the world as he had done before.

Observe, 3. What we are to understand by Christ's binding Satan: some thereby do understand Christ's overthrowing the power of the devil in the heathen world; his casting down those strong holds of Satan, to wit, ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and lying oracles, by the light and power of the gospel, preached among the Gentiles; his curbing of Satan, that he should no more cozen the world with heathenish delusions as he had done.

Others understand this binding of Satan to be after the destruction of antichrist; when the Jews shall be converted, and there shall follow a quiet and peaceable state of the church for a long time, styled here a thousand years; during which time Satan shall be bound, and there shall be no molestation from him.

From the whole learn, That be the devil never so devilish, Christ has power to overpower him. Christ has a great chain in his hand to bind Satan: intimating, that how mighty and malicious soever Satan is, Christ has him as a dog in a chain.

But observe a little, how Christ's power meets with and masters Satan's power: the devil carries power in his name, he is called a dragon; in his nature, as being an angel; in his numbers, which are numberless: but Christ overpowereth him, so that he cannot do his own will without him; he bound him in the execution of his malice, though his malice be boundless.

Satan is bound in a double chain, in a chain of justice, and in a chain of providence; he cannot move a foot either to tempt or trouble us, without a permission from Christ.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 20:1. αγγελον, an angel) Cluver interprets it of a created angel, T. iii. Dil. p. 321. Primasius, in the summary of his fifth book, and Ticonius, in his 17th homily, Andreas of Cæsareia, in his 20th discourse, connect the 19th and 20th chapters most intimately. John Frid. Schmid acknowledges that the destruction of antichrist (in what sense he understands antichrist does not belong to the present subject) is prior to the millennium, and that he who denies this incurs the punishment predicted, ch. Revelation 22:18-19. See Chronol. Anleitung, Part II. p. 316.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible


Revelation 20:1-3 Satan bound for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6 The first resurrection.

Revelation 20:7-9 Satan again let loose gathereth Gog and Magog to

battle, who are devoured with fire.

Revelation 20:10 The devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

Revelation 20:11-15 The general resurrection, and last judgment.

Chapter Introduction

We are now come to the darkest part of the whole revelation. What is meant by the thousand years, and the first and second resurrection, and by Gog and Magog, Revelation 20:1-15, or the new heavens and new earth, and the Jerusalem coming down from heaven, discoursed on, Revelation 21:1-22:21, is very hard to say, and possibly much more cannot with any probability be conjectured as to them than hath been already said. I shall only tell my reader that, leaving him to judge what is most probable, and leaving it to he Divine Providence to give us a certain and infallible exposition of what is contained in these last three chapters.

The description of this angel can agree to none but Christ, or one that exerciseth a power by delegation from him: for, Revelation 1:18, it is he who hath the power of hell and death; and it is he who alone is stronger than the devil, which must be supposed to him that binds him, or we must think the devil much tamer than he is.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

от бездны Место, куда заключены бесы, ожидая исполнения последнего наказания в озере огненном (см. пояснение к 9:1; 2Пет. 2:4).

(20:1 - 22:21) Глава 19-я заканчивается битвой при Армагеддоне и вторым пришествием Христа – событиями, которые означают конец времени великой скорби (годины искушения). События главы 20-й – сковывание сатаны, Тысячелетнее земное Царство Христа, последнее обольщение и великий суд у белого престола – хронологически проходят между окончанием великой скорби и созданием нового неба и новой земли, описанных в гл. 21 и 22.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


The Overthrow of Satan. The Devil is seized, and bound for a thousand Years. Christ's Reign with his Saints. Satan for a short Time loosed. The general Judgment. The Devil cast into the Lake of Fire, where the Beast and the False Prophet are. All cast into Hell, whose Names are not found written in the Book of Life.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible


(Chapter 20)


The interpretation of this chapter is largely determined by the view already taken of the preceding chapters. After the introductory letters to the seven churches, the vision of the final judgment has already appeared six times in the preceding chapters:

In the relation of the seals (Revelation 6:12-17).

In the relation of the trumpets, the judgment of the world city (Revelation 11:14-19).

In the harvest of the earth (Revelation 14:14-20).

At the pouring out of the vials of wrath (Revelation 16:12-20).

In the judgment of the harlot (Revelation 18:21-24).

In the judgment of the scarlet beast (Revelation 19:19-21).SIZE>

From this, it should naturally be expected that the seventh and final presentation of the judgment should describe the overthrow of the devil himself; and that is exactly what is depicted in this chapter (Revelation 20:7-15).

There is only one judgment day visible in the entire Bible; and these seven views of it are all descriptive of one and the same event. Each of the seven sections of this prophecy (classified according to the judgment scenes) is a recapitulation in the chronological sense, all of the prophecies principally relating to the time between the two Advents of Christ.

Beginning back in Revelation 12:1, the three great enemies of Christ were introduced in successive visions: (1) the dragon, identified as Satan himself; (2) the sea-beast with seven heads and ten horns, identified as persecuting government; and (3) the land-beast, later identified as the harlot, and still later as the false prophet, identifiable throughout as false religion, first as paganism, then as apostate Christianity and the derivatives of it.

Significantly, in this prophecy, all three of these great enemies are vanquished in reverse order: the harlot (Revelation 18), the sea-beast (in his final form of the "ten kings," the eighth head) (Revelation 19), and the devil (Revelation 20). All of these enemies perish in the lake of fire simultaneously. And this is a good place to pay some particular attention to the "lake of fire."


Like practically everything else in Revelation, this is not literal, because the same terror is envisioned as a pool, or river of blood two hundred miles long (Revelation 14:20), the total silence and inactivity of being found "no more at all" (Revelation 18:21-24), and the innumerable dead bodies of the kings, captains, mighty men, small and great, etc., with the birds gorging themselves upon their flesh, as well as upon the flesh of animals (horses)! None of these figures is literal; yet, strangely enough, the "lake of fire" seems generally to be construed as a literal reality. Of course, it could be! But, as we have pointed out before in this series, the figures which are used to describe this reality, whatever it is, do not fit neatly into any patent description of it. Christ called it an "outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 15:30), "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41), "hell, the unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:44), "hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48). In this latter reference, Jesus seems to have referred to the valley of Hinnom, the New Testament Gehenna, which was the garbage dump of Jerusalem. It is clear enough that no imaginable visualization can include all these figures.

Therefore, we do not think it is profitable to offer any description of this terrible place of eternal punishment. The thought that overwhelms us is, "How utterly unspeakable and absolutely terrible must be a punishment which requires such metaphors to represent it!" Recognizing that this language does indeed seem to be metaphorical affords no relief. The reality is always greater than the symbol of it!

This chapter describes the overthrow of Satan in hell; but the harlot is not first destroyed, then the beast, then the devil; they all continue alive and operative until the last and all go down together. Nevertheless, this chapter relates particularly to Satan's overthrow and to the nature and extent of his opposition to God throughout the whole Christian period. It is not a description of the church's fortunes on earth, except as they are related to the overthrow of the devil. The "thousand years" mentioned six times in Revelation 20:1-7 relate to the limitations which God imposed upon Satan throughout the Christian age and have no reference at all to the so-called "millennium" of popular fancy. Due to the widespread false theories regarding this, we have included here a special study of it.


I. The history of the doctrine. The first millennarians were the heretics who troubled the church of Thessalonica with their theory that "the day of the Lord is just at hand" (2 Thessalonians 2:2); and the canonical 2Thessalonians was dispatched by the apostle Paul for the express purpose of refuting them. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, the theory recurred in various forms a number of times. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and other notables were premillennarians of varying degrees. Some of their speculations would put modern millennialists to shame:

The elders that saw John, the disciple of the Lord, state that they heard him say how the Lord used to teach in regard to those times (the millennium) and say: The days will come when vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and each branch ten thousand twigs, and each twig ten thousand shoots, and each shoot ten thousand clusters, and in every cluster ten thousand grapes; and every grape would yield twenty-five meters of wine![1]

As is so often true, one extreme begets another, and the wild millennial theories of the Ante-Nicene period were destroyed in the "spiritualized" speculations of Augustine and Origen. Origen invented the doctrine of purgatory, and Augustine came up with original sin and total hereditary depravity. Origen was of the third century and Augustine of the fourth; and, after the fourth century, premillennarianism became a dormant heresy, dormant, but not dead.

It sprang to life again in the 19th century, due to: (1) a revival of interest in studying the Scriptures; (2) the marvelous scientific advancements; and (3) the special activity of Satan which always appears with renewed preaching of the truth. This was the period that saw the epochal work of Stone, Kelly, Smith, Campbell, Scott, and many others. By the year 1843, the premillennarian prophet William Miller had over one million followers at a time when the total population of North America was only 16,000,000. He announced the end of the world in 1831, which was followed by an unusual meteorite shower on November 13,1833. That display of "the falling stars" confirmed the faith of many in Miller, as did also a comet in 1844. After several recalculations, he finally set the date of the End for October 23,1844.

Incredible numbers of people disposed of all earthly possessions and streamed out of Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities to the countryside to see the great event. Some wore white ascension robes; and one prominent Philadelphian in a white robe calmly stepped out of a third-story window to fly to heaven. Some tried to make it from high bridges. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a respectable citizen wearing turkey wings tried to make it from the top of an elm tree. Thousands crawled around on their knees with others on their backs in imitation of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on an ass!

When the sun rose with the world still intact, Miller's followers, with their robes damp and dirty, made their sorrowful return to homes and businesses, if fortunate enough to have either left. Old, weary, and tired, Miller checked and rechecked his calculations for several years and then died still wondering. It does seem that such a disaster would have given other "prophets" pause; but Uriah Smith, Charles T. Russell, and "Judge" Rutherford took up where Miller left off. The world would come to an end every few years. Sensational leaflets announcing that "millions now living will never die" were placed in every home in the United States announcing the end of the world in 1914, later "revised" to 1919. Finally, Rutherford decided that "it did end"! in 1914. His followers, Jehovah's Witnesses, still preach that it did![2]

II. Complexity of the doctrine. Two separate systems of millennarianism are pre-millennarianism and post-millennarianism, as related to the coming of Christ. The "pre's" believe Christ will come before the millennium, and the "post's" believe the millennium will occur first. The "pre" type is more common. Here is an incomplete summary of what is taught:

1. At the start of the millennium, Christ will literally return to earth and personally take charge of all things for literally one thousand years.

2. He will reign from Jerusalem on the literal throne of David.

3. The righteous dead shall be raised with immortal bodies to help the Lord reign over people with normal bodies.

4. The Lord will personally convert the whole world, who, though they reject the gospel, will receive him.

5. After 1,000 years, the Lord will suddenly turn the devil loose, and the Great Tribulation will follow.

6. The righteous will be caught up (the Rapture) to escape all this.

7. There will be a series of judgments ranging from two to seven, depending on the form of the theory believed.

8. During the Great Tribulation, Enoch and Elijah, who never died, will return to earth, preach Christ, suffer martyrdom, and then be raised from the dead and go on preaching!

9. The Jews will all be converted and rally around Christ in Jerusalem. Rejecting the gospel, they will nevertheless accept Christ!

10. The church becomes a step-child, or a concubine, in all millennially related speculations. It will be totally swallowed up in the glories of the millennium.

11. Resurrections are as plentiful as judgments, depending on the shade of the heresy advocated.

12. Some even assert that the wicked dead will rise and be given a second chance to accept Christ.

These are only a few of the "stock in trade" speculations of millennarians, and are merely typical. In all probability, this summary does not accurately represent the views of any particular brand of it.

III. Present status of the heresy. Some form of this speculation is today the accepted doctrine of countless thousands. It is not confined to denominational groups, but cuts across all party lines and labels. Whole congregations of many Protestant churches have been swallowed by it. The widespread de-emphasis of the importance of Christ's church stems, in part, from this heresy.

Many books and study systems, and even some Bibles (notably, Scofield) and countless preachers are busy spreading this false doctrine. Some churches have lost all denominational identity, except that of the millennial label. The error is widespread, active, aggressive, and endemic.

IV. Doctrinal refutation. As Milligan wrote, "Millennialism is liable to sundry very grave objections, some of which seem to me to be wholly unanswerable."[3] "This whole scheme is in my judgment, and not in mine only, but in that of the vast majority of believing Bible students of all the ages, entirely untenable.[4] "All of the creeds of the Christian church, ancient or modern, Catholic or Protestant, are amillennarian (non-millennarian). Chiliasm has not found recognition in any one of them."[5] What are the objections?


1. It is based upon a literalism of Revelation 20:1-7, a passage which should be interpreted symbolically. It is ridiculous to suppose that the devil could be caught and tied with a literal chain and imprisoned in a pit with no bottom in it!

2. The literal return of Christ to earth could not add anything to him who already has "all authority" in heaven and upon earth (Matthew 28:18-20). Christ is already seated on the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1); bringing him back to earth and placing him in a literal throne in Jerusalem would be more than the equivalent of demoting a five-star general to the grade of private.

3. The physical and liberal return of Christ to earth would cancel and nullify all the benefits of his ascension. He said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for, if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you" (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit could not operate if Christ were literally on earth. His return would mean the end of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

4. His physical, literal return would cancel and deny his office as the holy high priest of our sacred religion. "Now, if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all" (Hebrews 8:4).

5. When Christ comes again, he will give the kingdom back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:22-24). The Second Advent will be the occasion when Christ ends his reign, not when he begins it.

6. Christ is now reigning on David's throne (Acts 2:30-31). The only possible objection to this is that it places David's throne in heaven; but that is exactly where the Old Testament says it would be (Psalms 89:35-37 KJV).

7. The whole system belittles the church, a view flatly contradicted by Ephesians 3:21; Acts 20:28, etc.

8. It denies the power of the gospel. The gospel cannot save people, especially the Jews, but Christ can! When Christ comes, it will not be to convert anybody, but to judge the ungodly sinners who rejected his gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

9. Such speculations deny the truth that "no man knoweth the day, nor the hour, of our Lord's return" (Matthew 24:36). One may only marvel at the gullibility of people who trust some "prophet" who pretends that he knows.

10. The whole complex of multiple resurrections and judgments prevalent in all phases of this heresy is contrary to the plain words of the whole Bible. There is only one literal resurrection of the dead and only one judgment, repeatedly referred to by Christ as "the judgment." Scofield Bible fabricates multiple judgments; but this is a perversion of the sacred Scriptures.

11. The millennial heresies, whether "pre" or "post," deny the many New Testament passages (1 Corinthians 10:11; Acts 2:16,17, etc.) which designate the current era as "the last days."

12. The millennialists read into Revelation 20 an immense amount of material that does not belong there.[6]

13. There is not a word in the entire Bible about any "Millennium," except as it is imported into the first seven verses of this chapter.

14. The many theories constructed on these verses are mutually contradictory and destructive of each other. There is no generally accepted or agreed upon theory of a millennium. Thoughtless and reckless indeed is the man who can devote his time, money, study, talent, and teaching to that which at best is an uncertain and illusive theory, and one that practically the entire company of Christian scholarship of all ages and shades of belief have found it utterly impossible to accept. In a word, the theory is absolutely preposterous and ridiculous.

We not only reject all millennial theories, but also the supportive interpretations which have been concocted in order to bolster them. Such things as the Great Tribulation, the Rapture, the Resurrection of the Martyrs in a separate resurrection, which have no proof at all in the New Testament, are among the concepts rejected.

[1] J. C. Ayer, Jr., Source Book of Ancient Church History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons).

[2] See Reader's Digest, January 1943, for many of these details.

[3] Robert Milligan, The Scheme of Redemption (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1960), p. 571.

[4] Albertus Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 295.

[5] Ibid., p. 311.

[6] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 296.

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. (Revelation 20:1)

An angel coming down out of heaven ... This angel is not Christ; one nameless angel is all that Christ needed to dispatch Satan finally and irrevocably.

Having the key of the abyss ... "In all the places where abyss is used (Revelation 9:1; 2:11; 11:7; 17:8, including Luke 8:31), the word signifies the present abode of Satan and his angels, not the place of their final punishment."[7] In only one New Testament passage, does it mean anything different (Romans 10:7). The "key" here indicates that, "Power is given to this angel over Satan during the time of the world's existence."[8]

And a great chain, in his hand ... The Greek text here is literally "upon his hand" (ASV margin), and this corresponds to the word of God being "upon the hand" of the angel in Revelation 10:2. Thus the chain is seen to be the word of God. Who can conceive of any other "chain" that would restrain and control the activity of Satan? One little word of Christ is enough to bind Satan for a thousand years. Hendriksen also identified this passage with 12:7-9, where another scene of Satan's restraint is given.[9] There also the period of binding is the entire Christian age; and this is the key to understanding the meaning of the 1,000 years in this passage. In that passage, the woman was protected from Satan a thousand, two hundred and three score days, the same period as the binding about to be related here, meaning in both cases the whole Christian age.

[7] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 470.

[8] Ibid.

[9] William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 221.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The first word, "And," supports the idea of chronological sequence. It implies a continuation from what John just revealed (cf. Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:17; Revelation 19:19; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:11-12; Revelation 21:1-2; Revelation 21:22). Amillennial interpreters disagree. [Note: Beale, pp974-83.]

"John says nothing to place this chapter in the time sequence." [Note: Morris, p235. Jack Deere answered this objection very effectively in "Premillennialism in Revelation 20:4-6," Bibliotheca Sacra135:537 (January-March1978):60-62. Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp404-5, is also helpful here.]

It is logical that having judged the beast and the false prophet ( Revelation 19:20) Jesus Christ should next deal with Satan. God assigned an angel to bind Satan. Previously God cast Satan out of heaven ( Revelation 12:9), and now He cast him out of the earth. This is the end of Satan"s "short time" in which God allowed him to spread havoc on the earth ( Revelation 12:12). This angel now has the key to the abyss (cf. Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Luke 8:31; Romans 10:7). The binding of Satan is real, though the chain must be figurative since it is impossible to bind spirit beings with physical chains (cf. Revelation 9:14). Though Jesus Christ defeated Satan at the Cross ( Luke 10:18; John 12:31; John 16:11), He did not bind him then nor will He bind him until the beginning of the Millennium. Presently Satan has considerable freedom to attack God"s people and oppose His work (cf. Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 20:1. And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain upon his hand. We have here the second angel after the appearance of the Lord Himself at chap. Revelation 19:11. This angel comes down ‘out of heaven,’ commissioned therefore by God, and clothed with His power. He has the key of the ‘abyss,’ which can be no other than that of chaps. Revelation 9:1-2, Revelation 11:7, and Revelation 17:8. It is the abode of Satan, the home and source of all evil. It has a key, and this key is in the hands of Christ (comp. chap. Revelation 1:18). By Him it is entrusted to the angel for the execution of His purposes. At chap. Revelation 9:2 the angel opened the abyss; here he locks it. In addition to the key the angel has a great chain upon his hand, i.e hanging over his open hand and dropping down on either side. The chain is ‘great’ because of the end to which it is to be applied and its fitness to secure it.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

saw. App-133.

come = coming.

from. App-104.

heaven. See Revelation 3:12.

in = upon. Greek. epi.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he gave his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself a thousand years.

The key of the bottomless pit - transferred from Satan's hands, heretofore permitted to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth: he is now to feel himself the torment which he inflicted on men: his full torment is not until he is cast into "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers


(1) And I saw an angel come down . . .—Rather, And I saw an angel descending out of the heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain on (not merely in his hand, but hanging from it as it would do when on) his hand. It is needless to settle who is represented by this angel. It is enough that in the vision he manifests by the key and the chain which he carries that there is power in Him, who has the keys of death and of Hades (Revelation 1:18), to bind, as He has death-wounded, him that had the power of death. The bottomless pit is the abyss, as we have had elsewhere (Revelation 9:1; Revelation 11:7; and Revelation 17:8. Comp. Luke 8:31); it is figuratively the abode of the devil and his associate angels (Matthew 25:41).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
I saw
10:1; 18:1
1:18; 9:1,2; Luke 8:31
a great
2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6
Reciprocal: Genesis 3:15 - it shall;  Job 2:6 - save;  Job 21:22 - he judgeth;  Job 33:28 - will deliver;  Psalm 68:20 - unto;  Psalm 72:11 - all nations;  Psalm 91:13 - the dragon;  Isaiah 35:9 - No lion;  Isaiah 59:19 - the Spirit;  Isaiah 63:3 - and of the people;  Daniel 7:9 - till;  Zechariah 9:8 - no;  Zechariah 13:2 - unclean;  Matthew 8:31 - GeneralMatthew 12:29 - GeneralMatthew 16:19 - the keys;  Matthew 22:44 - till;  Mark 3:27 - GeneralMark 4:31 - is less than;  Mark 5:7 - that;  Luke 8:28 - I beseech;  Luke 11:22 - GeneralActs 2:35 - thy foes;  Romans 16:20 - shall;  Revelation 11:17 - thou hast;  Revelation 16:17 - into;  Revelation 20:3 - cast

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Bottomless pit is from ABUSSOS which means the place in Hades where angels are cast when they sin and where wicked men go when they die.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 20:1

Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

John had seen

the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan,

and his angels, cast out of the Roman papal kingdom and dominion. Revelation 12:7-10 And here John had revealed unto him how the dragon (as a conquered enemy, and wretched captive) is bound, and made a close prisoner for a thousand years, after the destruction of the Roman papal kingdom and dominion. This angel is Christ, as appears, first, by the place whence he came;

And I saw an angel come down from Heaven

1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7. Secondly, by the emblem of his power and great authority

Having the key of the bottomless pit,

Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7. Thirdly, by the means of executing his great power.

And a great chain in his hand.

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 20:1". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation".