Slaying of the Serpent
Do not fear the devil. Don’t blame the devil for your sin.
This is probably the hardest chapter in the Bible to understand if you do not have a solid foundation. There’s a lot of theology wrapped up in the ten verses we’ll be covering today, and it will be hard work to understand them. I’m going to give you the application up front, then for those that want to dive a bit deeper, we can. You ready, here’s the application for this passage: Tremble before God, not Satan. If you remember to tremble before God, not Satan, you will have peace. And fearing the wrong things is a big deal to God. That’s why one of the most common commands of the Bible is “do not be afraid”, but says to fear God.
I want to remind you of what I said last week about triumphal entries. I’m going to leave it on the screen as I talk before and after the verses so you have a reference to what’s going on, because understanding this symbol is essential to understanding this passage. If you don’t understand the symbol, you can make it mean whatever you want:
“Remember 9/11”, Matthew 18:15-20, Phil. 4:13, etc.
1. Victor rides in on a white horse. (Rev. 19:11)
2. Victor wears a purple toga laced with golden thread over his tunic.
3. Victor wears a crown on his head, depicting himself as God.
4. Citizens wear white robes, honoring the victory of the emperor.
5. Emperor surrounded by his army, which would wears symbols of their victory.
6. Main attraction is the leader of the enemy bound in chains being led behind the white horse.
7. The Victor leads the enemy to the steps of the temple and executes him there.
With that reminder, let’s get into the text:
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. 3 The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while.
Most of you are understandably confused. This passage is hard.
Let me put up the seven things to remember about a triumphal procession again. Keep these in mind as you have your own questions about this passage.
Tremble before God, not Satan because the word of God is what Satan uses to get the saints killed in verse 4, but in chapter 19, the word of God is what destroys those who oppose Him, including Satan.
Okay. So, the question to ask of Revelation 20 is "What is the relationship between Revelation 19 and Revelation 20?"
These are the verses from which some people build entire end-times positions. And this is the place from which all of them are named: these seven verses. (Premillennial, Amillennial, Postmillennial, Preterist- brief definition of each position)
This section is a recapitulation- there’s that word again. (Redefine) If you want my reasoning for it, I’d be glad to provide it, but for the sake of time, I’m just going to tell you that’s what it is, and if you care to know why I believe that, we can talk about it. But recapitulation is all over this section as a reminder to us that Satan has no real power, but God does. Tremble before God, not Satan.
Remember, this is apocalyptic literature, so we’re using symbols!
So we see this angel with a Key- this is a metaphor for power or authority over something.
Who has keys to your house? Do you just hand them out to everyone? No.
This key points to the sovereignty attained at the Christ event- his birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. This word shows up four times in Revelation, and every time, it points to this concept. I’m not going to go through the other three instances right now, but I have the information if you want it.
So here in Revelation 20:1, what should we think about this key? How was it earned? At the Christ event. The 1,000 years kicks off with Satan being bound, and Revelation indicates that this happened at Christ's first coming.
Something happening to Satan at the Christ event is not new to Revelation. Remember Revelation 12?
The word for threw him into the pit is the same word John uses in Rev 12:9, and that at Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection.
If this is the same time, how did the angel get the key? Jesus gaining power over death at the Christ-event.
This is supported by other parts of the New Testament and you can look them up if you like:
Luke 10:18 (after 10 disciples are sent out casting out demons, etc.)
John 12:30-32 (Jesus about to die on the Cross is NOW driving out the prince of the world)
John 16:11 (Satan now stands Judged) Jesus' ministry is an assault- a death blow- to Satan's dominion and reign.
Now there's another symbol we need to look at- the chain. Does bound mean eradicated? Does it mean negated? No! He is severely limited, or restrained. But a handcuffed person can still do damage, can't they?
15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Does that mean that they have absolutely no power? No. It means that compared to God, they are powerless. This is why we Tremble before God, not Satan.
27 Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
Jesus' opponents claim miracles done by Satan's power. A kingdom divided cannot stand. And in Mark 3:27, the word for "tie up” is the same word for what the angel did to Satan in Revelation 20:2.
How is Satan bound?
1. Satan cannot enter heaven.
2. He lost the power of death (Heb. 2:14-15)
3. Satan lost his stranglehold of authority over pagan nations by the spread of the Gospel (Truth came to set people free) and the Gospel has infiltrated every nation.
44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 45 That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.”
4. Satan is kept from deceiving the nations. Deceiving the nations in the OT- what percentage of people followed Yahweh?
Binding and imprisonment are separate. If they are the same, how is he released from the binding that happened at the Christ event? How does he regain power over death? Is he now allowed back into heaven?
What does Satan's imprisonment mean? It's wrapped up in the word deception. Talking about Salvation. Salvific deception. Deception is defined by its intention. He intends to damn people. And that goes on now. So how is he kept from deceiving? Specifically to destroy the Church. Gates of Hades, anyone? Satan cannot and will not wipe out the church. He can persecute, but God will always save for himself a remnant. Satan will never be victorious over the church. That is the imprisonment of Satan.
4 Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.
Let me put up the seven things to remember about a triumphal procession again.
Thousand years. Do you see the recapitulation? First we're talking about this period from Satan's perspective. Now we're seeing from the Saints' perspective. This is the same time- from Jesus' first coming.
Some suggest that only martyrs would reign with Christ. This is problematic.
"One who cannot be a martyr in deed may yet be a martyr in will.”
Christina Rosetti, The Face of the Deep
The Bible does not teach that people get less of a reward because someone never put a gun to your head. Where in the Bible does it teach that the way you die is more important than your faithfulness to Christ? Conclusion: Saints who have died and were faithful are the ones reigning.
This is now. I suggest that Satan is bound now, and the saints of Christ are reigning now.
So what is the first resurrection? The resurrection of the soul to dwell with Christ.
First often is used as antithetic parallelism- First Adam, Second Adam, First man, second man, first covenant, second covenant, first heaven & earth, second heaven & earth. They are opposites.
First resurrection is spiritual, soulish resurrection that faithful saints experience at their death in the thousand years. Second resurrection is physical.
Many assume that these Saints are reigning on the earth here- some textual clues suggest otherwise.
1. Earth is not mentioned.
2. Thrones in revelation (unless they are evil) are found in Heaven (43 times, throne refers to heaven, 3 times to earth, specifically evil).
3. The souls of saints are only mentioned one other time in Revelation- in heaven. (Rev. 6:9)
A. The saints who are reigning are specifically referred to as "souls". John could have used πτῶμα, σῶμα or σάρξ, but he specifically uses the word ψυχή- soul! (the Bible only talks about one bodily resurrection).
This thousand year reign of Christ and the saints does not take place on earth, but it takes place in heaven. Why? Because there's no evidence of it taking place on earth, except for our theological presuppositions that say it has to take place on earth, or else the rapture doesn't make sense.
Summary: 1000 years is when Satan is bound and his ability to destroy the church is taken away also when saints die, they raise to be with Christ to reign with him.
If the 1,000 year reign is future, you must say that there is no present reigning kingdom of God in existence today. We would then be in a pause. And some do go that far by suggesting that the church was God's plan B and that he intended to establish the kingdom that the Jews expected, if only they hadn't rejected him.
I suggest the 1,000 years is present. It started at Christ's first coming (the binding of Satan) and ends at the second coming.
7 When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. 8 He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore. 9 And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them. 10 Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Let me put up the seven things to remember about a triumphal procession again.
Gog & Magog is a reference to Ezekiel 38-39- describes the final battle on earth. This is the last war in Revelation. My recapitulation is done. Kind of like the entire earth being destroyed (1/4, 1/3, the whole earth).
Satan must be released? Yikes!
Satan deceives his followers to (what they think is to) make war, but they're just going to their execution.
Why must Satan be released (divine necessity)? Remember that John began triumphal procession language (over 350 of them in Roman literature). It would be like me describing people standing up at the beginning of a sporting event and placing their hand over their hearts and singing a song. What's going on?
Revelation 19 is agreed by most scholars about the triumphal procession, but if that's the case, it's missing the climax- the execution of the leader of the enemy. But Revelation 20 finishes the symbol.
Satan may be released, but does it say anything about the removal of his shackles? I suggest that Satan must be released (but notice, not unbound) to go to his execution (see imagery from 2 Cor. 2:14-15) .
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
You know why Satan hates us so much? Because as we speak for God, and preach the Gospel, Satan smells the fragrance of his destruction. He trembles before God. And when he does, he seeks worship- he wants people to tremble before himself.
But as followers of Jesus, our responsibility is to Tremble before God, not Satan. What power does the roaring lion have in comparison the the Lion of the Tribe of Judah?
I want to close with this and with worship together:
Pick up guitar
Martin Luther understood that we should only tremble before God and not Satan. He writes of the power of our God and the powerlessness of Satan in contrast to him in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God as he verse 3. But I want to finish by singing in worship to God verses 1 and 3 of this song. If you know it, sing it with me:
Though devils all the world should fill,
All watching to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They cannot overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will;
He can harm us none:
He’s judged, the deed is done,
One little word o’erthrows him.
One little word overthrows Satan. Tremble before God, not Satan.