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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 20 - Verse 3

Verse 3. And east him into the bottomless pit. See Barnes on "Re 9:1".

A state of peace and prosperity would exist as if Satan, the great disturber, were confined in the nether world as a prisoner.

And shut him up. Closed the massive doors of the dark prison-house upon him. Compare See Barnes on "Job 10:21"; See Barnes "Job 10:22".

 

And set a seal upon him. Or, rather, "upon it"—etanw autou. The seal was placed upon the door or gate of the prison, not because this would fasten the gate or door of itself and make it secure, for this was secured by the key, but because it prevented intrusion, or any secret opening of it without its being known. See Barnes on "Da 6:17"; See Barnes "Mt 27:66".

The idea here is, that every precaution was taken for absolute security.

That he should deceive the nations no more. That is, during the thousand years. Compare Barnes on "Re 12:9".

 

Till the thousand years should be filled. That is, during that period there will be a state of things upon the earth as if Satan should be withdrawn from the world, and confined in the great prison where he is ultimately to dwell for ever.

And after that he must be loosed a little season. See Re 20:7-8. That is, a state of things will then exist, for a brief period, as if he were again released from his prison-house, and suffered to go abroad upon the earth. The phrase "a little season"—mikron cronon, little time—denotes properly that this would be brief as compared with the thousand years. No intimation is given as to the exact time, and it is impossible to conjecture how long it will be. All the circumstances stated, however, here and in Re 20:7-10, would lead us to suppose that what is referred to will be like the sudden outbreak of a rebellion in a time of general peace, but which will soon be quelled.

(a).—Condition of the world in the period referred to in Re 20:1-3.

It may be proper, in order to a correct understanding of this chapter, to present a brief summary under the different parts of what, according to the interpretation proposed, may be expected to be the condition of things in the time referred to.

On the portion now before us, (Re 20:1-3,) according to the interpretation proposed, the following suggestions may be made:—

(1.) This will be subsequent to the downfall of the Papacy and the termination of the Mohammedan power in the world. Of course, then, this lies in the future—how far in the future it is impossible to determine. The interpretation of the various portions of this book and the book of Daniel have, however, led to the conclusion that the termination of those powers cannot now be remote. If so, we are on the eve of important events in the world's history. The affairs of the world look as if things were tending to a fulfilment of the prophecies so understood.

(2.) It will be a condition of the world as if Satan were bound; that is, where his influences will be suspended, and the principles of virtue and religion will prevail. According to the interpretation of the previous chapters, it will be a state in which all that has existed, and that now exists in the Papacy to corrupt mankind, to maintain error, and to prevent the prevalence of free and liberal principles, will cease; in which all that there now is in the Mohammedan system to fetter and enslave mankind—now controlling more than one hundred and twenty millions of the race—shall have come to an end; and in which, in a great measure, all that occurs under the direct influence of Satan in causing or perpetuating slavery, war, intemperance, lust, avarice, disorder, scepticism, atheism, will be checked and stayed. It is proper to say, however, that this passage does not require us to suppose that there will be a total cessation of Satanic influence in the earth during that period. Satan will, indeed, be bound and restrained as to his former influence and power. But there will be no change in the character of man as he comes into the world. There will still be corrupt passions in the human heart. Though greatly restrained, and though there will be a general prevalence of righteousness on the earth, yet we are to remember that the race is fallen, and that even then, if restraint should be taken away, man would act out his fallen nature. This fact, if remembered, will make it appear less strange that, after this period of prevalent righteousness, Satan should be represented as loosed again, and as able once more for a time to deceive the nations.

(3.) It will be a period of long duration. On the supposition that it is to be literally a period of one thousand years, this is in itself long, and will give, especially under the circumstances, opportunity for a vast progress in human affairs. To form some idea of the length of the period, we need only place ourselves in imagination back for a thousand years—say in the middle of the ninth century—and look at the condition of the world then, and think of the vast changes in human affairs that have occurred during that period. It is to be remembered also, that if the millennial period were soon to commence, it would find the world in a far different state in reference to future progress from what it was in the ninth century, and that it would start off, so to speak, with all the advantages in the arts and sciences which have been accumulated in all the past periods of the world. Even if there were no special Divine interposition, it might be presumed that the race, in such circumstances, would make great and surprising advances in the long period of a thousand years. And here a very striking remark of Mr. Hugh Miller may be introduced as illustrating the subject. "It has been remarked by some students of the Apocalypse," says he,"that the course of predicted events at first moves slowly, as, one after one, six of seven seals are opened; that, on the opening of the seventh seal, the progress is so considerably quickened that the seventh period proves as fertile in events— represented by the sounding of the seven trumpets—as the foregoing six taken together; and that on the seventh trumpet, so great is the further acceleration, that there is an amount of incident condensed in this seventh part of the seventh period equal, as in the former case, to that of all the previous six parts in one. There are three cycles, it has been said, in the scheme—cycle within cycle—the second comprised within a seventh portion of the first, and the third within a seventh portion of the second. Be this as it may, we may, at least, see something that exceedingly resembles it in that actual economy of change and revolution manifested in English history for the last two centuries. It would seem as if events, in their downward course, had come under the influence of that law of gravitation through which falling bodies increase in speed, as they descend, according to the squares of the distance."—First Impressions of England and its People, pp. vii., viii. If to this we add the supposition which we have seen (See Barnes on "Re 20:2") to be by no means improbable, that it is intended in the description of the millennium in this chapter, that the world will continue under a reign of peace and righteousness for the long period of three hundred and sixty thousand years, it is impossible to anticipate what progress will be made during that period, or to enumerate the numbers that will be saved. On this subject, see some very interesting remarks in the "Old Red Sandstone," by Hugh Miller, pp. 248-250, 258, 259. Compare Prof. Hitchcock's Religion and Geology, pp. 370—409.

(4.) What, then, will be the state of things during that long period of a thousand years?

(a) There will be a great increase in the population of the globe. Let wars cease, and intemperance cease, and slavery cease, and the numberless passions that now shorten life be stayed, and it is easy to see that there must be a vast augmentation in the number of the human species.

(b) There will be a general diffusion of intelligence on the earth. Every circumstance would be favourable to it, and the world would be in a condition to make rapid advances in knowledge, Da 12:4.

(c) That period will be characterized by the universal diffusion of revealed truth, Isa 11:9; 25:7.

(d) It will be marked by unlimited subjection to the sceptre of Christ, Ps 2:7; 22:27-29; Isa 2:2-3; 66:23; Zec 9:10; 14:9

Mt 13:31-32; Re 11:15.

(e) There will be great progress in all that tends to promote the welfare of man. We are not to suppose that the resources of nature are exhausted. Nature gives no signs of exhaustion or decay. In the future, there is no reason to doubt that there will yet be discoveries and inventions more surprising and wonderful than the art of printing, or the use of steam, or the magnetic telegraph. There are profounder secrets of nature that may be delivered up than any of these, and the world is tending to their development.

(f) It will be a period of the universal reign of peace. The attention of mankind will be turned to the things which tend to promote the welfare of the race, and advance the best interests of society. The single fact that wars will cease will make an inconceivable difference in the aspect of the world; for if universal peace shall prevail through the long period of the millennium, and the wealth, the talent, and the science now employed in human butchery shall be devoted to the interests of agriculture, the mechanic arts, learning, and religion, it is impossible now to estimate the progress which the race will make, and the changes which will be produced on the earth. For Scripture proofs that it will be a time of universal peace, see Isa 2:4; 11:6-9; Mic 4:3.

 

(g) There will be a general prevalence of evangelical religion. This is apparent in the entire description in this passage, for the two most formidable opposing powers that religion has ever known—the beast and the false prophet—will be destroyed, and Satan will be bound. In this long period, therefore, we are to suppose that the gospel will exert its fair influence on governments, on families, on individuals; in the intercourse of neighbours, and in the intercourse of nations. God will be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and not in the mere forms of devotion; and temperance, truth, liberty, social order, honesty, and love, will prevail over the world.

(h) It will be a time when the Hebrew people—the Jews—will be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and will embrace the Messiah whom their fathers crucified, Zec 12:10; 13:1; Ro 11:26-29.

 

(i) Yet we are not necessarily to suppose that all the world will be absolutely and entirely brought under the power of the gospel. There will be still on the earth the remains of wickedness in the corrupted human heart, and there will be so much tendency to sin in the human soul, that Satan, when released for a time, (Re 20:7-8,) will be able once more to deceive mankind, and to array a formidable force, represented by Gog and Magog, against the cause of truth and righteousness. We are not to suppose that the nature of mankind as fallen will be essentially changed, or that there may not be sin enough in the human heart to make it capable of the same opposition to the gospel of God which has thus far been evinced in all ages. From causes which are not fully stated, (Re 20:8-9,) Satan will be enabled once more to rouse up their enmity, and to make one more desperate effort to destroy the kingdom of the Redeemer by rallying his forces for a conflict. See these views illustrated in the work entitled Christ's Second Coming, by Rev. David Brown, of St. James's Free Church, Glasgow, pp. 398-442; New York, 1851.

{d} "seal" Da 6:17

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