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20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while. 4 Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years. 7 When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. 9They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
The Thousand Years
The Dead Are Judged
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.
7 When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. 9They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Re 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.
1. 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" (Re 20:10).
2. that old—ancient serpent (Re 12:9).
thousand years—As seven mystically implies universality, so a thousand implies perfection, whether in good or evil [Aquinas on ch. 11]. Thousand symbolizes that the world is perfectly leavened and pervaded by the divine; since thousand is ten, the number of the world, raised to the third power, three being the number of God [Auberlen]. It may denote literally also a thousand years.
3. shut him—A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas omit "him."
set a seal upon him—Greek, "over him," that is, sealed up the door of the abyss over his head. A surer seal to keep him from getting out than his seal over Jesus in the tomb of Joseph, which was burst on the resurrection morn. Satan's binding at' this juncture is not arbitrary, but is the necessary consequence of the events (Re 19:20); just as Satan's being cast out of heaven, where he had previously been the accuser of the brethren, was the legitimate judgment which passed on him through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Re 12:7-10). Satan imagined that he had overcome Christ on Golgotha, and that his power was secure for ever, but the Lord in death overcame him, and by His ascension as our righteous Advocate cast out Satan, the accuser from heaven. Time was given on earth to make the beast and harlot powerful, and then to concentrate all his power in Antichrist. The Antichristian kingdom, his last effort, being utterly destroyed by Christ's mere appearing, his power on earth is at an end. He had thought to destroy God's people on earth by Antichristian persecutions (just as he had thought previously to destroy Christ); but the Church is not destroyed from the earth but is raised to rule over it, and Satan himself is shut up for a thousand years in the "abyss" (Greek for "bottomless pit"), the preparatory prison to the "lake of fire," his final doom. As before he ceased by Christ's ascension to be an accuser in heaven, so during the millennium he ceases to be the seducer and the persecutor on earth. As long as the devil rules in the darkness of the world, we live in an atmosphere impregnated with deadly elements. A mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming. Though sin will not be absolutely abolished—for men will still be in the flesh (Isa 65:20)—sin will no longer be a universal power, for the flesh is not any longer seduced by Satan. He will not be, as now, "the god and prince of the world"—nor will the world "lie in the wicked one"—the flesh will become ever more isolated and be overcome. Christ will reign with His transfigured saints over men in the flesh [Auberlen]. This will be the manifestation of "the world to come," which has been already set up invisibly in the saints, amidst "this world" (2Co 4:4; Heb 2:5; 5:5). The Jewish Rabbis thought, as the world was created in six days and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenary periods, followed by a sabbatical millennium. Out of seven years every seventh is the year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world the seventh millenary shall be the millenary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, A.D. 200, states that the world is to endure six thousand years; two thousand before the law, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under Messiah. Compare Note, see on Heb 4:9 and Heb 4:9, Margin; see on Re 14:13. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Cyprian, among the earliest Fathers, all held the doctrine of a millennial kingdom on earth; not till millennial views degenerated into gross carnalism was this doctrine abandoned.
that he should deceive—so A. But B reads, "that he deceive" (Greek, "plana," for "planeesee").
and—so Coptic and Andreas. But A, B, and Vulgate omit "and."
4, 5. they sat—the twelve apostles, and the saints in general.
judgment was given unto there—(See on Da 7:22). The office of judging was given to them. Though in one sense having to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yet in another sense they "do not come into judgment (Greek), but have already passed from death unto life."
souls—This term is made a plea for denying the literality of the first resurrection, as if the resurrection were the spiritual one of the souls of believers in this life; the life and reign being that of the soul raised in this life from the death of sin by vivifying faith. But "souls" expresses their disembodied state (compare Re 6:9) as John saw them at first; "and they lived" implies their coming to life in the body again, so as to be visible, as the phrase, Re 20:5, "this is the first resurrection," proves; for as surely as "the rest of the dead lived not (again) until," &c., refers to the bodily general resurrection, so must the first resurrection refer to the body. This also accords with 1Co 15:23, "They that are Christ's at His coming." Compare Ps 49:11-15. From Re 6:9, I infer that "souls" is here used in the strict sense of spirits disembodied when first seen by John; though doubtless "souls" is often used in general for persons, and even for dead bodies.
beheaded—literally, "smitten with an axe"; a Roman punishment, though crucifixion, casting to beasts, and burning, were the more common modes of execution. The guillotine in revolutionary France was a revival of the mode of capital punishment of pagan imperial Rome. Paul was beheaded, and no doubt shall share the first resurrection, in accordance with his prayer that he "might attain unto the resurrection from out of the rest of the dead" (Greek, "exanastasis"). The above facts may account for the specification of this particular kind of punishment.
for … for—Greek, "for the sake of"; on account of"; "because of."
and which—Greek, "and the which." And prominent among this class (the beheaded), such as did not worship the beast. So Re 1:7, Greek, "and the which," or "and such as," particularizes prominently among the general class those that follow in the description [Tregelles]. The extent of the first resurrection is not spoken of here. In 1Co 15:23, 51; 1Th 4:14 we find that all "in Christ" shall share in it. John himself was not "beheaded," yet who doubts but that he shall share in the first resurrection? The martyrs are put first, because most like Jesus in their sufferings and death, therefore nearest Him in their life and reign; for Christ indirectly affirms there are relative degrees and places of honor in His kingdom, the highest being for those who drink his cup of suffering. Next shall be those who have not bowed to the world power, but have looked to the things unseen and eternal.
foreheads … hands—Greek, "forehead … hand."
reigned with Christ—over the earth.
5. But—B, Coptic, and Andreas read, "and." A and Vulgate omit it.
again—A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and Andreas omit it. "Lived" is used for lived again, as in Re 2:8. John saw them not only when restored to life, but when in the act of reviving [Bengel].
first resurrection—"the resurrection of the just." Earth is not yet transfigured, and cannot therefore be the meet locality for the transfigured Church; but from heaven the transfigured saints with Christ rule the earth, there being a much freer communion of the heavenly and earthly churches (a type of which state may be seen in the forty days of the risen Saviour during which He appeared to His disciples), and they know no higher joy than to lead their brethren on earth to the same salvation and glory as they share themselves. The millennial reign on earth does not rest on an isolated passage of the Apocalypse, but all Old Testament prophecy goes on the same view (compare Isa 4:3; 11:9; 35:8). Jesus, while opposing the carnal views of the kingdom of God prevalent among the Jews in His day, does not contradict, but confirms, the Old Testament view of a coming, earthly, Jewish kingdom of glory: beginning from within, and spreading itself now spiritually, the kingdom of God shall manifest itself outwardly at Christ's coming again. The papacy is a false anticipation of the kingdom during the Church-historical period. "When Christianity became a worldly power under Constantine, the hope of the future was weakened by the joy over present success" [Bengel]. Becoming a harlot, the Church ceased to be a bride going to meet her Bridegroom; thus millennial hopes disappeared. The rights which Rome as a harlot usurped, shall be exercised in holiness by the Bride. They are "kings" because they are "priests" (Re 20:6; Re 1:6; 5:10); their priesthood unto God and Christ (Re 7:15) is the ground of their kingship in relation to man. Men will be willing subjects of the transfigured priest-kings, in the day of the Lord's power. Their power is that of attraction, winning the heart, and not counteracted by devil or beast. Church and State shall then be co-extensive. Man created "to have dominion over earth" is to rejoice over his world with unmixed, holy joy. John tells us that, instead of the devil, the transfigured Church of Christ; Daniel, that instead of the heathen beast, the holy Israel, shall rule the world [Auberlen].
on such the second death hath no power—even as it has none on Christ now that He is risen.
priests of God—Apostate Christendom being destroyed, and the believing Church translated at Christ's coming, there will remain Israel and the heathen world, constituting the majority of men then alive, which, from not having come into close contact with the Gospel, have not incurred the guilt of rejecting it. These will be the subjects of a general conversion (Re 11:15). "The veil" shall be taken off Israel first, then from off "all people." The glorious events attending Christ's appearing, the destruction of Antichrist, the transfiguration of the Church, and the binding of Satan, will prepare the nations for embracing the Gospel. As individual regeneration goes on now, so there shall be a "regeneration" of nations then. Israel, as a nation, shall be "born at once—in one day." As the Church began at Christ's ascension, so the kingdom shall begin at His second advent. This is the humiliation of the modern civilized nations, that nations which they despise most, Jews and uncivilized barbarians, the negro descendants of Ham who from the curse of Noah have been so backward, Cush and Sheba, shall supplant and surpass them as centers of the world's history (compare De 32:21; Ro 10:19; 11:20, &c.). The Jews are our teachers even in New Testament times. Since their rejection revelation has been silent. The whole Bible, even the New Testament, is written by Jews. If revelation is to recommence in the millennial kingdom, converted Israel must stand at the head of humanity. In a religious point of view, Jews and Gentiles stand on an equal footing as both alike needing mercy; but as regards God's instrumentalities for bringing about His kingdom on earth, Israel is His chosen people for executing His plans. The Israelite priest-kings on earth are what the transfigured priest-kings are in heaven. There shall be a blessed chain of giving and receiving—God, Christ, the transfigured Bride the Church, Israel, the world of nations. A new time of revelation will begin by the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit. Ezekiel (the fortieth through forty-eighth chapters), himself son of a priest, sets forth the priestly character of Israel; Daniel the statesman, its kingly character; Jeremiah (Jer 33:17-21), both its priestly and kingly character. In the Old Testament the whole Jewish national life was religious only in an external legal manner. The New Testament Church insists on inward renewal, but leaves its outward manifestations free. But in the millennial kingdom, all spheres of life shall be truly Christianized from within outwardly. The Mosaic ceremonial law corresponds to Israel's priestly office; the civil law to its kingly office: the Gentile Church adopts the moral law, and exercises the prophetic office by the word working inwardly. But when the royal and the priestly office shall be revived, then—the principles of the Epistle to the Hebrews remaining the same—also the ceremonial and civil law of Moses will develop its spiritual depths in the divine worship (compare Mt 5:17-19). At present is the time of preaching; but then the time of the Liturgy of converted souls forming "the great congregation" shall come. Then shall our present defective governments give place to perfect governments in both Church and State. Whereas under the Old Testament the Jews exclusively, and in the New Testament the Gentiles exclusively, enjoy the revelation of salvation (in both cases humanity being divided and separated), in the millennium both Jews and Gentiles are united, and the whole organism of mankind under the first-born brother, Israel, walks in the light of God, and the full life of humanity is at last realized. Scripture does not view the human race as an aggregate of individuals and nationalities, but as an organic whole, laid down once for all in the first pages of revelation. (Ge 9:25-27; 10:1, 5, 18, 25, 32; De 32:8 recognizes the fact that from the first the division of the nations was made with a relation to Israel). Hence arises the importance of the Old Testament to the Church now as ever. Three grand groups of nations, Hamites, Japhetites, and Shemites, correspond respectively to the three fundamental elements in man—body, soul, and spirit. The flower of Shem, the representative of spiritual life, is Israel, even as the flower of Israel is He in whom all mankind is summed up, the second Adam (Ge 12:1-3). Thus Israel is the mediator of divine revelations for all times. Even nature and the animal world will share in the millennial blessedness. As sin loses its power, decay and death will decrease [Auberlen]. Earthly and heavenly glories shall be united in the twofold election. Elect Israel in the flesh shall stand at the head of the earthly, the elect spiritual Church, the Bride, in the heavenly. These twofold elections are not merely for the good of the elect themselves, but for the good of those to whom they minister. The heavenly Church is elected not merely to salvation, but to rule in love, and minister blessings over the whole earth, as king-priests. The glory of the transfigured saints shall be felt by men in the flesh with the same consciousness of blessing as on the Mount of Transfiguration the three disciples experienced in witnessing the glory of Jesus, and of Moses and Elias, when Peter exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here"; in 2Pe 1:16-18, the Transfiguration is regarded as the earnest of Christ's coming in glory. The privilege of "our high calling in Christ" is limited to the present time of Satan's reign; when he is bound, there will be no scope for suffering for, and so afterwards reigning with, Him (Re 3:21; compare Note, see on 1Co 6:2). Moreover, none can be saved in the present age and in the pale of the Christian Church who does not also reign with Christ hereafter, the necessary preliminary to which is suffering with Christ now. If we fail to lay hold of the crown, we lose all, "the gift of grace as well as the reward of service" [De Burgh].
7. expired—Greek, "finished."
8. Gog and Magog—(Eze 38:1-39:29; see on Eze 38:2). Magog is a general name for northern nations of Japheth's posterity, whose ideal head is Gog (Ge 10:2). A has but one Greek article to "Gog and Magog," whereby the two, namely, the prince and the people, are marked as having the closest connection. B reads the second article before Magog wrongly. Hiller [Onomasticon] explains both words as signifying "lofty," "elevated." For "quarters" the Greek is "corners."
to battle—Greek, "to the war," in A and B. But Andreas omits "the."
9. on the breadth of the earth—so as completely to overspread it. Perhaps we ought to translate, "… of the [holy] land."
the camp of the saints and the beloved city—the camp of the saints encircling the beloved city, Jerusalem (Ecclesiasticus 24:11). Contrast "hateful" in Babylon (Re 18:2; De 32:15, Septuagint). Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog (Eze 38:1-39:29) refers to the attack made by Antichrist on Israel before the millennium: but this attack is made after the millennium, so that "Gog and Magog" are mystical names representing the final adversaries led by Satan in person. Ezekiel's Gog and Magog come from the north, but those here come "from the four corners of the earth." Gog is by some connected with a Hebrew root, "covered."
from God—so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A omits the words. Even during the millennium there is a separation between heaven and earth, transfigured humanity and humanity in the flesh. Hence it is possible that an apostasy should take place at its close. In the judgment on this apostasy the world of nature is destroyed and renewed, as the world of history was before the millennial kingdom; it is only then that the new heaven and new earth are realized in final perfection. The millennial new heaven and earth are but a foretaste of this everlasting state when the upper and lower congregations shall be no longer separate, though connected as in the millennium, and when new Jerusalem shall descend from God out of heaven. The inherited sinfulness of our nature shall be the only influence during the millennium to prevent the power of the transfigured Church saving all souls. When this time of grace shall end, no other shall succeed. For what can move him in whom the visible glory of the Church, while the influence of evil is restrained, evokes no longing for communion with the Church's King? As the history of the world of nations ended with the manifestation of the Church in visible glory, so that of mankind in general shall end with the great separation of the just from the wicked (Re 20:12) [Auberlen].
10. that deceived—Greek, "that deceiveth."
lake of fire—his final doom: as "the bottomless pit" (Re 20:1) was his temporary prison.
where—so Coptic. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "where also."
the beast and the false prophet are—(Re 19:20).
day and night—figurative for without intermission (Re 22:5), such as now is caused by night interposing between day and day. The same phrase is used of the external state of the blessed (Re 4:8). As the bliss of these is eternal, so the woe of Satan and the lost must be. As the beast and the false prophet led the former conspiracy against Christ and His people, so Satan in person heads the last conspiracy. Satan shall not be permitted to enter this Paradise regained, to show the perfect security of believers, unlike the first Adam whom Satan succeeded in robbing of Paradise; and shall, like Pharaoh at the Rod Sea, receive in this last attempt his final doom.
for ever and ever—Greek, "to the ages of the ages."
11. great—in contrast to the "thrones," Re 20:4.
white—the emblem of purity and justice.
him that sat on it—the Father [Alford]. Rather, the Son, to whom "the Father hath committed all judgment." God in Christ, that is, the Father represented by the Son, is He before whose judgment-seat we must all stand. The Son's mediatorial reign is with a view to prepare the kingdom for the Father's acceptance. When He has done that, He shall give it up to the Father, "that God may be all in all," coming into direct communion with His creatures, without intervention of a Mediator, for the first time since the fall. Heretofore Christ's Prophetical mediation had been prominent in His earthly ministry, His Priestly mediation is prominent now in heaven between His first and second advents, and His Kingly shall be so during the millennium and at the general judgment.
earth and heaven fled away—The final conflagration, therefore, precedes the general judgment. This is followed by the new heaven and earth (Re 21:1-27).
12. the dead—"the rest of the dead" who did not share the first resurrection, and those who died during the millennium.
small and great—B has "the small and the great." A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas have "the great and the small." The wicked who had died from the time of Adam to Christ's second advent, and all the righteous and wicked who had died during and after the millennium, shall then have their eternal portion assigned to them. The godly who were transfigured and reigned with Christ during it, shall also be present, not indeed to have their portion assigned as if for the first time (for that shall have been fixed long before, Joh 5:24), but to have it confirmed for ever, and that God's righteousness may be vindicated in the case of both the saved and the lost, in the presence of an assembled universe. Compare "We must ALL appear," &c. Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10. The saints having been first pronounced just themselves by Christ out of "the book of life," shall sit as assessors of the Judge. Compare Mt 25:31, 32, 40, "these My brethren." God's omniscience will not allow the most insignificant to escape unobserved, and His omnipotence will cause the mightiest to obey the summons. The living are not specially mentioned: as these all shall probably first (before the destruction of the ungodly, Re 20:9) be transfigured, and caught up with the saints long previously transfigured; and though present for the confirmation of their justification by the Judge, shall not then first have their eternal state assigned to them, but shall sit as assessors with the Judge.
the books … opened—(Da 7:10). The books of God's remembrance, alike of the evil and the good (Ps 56:8; 139:4; Mal 3:16): conscience (Ro 2:15, 16), the word of Christ (Joh 12:48), the law (Ga 3:10), God's eternal counsel (Ps 139:16).
book of life—(Re 3:5; 13:8; 21:27; Ex 32:32, 33; Ps 69:28; Da 12:1; Php 4:3). Besides the general book recording the works of all, there is a special book for believers in which their names are written, not for their works, but for the work of Christ for, and in, them. Therefore it is called, "the Lamb's book of life." Electing grace has singled them out from the general mass.
according to their works—We are justified by faith, but judged according to (not by) our works. For the general judgment is primarily designed for the final vindication of God's righteousness before the whole world, which in this checkered dispensation of good and evil, though really ruling the world, has been for the time less manifest. Faith is appreciable by God and the believer alone (Re 2:17). But works are appreciable by all. These, then, are made the evidential test to decide men's eternal state, thus showing that God's administration of judgment is altogether righteous.
13. death and hell—Greek, "Hades." The essential identity of the dying and risen body is hereby shown; for the sea and grave give up their dead. The body that sinned or served God shall, in righteous retribution, be the body also that shall suffer or be rewarded. The "sea" may have a symbolical [Cluver from Augustine], besides the literal meaning, as, in Re 8:8; 12:12; 13:1; 18:17, 19; so "death" and "hell" are personifications (compare Re 21:1). But the literal sense need hardly be departed from: all the different regions wherein the bodies and souls of men had been, gave them up.
14. Death and Hades, as personified representatives of the enemies of Christ' and His Church, are said to be cast into the lake of fire to express the truth that Christ and His people shall never more die, or be in the state of disembodied spirits.
This is the second death—"the lake of fire" is added in A, B, and Andreas. English Version, which omits the clause, rests on inferior manuscripts. In hell the ancient form of death, which was one of the enemies destroyed by Christ, shall not continue, but a death of a far different kind reigns there, "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord": an abiding testimony of the victory of Christ.