Revelation Chapter 20: the binding of Satan; the Millennial Kingdom of Elohim on Earth; the Final Judgment (the Great White Throne judgment)
20:1-3 Then I saw (a) an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for (b) a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, (c) so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
a. Note that this angel is not Yehovah the Father, Yeshua the Son, the Holy Spirit, Michael the archangel, or even a “mighty” angel. He is just an ordinary angel, showing how powerless the devil really is apart from the enabling and permissive will of the Lord.
b. There is no reason to think that this is not a literal thousand years. Some allegorically interpret it as a time period in the past or the present, but there has never been a time period without evil ruling the world. And with the terrible and worsening spiritual state of the world, it is impossible to see that the thousand years, when the forces of Satan have been defeated and Satan is imprisoned, is any time period in the past or the present.
c. During the Millennium, none of the nations of the world will be deceived into worshiping false gods, which is the basic tactic of Satan.
20:4-6 And I saw thrones, and (a) they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw (b) the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to [Yeshua] and for the word of [Yahuah], who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with [the Messiah] for a thousand years. But (c) the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. (d) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such (e) the second death has no power, but (f) they shall be priests of [Yahuah] and of [the Messiah], and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
a. They” are the redeemed and glorified Followers of Yeshua (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26, 27). Yeshua promised His apostles that they, in the world to come, would sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel. They were specifically told, “. . . in the regeneration [the Millennium], when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Is that not exactly the scenario that John sees here, at the beginning of the Millennium? As was often prophesied (Isaiah 11-12; 65:17-25; 66:22-24; et al.), the millennial kingdom will be the regenerated, Eden-like world in which one will be considered very young who dies at the age of 100 (Isaiah 65:20). So, if the inhabitants of the earth during the Millennium can die, they are not the resurrected, glorified, redeemed Ones, who rule with the Messiah from New Jerusalem are they? During the 1,000 years, the earth will be populated with a huge multitude of the physical descendants of the remnant of Israel who survived, by the grace of Yehovah, the Final Seven Years, exactly as was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 32:13) - a "multitude of nations" who are the descendants of Ephraim (Genesis 48:19). In other words, the nations of the world during the Millennium will be the descendants of Jews who believe in the coming Messiah but who do not recognize that He is Yeshua before they see Him coming in the clouds to gather His Elect, plus the descendants of those God-fearing Gentiles who survive the Final Seven Years. And the King of Kings, with the apostles and other glorified and raptured Saints, will rule the nations of the earth from David’s throne in New Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27).
b. Among the glorified Saints who live and reign with the Messiah from Jerusalem during the Millennium are the martyrs whom John sees come to life. Some say that this group is comprised only of those who are martyred during the Final Seven Years (cf. 6:9), but the following statements:
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of [Yehovah] and of [the Messiah], and shall reign with Him a thousand years,
clearly indicate that this group that John sees is comprised of the Redeemed martyrs of all ages. Also, this appears to be the fulfillment of Daniel 7:9-10, 22, which states,
I was watching; and the same horn [Antimessiah] was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints [including the Saints of ancient Israel who looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah plus the Gentiles grafted into the commonwealth of Israel] to possess the kingdom . . . I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated . . . A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
So apparently, among other responsibilities which include judging angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), the resurrected and glorified Saints will, as promised (2 Timothy 2:12), reign with the Lord over all the nations of the earth. And, as promised (5:10), these kings and priests of God (1:6) will rule, as the Messiah does, with a rod of iron (2:27). That’s because, although Satan is chained up in the bottomless pit, man’s sin nature will not have been eradicated, resulting in death for some of the physical inhabitants of Earth during the Millennium (cf. Isaiah 65:20). So, in order to maintain perfect peace, rule with a rod of iron over all is necessary.
c. These are those who are lost, in Hades awaiting the Final Judgment.
d. The “first resurrection” will include all those who are raptured when the Great Tribulation is cut short on the last day of the Final Seven Years, by the sounding of the Last Trumpet on Yom Teruah, when the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) returns to “catch away” the Redeemed before the final Wrath of the Lord falls. (See the commentary on 11:14-19c; Cf. also 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.) But it also includes those martyrs who, at the beginning of the Millennium, John sees resurrected. Do not be confused by the statement that John sees the souls of the martyrs come to life. Remember, Revelation is more like a mural than a strict time-line chart. From Heaven’s point of view, it is all part of the same resurrection, just as Yeshua’s second coming spans all the events from the Rapture through the establishment of His Kingdom on Earth. The resurrection of all those who have died in the Messiah throughout history is a necessary precursor to reigning with the Lord during the Millennium.
e. The second death is "eternal" separation from Yehovah, the source of life, following the Final Judgment.
f. The repetition of “they” from verse 4 confirms that both groups - those who John saw sitting on thrones and those who had been beheaded for their witness to Yeshua and the Word of Elohiym ("God") - were involved in the first resurrection. They are the redeemed and glorified Saints of both the Old Covenant and Renewed Covenant People of Yehovah (those who looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah but died before He came and those who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah), who will rule with the Lord during the Millennium.
20:7-10 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and (a) will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, (b) Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from [Yehovah] out of heaven and devoured them. (c) The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
a. The people of the nations who now cover the earth have had 1,000 years of perfectly-enforced peace in a perfect, Eden-like paradise. So, how could the devil possibly deceive them? What could he offer them that is better than what they already have? How could he entice them to follow him and to rebel against the Lord who, for 1,000 years, has met their every need? . . . in exactly the same way he enticed Adam and Eve to sin against Yehovah: by appealing to their vanity and pride: “You will be like [Yehovah]” (Genesis 3:5) - the same vanity and pride that got Lucifer expelled from Heaven in the beginning (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14) - the same incorrigible sin that will be the downfall of anyone, including any of Yehovah's chosen People who refuse to totally submit to and who rebel against the One True God.
b. In Scripture, Gog appears to be the fallen archangel or "prince of the power of the air" (Ezekiel 38:2; Ephesians 2:2) who leads nations under his power (Magog) against Yehovah’s People and Jerusalem. Ezekiel 38 and 39 tell us about a war of Gog and Magog, the prototype of the final conflict at the end of the Millennium, in which armies from the Middle East and North Africa will come against Israel and be destroyed by the Lord’s direct intervention. That war will apparently occur at the beginning of the Final Seven Years (cf. Ezekiel 39:9), after the destruction of modern Babylon by fire, and, along with the destruction of Babylon, will set the stage for the rise of Antimessiah. Another occurrence of the War of Gog and Magog will be at the end of the Final Seven Years when armies from all nations come against Israel (compare Ezekiel 39:17-20 with Revelation 19:17-18). But the Gog-Magog war at the end of the Millennium involves the peoples of the whole earth (which, as was mentioned before, in "the restoration," may consist of one, huge continent). Those of all nations who have been deceived by the devil come against the “camp of the saints” (Israel and the Gentiles who have joined Israel under the Renewed Covenant - cf. Zechariah 8:23; Jeremiah 31:33 - who live outside the city) and “the beloved city” (New Jerusalem). But, as Sodom and Gomorrah and Babylon were destroyed, fire will come down from Heaven and destroy the rebels. In other words, the people of the “nations” during the Millennium will be given another opportunity to remain faithful to Yehovah. But again, although they dwell in a perfect world ruled over directly by their Messiah, many of them will be deceived into following Satan in rebellion against the Lord, and perish.
c. Satan, like Antimessiah and the false prophet before him, is finally finished - cast into the lake of fire.
d. For an exposition of "eternal torment," read Appendix 4 - Who are the People of Yehovah ("God").
20:11-15 Then I saw (a) a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face (b) the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw (c) the dead, small and great, standing before [Yehovah], and (d) books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And (e) the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (f) The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then (g) Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And (h) anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
a. This is the scene of the Final Judgment, when the dead of all ages - before and during the Millennium - who are included in the “second resurrection” appear before the Great White Throne of judgment. The One who sits on the throne is Yeshuah the Son, to whom the Father has committed all judgment (John 5:22). He will personally judge those who have rejected His Father and Him throughout history.
b. As happened to the islands and the mountains of 16:20 and to Babylon (18:21), the earth and heaven (the cosmos) disappear (cease to exist) (cf. also 2 Peter 3:7, 10-12).
c. These are not the Redeemed who are no longer dead but were brought to life in the first resurrection. This begs the question, however: “Where are those who, in their physical bodies, lived and remained faithful to the Lord during the Millennium?” This commentator does not know; all that he can do is to speculate that they are transfigured and given their new, glorified bodies when the earth and heavens pass away, as was Yeshua in the garden before his crucifixion (Matthew 17:2) and as, undoubtedly, was Elijah when he ascended into Heaven without tasting death (2 Kings 2:9).
d. There are apparently several books maintained by Yehovah, including the books of Yehovah’s remembrance of the tribulations of His People and of those who fear Him (Psalm 56:8; Malachi 3:16), the book of Yehovah’s creation (Psalm 139:16), the book of the law (Galatians 3:10), the books of people’s works (20:12), and the Book of Life.
e. The dead are judged by their works rather than by their faith, for “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Good works do not save us, but saving faith is confirmed by the good works in which the Lord created us in the Messiah to walk (Ephesians 2:10). Head knowledge or just saying, “I believe,” will not get one saved. It may be inserted here that the Redeemed will also appear before the Lord in the Final Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10), not to be judged negatively (John 5:24), but to be rewarded for their good works done by the grace of Yehovah through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10) and for their fruitless works to be burned (1 Corinthians 3:13-15), purifying them for eternity in the presence of the Lord.
f. Why the sea is listed and Death and Hades are listed separately as places from where the dead come is not clear. Apparently “sea,” being singular and mentioned here after the description of the annihilation of earth and heaven, is figurative for the mass of unregenerate humanity (cf. 13:1) and is listed along with Death and Hades to emphasize the comprehensive nature of the second resurrection. Here, the sequence of events seems somewhat out of order: the judgment of the dead is seen prior to the second resurrection. But John is apparently not listing the events in strict chronological order, but from Heaven’s point of view, as if he were looking at a mural - as they occur in relation to the central focus of his vision - the Great White Throne of judgment.
g. Perhaps Death and Hades are personified here to emphasize that there will be no more death or place for the unrighteous dead in the Kingdom of Heaven. Or perhaps, as was suggested in the commentary on 6:8, Death and Hades are fallen angels who subject souls to death and Hades.
h. Anyone whose name had either never been written in the Book of Life (“vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” – Romans 9:22) or one whose name had been blotted out of the Book of Life (cf. 3:5).
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