The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8
iii] The millennial bondage of SatanSynopsis
In this, the next "and I saw" vision, John sees an angel coming out of heaven holding the key to the Abyss, along with a heavy chain. The angel seizes the dragon, Satan, binds him, casts him into the Abyss and seals it for a thousand years. In the Abyss, Satan is unable to deceive the nations, but is again released to cause trouble for a short time.
The Kingdom of God is at hand; Satan is done and dusted, his power broken.
i] Context: See 19:11-16. The millennial bondage of Satan, v1-3 and the millennial reign of the saints, v4-10, although separate visions, stand together, both in time and space - Satan is bound so the saints can rule.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The millennial bondage of Satan:
The vision of an angel, v1
The incarceration of Satan, v2-3.
In this the fourth of the kai eidon, "and I saw", visions, John describes the binding and final release of Satan. Major problems of interpretation flow from this chapter when we take John's apocalyptic images literally and/or assume a sequential flow of events running from 19:11 to 21:8. As to the "and I saw" visions, they are not sequential, but rather serve to reveal a number of different aspect of the fall of the harlot Babylon, and the marriage feast of the Lamb, 17:1-19:10.
Most commentators tend toward an amillenial approach to this passage (see below) where the millennial binding of Satan represents the period between the ascension and the parousia / glorification of Christ, namely, the church age, the messianic age. In this period of time, represented by the apocalyptic symbol of 1,000, Satan's power is restrained. Only in the final tribulation, prior to Christ's second coming, will his power be restored, but only for "a short time."
A very impressive argument is mounted by Koester. He posits that the binding of Satan is nothing more than "a story of the progressive demise of evil." This is certainly typical of John's multi-faceted account of the day of judgment. The demise of Satan entails more than just his being put down: He is no longer able to denounce God's people before God because his judgment involves him being cast from heaven, 12:7-12; He is no longer able to deceive God's people because his judgment involves his incarceration, 20:1-3. Consequently, the vision "affirms that God will prevail, giving Christians incentives to resist both the overt and the more subtle pressures to relinquish their commitments." Goldsworthy posits a similar argument, namely that "the millennium is the day of the Lord, the day on which Satan is bound." "The thousand years is, as to quantity, an unknown but perfect period of time. As to quality, it is the exaltation of Christ in his glorious rule." "The binding of Satan does not imply that there is no evil, no conflict. Rather, it is an affirmation that the kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ and now permeates the world through the church as it preaches the gospel and lives by it."
The thousand years binding of Satan and reign of the saints: It seems likely that this period of time is an apocalyptic symbol for the reign of God in Christ throughout the church era; see note v2. Christ is victorious on the cross, risen as "the firstfruits of those who have died", ascended, glorified, having appeared (parousia) in heaven (robes stained in blood) with his white-robed saints before the Ancient of Days - Satan is bound, done-and-dusted. Within this reality, the Christian community, alive in Christ, strives to reign with Christ (the millennia) against the corrupting influences of the secular city (Babylon, the beasts, antiChrist, ....), manipulated by the red dragon / Satan. As the Christian community witnesses to the gospel, they find that the strong man is unable to resist the power of God unto salvation. In the final days, "a short time", the struggle will intensify into an all-out war between good and evil (the battle of Armageddon), but the warrior king has already won the battle, Satan bound and the victory ours in Christ. So, take heart!
The inaugurated and realized eschatology of John's apocalyptic imagery as it relates to chapter 20: In John's Inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom of God is not yet. Its present reality is found in the Christian church / messianic era (the millennia / the reign of God in Christ today). This eschatological perspective is particularly evident in chapter 20 with the binding / restraint of Satan, rule of Christ through the Christian community, release of Satan (Armageddon) and the Great Assize. From this perspective, the heavenly reality lies in the future - the day of Jesus' coming.
In our experience we live in the age of the Christian church, the messianic age, the millennia, the not yet of the inaugurated kingdom of God, awaiting the Great Day of the Lord, the day of Jesus' coming. Yet, as illustrated in the diagram below, in another sense we are already in heaven reigning with Christ, already in the now of the realized kingdom of God, Heaven. Satan is defeated on the cross, judgment enacted such that "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus", Eph.2:6. John's eschatology is primarily realized, the kingdom of God is now. Christ has taken his seat at the right hand of the Ancient of Days and so the day of judgment is upon us. This is particularly evident in the first and second "and I saw" visions with the defeat of Satan (the rider's blood stained robes) / fall of Babylon / beast etc., evidenced by the littered corpses on the battlefield, and also the appearing of Christ (parousia) in heaven with his saints.
The resurrection of the dead best illustrates this time-warped reality: "the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first", but as Jesus said to the thief on this cross, "this evening you will be with me in paradise." All very Dr. Who!
There are three main Millennial interpretations for chapter 20:
Premillennial: In this version of events, Christ returns to earth, defeats the beast and the prophet (antiChrist), the kings and their armies, and then binds Satan in the Abyss. Believers are then raised from the dead and with Christ, rule for 1,000 years. On his release, Satan leads a rebellion against Christ and the saints, but is overthrown and ends up in the fiery pit. Then follows the general resurrection of the dead to face the final judgment, with the unrighteous sent to the fiery pit and the righteous gathered to a new heaven and new earth, cf., Mounce.
Postmillennial: The Christian community, aided by the Spirit of Christ, slowly overcomes the beast and the prophet, and their associates, casting them into the fiery pit. Then follows a 1,000 years during which the influence of Satan is severely restricted. After this period, Satan, in partnership with the antichrist and his associates, orchestrates a major rebellion against God. Christ returns and puts down the rebellion, and throws Satan into the fiery pit. Then follows the general resurrection of the dead to face the final judgment, with the unrighteous sent to the fiery pit and the righteous gathered to a new heaven and new earth, cf., Osborne.
Amillennial: Most commentators argue that the millennial captivity of Satan, v1-3, and the millennial reign of the saints, v4-10, represent the present state of the Christian community in the messianic age, ie., the era between Christ's resurrection and return , see Hugh, Boring, Beale, Beasley-Murray ("the thousand years .... began with the appearing of the kingdom of the Messiah in history"), Wilcock (the thousand years "began with Christ's first coming, are thus still in progress, and are equivalent to the 'three and a half years'"), Caird ("the messianic age"). Satan has his hands tied; he can influence through deceit, but that's it. He may present as "an angel of light", but he is nothing more than a lier; "there is no truth in him." The secular city follows his lead, and sadly, so do apostate believers, but he can be resisted. Yet, there is a day coming when he will be set free from his bonds. That will be a terrible time of tribulation, but it will only be "for a short time."
Text - 20:1
The millennial bondage of Satan, v1-3: i] An angel appears on the scene with a key to the dwelling place of demonic beings below the earth, cf., 9:1. He has a "large chain"; as is required for a serious offender.
kai eidon "I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.
katabainonta (katabainw) pres. part. "[an angel] coming down" - The participle may be classified as the accusative complement of the object "angel" standing in a double accusative construction, or simply adjectival, attributive, limiting "angel", "an angel which is coming down ....... and having ......" So also "having / holding".
ek + gen. "out of" - from. Expressing source / origin.
econta (ecw) pres. part. "having" - The participle as for "coming down"; he was holding both a key and a great chain.
thV abussou (oV) gen. "[the key] to the Abyss" - [the key] of the bottomless / deep pit. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, or better attributive / idiomatic, "the key which locks / unlocks the gate to the Abyss", as NIV. "The key which gives access to the Abyss", Cassirer.
epi + acc. "holding in [his hand]" - [and a great chain] upon [the hand of him]. John's favorite spacial preposition, here with the accusative; probably as NIV. "And a huge chain", CEV.
ii] The incarceration of Satan, v2-3. As explained above, the millennial incarceration of Satan images the kingdom of God, both inaugurated and realized, as regard Satan. From the perspective of realized eschatology, Christ was victorious over Satan on the cross, such that in eternal terms he is bound and his "deceiving" days are over. It is of great comfort to those of us who live in the realm of inaugurated eschatology, the not yet, having been deceived on numerous occasions, to know that the Great Deceiver's days of deceiving were numbered long ago. As to his power, when it comes to the gospel, Christ's cross has rendered him like a jailor without a jail.
oJ ofiV (iV ewV) "that [ancient] serpent" - [and he seized the dragon] the [ancient] serpent [who is devil, and satan]. Nominative standing in apposition to "the dragon", although note that "dragon" is accusative. John may view "the ancient serpent" as a title.
cilia eth "a thousand years" - [and he bound him] a thousand years. This important term is anarthrous here (without an article). In the following references throughout the chapter, John provides a definite article serving to reference back to the "thousand years" in this verse. Yet, we face a problem with v4 and the thousand year reign of Christ" because there the "thousand years" is anarthrous when we would expect the article, "the same thousand years." The context certainly implies that they are the same "thousand years", the same perfect period of time. A similar problem appears in v6, although textual variants exist with and without the article. "The thousand year period is a symbolic time that is lengthy though still transient", Blount. In the amillennial scheme, the thousand years represents "the messianic age", so Caird, the age between the ascension and parousia / glorification of Christ, the the reign of God in Christ today, the inaugurated kingdom of God. The reign of the saints with Christ is, of course, eternal, but it seems likely that the millennia refers to this age, contra Smalley "a symbol for the timeless reign of God in Christ, in heaven and on earth." Possibly conceived from Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 90:4, and obliquely referred to in 2 Enoch 32 / 33, namely of 7 periods of time, the seventh period being the messianic age involving the binding of Satan and the reign of the saints, with the eighth period being eternal time.
epanw gen. "[sealed it] over [him]" - [and the angel threw him into the abyss and shut the door and sealed it] over [him]. This preposition expresses the sense "over, above, upon, on." The angel hurled Satan into the Abyss and "locked him in and sealed the opening over him", Barclay. The idea of a locked door represents "the sovereignty and judgement of Christ over the realm of Satan", Smalley. Smalley states that the realm is "death and Hades", although its probably wider than that, given his earthly authority ("he has the whole world in his hand"????). Satan's incarceration is not in Hades, the place of the dead, but the Abyss, the home of dark powers.
iJna mh + subj. "to keep him from [deceiving the nations]" - that not / lest [he deceive the nations any more]. Introducing a negated purpose clause, "in order that not ..."; "so that he could not deceive the nations any more", TEV. As indicated above, if we follow Koester then Satan cannot deceive the nations anymore because his days of deceit are over; he is incarcerated, ready for the lake of fire. If we take the view that his confinement represents the messianic age / the age of the church, then his wings are trimmed, eg., "he cannot .... prevent someone being drawn to Christ. Nor can he delude and attack the covenant community after the resurrection of Jesus, as he did before it (which is the force of eJte, "any longer)", Smalley, so also Hughes, .....
acri + subj. "until [the thousand years were ended]" - until [the thousand years were completed]. Introducing a temporal clause, indefinite time; "extent of time up to a point", BDAG. "After the thousand years were past", Phillips.
meta + acc. "after [that]" - after [these things]. Temporal use of the preposition, "after".
luqhnai (luw) aor. pas. inf. "[he must be] set free" - [him] to be released [for a short time is necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary." The accusative subject of the infinitive is auton, "him". The temporal phrase mikron cronon, "little / short time", is an accusative of time, so "for a short time"; "after that he is destined to be let loose for a short while", Cassirer. The release of Satan after his millennial imprisonment is usually understood to represent the final tribulation of the Christian Community, a horrible time of persecution when evil is let loose ("a great resurgence of evil at the end of time", Wilcock, cf. 2Thes.2), a time that will be shortened for the sake of the elect, cf., Mk.13:20. If we follow Koester, what we have is an apocalyptic image proving to us that Satan, his minions and followers (those with the mark of the beast) rightly face the demands of eternal punishment, for even after judgment was enacted against them, they were up to their old tricks again. The lake of fire is rightly their end. This approach requires us to see the Great Day of the Lord / judgment in the terms of a process, rather than a single act. This certainly fits with John's approach to the Great Day, eg., the judgment of the seals, trumpets and bowls. Blount draws two points from the release of Satan: First, evil resurrects; it always comes back. Second, resurrected evil will try to deceive. Two good sermon points!