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The Victory of the Saints
and the Judgment of Satan (e)

Revelation 20

James R. Davis

The judgment of God and the exaltation of faithful Christians are the constant theme running throughout John's Revelation. We see that Christ's judgment and warnings began with the house of God as Jesus walked among the seven candlesticks, which ultimately represented all the churches of the first century (chapters 1-3). In chapters 4-5 we see God and Christ reigning victoriously in heaven. In chapters 6-11 we see Christ judgment of his enemies as the seven seals are opened and the seven trumpets sound. In chapters 12-19 we have seen the great conflict between Christ and Satan as Satan followers experience the full fury of God's wrath. Chapter 19 ends with the judgment of Rome as the beast and the false prophet are thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. As we approach chapter 20 we begin to see a panoramic vision of the judgment of that old serpent the devil who has brought the world to destruction through his deception. Initially Satan is bound for a thousand years, but then chapter 20 culminates in the final doom of the ancient serpent that is the devil.

Yet, through each scene of judgment we see the constant protection and salvation of those who have remained faithful to Christ although many have lost their lives. We have seen that whatever the faithful lost in the world, they gained without measure as their souls approach the throne of God's presence in John's Revelation. This was the basic fundamental message to Christians in the first century. As we continue to study John's Revelation in the 20th century, these themes continue to be relevant for us, God continues to judge the church's enemies and He continues to protect and vindicate his saints.

Satan Is Stripped of His Powers (20:1-6)

It is in chapter 20 that we behold the complete judgment of Satan. In the earlier chapters we have only seen the partial judgment of the church's enemies. Initially the judgment was  partial in hopes that the church's enemies would repent. But now in chapter's 19 and 20 we behold the complete judgment of Satan and his followers. Initially Satan is bound and his powers are limited but in the final analysis he is destroyed.

The difficulties of chapter 20 have become the focal point of much eschatological speculation. As we study this chapter, it seems as though the difficult portions have become all consuming to many. Much time and effort is expended on giving some interpretation to the difficult portions rather than gleaning the simple truths so plainly taught. In chapter 20, the thousand year reign, the binding and loosing of Satan, and the resurrections engulf the intellect of many causing them to lose sight of the simple truths taught here and elsewhere.

The more I study the Bible, the more I am confounded by our efforts to interpret difficult scriptures. Too often we are consumed with the difficult portions, while we lose sight of what is plainly taught in the immediate context and elsewhere. Many times we end up weaving together doctrines from the difficult scriptures that are merely products of our imaginative fantasies.

In chapter 20, the binding of Satan and the doom of his final judgment are certainly simple aspects of the immediate context. There is a dire need among Christians of the first century to understand that Satan's powers are limited and his final doom is certain. Their eternal security rest upon these facts, so Satan's doom is revealed in John's vision. Satan is captured and bound for a thousand years. The number "10" in apocalyptic literature signified completeness. The number "1,000" was a multiple of "10" and it signified the complete overthrow of Satan's power to deceive the world. The binding of Satan prevents him from deceiving the nations anymore.

In the second scene of chapter 20 we see the second aspect of the subject under discussion. It has to do with the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their faithfulness to Christ. They had refused to worship the beast or his image (i.e. the emperors of Rome). They had refused to receive the mark of the beast and now they reign in complete total victory with Christ. Satan is bound for a thousand years and correspondingly the saints sit on thrones and reign with Christ for a thousand years. In a very real sense their faithfulness has led them through death and even at this very moment they live and reign with Christ in heaven.

We note that it is not an earthly reign, but rather a heavenly reign. And yet in a very real sense those on earth are presently reigning as kings and priests with Christ. (Revelation 1:6) John's vision portrays Christ ultimately reigning on earth and in heaven. As Christians remain obediently faithful to Christ they can look forward in John's vision and see the destruction of the false prophet, the beast and Satan. It is here that they understand that their situation isn't hopeless.

John says, "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6) As the martyrs are beheaded for Christ, their souls are resurrected to the throne of God. John calls this the first resurrection. As Christians die in battle they merely depart the earth to be with Christ. (Philippians 1:20-24) Now they await the final resurrection when Christ comes in final judgment upon the world.

The Christian's Assurance of Deliverance

The message of John's vision also teaches us that Christ's victory is not something for us to merely look forward to in the future. It is a victory that we can enjoy in the present. For even in the midst of the persecutions and spiritual battles faithful Christians reign supreme. This is true in the 20th century as well as the 1st century. It has been true through the ages.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our eternal security from an eternal perspective is in God's hands. This is the hope that ultimately saves us. (Romans 8:24)

Before Moses went as God's spokesman to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, God assured Moses of his success. God said, "And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites-- a land flowing with milk and honey.' "The elders of Israel will listen to you." (Exodus 3:17-18) Of course this did not eradicate all the difficulties, but it gave him hope in the midst of the difficulties.

Later Moses reminded the Israelites of God's faithfulness to the faithful. "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers." (Deuteronomy 7:9-12)

Jesus wanted his followers to understand their assurance as they follow God's commands.

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

God knows what is going on in our hearts and minds as we struggle to live faithfully and He is in the process of working all our circumstances together for good.

Romans 8:24-28
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Paul understood his personal delivery from hardships from an eternal perspective.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.

Paul saw God's hand of deliverance in his personal struggles.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Timothy 4:16-18
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Knowing the assurance that only comes from God enables us to be faithful through death.

Revelation 14:12-13
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

Daniel 3:16-18
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Peter sees the Christian shielded by God's power.

1 Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

2 Peter 2:9
" . . . the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment."

We now have a living hope as a result of being shielded by the power of God through faith.

Satan's Final Doom Is Sealed (20:7-10)

Some may tend to become frightened as they see Satan breaking forth after the thousand years gathering his forces from the four corners of the earth to deceive the nations again. A number of Satan's followers that number like the number of the sand on a seashore marches across the breath of the earth and surround God's people. But this is only a prelude to Satan's final doom; it is then that God devours them with fire from heaven. Then Satan is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The hardest thing in studying this chapter is to refrain from creating some timetable for Christ coming. Satan is bound for a thousand years and then he is loosed to gather his earthly forces together. We may try to ascertain the time of Satan's binding and loosing so that we might discern the time of Christ coming. There are a couple of  verses in particular that should guide us as we are tempted to do this: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:36-40) There will be no sign! Christ will come as a thief in the night! There will be no warning!

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

The important factor is the Christians continual readiness and continued faithfulness will not allow the judgment to slip up on him.

Concerning Christ's victory Paul writes, "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) It is at this precise point in John's Revelation that John wants us to see Christ's final triumph as he subdues and destroys his enemies. This is the important aspect of John's Revelation.

Victory and Protection are for Believers Only (20:11-15)

In John's vision we figuratively see the heavens and the earth fleeing away from the presence of God. Yet, Peter gives a literal description of what will happen at the final judgment.

2 Peter 3:8-13
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

This leaves no doubt about the destiny of the heavens and the earth. They will be destroyed. This is a message for all those basing their hopes and dreams on some future renovation of earth in hopes that there will be a new and improved order. The heavens and the earth will cease to exist. Even death and Hades will cease to exist as they are thrown in to the lake of fire.

On that great day all will stand before God and Christ, the small and the great. All will be judged out of the book of life according to their deeds. It is not a works based salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) But a person's works tell us whether he/she is a believer or an unbeliever.  For the unbelievers John says, "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (20:15)

John is drawing the same line of demarcation that Jesus drew in the following verses.

John 10:25-29
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

Conclusion:

In the first 20 chapters of John's vision we have seen the judgment of Satan's followers and complete overthrow of Satan. Now we shall see the final end of the faithful as they receive their final inheritance in chapters 21-22.

Revelation 2:8-11
"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty-- yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
 
 
 

 

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