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Revelation Twenty

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

angel. The angel may well be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, since it is He who has the key to the bottomless pit (Revelation 1:18), and it would be most appropriate for the Son, on behalf of the Father, to personally dispatch the great rebel to his prison.

bottomless pit. On the bottomless pit (Greek abusos) see note on Revelation 9:1. The demons had dreaded the prospect of being sent by Christ to “the deep” (same Greek word, Luke 8:31), but the “time” for their “torment” (Matthew 8:29) will finally have come, as they will be corralled with their evil prince into the deep dungeon.

great chain. The “great chain,” with which to “bind the strong man” (Mark 3:27) is no doubt a spiritual chain to restrain the spirit being called Satan, but it will serve the purpose, whatever it is.

Revelation 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

And. Note that almost every verse in this chapter begins with “and” (Greek kai). The events reported in succession, one after another, are undoubtedly real events that will happen just as John reported them.

Satan. Note the same series of identifying names in Revelation 12:9.

thousand years. The “thousand years” or millennium (Greek chiliai) should be taken literally. It is mentioned six times in Revelation 20:2-7, as though the Lord would make it emphatically clear that Satan will be restrained for literally a thousand years. He is certainly not “bound” in this present age, for he still “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Revelation 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

no more. With Satan bound in the bottomless pit, the beast and the false prophet in the lake of fire, and all the ungodly men and women purged from the earth either at Armageddon or at the judgment of the nations (see notes on Matthew 25:31-46), there will be only a “few men left” (Isaiah 24:6) still in their natural flesh, to enter Christ's millennial kingdom (Matthew 25:34). Redeemed Israel, having been saved both individually and nationally when she sees and accepts her Messiah (Zechariah 12:9-13:1; Romans 11:25-26) will become the world's chief nation. All the ancient prophecies and promises concerning Israel will finally be fulfilled (e.g., Isaiah 2:2-4; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Zechariah 9:10; 14:9).

Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

given unto them. Peace and righteousness will finally reign on the earth, under the iron rule of Christ and His resurrected saints (Revelation 2:26-27; 19:15; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3), and it will endure a thousand years. Furthermore, the catastrophic changes on the earth's surface during the tribulation judgments will have restored the gentle topography and protecting vapor canopy over the earth (Isaiah 40:4; Psalm 148:4-6; etc.), so that the primeval “very good” condition of the whole world (Genesis 1:31) will be restored in large measure. Harmony also will be restored between men and animals, and people will again have only one language and will live to great ages (Isaiah 11:6-9; Zephaniah 3:9; Isaiah 65:20).

beheaded. Evidently, those who refuse the beast's mark will be executed by the guillotine.

lived. The “souls” of the martyrs of the tribulation will have been resting “under” the heavenly altar (Revelation 6:9-11) until the seven years of tribulation are done, but then will apparently be resurrected to join all the other raptured and resurrected saints of all the ages.

reigned. The saints will all be “kings and priests” (note Revelation 20:6) under their Lord, Jesus Christ, with various degrees of authority as based on faithfulness of service while in this present life (note Revelation 1:6; 5:10; Matthew 19:28; Luke 19:17, 19).

Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

lived not again. This phrase clearly indicates bodily resurrection after bodily death. The unsaved dead obviously will not live again spiritually, for they are in hades and will ultimately be in the lake of fire. In fact, the term “resurrection” itself occurs over forty times in the New Testament, and always refers to the resurrection of the body.

finished. Jesus had referred to “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29), and so had Daniel (Daniel 12:2) but here it is revealed for the first time that the first resurrection will be completed a thousand years before the second. The word “is” does not appear in the Greek. The sense probably is that “this completes the first resurrection (note 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23; Matthew 27:52-53; Revelation 11:11).

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

second death. The second death must be a bodily death, imposed after the second resurrection on all those who still are spiritually dead in their sins and trespasses (note Ephesians 2:1; Revelation 20:13-14).

priests of God. The resurrected saints will be both kings and priests (Revelation 1:6), exercising both judicial rule (1 Corinthians 6:2) and religious ministries in relation to the growing human populations on earth. They may be ministering to those who had died or been raptured while still “babes in Christ,” either infants physically or spiritually. These somehow must be brought to full maturity in Christ, both physically and spiritually, and the already-matured saints could conceivably be participants in their further growth.

Revelation 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

Satan shall be loosed. The events described in Revelation 20:7-9 take place only after there have been a thousand years of enforced peace and righteousness. In Revelation 20:3, it was said that Satan must be loosed a little season, evidently to give men an opportunity to reveal the basic rebellion still simmering in their human natures, and in order to see openly whether they will choose Satan over God, as their ancestors had done a thousand years before. Those entering the millennial period, of course, will be genuine believers, but their descendants will evidently drift away from the faith of their fathers as the generations accumulate and the population grows. Open rebellion, as well as crime and warfare, will be impossible. Satan and his hosts will all be bound in Hades, but men and women will still be born with sinful natures and will need to receive Christ as personal Savior by faith, just as was always true. If they do not, they will still be vulnerable to Satanic deception when Satan is released to tempt them.

Revelation 20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Gog and Magog. Despite the duplication of names, this Gog-and-Magog incursion after the thousand years does not seem to be the same as the invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog before the thousand years, as described in Ezekiel 38 and 39. The combatants in the two battles are quite different from each other and the outcomes are drastically different, as is obvious from even a casual reading of the two accounts. It may be that the names are the same because the new leaders of the rebellion (human leaders, that is) come from the same northern regions of Eurasia as the leaders of that earlier invasion of Israel. They may even have deliberately appropriated these Biblical names as a statement of their intent to avenge the defeat and death of their ancestors when they invaded Israel.

sand of the sea. The world population, with the benefit of increased longevity, as well as an almost perfect environment and societal conditions, will grow so much as actually to fulfill God's ancient command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1, 7). But it is a sad commentary on the perverse depravity of human nature that, even after a thousand years of peace and prosperity, and even while experiencing the personal reign of Christ on the earth, men will still follow Satan when they have a chance, and do so in great multitudes! Truly, the human heart in its natural state is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Revelation 20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

camp of the saints. “The saints” here are probably not just the Israelites in Jerusalem but also the resurrected and raptured saints of the previous ages, all coming to rally around “the beloved city” as the hosts of darkness and their multitudes of human followers surround them for one last desperate attempt to defeat and dethrone the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be impossible, of course, for God (not Satan!) is the Creator of all things, and this time His patience and longsuffering will finally reach an end. In a foretaste of the lake of fire which the rebels will all soon inhabit, God will send from heaven a vast ring of fire around the holy city which will quickly “devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27), “for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

brimstone. “Brimstone” was the Old English name for sulphur (“brim” developed into “burn,” sulphur being the “stone” that burns). When sulphur ignites, it burns with a very bright light and with the noxious odor of sulphur dioxide. This smell was noted by the ancients both in lightning storms and volcanic storms, so both came to be known as “fire from God”—hence the Greek words for brimstone came to be theion or theiodes. Whether or not the lake of fire and brimstone will actually incorporate burning sulphur, the use of the term indicates that the fiery lake will always be associated with the fiery judgment of a holy God on willful sin.

are. The beast and the false prophet are thus still imprisoned in the lake of fire over a thousand years after first being cast into it (Revelation 19:20). These two are actually men, of course, even though Satanically controlled men. Presumably their human bodies will be consumed by the flames when they are first cast into them, but their souls will still be there a thousand years later when Satan joins them, and they will all continue there forever. It is probable, though not explicitly so stated, that all Satan's demonic hosts will be cast there simultaneously with him (note Matthew 25:41).

Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

fled away. When the fire from heaven falls on the hosts of Gog and Magog, it will apparently burn up the earth and its atmospheric heaven as well, fulfilling the prophecy of 2 Peter 3:10. It will purge from the earth all the age-long effects of God's curse (e.g., the fossil remains of billions of dead creatures that had perished in the great Flood and other subsequent terrestrial catastrophes). In their place will appear God's awful throne of final judgment. See also Matthew 24:35.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

the dead. The “dead” here are the unsaved dead, their bodies having been raised in the second resurrection in order to stand before God in judgment. Whether those believers who are still living in the millennial earth at this time will also be raised—along with any believers who may have died during the thousand years—is not stated, but this would be a reasonable assumption, since they also would have perished in the final holocaust if not before. In any case, their names would indeed have been “written in the book of life,” so they would not be judged with the others “according to their works.”

according to their works. When the dead are judged according to their works, they must all be sent to hell, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” and “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:10, 20). Since they have rejected or ignored God's infinite grace and Christ's infinite love in dying for their sins, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). Even though “God is not willing that any should perish,” His justice demands it when they intractably have refused throughout their lives to “come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and to personal faith in Christ.

Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

death and hell. “Death” is often taken as synonymous with “the grave” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:55), where dead bodies are confined, whereas “hell” (Greek hades) is the place where the souls of the dead are confined. Multitudes of dead bodies are in the sea, rather than in the earth, of course, especially the great numbers of people who perished in the Noahic Flood. The ashes of those bodies that have been cremated have found their way either to the earth or to the sea, and so are also included among either the dead in the sea or those in the ground. In any case, the dead bodies of the unsaved will all be raised, presumably in their old natural condition, and reunited with their souls from Hades, to go before God in judgment.

Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

cast in to the lake of fire. All who will have been confined in death and Hades will be cast into everlasting fire, along with the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), who are already there, and with the beast and the false prophet.

second death. These will all have died physically, then been resurrected. They will die again physically (or possibly will continue in an eternal state of dying physically—note Mark 9:43-48). This can appropriately be called “the second death.”

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

book of life. Assuming that the names of all who begin physical life are initially inscribed in the book of life, their retention there depends on whether they accept Christ as personal Savior after they become conscious and accountable sinners and before they die. Otherwise their names will be blotted out of the book of life (see on Revelation 3:5; 22:19).

lake of fire. The lake of fire is obviously not located on this present earth, for this present earth will have burned up and “fled away” (Revelation 20:11) by this time; yet the lake of fire will have been burning continuously for more than a thousand years (Revelation 19:20). Neither will it be on the new earth, for that will be the home of “the Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 21:22), whereas “[they] that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ … shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

The word “destruction” does not mean annihilation, but “ruin.” Thus, the unsaved will be moved far, far away from the presence of the Lord, and there they will remain forever. They may well be translated to a far distant dark star, for a star is itself a lake of fire, and the lost are said to be like “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13). There they must continue in their sinful state, hating God, never resting, without light, without love, without peace, without anything that speaks of the presence or power of God, forever.

Lest anyone think this fate too severe, there are several factors to remember. In the first place, those who have rejected God's presence in their lives while they were on earth will be less miserable in hell than if they were forced to be in His presence in heaven forever. Secondly, only infinite punishment is fitting for those who have rejected or ignored the infinite love and infinite suffering of the Son of God for them. Finally, they must exist forever somewhere, since they had been created in God's image, which by definition is eternal.