And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time. Revelation 20:1–3
Read More Than Conquerors, pp. 221–229
A. THE BINDING OF THE DRAGON PROGRAM OF HISTORY AS UNFOLDED IN REVELATION 20
In view of such expressions as “the marriage of the Lamb,” “the winepress of the fierceness of God’s wrath,” and “the great supper of God,” it is clear that chapter 19 has again brought us to the final judgment. Now in chapter 20 it is not until verses 11–15 that the final judgment is described. Hence. whatever in chapter 20 precedes verse 11
will take place previous to the final judgment. This is true especially because chapter 20 presents a clear-cut, chronological order or time-sequence. The beginning of the chapter brings us back to the beginning of our present new dispensation. In that respect the connection between chapters 19 and 20 resembles that between chapters 11 and 12. In Revelation 11:18 “the time of the dead to be judged” had arrived. Then in Revelation 12 the clock of history moves back to the birth, ascension, and coronation of our Lord. Similarly, with chapter 20 we have returned to the beginning of our present era. Verses 1–3 describe the thousand year binding of Satan that begins with Christ’s first coming. It is paralleled by the thousand year reign of the souls of the redeemed in heaven, described in verses 4–6. Verse 7 shows us what will happen on earth during Satan’s “little season” that will intervene between the thousand year binding of Satan and Christ’s return unto judgment. Verse 10 carries us to the very end of that little season.
So now that in previous chapters the victory of Christ over all the allies of the dragon has been related, the doom of the leader himself is finally described (20:10). It occurs, accordingly, at the moment of Christ’s second coming. Hence, a further description is given, in verses 11–15, of that second coming unto judgment.
B. THE SYMBOLIC ACTION-SCENE OF VERSES 1–3
John sees an angel descending from heaven. He has the key to unlock the abyss. This abyss is a deep hole provided with a shaft and a lid. Upon the angel’s band lies a chain, the two ends banging down. The angel overpowers Satan. He renders him helpless and binds him securely and firmly. The devil remains bound for a thousand years. The angel hurls him into the abyss and locks it. He places a seal over it. Thus, Satan remains locked up for a thousand years.
C. INTERPRETATION OF THE SYMBOL
Throughout the present gospel-age, which begins with Christ’s first coming and extends nearly to the second coming, the devil’s influence on earth is bound or curtailed, so that he is unable to prevent the extension of the Church among the nations by means of a mighty, active missionary program.
Of course, this does not mean that the devil is bound in every sense. A dog securely bound with a long and heavy chain can still do much damage within the circle of his imprisonment. Outside of that circle the animal can, however, do no damage. Thus also, Satan’s influence is curtailed with respect to one definite sphere of activity, as already indicated. He cannot destroy the church as a mighty missionary organization heralding the gospel to all the nations, substituting God’s truth for Satan’s deception (“that he should deceive the nations no more”). He cannot do that until the thousand years are finished.
D. SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT FOR THIS INTERPRETATION
Please look up these passages for yourself:
Old Testament: Genesis 12:3; Psalm 72:8–11,17; Psalm 87; Isaiah 54:1–3; 60:1–3; 65:1; Micah 4:1,2; Malachi 1:11.
New Testament: Matthew 12:21; 24:14; 28:19; Luke 10;17, 18; John 12:20–32. Note particularly Matthew 12:29 where this very binding of “the strong man” (Beelzebub) is mentioned. Also significant is Matthew 8:11,12 (cf. Luke 13:29).
We see, therefore, that the interpretation given is in harmony with the entire context of Revelation 20, and the teaching of all of Scripture, both Old and New Testament.
1. What is the meaning of the various names used in verse 2 to indicate the evil one?
2. Is the expression “one thousand years” to be taken literally?
3. How does Satan deceive the nations?
4. Does the binding of Satan have any application in the realm of common grace?
5. Briefly summarize the history of the progress of the gospel. An excellent book, in this connection, is R. H. Glover, The Progress of World-Wide Missions.
6. Criticize the view according to which the binding of Satan for one thousand years simply means that the devil is bound by the chain of God’s providence. Of course, we all believe that Satan can do nothing apart from God’s over-ruling providence; but if the concept of the binding of the devil is limited to this, what difficulty does this interpretation lead to?
7. Granted that to a certain extent we are still living during the period in which the dragon is bound, what practical use should we make of this opportunity?