We saw in previous posts that John takes a literary approach to writing his visions. From Chapter 12 to 22:5, John relates the appearance of the enemies of Christ’s Church in the order in which he sees them in his vision (along with images of God’s people interspersed throughout). Revelation does not record visions in chronological order that people on earth will experience them, and neither can modern persons plot the events on a timeline. The chart, based upon Vern Poythress’ commentary, I have used several times illustrates the order of events.
This paragraph of Revelation teaches—
God will vindicate His people in the final battle by judging Satan (the Dragon) and his evil cohorts.
I. Satan’s binding occurs during the Church Age, but he will be released at the end to work further evil. vs. 7
vs. 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison…
As we have seen before in chapter 9, the abyss (the Greek word abyssos means “unfathomable depth”) is the place where the demons are incarcerated. They are not fixed to a wall like one would be in a modern prison. They are permitted to roam the earth to promote evil from their dark realm.
The abyss is further described as a “prison” (pylakē in Greek).
II. During the Church Age, Satan is prevented from gathering the nations into one army to destroy the Church. vs. 8
vs. 8 …and [Satan] will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
This is the same battle that is described in Revelation 19:17-21. The imagery from this verse is drawn from Ezekiel 38 and 39. Gog and Magog are representative of the enemies of God’s people. The literal nations which bore these names were the enemies of God’s ancient people Israel. They are used as a symbol of the enemies of the church, the new Israel. Many have pointed out that there seems to be a discrepancy between the chronology in Ezekiel and the one here in Revelation. Note that the discrepancy depends upon a person’s interpretation of Ezekiel. In both books the sequence of events are as follows: (1) the Millennium; (2) a rebellion; (3) the eternal kingdom.
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William Hendriksen says this—
In other words, we have here in Revelation 20:7–10 a description of the same battle—not “war”—that was described in Revelation 16:12ff. and in Revelation 19:19. In all three cases we read in the original, the battle. Thus 16:14: “to gather them together for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty.” Again, Revelation 19:19: “gathered together to make the battle against him.” Similarly, here in 20:8: “to gather them together to the battle.” In other words, these are not three different battles. We have here one and the same battle. It is the battle of Har-Magedon in all three cases. It is the final attack of anti-Christian forces upon the Church. The “new” thing that Revelation 20 reveals is what happens to Satan as a result of this battle. (see Hendriksen, p. 195, below; emphasis mine.)
III. When the end of the age occurs, God will permit Satan to threaten the Church. vs. 9
vs. 9 …And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them…
Here we have the ancient symbols used to describe the new Israel, the Church. In the New Testament elsewhere, the word “camp” (paremholē) is used to describe either a military camp or Israel’s encampment. See Acts 21:34. Also see Hebrews 13:11-13.
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The figure of a camp, stresses the “pilgrim character” of God’s people. (see Johnson A. F., below.) The second figure, “the city he loves,” has suggested to many that Jerusalem will be rebuilt in Palestine along with its temple for sacrifices. This is impossible from a theological standpoint. God used type and shadow in the Old Testament, but he has brought fulfillment and completion in the New Testament. He will not go back in the future, but will bring about further fulfillment and completion. It is impossible for God to go back to types and shadows. Therefore, the city must be a symbol for God’s people like the camp.
See Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
Note that the text uses “battle language,” but the saints do not fight. They stand and watch fire fall on their enemies, for God himself does the fighting.
John Martin – “The Great Day of His Wrath” – United States public domain
IV. The Church’s enemies and those who followed them share the same fate—eternal separation from God and punishment in hell. vs. 10
vs. 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Hell is described here as “the lake of fire and sulfur (puros kai theiou). This imagery is drawn from the Old Testament—Isaiah 30:33 “For a burning place [or Topheth] has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.”
Topheth was the place place outside Jerusalem where children were burned sacrifice to the god Molech—see Jeremiah
7:30-32. II Kings 23:10 describes what King Josiah did to prevent further sacrifice in Topheth.
This passage make it clear that the punishment of the wicked will be eternal. The time references by day and by night are in a Greek noun case that stresses the kind of time (hemeras kai nyktos). Added to this is the phrase forever and ever (eis tois aiōnoas ton aiōnōn). It is literally “unto the ages of ages.”
An old preacher was once confronted by a skeptic saying that Scripture does not speak of eternity, but of “the ages of ages.” He replied, “Well, we will live as long as God does. That’s enough for me!”
Next time, we will look at the Great White Throne judgment.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
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