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Revelation 20:3

“[The angel] threw [Satan] into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.”

Yesterday, we concluded that Revelation 20:1–10 most likely does not record events that follow the final return of Christ. Instead, the text probably covers the entire period from the ascension of Jesus to His return to consummate His kingdom, giving readers yet another perspective on this era. Other details in this text confirm this interpretation. For example, verse 4 speaks of the people of God reigning with Christ during the millennium. Of course, Jesus has been reigning since His ascension, and His reign continues today as He currently is putting all things under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). We are not waiting for Jesus to commence His reign; rather, we await only the consummation of His rule. That His reign is concurrent with the millennium provides strong confirmation that we are in some sense in the millennium even now.

According to today’s passage, the binding and imprisonment of Satan coincide with his banishment from heaven at the point of Christ’s victory on the cross and ascension to heaven (Rev. 20:1–3; see ch. 12). Thus, in light of what we have said, Satan is currently restrained. However, those who believe that this binding of the devil has not yet occurred often point out that there is still great evil on the earth, which makes it all but impossible that Satan presently suffers under limitations. But the key here is not to read the binding and imprisonment of Satan too literally, as if the symbolic language in Revelation 20:1–3 means that the devil is literally in a prison and has no access to the world. Verse 3 indicates that the binding of Satan has a specific goal—“that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” John’s vision does not mean Satan is inactive but that his power to deceive has been limited until the period just before the return of Jesus.

Yet, even now the devil is able to deceive people (2 Tim. 3:12–13), so what does the curtailment of Satan’s deceptive power actually mean? It cannot mean that he is wholly unable to deceive every individual. Instead, as many great thinkers in church history have noted, Satan’s ability to deceive all the nations into rejecting the gospel has been limited. Indeed, this must be so, for while the world still resists the Word of God, the truth of God has enjoyed a much greater worldwide spread since the ascension of Jesus than before. The success of missions and church planting worldwide under the new covenant shows that Satan’s power is being held back.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Augustine of Hippo comments in City of God that “the angel . . . checked and repressed [Satan’s] power to seduce and possess those destined to be set free.” The devil is unable to keep those whom God has chosen from believing the gospel. Thus, we can proclaim the gospel, confident that God has His people in every city. Let us support the extension of the gospel to all nations.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 67
  • Habakkuk 2:14
  • John 6:37–40
  • Acts 18:1–11

A Thousand Years

The First Resurrection and the Second Death

Keep Reading The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

From the December 2020 Issue
Dec 2020 Issue