13 August - Revelation 8: The Final Battle (Part 2) -
Revelation 20New International Version (NIV)
The Thousand Years
20 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share 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.
The Judgment of Satan
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The Judgment of the Dead
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is an image of triumph and the power of God, and yet has become the point of much debate and conflict within Christians circles.
So, I just want to warn you as we get into this topic tonight; I don’t plan to answer your questions in terms of the Millennium in this message; rather we will journey to look at what John is communicating through this passage.
If you have any questions regarding that you are welcome to talk to me after the service. I just think that it will cloud the point of what John was trying to communicate here in Revelations.
This passage is the triumphal conclusion of where the whole book has been building, so John gives us the clear theological conclusions of his whole book so that the next two chapter can be given their scope without leaving problematic ideas.
This passage is the description of the final defeat of evil. And in this we see again that it has its roots in the Gospel and will find its consummation at the hand of God.
We are given insight into this in our first point tonight and in the statement john makes that Satan will be…
Prevented from deceiving the nations
John paints a vivid image; almost kaleidoscopic in in its scope. I mean we see Satan bound but only to be released, martyrs reigning with Christ; a first resurrection talked abut so does that mean that John had the idea that there would be two resurrections; an idea no where found in all of the Bible. We see nations coming together from Gog and Magog, what can this all mean?
I must admit that it is due to the massive range and complexity of all these images that we can end up more confused than encouraged at the end of a passage like this. However, I want to show you that there is a great hope in this passage if we don’t allow ourselves to miss the language that John is using in this book!
So, what does it mean that Satan is bound for the thousand years? Well the key to understanding this is the reason for his binding! John says so that he is bound
, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.
We see this same language used by Christ in the gospel when talking about overcoming Satan’s kingdom in Matthew 12:28-29, it also echoes with other passages found in the New Testament where we read
"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31)
– we must note that the the word cast out in John is the same word used here in Rev 20.
Again we see Colossians 2:15 states that Jesus Christ "spoiled principalities and powers [including, centrally, Satan]," at the cross. Hebrews 2:14 teaches us that Jesus came in flesh and blood to die on the cross in order that "through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil." I John 3:8 proclaims this good news: "The Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
The united message of the New Testament is then that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Satan has been cast out, spoiled, and destroyed!
So an obvious, and indeed, necessary question must be asked: If Satan has been cast out, spoiled and destroyed; how and why do we see what we see in the world? Especially with the rampaging evil and the gross persecution of the church throughout the worlds and throughout the ages.
Well again, the danger is to over simplify the language of the text; John has been using symbols throughout his book, and here is no different; you see church Satan is bound since the cross in terms of his “Ability to deceive the nations.” In other words the gospel will go out and Satan has no power to stop that progress and mount a mass deception of all the nations as to stop that; until the time of the very end. Where he will be let out for “a little time.”
This rings true with the words of Christ where he says to Peter in Matthew 16:17-19;
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven.”
The Rock that Jesus is building his Church is the Messianic declaration; You are the Christ the Son of the Most High. That declaration has been given to us who declare the gospel and therefore the power of God has been loosed through us to minister the power of the gospel to the whole world!
Which leads us to the second point;
2. A Message of hope to a suffering church
Now it must be noted that to the church that John was writing to heard this they would have been greatly encouraged; because we must remember they were a church that was going through a horrific persecution.
However, John doesn’t just encourage them on the success of the mission; he encourages them to really press on in spite of their own potential persecution and even deaths.
John gives us a glimpse to behind the scenes of history to those who had fallen in this great persecution; those who had been martyred for the faith.
John says they came to life and reigned with Christ for this thousand years. How do we understand this? What was John trying to communicate here?
Well, firstly to state the obvious is that no other writing, Jewish or Christian, has any mention of this ‘double resurrection’, let alone of the surrounding events.
Added to this is this phrase the second death, that John mentions here, should spark the careful reader as a mark back to Revelations 2:8-11. Where John writes to the church at Smyrna. A Church that was impoverished and persecuted who in John’s address to them states that there is coming a great test by the Devil who will persecute some and put others to death. John says to them;
“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!”
This lines up with Christ saying in Matt 10:28; don’t fear those who can kill the body, fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.
John is describing for us the salvation reality of those who have served Christ unto death: Absent in the body, present with the Lord!
In other words; do not concern yourselves with those who have died; don’t morn “as those with no hope.” They are with Christ; death cannot touch them, they reign with Him and rule with them!
From this picture we are moved along to the final judgment; and I will run through this quickly
Firstly, we see
3. Evil must be fully expressed so that it may be fully judged
Satan is given one last chance to rise up and express himself, and he goes to God and Mogog. To quickly answer what this means; Gog was the fictional king of the fictional land of Magog in Ezekiel. This was a representation of all the lands of the North. Buy John’s time, it was a symbolic understanding off all the nations both north and south!
Now, the reason this is mentioned is to show us that God will allow Satan to do his worst; evil must have its day, it must be fully expressed or it will and can never be fully expelled and judged.
It is shown in this passage how all the nations now are deceived to rage against the people of God one last time, to show together their hatred to all things that represent God and His goodness. And in this act they are consumed by the fire from heaven.
Again the message is this; evil will have its day but its undoing will come from God! He will destroy it and He will judge it.
“Revenge is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” Rom 12:19
It is after this consummation of justice, the judging of evil that now see the final judgment.
And we see
4. In the end every deed is judged
In this great and consummative image; John gives us a picture of God being the judge of the whole world and being a fair judge who does not let any deed go unaccounted for.
Church this is the truth; God is a true and fair judge; not a single deed will go unnoticed, no hidden thing will remain hidden. Every action and even our thoughts and words will be held to account.
And I need to say that this is one of the great themes of Revelation; God will be shown to be a just God!
Now if you are sitting here thinking; every deed? Surely not for the Christian right? And church I need to make this clear; every deed will be accounted for!
But… and this is huge! Only those who are not found in the book of life will be judged for their deeds! 20:15
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Again John is using a theme he established in his opening letters to the churches; where he says in 3:5 to the church of Sardis;
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels.
The point is this; every deed will be judged; however, those who know Christ our deeds are judged and paid for on the Cross! Every one!
Again our hope is the gospel! Our strength is our God and our future is to be with Him!