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Revelation 20:1-6



And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 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.


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 for Jesus and because of the word of God … They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

(verses 1-5)

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The Millennium. What are we to make of it? Will it be set in place only after Christ’s coming, with the saints reigning beside Christ for a literal thousand years? Or will it be the result of great revival, answering the prayer “Your kingdom come,” which will then be followed by the glory of Christ’s return? Or is the Millennium right now, being a symbolic picture of the church age, stretching all the way between Christ’s first and second comings?


Each of these positions have been strongly and cogently argued on the basis of Scripture. Sometimes those debates have resulted in bloodied noses (symbolic? literal?) as believers have passionately defended their own interpretation and vilified those who saw it differently. Somehow the central command to love one another has often been lost in the skirmish. Tragic.


Without entering the debate (there is not enough space!), I want to pull several insights from this short passage:


(1) The devil is put in his place. Not only is he confined to the Abyss, but it is a nameless angel from heaven who carries it out. Yes, the devil’s “craft and power are great” (as Luther put it), but he is no match for the Sovereign Lord, and certainly not his equal. There is not even a face-to-face confrontation at this point – it is simply one of the Lord’s emissaries who seizes the dragon and binds him.


(2) Satan is already bound. Whether this vision focuses specifically on the future or not (that’s the debate), the imagery reminds us that Satan has in fact been bound already. That’s the implication of Jesus’ parable about plundering a strong man’s house – it can’t be done, Jesus said, unless someone first “ties up” the strong man (Mark 3:27). That’s the very word that’s used here in Revelation. Fulfilling the parable, Jesus has indeed already broken in. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Oh, the job is yet to be completed – that’s what Revelation 20 describes. But already Satan is constrained. He doesn’t have unfettered authority on earth. His deceiving works can be thwarted – the Gospel can go forth.


(3) Martyrdom is not the end. Although from earth’s perspective losing your head (literally) appears to be a dead-end, it’s not for those who are followers of Jesus. The forces of evil may cut short physical life, but they can’t snuff out the Lord’s purposes for his people. In this passage, those who have been martyred reign with Christ! Though trials may be severe in this life, yet for Christ-followers victory is assured. Life will be unending. Engagement in Christ’s kingdom will continue.


So, rejoice! The Sovereign Lord reigns! His purposes will triumph. The enemy will be fully overcome (to see it in Technicolor, read to the end of the chapter!).

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O Lord, fulfill your purposes. Thwart the evil one. Bring your peace. Give success to the Gospel. May Your kingdom come; Your will be done. To your eternal glory. Amen.

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Reflect:

In the oppression and evil of our world, what circumstances (personally or globally) tempt you to despair? Take confidence afresh that the evil one will not prevail – take those circumstances in hand and turn them to prayer.

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Photo by Matthew Lancaster on Unsplash


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