Revelations 20-22

The capture of Satan (Rev. 20:1-10) Only one enemy remains to be handled”Satan, the power behind Rome. To complete the picture, the source of the evils of Rome must also be judged. In less dramatic fashion, an angel seizes Satan (the dragon) and confines him. There is no dualism here. God can capture and punish Satan whenever he wishes.  Satan yields influence and power because God allows him to do so, not because God is powerless to stop him. The entire book of Revelation presents God as sovereign and just. Man has no business asking why God allowd Satan to rule; man is given the assurance that what God does is right and that he will cover his saints.
For the original readers of this work, there is assurance that God will curb Satan's activities”at least those that pertain to their situation. To them, binding him for 1,000 years is the same as saying, he will be unable to bother you indefinitely. This is not the absolute end of Satan or his power, however. But it is the promised end of him for those people who first read the letter. The 1,000 years is no more literal than the chain, the bottomless pit, or the lock and seal on the Abyss. Satan will not be able to deceive the nations in the manner he deceived Rome for a long time. But he will return to take up his evil work at a later time. The statement is brief, for God's intention is not to describe the end of time, but to assure the original readers that he is in charge.
In 20:4, we return to the "souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus (see 6:9-11). Their prayer has been answered in promise. They live with Christ during the entire time that Satan is unable to deceive the nations as he had deceived Rome. The 1,000 years (an indefinite period) coincides with the binding of Satan. In a word, the spiritual kingdom of which they are a part”a kingdom ruled by Christ, the victor over Satan”is the real kingdom of God; Satan's kingdom has been crushed and Satan reigns no more. The story is about the martyrs. They may have suffered physical death for their faith, but they will not suffer condemnation. They have overcome and reign with Christ.
Turning back to the case of Satan, it is evident that what was described in vv. 1-6 is not the absolute end of Satan. Once again, he is able to deceive the nations like he had deceived those living under Rome's rule. A great figurative battle will follow. Satan is an enemy of God. He will continue his work to deceive people. Just as his previous effort with Rome had been aimed at wiping out Christ and all his saints, he will continue this pursuit. He is portrayed as preparing for an all out assault. The figures of Gog and Magog are drawn Ezekiel 38-39 (cf. Gen. 10:2). Gog and Magog represent a "proverbial threat to all mankind. The massive army is portrayed as marching around "the camp of God's people, the city he loves (20:9). But just as soon as the army takes its position, fire comes from heaven to destroy the army, and Satan himself is condemned forever. What a fitting ending to Satan's work! First, the whole book addresses the cry of the martyrs and then quickly informs us that after their particular situation, similar situations will arise. But, in God's time, which no one knows, Satan will be banished forever.
The Lamb and eternal destiny (Rev. 20:11-22:5) God, as sovereign ruler of physical and spiritual realms, exercises that sovereignty in both judgment and redemption.
At first, John sees God on his throne. In the throne room, there is no place for the physical universe. Those humans who have died now appear before God in judgment. Those whose names appear in the "book of life remain with God; those whose names do not appear there are cast out of his presence.
A "new Jerusalem is pictured as having replaced the old created order. This is not a rejuvenated earth; neither is it a new world order on the old earth. The "first heaven and the first earth had passed away (21:1). In contrast of quality, the new heaven and the new earth stand in the place of the one where Satan inspired men to do evil. Ultimately, the kingdom of heaven replaces the kingdoms of men.
What follows is not so much a description of heaven as it is a picture of the bride of Christ (21:2, 9-10). The bride is new Jerusalem, a fitting description in the light of Old Testament history and teaching (see Isa. 52:1-2; 62; 65:17-28). John sees the city, as "coming down. This coming down shows the saints to be victorious; they are with God; they are under his care and coverage. The promise of wiping away the tears, death, crying, and pain is symbolic; it indicates that the hardships brought by persecution for the testimony of Jesus are over. The saints are with God, where death, night, and the dreaded sea are no more. By way of contrast, unbelieving and immoral persons will be banished to hell”the second death (21:7-8).
New Jerusalem, i.e., the bride of Christ, is described in its splendor. The apostles of the Lamb are associated with the foundation, indicating the connection between the people of God and the work of Christ and his authorized representatives. The new city may have characteristics of the physical city, like walls and gates, but they have different functions. One would find the temple in the old city, where God's presence was felt, but not so in the new city, for here God himself may be found in all his glory. What is before us is an idealized city where God abides with his people. If you wish to call it heaven, so be it. But do not miss the identification and the meaning here. The intent is not to show Christians a glimpse of what heaven will be like. The intent is to declare to the martyrs and other faithful saints the culmination of God's promises and the consummation of the kingdom of God.
Conclusion (Rev. 22:6-21) Now that the drama has ended, one thing remains: to impress on the readers the urgency to take note of the certainties revealed within the book. Returning to epistolary form, John adds the ethical concerns that must be a part of faithfulness.
The certainty of the matters revealed are emphasized by the angel who spoke to John. They are the words of God himself. And, he says again, what is revealed is "to show his servants the things that must soon take place (22:6). Upon the heels of this statement is another, "Behold, I am coming soon! Although Jesus may be implied as the one coming, the words are God's. But the words of God and Christ are in unison. Casual readers will conclude that he is speaking of the end of the world. But in apocalyptic, the "coming of the Lord is usually a statement of judgment.

We have come to the end of our study of Revelation. I am sure there are yet many unanswered questions. Some may even be disappointed that more specific historical data was not cited. Others may remain unconvinced that the approach taken to the book is the correct one. But there is something more important than answering every human curiosity or satisfying every venturous spirit. That something is the nurturing of a sound faith. Speculative theology is not the end result of the study of The Apocalypse. The goal is faith. If your faith is not strengthened, then the study will avail little.
Hopefully, your further study of Revelation will lead into a deeper appreciation of God and his work among us. We are locked into a spiritual battle that Westerners often fail to recognize. But even those whose culture is not saturated with secular ideologies often confuse the spiritual conflict with animistic tendencies. We all need to consider the dynamics of life as we know it, and life as informed by Scripture. There shall be no excuse in the end. Ignorance is not an adequate defense when one stands before God.
Faith is built on the knowledge that God sent his Son, Christ, to atone for human sins. But faith cannot be defined in terms of the acceptance of the knowledge itself, but in a relationship of trust in God. That faith sustains the Christian in times of trial and discouragement. Even further, a claim to faith demands appropriate conduct and attitude of mind.
If the core of Revelation demonstrates that God will ultimately settle the score with Satan, the letters to the seven churches refine the meaning of faith. These letters teach us that defending the faith is essential, but if it is unaccompanied with a heart of love, it is of no personal spiritual benefit. Patience and kindness may be the result of the Spirit's working in one's life, but these virtues must not be confused with tolerance for evil.

Having concluded reading the biblical text and the study of these notes, take time to reflect on what you have learned. For starters, The Apocalypse reveals that all that meets the eye here on earth is not all that actually exists. The human view is limited. Secondly, The Apocalypse reveals that sovereign God sent Jesus Christ into the world to provide human redemption. By the same Christ, God has ordained the victory of righteousness over evil and the final defeat of Satan. Men and women will be judged in keeping with their faith or faithlessness.

Mac Lynn
©August 2008