The Binding Of Satan


Revelation 20 is the most difficult chapter of the book, if not the entire Bible. Premillennialist have used this chapter as the basis for their theory of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ, in literal Jerusalem, on the literal throne of David.

A proper understanding of this chapter as well as the other chapters begins by recognising that all of John’s visions are described in highly figurative, ‘apocalyptic’, language. Their big mistake is to make John’s visions literal.

To understand this chapter, we must keep in mind it’s a sequel to chapter 19. Chapter 20 is the climax to the last scenes of chapter 19. The dragon, ‘Satan’, the instigator of all opposition to Christ and His church, is about to be cast into the abyss, ‘bottomless pit’ thus the final and complete defeat of Satan.

Revelation 20:1 ‘And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.’

There is a holy war that rages between two opposing kingdoms, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The abyss is the present abode of Satan where he and his angels carry on their opposition to God and His church.

The ‘key’ and ‘chain’ are symbolic. A spirit cannot be bound with a literal chain. The angel is probably Christ and they symbolise His complete power over Satan.

Revelation 20:2 ‘He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.’

Through His death on the cross Jesus destroyed Satan’s power to rule and ruin men through sin. The cross sets men free, but it binds Satan. There are things he no longer does that he once did, he cannot destroy the church, he cannot prevent the Gospel from being preached to the entire world. He is bound for a thousand years which as other numbers in Revelation is figurative, it represents the Christian age sometimes referred to as

‘the last days.’

Revelation 20:3 ‘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.’

The abyss or bottomless pit is the same as the ‘chains of darkness’ where sinful angels were placed,

2 Peter 2:4 ‘For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment’.

Satan’s power has been broken, he is completely defeated.

This doesn’t mean he’s not active, but he is greatly limited by the blood of the cross. God’s truth guards those from all nations who have come to the Saviour. He will be released for a little time could mean his influence is short in comparison to what it was before Christ’s blood was shed. Since no explanation is given about this, we may not understand all that is involved but the inspired reader, would have known what it meant.

Revelation 1:3 ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.’

Revelation 20:4 ‘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 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.’

We aren’t told where these thrones were but we would assume they are in heaven. The context suggests that justice is being accomplished. John sees those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God and those who remained faithful until death. They hadn’t worshiped the beast or had his mark on them, they had died to their sins and no longer had anything to do with Satan.

John saw souls indicating they were without bodies which is the state of man between death and the resurrection. Thus, they are living and reigning with Christ in complete victory for a thousand years, which is the Christian age, not a literal thousand years.

Revelation 20:5 ‘(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.’

The rest of the dead are the wicked that have died. When Jesus comes the second and only time they too will be resurrected and but will suffer a second death, ‘separation’ by being cast into hell. The Scriptures are clear that there is but one life, one death and one resurrection.

John 5:28-29 ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.’

Hebrews 9:27 ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.’

The ‘first resurrection’ is used in a symbolic sense which is further mentioned in the next verse.

Revelation 20:6 ‘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.’

Those who have experienced the ‘first resurrection’ are to be blessed because they don’t have to fear the second death, which is hell. The ‘first resurrection’ is symbolic of the resurrection Paul speaks of in Romans 6 where one is buried in the waters of baptism and is raised to walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:1-5 ‘What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.’

They become dead to sin but are now alive in Christ because they have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

Romans 5:9 ‘Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!’

Revelation 20:7-8 ‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 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.’

John describes the final defeat of Satan. The Christian age now comes to an end and Satan is loosed from his prison. Again, he would deceive the nations, this is not a physical battle but rather the final battle between Christ and Satan.

Gog and Magog were ancient cities, which are used here as the symbolic enemies whom the Lord would defeat. No specific geographical designation is intended, they are as the sand of the sea, innumerable.

Revelation 20:9 ‘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.’

The large area of the enemy armies are ready to attack the beloved church Jesus has established. This isn’t a literal city but is symbolical of the church. While it looks like they are ready to destroy the church there is no battle described because God defeated Satan and his forces with fire from heaven. The defeat is decisive and final, it will occur with the second coming of Christ.

Revelation 20:10 ‘And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’

The deceiver, the devil, is cast into hell the place of eternal punishment, a lake of fire and brimstone. The word ‘torment’ implies pain, anguish and punishment, it will last forever with no end.

Revelation 20:11-15 ‘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. 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. 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. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.’

In these final verses, John sees the final judgment. The white throne is the throne of God it all its glory and majesty. The earth and the physical heavens will be destroyed at the judgment, all the people that have ever lived, both good and bad, will stand before God in judgment.

The books containing the deeds of men will be opened so each one must account for his deeds. A second book is the ‘book of life’ which contains the names of those who have been faithful children of God. Regardless of where men may have died, on land, or in the sea they will be there. Hades is the destination of all men until Jesus comes, it’s the place of disembodied spirits,

Luke 16:23 ‘In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.’

The ‘second death’ is a designation for hell, it’s eternal separation from God. Death and Hades being cast into the lake of fire means they will no longer exist. All who aren’t listed in the ‘book of life’ will be cast into the ‘lake of fire.’ These are the ones who didn’t obey the Gospel so they could be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

Premillennial doctrine is based to a great extent on this chapter. However, it should be observed not one word is said about establishing a kingdom on earth for a thousand years in the literal city of Jerusalem on the literal throne of David.

Nothing is said about a second coming to earth, a rapture, the conversion of Israel. the restoration of Palestine, the rebuilding of the temple, all these theories are missing.

However, we do learn that the Christians is greatly blessed and comforted with the assurance of the Lord that Satan can no longer harm, hinder or prevent us from having eternal life if we remain faithful to him unto the end.

Satan our greatest enemy is defeated



"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Galatians 2:20