Category Archives: REVELATION 20

The binding of Satan, the reign of Christ for a thousand years, the final revolt, and the Great White Throne judgement.

REVELATION 20

NOTES ON REVELATION 20

Survey of the chapter

John now tells us the sequel to the coming of Christ to judge His enemies as recorded in the previous chapter. Having dealt with the leading figures, the beast and the false prophet, the Lord now deals with the one they served, and who moved men to great wickedness from behind the scenes. Then we read of those who had died during the Great Tribulation period because they refused to worship the beast, and we are assured of their blessedness as they reign with Christ for a thousand years. At the end of this period Satan is loosed, and gathers men again to rebel against God, but this is quickly dealt with. Then follows the account of the Great White Throne judgement, and the final destiny of the unsaved dead is declared.

Structure of the chapter

(a) Verses 1-3 The binding of Satan
(b) Verses 4-6 The martyred saints reign with Christ
(c) Verses 7-10 The final rebellion against God
(d) Verses 11-15 The Great White Throne judgement

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION CHAPTER 20, VERSES 1 TO 6:

20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

(a) Verses 1-3 The binding of Satan

20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

And I saw an angel come down from heaven- the fact that an “ordinary” angel is all that is needed to arrest the most powerful evil being there is shows that his power has been broken, for his masterpieces, the beast and the false prophet have been consigned to the Lake of Fire. The climax of his age-old manoeuvrings has failed to defeat God. Christ secured his destiny on the cross, (“now shall the prince of this world be cast out”, John 12:31), and the time for that to be realised has come.
When Moses died, Michael the archangel was not able to prevail against the Devil, but had to resort to saying, “The Lord rebuke thee”, Jude 9. When the evil angels supporting the kingdoms of Greece and Persia were in conflict with Michael, (the angel that defends the interests of Israel), he had to call for help from Gabriel, for he could not deal with them himself, Daniel 10:20-11:1.
We learn from this that in Old Testament times the angels of God had difficulty dealing with evil angels. But now it is different, for Michael and his angels defeated Satan and his hosts in Revelation 12, and in this chapter we learn that only a single angel is needed to chain and banish Satan himself. Wherein lays the difference? At Calvary Christ gave the death-blow to the forces of evil, and defeated him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil, Hebrews 2:14.
The angel needs to come down from heaven because that is the scene of the Devil’s operations at the end time, having been cast out of heaven, 12:9.
Having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand- the bottomless pit, (the word is “abussou”, the abyss), is the abode of evil spirits, as we see from Luke 8:26-33, where the demons that possessed the man obviously expected to be sent into the deep, or the abyss. This key had been given to the angel that had fallen to the earth in 9:2, so possibly this is the same angel. We should not confuse the abyss, the abode of evil spirits after they have been judged by God, with hell, meaning the place where the souls of unsaved men go during this age.
The great chain is figurative language, since Satan is a spirit being. It was the demoniac that was bound with chains in Luke 8, not the demons that possessed him, although they were the reason he needed to be restrained. Peter writes of angels that sinned being delivered into chains of darkness, and Jude refers to these same angels as being in everlasting chains. They rejected the opportunity of serving God in the light of His presence and in liberty, and are punished in the darkness and in confinement.

20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

And he laid hold on the dragon- notice there is no struggle, just an arrest, for the Devil is a defeated and powerless foe. Notice also that there is no trial, for already in chapter 12 Michael and his angels have fought a battle with Satan, and won We often hear the expression “High Court battle”, when lawyers contest a case, using their best arguments so that those they represent “win” the argument. So it is here, except that the Court is the Heavenly Court of Justice. So by the mighty power of logical argument, Michael and his army of lawyers will contest the reasonings of Satan that, from the very beginning, he has used to deceive men. At last his lies and propaganda will be exposed, and those plans to exalt himself above God will be condemned. Every thought will be tested as to whether it represents obedience to Christ; if it does not, it will be cast down, see 2 Corinthians 10:4,5. At last, after sixty centuries of rebellion, Satan’s disobedience will be avenged.
He is called the dragon here because of the fierceness and cruelty with which he has fought against God since he rebelled at the beginning. Men pour scorn on the idea of dragons, but there are two hundred locations in the United Kingdom alone where the word dragon is included in the place-name. The reason why the Vikings had dragon’s head carvings on the prow of their ships was because they hoped to ward off the sea-dragons that infested the waters around their coasts. As late as two hundred years ago the Chinese Emperor had a fire-breathing dragon in his palace. Men like to say that the dinosaurs died out “millions of years ago”, but they have no evidence for this. It is all bluster, designed to defend the spurious theory of evolution, with its need for millions of years. It is ironic that those who deny the existence of the Devil are also those who deny the existence of dragons.
That old serpent- so dragons are distinguished from serpents. The emphasis with the dragon is on its cruelty, as we see from Revelation 12:4, where we read, “And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born”. The emphasis with the serpent is on craftiness. The Devil chose the serpent to deceive Eve at the beginning. As there were only two humans on earth at that time, Satan could not use another person. To come in spirit-form might arouse the suspicions of Adam and his wife. To simply speak from the air would also cause them to be on their guard. The only alternative is to use one of the animals. We read that the serpent was more subtil than the other beasts of the field. Before the fall the serpent must have showed signs of great intelligence, and no doubt Adam had noted this when he named the creature. It is the ideal vehicle, therefore, for the Devil to use as his agent. We need not assume that the serpent looked the same as it is now. When God cursed it later in the chapter, it was cursed above all cattle. They were cursed, but it was cursed more. This would suggest that the serpent was degraded to a greater degree than the other creatures. Since one of the judgements upon it was to go upon its belly, we may safely assume that it did not do so before, or else that would be no sign of judgement. There is the possibility, then, that the serpent was originally an erect and beautiful creature. There is also the possibility that the serpent was able to fly, so that it came to the woman like “an angel of light”. It is interesting to notice that that phrase comes in the passage where the apostle Paul is speaking of the tempting and beguiling of Eve, 2 Corinthians 11:3,14. Isaiah 14:29 and 30:6 speak of flying serpents, (and the word used was “saraph”, the same word as is used of the seraphim), so, strange as it may seem to us, the serpent may have been a winged creature originally, which makes the judgement of creeping along the ground even more severe and suitable. In confirmation of this, the serpent is classed, before it was used by Satan, as one of the beasts of the field, Genesis 3:1, and not one of the creeping things mentioned in Genesis 1:24,26.
Which is the Devil, and Satan- the word Devil means a false accuser, and, like Satan, is a law-court term. The title Satan, on the other hand, tells us simply that he accuses, for sometimes he has a legitimate complaint about the people of God, and he loses no time in making his accusation before God. How thankful we are for the advocacy of the Lord Jesus, as He meets every charge, whether justified or not, by reference to the blood of propitiation shed at Calvary. This precious blood answers every accusation the Devil can make, for it has met every claim the throne of God had against our sin. This does not mean that we may become complacent, and not guard against sinning. In fact, it should increase our desire to not grieve the one who suffered such pain at Calvary that we might be cleared of our guilt.
And bound him a thousand years- so the length of the initial sentence is known from the outset, with no possibility of reprieve. The thousand years in question is the duration of the manifest reign of Christ upon the earth, and is mentioned six times in this chapter. Solomon said near the beginning of his reign that “the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent”, 1 Kings 5:4. The word he used for adversary was “satan”, an opponent at law. So in our chapter the reign of Christ is being prepared for, and the great opponent of God and Christ is removed from the scene.

20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

And cast him into the bottomless pit- this is the proper prison for those of the spirit-world who rebel against God, not to be confused with sheol, the place of the souls of all men who died in Old Testament times. There is no indication in Scripture that Satan has ever visited sheol, let alone reigns there. That is a pagan fiction.
And shut him up- using the key he has been given. At present “your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”, and believers are encourage to “resist steadfast in the faith”, 1 Peter 5:8,9. In a coming day his activities will be brought to a sudden end.
And set a seal upon him- after Daniel had been put in the lions den, we read, “and a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel”, Daniel 6:17. So the purpose of the emperor was carried out, because the stone was sealed. But God had other plans, and Daniel was saved without the stone being moved, just as the Lord Jesus emerged from His sealed tomb without the seal being broken or the stone moved. Seeing it is God’s representative who has set the seal, and there is no greater power than that of God, the seal remains intact.
That he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled- he has deceived the whole world, 12:9, but here the emphasis is on his work among the nations, inciting them to rebel against God, and to install antichrist as their leader. Sadly, there is a “till”, for he will be allowed out of his prison temporarily at the end of the reign of Christ.
And after that he must be loosed a little season- he must be loosed to allow it to be seen that even after one thousand years of the righteous reign of Christ, there are some whose hearts are unchanged, and when the Devil is loosed they will side with him against God. In the purpose of God this will only be for a little season, for all is under Divine control. The long period of one thousand years is determined by God, and so also is the little season.

(b) Verses 4-6 The martyred saints reign with Christ

20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

And I saw thrones- having disposed of the arch-rebel against the Divine throne, the narrative can move on. Just as a single angel was all that was needed to bind Satan, so it is not the Throne-Sitter, God Himself, who conducts affairs, but His heavenly delegates who administer justice for Him.
And they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them- that is, they were in session, conducting a sitting, in legal terms. We know that all judgement has been committed unto the Son, John 5:22, so this must mean that the administration of the judgement has been delegated to them. Presumably the “they” refers to the four and twenty elders who sit on thrones before God, 4:4, and who administer justice and judgement on the earth for Him. It is said of the Lord of Hosts that “He shall reign in mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously”, Isaiah 24:23. The word ancients can be translated “elders”. So as the kingdom on earth is a reflection of the government of heaven, we may think of those who sit on these thrones as being the twenty four elders of chapter 4, who also sit on thrones.
And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus- our attention is drawn to a very specific company of people, even those who had died for their faith during the Great Tribulation. They are given particular mention because their sufferings were unparalleled, and it must be made clear that no blame attached to them for their sufferings. It was not governmental disciple that caused them to suffer, but the raging of Satanically inspired beasts. Theirs was a simple testimony, to the value of the name of Jesus. In the face of the onslaughts of the enemy, and the pressure of the apostasy all around them, they persevered in faith in the despised man of Galilee, the meek and lowly Jesus, who stands in such contrast to the wild and ferocious beasts that dominated the earth in their day. They had suffered the same death as John the Baptist had, and for the same reason, for they refused to compromise with evil and take the easy way out.
And for the word of God- John the Baptist had brought the word of God about the sin of adultery to Herod, and paid for it with his life, and these had done a similar thing. In their day the antichrist will have “a mouth speaking great things”, 13:5, but these were not impressed, because they knew that the one who gave him his mouth was Satan the deceiver, and they met his lies with the word of God.
And which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands- a similar situation had confronted Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, (to give them their Babylonian names). Despite being named after his idols by Nebuchadnezzar, they refused to bow to the image he set up. The penalty was that they were cast into the fiery furnace. The king discovered, however, that one like unto the Son of God walked with them in the fire, and they were released, Daniel Chapter 3. No doubt this is just a preview of the experience of the martyrs of our chapter, with this difference, they will not be released, but will pay the ultimate price. What they did find was that, as God promised, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour”, Isaiah 43:2,3.
And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years- this is their rich compensation for all the things they had endured. As Paul wrote about believers of this age, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him”, 2 Timothy 2:12. Instead of being dead because they were martyrs, they lived; instead of suffering, they reigned.

From these details we see how impossible it is for the thousand years referred to in this chapter to be the present age. This is what amillenialists teach, as they try to avoid the plain statements of this chapter. We could ask ourselves some questions about this present age, and answer them from Revelation chapter 20.

1. Is Satan bound at this present time, or does he still go about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, as 1 Peter 5:8 says?

2. Has the tribulation period taken place, and saints martyred during it, and have they been raised to reign with Christ?

3. Has the first resurrection taken place, or do we still await it?

4. Are saints who have died living and reigning with Christ?

The answer to all these questions is in the negative. The plain sense of Scripture is that the Lord Jesus will reign literally on the earth for one thousand literal years. It is true that the prophets most likely did not know the duration of Messiah’s kingdom, but they did speak of it in literal terms. We have no authority to “spiritualise” the prophecies, for this the apostles never did. Have we more authority than they? Even the scribes, when asked by Herod about the coming of the Messiah, Mathew 2:1-6, answered in literal terms; they did not make the prophecies figurative, but looked for them to be fulfilled in the same sense in which the prophets did. Christ was born in a literal town called Bethlehem, so Micah, when he foretold it, is to be understood as meaning a literal town. To reject this principle is to be at the mercy of the imagination of the expositor, who may make of anything what he wishes.

20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished- with church saints having been raised at the time of the Lord’s coming into the air at the rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, and the Old Testament saints at the time of His coming to set up His kingdom, Revelation 11:18; Job 14:13-15, and the martyred saints of the Tribulation age also raised, at this point in time there will be only unjust persons in the grave. No doubt if there are believers still alive at the end of the Tribulation, (the multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 perhaps), they shall be changed as church saints that are alive at the rapture are changed, without actually passing through death, 1 Corinthians 15:51,55, (the latter verse being an allusion to Hosea 13:14, and therefore not originally spoken of church saints).
The unjust dead shall remain in the grave until the end of the reign of Christ, and one of the ways He will demonstrate that all things are under His feet is by destroying the last enemy, death, 1 Corinthians 15:25,26. At that point the unrighteous dead shall be brought back from the dead at the resurrection of damnation, John 5:29. As Job put it, “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep”, Job 14:12. Note the implication that when the heavens are no more, they shall awake.
This is the first resurrection- meaning, that the raising of these martyred saints completes the first resurrection, which only involves believers, as the next verse will make clear, for all who are raised are blessed and holy. The phrase should be seen as an introduction to the next verse, rather than a sequel to this verse.

20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection- this is another of the “Blessed” statements found throughout the book of Revelation. It is an individual blessing, “blessed is he”, and defines those who are raised in the resurrection of life. Each can be said to be blessed, and holy. The blessing is gospel blessing, which comes as a result of faith in Christ. The holiness is gospel-holiness, for those who believe are “sanctified in Christ Jesus”, 1 Corinthians 1:2. Only these have a share in any of the stages of the first resurrection.
On such the second death hath no power- the second death is the lake of fire, the final abode of the lost, verse 14, and 21:8. Those who share in the first resurrection are completely freed from all liability to death. Their bodies, the last link they had with Adam’s fallen world, have been redeemed from death, and are have now put on immortality, the state of being untouchable by death. It is inconceivable that those who possess eternal life, the life of God, should be in death. As the Lord Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”, John 11:25,26. So if a believer should die before the Lord comes, (represented in John 11 by Lazarus), he shall live in resurrection. And those who live, meaning they have not physically died, being believers, shall never die; they shall gain the resurrection without dying, and shall never see death afterwards. The reason why the second death has no power over believers is because the Lord Jesus has the keys of hell and of death, Revelation 1:18. He uses one key to lock the door of hell to believers, so that they do not go there, and He uses the other key to open the door of death to allow His people to emerge in resurrection. He has those keys because He has destroyed him that had the power of death by going into death voluntarily, thus showing the devil had no power over Him. He has also emerged by His own authority from the grave, showing He is in total control of that as well, John 10:18. So He not only has the keys but uses them, for He has dealt with all the factors that made His people liable to death.
But they shall be priests of God and of Christ- all who share in the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, shall serve God in a priestly way. This is the highest form of service, the ministering to the heart of God those things that gratify Him. And what gratifies Him most is the setting forth in His ear of the glories of His Son. In this they will be priests of Christ, too, for their priestly worship will centre on Him.
It will not matter if they are not of the tribe of Levi, because their priesthood will not be after the order of Aaron, but of Melchizedec, see Hebrews 7. After all, the majority of them will not be of Israel at all, so they will have no tribal connections. Because the Lord Jesus is a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec, we know there is no order of priesthood other than His, the Aaronic having been superceded and made obsolete by His priesthood. Melchizedec’s priesthood was not successional, for as far as the record goes he was without father. Who his father was did not affect his priesthood, unlike the Aaronic priests. His priesthood was not natural, because we are not told who his mother was. It was not tribal, for he was without descent or ancestry, as far as the record goes. His priesthood did not depend on which tribe he was. It was not temporal, for he had no beginning of days, nor was it mortal, for he had no end of life. But of prime importance is the fact that it was continual, with no end to it. And because there is no other order, it was final. All these features were set out simply by the fact that the record in the book of Genesis is deliberately silent on them. But the New Testament is certainly not silent on the subject of the priesthood of Christ. Such is the priesthood of Christ, and such must be the priesthood of believers also, for there is no other order of priesthood.
And shall reign with him a thousand years- the Melchizedec priesthood is unique in that it combines kingship with priesthood. This was not the case with the Aaronic priesthood, for that was occupied by descendants of Aaron, whilst the throne of Israel was occupied by descendants of Judah. When King Uzziah tried to enter the Holiest of All in the temple, he was judged by God, for he had sought to be king-priest, and this is ultimately Christ’s role, 2 Chronicles 26:16-21. Significantly, of the son of Uzziah it is said, “howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord”, 27:2. He had learned the lesson; it is good to learn from the mistakes of others, and not repeat them.
The fact that all who take part in the first resurrection reign with Christ, shows that it is not a position reserved for an elite company of believers, but is the portion of all. John writes, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen”, Revelation 1:5,6. So the ones who are loved and washed, are also the ones made kings and priests.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION CHAPTER 20, VERSES 7 TO 15:

20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

(c)   Verses 7-10   The final rebellion against God) Verses 7-10 The final rebellion against God

20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

And when the thousand years are expired- this carries on from verses 1-3, where the binding of Satan is said to be for a thousand years. Now we learn what will happen at the end of that period.
Satan shall be loosed out of his prison- note how everything is under control, for Satan is bound and Satan is loosed simply and solely because it is the will of God that it should be so. The days when he could impose his evil will on angels and men is over.

20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth- we ask ourselves why this is allowed to happen, and what are its implications? Remember this event occurs after one thousand years of the perfect and beneficent rule of Christ over the earth. When, moreover, the curse has been lifted, and creation has been delivered from the bondage of corruption, Romans 8:20,21. After all that, and much more besides, there are still hearts that can be deceived.
But who are these people that show themselves to be unbelievers, and therefore capable of being deceived? By a process of elimination we shall have to say they are the children of the ones who had helped the preachers of the gospel of the kingdom during the Tribulation Period. We read of these in Matthew 25:31-40, and they are described as righteous, (for they would not have done what they did unless they were believers). They are given a place in the kingdom prepared for them by the Father. They do not seem to be given resurrection bodies, however, so they are capable of marrying and begetting children who would have the sin-principle within. It has to be like this, or the test of ideal conditions will not be a real one, for persons in resurrection do not rebel against God as some of these children of believers do. Those who enter at first will not rebel, being believers, but their children may do so, for eternal life is not inherited from parents. It is because there will be such people on earth, that Isaiah writes of sinners in that day, Isaiah 65:20.
It is those who have gone to the four quarters of the earth that are deceived. Being unbelievers, they have found that to be near Jerusalem and the rule of the King is not congenial, and they have moved as far away as possible. It was those who were on the outskirts of the crowd as Israel travelled through the wilderness that fell prey to the enemy. There is a lesson here for today, for our only safe course is to keep close to the Lord and His people.
Gog, and Magog- these are the two names that Ezekiel uses to speak of a group of nations that will come into the land of Israel in future times, and be slaughtered there, see Ezekiel 38 and 39. They come from the north country and invade the land of Israel, so the incident in this chapter is not the same. It is important to notice that Ezekiel tells us that Gog and Magog are the subject of the prophetic writings. His words were, “(Thus saith the Lord God; art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by My servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?) 38:17. It seems from this that Gog and Magog are names for the Assyrians and the Babylonians, whom God foretold would come against Israel. Be that as it may, it is clear that the enemies that are described in our verse as Gog and Magog are not the same, but they do inherit their name and reputation. This is all the more likely if they are the names of Israel’s habitual enemies over the centuries.
To gather them together to battle- despite the utter defeat of the armies that assembled at Armageddon, Satan seeks to marshall his forces once again in a last ditch attempt to spoil Christ’s reign, and prevent it from merging into the eternal kingdom.
The number of whom is as the sand of the sea- how tragic that they should be of the same number as the seed of Abraham, Genesis 22:17. Despite one thousand years of the reign of Christ, multitudes will still side with God’s arch-enemy. What a commentary on the ingratitude and rebellion of the heart of man! It is necessary for this to happen, so that the final way in which God will deal with men is shown to end with him rejecting God. Whatever the conditions, whether innocence, conscience, law, grace or kingdom, man cannot be changed by his environment, even if that environment is ordered of God. He must be born again with a birth which is from heaven, not earth.

20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

And they went up on the breadth of the earth- so instead of being an attack on the Land of Israel, as with the God and Magog of the time of Tribulation, this is a world-wide event.
And compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city- in the book of Daniel, the saints are angels, and it seems as though there will be an angel-army encamped around the holy city, in case this very situation arises. The word camp is a military word, and was used of the Castle Antonia that watched over the city of Jerusalem in Christ’s day, and on the steps of which Paul made his defence in Acts 21:37. There will be a way of holiness allowing access to the city from earth, Isaiah 35:8-10; and see also John 1:51. We know from Revelation 21:12 that angels will stand guard at the twelve gates of the city. Notice John calls it the beloved city, for it is the home of the bride of the Lamb, His Beloved.
And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them- if they will be anticipating the excitement of battle, they will be disappointed, for they are immediately judged by fire from heaven that utterly consumes them, with no trace left. What a contrast this is to what happened when the Lord was here in grace. James and John wanted to bring fire down from heaven upon the Samaritans, and they were severely rebuked, Luke 9:54-56. In the time of these events, however, righteousness will be ruling, and God’s enemies will be quickly judged.

20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone- this is the same place as is called Gehenna, and the Lord expressly says that it is the place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels”, Matthew 25:41. Again there is no trial, for the prince of this world was judged at the cross, and by His conquest at Calvary over the forces of evil, the Lord guaranteed the overthrow of Satan, and this is what is described here. Because the Devil is a spirit-being, the fire must be of such a sort as torments even spirits. The fire burns, and the brimstone chokes, twin punishment for those who rebel against God.
Where the beast and the false prophet are- even after the passing of one thousand years, they are still there, with no possibility of escape. The same is the case with the men of Sodom, for Jude tells us that they are “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”, Jude 7. Even though they are not yet in the lake of fire, but are in hell, the fire is still eternal, telling us that there is no escape from it, for the only exit leads to the lake of fire. So it is that the trinity of evil will be utterly defeated, and consigned to a place from which they shall never emerge to spoil God’s creation.

Should any read these lines who are not saved, then please take solemn note of what is written in the sure word of God, and flee from the wrath to come. There is only one place to flee, and that is to Christ, who delivers from wrath and judgement.

And shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever- when we think of all the torment that men have endured during their lives for various reasons, it is only strict justice that the one who brought it upon them should himself be tormented, and that for ever. That the torment is day and night is the language of accommodation, for time is no longer in eternity. Yet it seems from this expression that in some strange way the passing of time will be experienced, and a sense of the length of eternity will be given to men and devils.

(d) Verses 10-15 The Great White Throne judgement

20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

And I saw a great white throne- this is not the sort of throne where rewards and rebukes are given, (for then the word used would be “bema”, the sort of seat Christ will sit on to assess the activities and attitudes of His people), but where irreversible verdicts are issued. It is a place from which judicial decisions are made known, against which there is no appeal. It is, moreover, set up on the very edge of eternity, when destinies are fixed for ever.
It is great because of the greatness of the one who sits upon it; because of the issues involved, and also because of the great number of people, alas, who shall stand there.
It is white because there is no suspicion of corruptness about this throne, for it is the throne of God. The one who sits on it is absolutely righteous, and His verdict is perfectly just. He cannot be bribed or argued with. Men will have nothing to say as they stand before it. It’s whiteness will expose the dark deeds of men as they stand before it.
It is a throne because the one who sits upon it is King of Eternity. He occupies that throne not to oversee a process of accusation and defence leading to a verdict. The verdict has been long-settled, and it only remains to issue the sentence and see it is carried out. Moreover, because the God of all the earth does right, Genesis 18:25, then there can be no appeal against the verdict. Nothing man may plead can overturn the decision of the Divine Judge.
And Him that sat on it- we are not specifically told who this is in this place. But elsewhere we learn that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son”, John 5:22. The next verse tells us the reason, “that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” That all men do not currently honour the Son is seen in the next verse, where we read of “he that honoureth not the Son”.
So much for the direct information as to who will be the judge, but we learn by implication too, for God said through Isaiah, “I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear”, Isaiah 45:23. Yet we read in Romans 14:10 that “we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ. For it is written, ‘As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God'”. The apostle has no hesitation in saying that the one to whom every knee shall bow is Christ. The fact that he is referring to the Bema, the judgement seat where Christ shall assess His people, is not the point. The throne of God is occupied by Christ, the Son of God.
So it is that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”, Philippians 2:10,11. So not only did His claim to be in the form of God not rob God in eternity past, (as we speak), verse 6, nor shall the bowing of every knee to Him rob the Father of glory either, for it will be to the glory of God that it takes place, and He will not only be glorified when it happens, but also eternally. God will see to it that Jesus is recognised as being equal with Himself, and thus He will be honoured as the Father is honoured.
From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away- the apostle Peter wrote of this when he penned, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up”, 2 Peter 3:10. Men may advance their theory about the origin of the universe being with a Big Bang, but the truth is that the universe began with a whisper, for Job, having described some of the great works of God in creation said, “Lo, these are parts of His ways, but how little a portion is heard of Him? But the thunder of His power who shall understand”, Job 26:14. The expression “how little a portion” could be rendered “what a whisper”. Having begun with a whisper, creation shall pass away with a noise. That is the only true Big Bang.
So the passing away of the heavens is followed by them being burnt up. Perhaps it is the speed at which they depart that shall result in the disintegration of all things. Be that as it may, all things shall be dissolved, as Peter goes on to say in verse 12. And the cause of this happening is the look on the face of the one who sits on the throne. In the days of His flesh His look was one of compassion, sympathy and kindness, and little children were happy to sit on His knee, but now all is different, for grace has given way to judgement. Job said that God “holdeth back the face of His throne, and spreadeth His cloud upon it”, Job 26:9. In other words, He protects men from the full glory of His throne; but in the day we are thinking of it will be otherwise.
And there was found no place for them- the purpose for their creation has been realised, and there is no place for them any more in God’s scheme of things, for He will create new heavens and a new earth. There will not even be a place in His memory for them, for God said through Isaiah, “For behold I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind”, Isaiah 65:17.

20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God- we read in 1 Corinthians 15:21, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead”. Through the sin of the first man Adam physical death was inflicted on all who came from him, Romans 5:12. This being the case, it is entirely appropriate that the one who should reverse the results of the first man’s sin, Christ, should Himself be man. He must be a man to be able to die, and because by His death He dealt effectively with the consequences of the sin of the first man, He has every right to rise again. The apostle goes on, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”. As a result of Adam’s sin, men die physically, one by one. This is not a reference to being dead in trespasses and sins. We are born into that condition, we do not die to get into it. We do, however, die to get into a state of physical death. But there is a sequel, for all shall be made alive. Note that the apostle does not say “Those in Christ shall all be made alive”, even though that is true. To die in Adam means to fall in death by his instrumentality, to be made alive in Christ means to rise again from the dead through His instrumentality. All die because of something Adam did, namely, commit sin, and this brought in physical death for all who are linked to him. Christ did something too, namely, rise from the dead, and all shall rise from the dead in virtue of that. There is no reason to deny that the “all” is the same company.

This does not mean that all shall be saved, but it does mean that all, whether saint or sinner, shall be brought forth from the grave in their respective resurrection days.

Revelation 20:5 says that the wicked dead “lived not again until the thousand years was finished”, and then they stand before God, so there is support for the idea of sinners living again, as well as rising again. They will return to the natural state they were in before, ready to be consigned to damnation, for the Lord calls it “the resurrection of damnation”, John 5:29. God has given assurance to all men that He will judge the world, by raising Christ from the dead, Acts 17:31. Note also that the apostle declares that the last enemy, which is death, will be destroyed, 1 Corinthians 15:26, which happens when the unsaved dead are brought out of Hades, and death is then cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14. It was by one man, Adam, that death came into the world, and it was by one man, Christ, that the idea of resurrection came in also. Because He rose from the dead, He established the principle that men rise, all of them, saint and sinner. And it is this that is in view in our verse.

Special note on the four main judgement days
1. There is the day the Lord Jesus suffered and died on the cross. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only: but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2. Propitiation involves the Saviour satisfying the wrath of God in regard to sin, accepting the consequences of that sin in Himself, and bearing the wrath of God that was due to each sin. God must judge sin, either in the person of the sinner, or in the person of a suitable substitute. The only available, effective, and willing substitute is Christ. Relevant Scriptures are 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:24,25; Romans 5:18,19; Romans 6:6,7; John 5:24.

2. There is the Judgement Seat of Christ, sometimes referred to as The Bema, for that is the Greek word used for seat. This will take place in heaven after the Rapture of the church saints. This is not a judicial session, for sins as deserving the wrath of God will not be in view at that time. Only believers will be present. The matters under review will be the believer’s service in relation to the local assembly; his service in relation to the world, and his attitude to fellow-believers. The result of the Lord’s assessment of His people at this time will determine the level of reward they receive for what they have done for Him. Some Scriptures referring to this are Romans 14:10-13; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 22:12,13.

3. There is the Judgement of the Living Nations, as described by the Lord Himself in Matthew 25:31-46. This is not to be confused with the judgement at the end of time. Rather, it takes place immediately after the Lord has come in glory to set up His kingdom on earth, and those alive at that time will be assessed as to their attitude to the believers who have passed through that period. What they did will show whether they are believers are not, for as the apostle John writes, “he that doeth righteousness is righteous”, 1 John 3:7. That does not mean that righteousness may be gained by doing righteous acts, for that is contrary to the gospel, and in any case, sinners are not able to do righteous acts. The apostle is saying that a righteous nature will invariably manifest itself in righteous deeds. And this is what marked those who are blessed at this judgement, for they will have shown real faith by their attitude to suffering believers. All such will be allowed into the kingdom, those who are not such go to the Lake of Fire. Some relevant scriptures are: Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:30,31; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Hebrews 10:26,27; Jude 14,15.

4. The Great White Thone Judgement, which we are thinking of now. Other references are Acts 17:30,31; Romans 2:5-16; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7.

Special note on the subject of death

Death is presented to us, in the main, in four different ways in the Scriptures, as follows:

1. Spiritual death. This has to do with the separation of a person from God, who warned man at the beginning that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “Thou shalt surely die”, Genesis 2:17. Sadly, man listened to the lie of the Devil, who said, “Ye shall not surely die”, 3:4. So it was that the moment Adam sinned he was separated from God, and “dead in trespasses and sins”, Ephesians 2:1. His communion with God was broken. The Lord Jesus taught the doctrine of spiritual death, for He said that he that believes in Him “is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24.

2. Physical death. As a consequence of spiritual death, man became mortal, and physical death is his lot. The apostle Paul put it like this, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”, Romans 5:12. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body, for James tells us that “the body without the spirit is dead”, James 2:26. The reason this happens, even to believers, is that the sin-principle, which is the cause of physical death, is in all men. Only in the moment of resurrection will believers leave the sin-principle behind, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

3. Moral death. This applies only to believers. The apostle wrote to the believers at Rome and said, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”, Romans 8:13. No true believer is in the flesh, (“ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit”, verse 9), but he can walk, or live his life, after the flesh, (which is his sinful side, which still remains because of the sin-principle within the body). All the while he lives like that he is not living the true Christian life, and those hours, or months, or even years spent living in this way do not count in God’s reckoning, so he is temporarily dead as to true Christian living. This is illustrated by the prodigal as he went into the far country away from fellowship with his father. When he came back, his father said, “this my son was dead, and is alive again”, Luke 15:24. The solution for the prodigal was to come back into practical fellowship with his father. And this is the answer for the believer, too.

4. The second death. This is defined for us in Revelation 21:8, where we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”. We know from another scripture that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement”, Hebrews 9:27. So the second death is not a second dying, but a second state of death, the first one being when the sinner dies, and body and spirit are separated.

To return to the passage. The small and great are present at the great white throne judgement, for even though a man may not be noticed by his fellow-man, he is noticed by God, who takes account of his doings. And the great are there. Their prominence on earth has not resulted in them avoiding the judgement of the great day. They might have influenced events, and other men, while they were on earth, but they will not influence the occupier of the throne. It is not position in society that is the relevant issue here, but position before God, and sin is the great leveller, for “there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:22,23.

The tragedy is that all of these people might have had a standing before God far different to this one, as they stood as guilty sinners before Him, waiting to be judged. They could have believed the gospel, and might have been justified by faith, and as a result had peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and His work at Calvary, and a standing in grace before Him as a result. Here, however, they have a standing in guilt, and instead of being justified, they are judged.

And the books were opened- God takes account of every detail of the lives of men, and records it in His books of works. It does not matter if men did not know of things, or knowing them, ignored them, or worse still, did not execute true justice upon them if God’s laws were broken. All shall be remedied here, and full and fair justice will be administered. The degree of guilt will be met with the correct degree of eternal punishment. All shall be in proportion, with the level of responsibility, (which is adjusted according to the level of light known), reflected in the level of severity of judgement. It cannot be that eternity should run its course with matters outstanding, and justice not done. That would reflect on the character of God.
And another book was opened, which is the book of life- this is not to be confused with the book of the living, to which Moses and the psalmist referred. When Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf, Moses offered to die for the nation, and said, “Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written”, Exodus 32:32. God’s response was, “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of My book”, verse 33. In other words, Moses’ offer to die for the nation was not acceptable, (after all, he had killed an Egyptian), for each must die for his own sin. And this happened, for those who did not side with Moses in the situation were slain. Only Christ could die for the nation, for He alone was sinless.
David wrote a psalm in which he spoke of God’s omniscience. And this extended even to when he was in his mother’s womb. He wrote, “My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eye did see My substance being yet unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them”, Psalm 139:13,14. So we learn that not only does God have a book in which he records all that are alive upon the earth, and blots out their names when they die, but he records the unborn also, for they are living also. Moreover, He goes into detail about the physical condition of the unborn. Those who advocate, or go through with, or carry out abortions, should take note of this, for this passage declares it to be murder. It is a sad commentary on life today in the world that you are not safe in the womb, and you are not safe in old age. There are those of murderous intent who would carry out their wicked agenda at both ends of our life-span if they could. How thankful we should be that the Spirit of God restrains the lawlessness of men.
So much for the book of the living, but our passage speaks of the book of life. Whereas the former is of those who have natural life, the latter is the catalogue of those who have eternal life. The Lord Jesus exhorted the seventy disciples He had sent forth to preach to rejoice because their names were written in heaven, Luke 10:30, and this was true of those who had helped the apostle Paul in his evangelism, Philippians 4:3. Where those names were written is learned from Revelation 13:8, which speaks of “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. And in case we think this means that the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world, we learn from the later reference that there are those “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world”, Revelation 17:8, meaning they were not believers. Of course it is true that the Lord Jesus, as God’s Lamb, was foreordained before the foundation of the world, 1 Peter 1:20, and our verse does not deny that, nor does it assert it.
So the names are written from the foundation of the world, and in God’s foreknowledge they were inscribed there to assure His people that their position before Him is secure, for their names are on His membership-roll. This book is opened to show that the names of those standing before the throne are not, in fact, inscribed there. There may be many at that day who will claim to be believers, but consultation with this book will show the falsity of their claim.
And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works- even though they are in resurrection conditions, (for they are standing), these are still described as dead, for they are dead in trespasses and sins. Their judgement will be in exact proportion to the seriousness of their sins, and the assessment will be made formally by the judge by reference to the books, (for each has his own book), so they will have no excuse.

20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it- John now explains how it was that he could see the dead stand before God. Is this a metaphor of some sort, or is this real? It is real, for John goes into detail. Those who had been buried or drowned at sea, and had no known and marked grave, these are not exempt from the call of the voice of the Son of Man, as He summons them from their place. No matter if their bodies have been devoured by the beasts of the sea. The God of resurrection will recall it all. After all, the apostle, when writing of the resurrection of the saints, says, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption”, 1 Corinthians 15:42, the “it” referring to the body. So it matters not how long a body has been disintegrating in the grave, it, (the same body that was buried), will be raised. How this will be accomplished we are not told, but it will certainly take place. There is a sense in which a man’s body is not only an item, but an idea. After all, millions of cells in that body die and are replaced every day, so we go to sleep with a different body to the one we woke up with. Yet we do not hesitate to say it is the same body.
And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them- having established that the body will be brought back from the most difficult place from which to bring it, John is now free to speak in less literal terms, and refers to the place where the body is, death, and the place where the soul is, hell. These are not only locations, but forces, and they are here compelled to give up their prey by the superior power of Christ, the raiser of the dead. Even by this action He is glorified, for He is “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”, Romans 1:4. Every time the dead are raised, whether during the ministry of Christ, or at His own resurrection, or when the church saints are raised at the rapture, or when Old Testament saints are raised at His coming, or now here at the end of time, He is glorified. The Lord Jesus taught that the unsaved will be reunited with their bodies, and will be “salted with fire”, Mark 9:48,49. This means that just as meat is salted to preserve it, so men shall find that the very fire that torments them is the fire that preserves them. They shall never be burnt up, and so escape the judgement.
And they were judged every man according to their works- the unsaved will be reunited with their bodies, so they will stand before God in the very body in which they sinned against Him, and which they used to further their own interests, not His. Again we are told that the judgement is according to their works. There will be a strict correlation between what they did and what they will receive, for “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”, Galatians 6:7.

20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire- having been emptied of their contents, death that claimed the body and hell that claimed the soul shall be forever empty, for they are here said, in figurative language, to be cast into the Lake of Fire. They will never again have a separate existence, thus warning us that the only place for the unsaved in eternity is in the Lake of Fire. This is what the apostle Paul referred to when he wrote, “For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”, 1 Corinthians 15:26. So death will be abolished, or made of no effect at the end of Christ’s reign. It will never claim anyone any more, and God will be vindicated when this happens, for He will have shown Himself stronger that all His foes as Christ defeats them one by one.
This is the second death- the “this” refers to the lake of fire, not the casting of death and hell into the lake of fire. We see this from 21:8, where sinners are said to “have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”. So the second death is a constant state of separation from God in a place of torment. With heaven and earth gone away, death and hell abolished, there is only one place for the sinner to be.

20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire- one of the the last actions before the unsaved reach their final, eternal destination, is to consult the book of life. God knows that their names are not there, for they have never believed the truth, but to assure them that their judgement is fair and just, it is shown that their names are in fact absent from the book.

We know that just before men enter into their eternal ruin they will be required to do something. We read that God has exalted the Lord Jesus after His obedience to the extent of enduring the cross. /he has also given Him a name which is above every name. This has a purpose, namely “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”, Philippians 2:9-11. So the giving of the name is so that every knee shall bow to Christ, and every tongue should confess Him Lord. And this men will do when the proceedings of the great white throne have concluded. So it will be that every creature which is currently either in heaven, or on earth, or in hell, shall bow and confess. No being shall exist anywhere that does not acknowledge the Deity of Christ.

Is is not the wise thing to do to acknowledge this now, and receive blessing, rather than wait, and receive judgement? As the apostle wrote about the word of the gospel:

“But what saith it?

‘The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart’,

that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,

and shalt believe in thine heart

that God hath raised Him from the dead,

thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness;

and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the scripture saith, ‘Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed’.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek:

for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.

For ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'”, Romans 10:8-13.