SUMMARY.--Satan Bound for a Thousand Years. Thrones and Saints Reigning with Christ. The First Resurrection. Satan Loosed at the End of a Thousand Years. The Gathering of Gog and Magog and of the Nations. Their Attack Upon the Saints. Their Destruction. The Devil Cast into the Lake of Fire. The Great Judgment.
After the mighty conflict, the crisis of the fate of the world, the apostle beholds the results of the glorious victory. Spiritual Babylon and the beast, the Papacy and its secular allies, overwhelmed in the battle of Armageddon, have disappeared from earthly history. The old serpent, the dragon, the devil, who under so many forms, as pagan Rome, as the imperial power, as the kings of the earth, has persecuted the Church, yet exists, but his power is broken, and he is now to meet the results of his disastrous failure.
1-3. And I saw an angel come down from heaven with a chain, and the key of the abyss. The abyss is named in Rev. 9:1, 11; in 11:7, and 17:8. It is the present abode of Satan and his evil spirits. The things seen by John are symbolical. They imply that in some way the power of Satan shall be virtually destroyed upon the earth. 2. He laid hold on the dragon . . . and bound him a thousand years. The chain I suppose to be the Word of God. At this period of the triumph of righteousness the gospel takes such hold of the hearts of men that Satan loses his powers over them. We can easily see how this is accomplished by what takes place under our own eyes. A man may be drunken and lawless, but if he repents under the influence of the gospel he ceases to serve Satan. The devil loses his power over that man. When that period shall come for which the saints in all ages have wistfully looked, when the laws of God shall be written upon every heart, then Satan, bound with a chain, the chain of truth, shall be deprived of influence on the earth. 3. And cast him into the abyss. During this millennial period the chained enemy of man is cast into a prison house, but not the lake of fire. Had he gone there he should never more return. He shall go there as his ultimate fate (see verse 10), but after the thousand years, he is to return to the earth for a little season, and until the final effort of his long struggle against God he shall be confined in the abyss, from whence there is the possibility of escape, instead of being cast into the lake of fire, which is an eternal doom. In the bottomless pit the great deceiver shall remain till the thousand years are ended, when for a little season he shall regain his power.
4-6. And I saw thrones and they that sat upon them. These thrones are symbols of rule. It implies that they who sit on them shall have sway. And judgment was given to them. They shall exercise a moral judgment over humanity. I saw the souls of them. Of the martyrs. Note that it is the souls that he observes. And they lived and reigned with Christ. John saw that those who sat on the thrones reigned with Christ a thousand years. "In the last days the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it." Isa. 2:2. Will Christ come visibly to reign in person as an earthly monarch? The personal coming of the Savior is placed by all the sacred writers as the last event before the great judgment day. This great epoch is placed after the millennial period, and also after the overthrow of Satan in his last conflict. If the Savior, then, during the millennial period, is not visibly present upon the earth, how can he reign? Just as he reigns over each saint now. Those who know the Lord accept him as king, but in this period "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters do the channels of the sea." All men shall hear and obey the gospel, and all shall submit to the beneficent sceptre of Christ. Souls of them that had been beheaded. These are they "who lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." Is this a literal resurrection from the grave? I answer decidedly in the negative. (1) The apostle does not say one word about the resurrection of the bodies of the martyrs, nor does he say that he saw the martyrs themselves. He is particular to say that he saw the souls or spirits of the martyrs living and reigning with Christ. (2) They had been put to death in the body, and their souls were unseen upon the earth, but there is no intimation in Scripture that their souls had ever ceased to exist. They were alive with Christ, but now they live in some sense different from that existence which they had before. It cannot mean that their souls came to life, for they had never ceased to have existence. (3) What, then, does the affirmation mean? That as Christ reigns upon the earth during the millennial period by his truth, so the spirit of the martyrs is revived and lives in the Church. The souls of the martyrs live because the Church is composed of those who love Christ better than goods or liberty or life. This glorious reign of Christ pervades the earth because the souls of the martyrs are resurrected and live in all who name the name of Christ, and who are filled with the spirit of ancient martyrs. (4) If any should think such an interpretation of symbolical language far fetched, let him compare Scripture. This explanation is not forced nor the interpretation of the language unusual. It was predicted by the prophets that Elias must come again before the Messiah. He did come in spirit and power, not in person, but as the stern, fearless, upright reformer of the wilderness of Jordan. In the same sense Ezekiel speaks (chap. 37:12-14) of the return of the captive Jews to their own land: "I will open your graves, oh my people, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel." When Martin Luther was engaged in deadly struggle with the Papacy, Pope Adrian sent a brief to the German Diet at Nuremburg, which contained these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." A thousand years. I am not prepared to say that this blessed period shall be limited to a thousand years, but am rather disposed to believe that a thousand years, a round period of great duration, is chosen to show to the longing student of the prophets that there shall be a long, long period of righteousness upon the same earth that has been reddened with blood, filled with crime, and made foul by sin. The characteristics of this golden period of the human race are clearly pointed out by the prophets. 5. But the rest of the dead lived not. If "the souls of the martyrs" live again spiritually and morally upon the earth in the millennial period, as I have explained, then this statement is to be explained in harmony. The rest of the dead lived not until the end of the thousand years. The sublime faith of the martyrs pervades the saints during this period, and other men, wicked or less noble, sleep in silence, unseen and unknown, without influence upon the earth, until the millennial period is ended. They have no part of the first resurrection, of the spirits of the martyrs. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. In this great moral and spiritual resurrection that brings in the Millennium. On such the second death hath no power. The second death is the sad doom of eternal death. See verse 14.
7-10. When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed. The earth shall have its golden age but it shall not last forever. Satan shall, when many ages have rolled away, be loosed for a little season. From some cause, that is wrapped in the darkness of the future, righteousness shall wane; wickedness shall revive; the great adversary shall in part regain his influence over our race. But it is cheering to know that his triumph will be short. He shall be loosed only "for a little season." 8. And shall go out to deceive the nations. Again he shall marshal the hosts of sin and renew his old conflict. The four quarters of the earth. From the whole earth. Gog and Magog. See Gen. 10:2 and Ezekiel 38:2. Josephus says that Magog represented the Scythians, a great race spread over the country now occupied by Southern Russia. 9. And they went up over the breadth of the earth. They spread over it. Compassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Assailed the true Church and sought to destroy it. How the Church shall be assailed cannot now be told, but there will be a determined attempt to extirpate it. The beloved city, the spiritual Jerusalem, the Church, shall be surrounded, but in the day of her extremity the Lord will hear her cry for help. Fire from heaven will descend on her enemies. Christ shall come. "As the lightning flashes from the east unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be." Then shall the Lord consume the wicked "with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming." "The day of the Lord shall come, when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and all its works shall be burned up." Fire came down from God and consumed them. For a comment on this read 2 Thess. 1:7-10. They shall come in flaming fire to destroy his enemies. The time will have come for the arm of the Lord to be revealed in might. 10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire. This is Satan's last battle. His time has come. The great deceiver is not cast into the bottomless pit now. The lake of fire is opened, and we discover there the beast and the false prophet, but they have gone whence none ever return. There the devil is cast in and locked up to abide with his allies in wickedness forever.
11-15. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it. This is one more act in the great drama. The throne of judgment is set. The nations, living as well as dead, are called to stand before God. The white throne indicates purity, triumph, and glory. It is the color of the light. From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. See 21:1. There is to be a new heaven and earth. The old ones are destroyed to be reconstructed. 12. And I saw the dead, small and great. As we learn from the next verse the dead of every land, of earth, and sea and hades deliver their dead and all come to judgment. The books are opened. The records that contain all the deeds of men. Another book. The book of life in which the names of the saints are recorded. From these books all are judged according to their works. 13. The sea. A symbol of the lost dead of whom no man knoweth. Death and Hades. The unseen world which hides from our view those who have departed from earth. The thought of the verse is that all the dead shall be judged. 14. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. After this judgment day "death and hades" also, death and the unseen land of the dead, disappear forever. This is the significance of being cast into the lake of fire, the eternal prison house. Until the end of the Millennium and the final judgment men shall die, but after the grand epoch in the history of the Universe, there shall be no more death. The last enemy, death, shall be destroyed. Then shall come to pass the saying that is written, "O! death, where is thy sting? O! grave, where is thy victory?" 15. And whosoever was not found written . . . was cast into the lake of fire. Into the same lake of fire, that prison house to which have gone the false prophet and the beast, to which has been consigned the dragon, "that old serpent the devil," the "eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." There shall also be banished those whose "names are not written in the book of life." This is the second death. As far as Inspiration throws its light upon the sad lot of those consigned to that "lake of fire," theirs is an eternal fate. When some one has shown that doors of this final prison of the Universe have opened to permit the escape of those who have been consigned to its keeping, then we may perhaps indulge some hope that its prisoners will, in the lapse of endless years, escape from their sad environment.