Revealing Revelation – The Millennial Binding of Satan Part One

10Jan11

It has been a while since the most recent post as this section of Revelation is so controversial and the views are as diverse and multiple as there are commentaries on the subject. And just as I had prepared to work through the passages in question a commentator I admire quite a bit, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, mentioned that he has changed his perspective on the passage. And though I am comfortable and confident with my position, when someone of his stature mentions a change I wanted to at least consider those changes.

Dr. Gentry was gracious enough to send me some information on this change and I have worked through his ideas. We will not address these changes in this post, but the view will be reflected in following posts.

Finally, the delay has also been brought about by the fact that this blog was never meant to reflect my positions exclusively, but to combine the differing views within the preterist perspective and present them fairly along with a critique of the futurist perspective. Dr. Gentry’s position change necessitated I take the time to discover the best way to present all of the above.

As a result, the next several posts will slowly walk through the positions and I will only offer my opinion as an addendum to the views expressed. We will also limit the majority of our discussion to the timing and nature issues of the Kingdom and not the differing perspectives of “Millennial Positions” which have been detailed previously.

The first thing to note about Chapter 20 is that there is great disagreement about the timing of the events described. Many argue that it follows directly in a timeline from Chapter 19’s description of the “coming of Christ.” The Premillennialist argues that the coming described in Chapter 19 is the literal Second coming and this will institute the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Christ on earth.

Some preterist also see these two passages taking place chronologically, but since the preterist argues that the coming described in Chapter 19 represents either Christ coming in judgment against apostate Israel or Rome or the coming of the Gospel throughout history, the Millennial picture that follows began in the first century.

Another option is that Chapter 20, like Chapter 19 and the seals, trumpets and bowls represent the same event told from different perspectives. that event is the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And how John also returns to historical events in Chapter 12 (the birth and life of Christ) here John goes back to the binding of Satan at Christ’s first coming, initiating the Millennium during his first advent.

But let’s consider the passage itself with the above views in our minds. In this first post we will deal exclusively with the binding of Satan found in the first two verses and the purpose of that binding as discussed in the third verse.

Rev. 20:1-3 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. [2] And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,

The first thing to consider is the often used concept of “then I saw” which does not necessarily mean that the events described are chronological, but simply the order in which John saw the visions. This is also true of Chapter 12 as discussed above and in Chapter 12 we have John describing events that were clearly in the past (birth of Christ, death, ascension, etc) but the vision is placed in the center of the book. Though this does not discount the possibility of these events being chronological from the events of Chapter 19 it is not necessarily true.

The second item to consider is the identity of the angel. Many have argued that it is Michael, the same angel that John described defeating the serpent in Chapter 12. The rest of scripture, though, points to the idea that this being is non other than Christ Himself.

The first clue to this is that the angel as described is “holding” the keys to the bottomless pit. These don’t appear to have been “given” to Him but rather that they belong to Him. This could only be Christ. This is also in great contrast to Satan who was “given” the keys earlier in the book (Chapter 9). Those keys do not belong to him and, in fact, were obtained by Christ during His first coming as is presented in the opening chapter of the book.

Rev 1:18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

The concept of the one with the keys having the authority to open and lock is found elsewhere in the Scriptures as the Church is given the keys to the kingdom and Isaiah even prophesied that one would come who would have the key to the kingdom of David (Isa 22:22). This is fulfilled in Christ. He is given this authority and so this helps our understanding of the identity of this angel.

More than this, though, we must consider the rest of Scripture and how Christ is shown defeating and “binding” Satan at His first coming. Consider the passages below and note special consideration of the timing of these events.

Matt 12:29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Jesus has just cast a demon out of a man to prove His dominion over Satan and that He had already bound the strong man (Satan). The parallel passage reveals even more.

Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil

As we will see in the following post regarding the purpose of the binding Jesus here described how He was dividing the spoils, the souls of the lost, and conquering Satan’s domain and shows that Satan is incapable of defending his own turf. He does so through binding and defeating Satan at His first coming. But even more support can be seen below.

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

The New Testament writers continue this argument of victory as well.

Col2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Heb 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

This is not a postponed binding. This is an historical fact. Again, the purpose of the binding will be dealt with later and will shed much light on these passages as well.

Finally in this passage we should note the strong symbolic and nonliteral language used. Satan is a spiritual being and a literal chain would not hold him in any way. Even a literal sealing of some sort of passageway would not contain a spiritual, non corporal being.

In fact, the imagery John employs include using the figurative descriptions of the devil used previously like the serpent and dragon. The nonliteral language is meant to portray the spiritual binding that is clearly represented. The following verse will limit the purpose of the binding and will be discussed later. So then this is also also true of the time constraint used; the infamous one thousand years.

Scripture has used the concept of a thousand in symbolic and nonliteral ways almost exclusively. Take note of the usage of a thousand in the passages below and note how the expression is used.

Exodus 20:6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Deut. 7:9 God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

So, with Scripture as our interpretive guide, we should see that the term a thousand need not be taken literally, any more than it’s usage in the passages above.

The timing of the Millennium should not be in question either as it is noted that it begins with the binding of Satan that Jesus Himself stated took place during His first coming. But for what purpose is this binding and how can we know that the binding in question took place in history? That will be the focus of our next post as we look at the next verse in this passage.

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2 Responses to “Revealing Revelation – The Millennial Binding of Satan Part One”

  1. 1 Tracey Bonsell

    I LOVE your use of other Scriptures to support your point (have I already said that??) You point out and give clarity in verses that I never really noticed or paid much attention to… and everything fits together. Amazing…

    Great Post.
    ~t~

  2. 2 Christy

    It’s amazing what happens when the Dispensational “literal” blinders are removed.


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