Characters and Themes – Millennial Musings and the Binding of Satan

14Apr11

As stated in the previous post we will now turn our attention toward the most divisive of all subjects in eschatology. There may be a great outcry when the discussion of pre- mid- and post- tribulation rapture subject is broached, but those discussion only include Premillennialist. Now we had the whole range of Christian thought debating a timing issue like the Millennium.

One of the truly great difficulties in dealing with this matter is that the concept is limited to six verses in one of the most difficult chapters of the Bible’s most intriguing and challenging book, the Revelation of Christ. This goes a long way to help our understanding of why the vast differences of opinion exist. This is no easy passage.

So, before treading into this passage there are a few items that must be understood before proceeding. The first is that this will be a discussion of the timing of the Millennium, it’s length and the return of Christ in relation to it. This is not a discussion of the “type” of expectation in regards to the nature of the Millennium. In other words, we are primarily looking at the timing aspects, especially in relation to the return of Christ.

So, as a result, there will only be two views discussed. Will will look at the Premillennial expectation and the Postmillennial. The two subsets of each position, Classical and Dispensational Premillennialism, and Amillennialism and Postmillennial will not be the subject of this discussion. We simply want to discover when will Christ return in relation to the Millennium and when does the Bible teach the Millennium began or will begin.

But even before those copnclusions can be reached it is important to gather a Biblical understanding of the passage in question. So, let us consider the passage before us.

Rev 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who 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 for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

There are four basic questions that need to be tackled in understanding this difficult passage.

1. Who is this angel that binds Satan and when does this take place?

2. How is Satan bound and for what purpose?

3. What is the first resurrection?

4. How long is the Millennium?

BINDING OF SATAN

Though closely related, I have divided the first two questions because one deals with timing while the other deals with the purpose and the question of “how” is Satan bound. As a result it benefits the reader to garner first of the timing of the event considered by both views before discussing the purpose for this action.

As to the identity of the angel of the Lord there are only really two options. Some argue this is the work of Michael, the archangel, while others argue that the identity of the angel is the Lord Jesus Christ. The debate over how the Scriptures use interchangeably the name of Michael as the personage of Jesus is up to the reader to study and consider themselves. My goal here is to limit the options to what what the easiest to understand Scriptures dictate. When we discuss the Postmillennial explanation I will give the answer I find most convincing.

The Premillenialist is, by definition, a futurist. So, as a result the timing of the binding of Satan is a yet future event. Since this action is what initiates the Millennium, it is obviously a future event.

The Postmillennialist argues the event described also initiates the Millenniium, but can be dated during the first advent of Christ. This means the Millennium is the time period between the two advents of Christ. This is where Amillennialist and most Postmillennialist will agree though many traditional Postmillennialist argue the Millennium is actually a golden age in which the Kingdom expands to include the entire world. But for our discussion here we will go with the Amillennial and primary, contemporary Postmillennial position.

So, when did this event occur and who did it? The answer lies in the same passage in the book of Matthew, chapter 12.

Matt 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 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.

So, here we have Jesus announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God (traditionally synonymous with the Millennium is nearly all views) be proven by the power of Jesus over the demons. He had just cast out a demon from a man and was being questioned by the Pharisees as to where His authority came from. Jesus retorts with the above words and shows that the Kingdom of God arrived as the “strong man” has been bound and the proof of that is His casting out of demons.

Here in the first advent of Christ we are shown that the strong man, the one who lords over the demons has been bound through the work of Christ. This binding coincides with the picture of the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 and demonstrates that the Kingdom (millennium) began at that time as well.

We will finish this post by answering the second question and deal with the final two questions in the next post.

THE BINDING OF SATAN – HOW AND WHY?

This is an often confusing section as we subjectively look around in society and simply;y cannot believe that Satan is bound. The evil we witness round us demonstrates to us that there appears no way in which Satan is bound and that this interpretation must simply be incorrect! Before answering this objection we Will first discuss the Premillennialist expectation on the how and why of the binding of Satan.

As the result of the Premillennial expectation that this is a yet future event, the how and why is a bit of conjecture, but there seems to be some consistency amongst those who are Premillennialist as to what should be expected and why.

First, the binding should be seen as literal. Jesus or the angel will physically bind Satan with actual chains and place him in a real pit with and seal it shut for 1,000 years. The purpose of this binding is a complete  elimination of the work of Satan in the earthly realm. This coincides with the literal, physical reign of Christ on earth and explains why the reign would be so glorious as the tempter is removed from being able to work in any way.

The Postmillennialist, though, argues that the binding serves a different purpose and that this binding is figurative and represents the restraint placed upon Satan by God to insure the success of the Gospel proclamation. So, what are to make of the “keys” and the purpose of the binding. These two items should help us work through this difficult passage.

Rev 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

First understand that Satan is a “spirit” being like angels and that a real metal chain would really be useless in restraining him in any fashion. That aside, let’s start with the fact that Jesus (angel) arrives to bind Satan with a key. This is a truly unique in that “keys” are not mentioned often is Scripture and, in fact,  only twice in the New Testament. The key could simply represent that Jesus has the authority over Satan and that only He can release him at some later time.

If there is a connection between the two times that keys are mention in the new testament it could be that this binding is related to the work of the Church on earth and the restraining nature of the church throughout history.

It is very important to note that the binding taking place in Revelation 20 has a stated purpose. Satan is bound that he man no longer deceive the nations. This binding has nothing to do with his ability to tempt, torment or perform any evil acts in any way. This binding is in relation to the ability of the Gospel to expand from the first advent through the second advent.

It is important to remember that Redemptive History makes quite a paradigm shift at the first coming of Christ. The Gospel is no longer reserved for a small, exclusive and ethnic group, but rather is expanded to include all the nations of the earth! The Gospel is now available to those nations that were previously “deceived” by Satan. This actual work is done through the proclamation of the Gospel by the Church of Christ.

As a result, there may just be a tie in to the keys that were given to the Apostle’s representing the Church.

Matt 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven

This connection also includes the ability of the Church to “bind” things on earth and they are bound in heaven. These keys are the keys to the Kingdom and they arrive in relation to the initiation of the kingdom earlier in Matthew. The connection is apparent, but it is another hill I am not willing to die on. I simply make reference because of the unique similarity. The important thing to note is that Jesus binds Satan (Matt 12) for the purpose of restraining Satan’s ability to deceive the nations!

This ends this post. In the following post we will consider the two other questions and see if we can find a definitive placement of the Millennium in relation to the return of Christ. To understand this, though, we must understand the differing resurrections

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