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The Devil's Destiny (Revelation 20:1-10)

October 11, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Happy Ever After (Revelation)

Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 20:1–20:10

Happy Ever After

 

The Devil's Destiny

Revelation 20:1-10

(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)

October 11, 2015

 

I. A Brief History of the End

Let me begin this morning by sharing with you a simple summary of the final events of human history, a summary drawn from what we find in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

You may recall what the opening chapter tells us about the return of Jesus. In Revelation 1:7 John declares: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." Clearly, as we saw last time, when Christ returns the entire, unrepentant world will wail in light of the judgment He will bring against sin and sinners.

The sixth seal in the sixth chapter speaks of this same judgment, describing it by way of the cries of those judged: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:16, 17) We also read there about the collapse of the created order: The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (6:14)

In 10:7 we read that in the days of the seventh trumpet judgment, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. And when that seventh trumpet blares, we hear this heavenly announcement in 11:15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

In the following verses we go on to hear from the twenty-four elders about this progression of events: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. 1) The nations raged, but 2) your wrath came, and 3) the time for the dead to be judged, and 4) for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and 5) for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Revelation 11:17,18)

In chapter 14, an angel goes on to declare that “the hour of [God's] judgment has come” (14:7). This judgment includes the fall of Babylon in 14:8, and a warning to those who worship the beast, a warning that describes the “wine of God's wrath”, “the cup of his anger”, and torment “with fire and sulfur”. (14:10) Chapter 14 ends with the disturbing imagery of a winepress of blood being pressed “outside the city”. (14:20)

As we learned, the seventh trumpet marks the beginning of the seven bowl judgments. And in 15:1, we read this about those judgments. John sees seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. And if we look again at the progression of those bowl judgments, we find God fulfilling everything He already promised to fulfill in terms of judgment and wrath.

When the sixth and seventh bowls are poured out, we read about: 1) the drawing of all nations to battle on (16:14) “the great day of God the Almighty”. We also read about 2) Babylon falling as she “drain[s] the cup of the wine of the fury of God's wrath” (16:19). And not surprisingly we also read that 3) “every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.” (16:20)

So as we've discussed, chapter 16 marks the end of what was contained in the scroll that was opened by the Lamb back in chapter 6. He has implemented God's plan for ultimate justice to be brought to a rebellious world ripe for God's justice.

 

II. The Passage: “And He Seized the Dragon” (20:1-10)

So as we come back to this final section of the book, it's extremely important that we understand how chapters 17-20 simply expand on what was contained in the sixth and seventh bowl judgments. We are zooming in on those final events and learning even more about the specifics of God's judgment and victory. We saw this with the fall of Babylon in chapters 17 and 18. We saw this with the destruction of the beast and false prophet in chapter 19. And we will see this one more time, as we learn about the devil's destiny here in chapter 20.

As you can see from your insert, I have divided the first half of chapter 20 into three parts. Verses 1-3 reveal a restraining of Satan's deceptions. Verses 4-6 describe a reversing of Satan's designs. And finally, verses 7-10 contain a recounting of Satan's defeat.

 

1. A Restraining of Satan's Deceptions (20:1-3)

Look with me first at the first three verses of chapter 20. This is what John writes:

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, [3] and 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.

So once again, John has been shown a symbolic scene. But are we given any clues about the meaning of this vision? Clearly, the images involved (a chain, a binding, a pit with a locked door over it) represent a restraining of the devil's power. And the involvement of the angel reminds us that this restraining is by God's decree. But how is Satan restrained? As we see in verse 3, he is restrained, “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer”.

Now wait a minute. Something seems off here. “Nations”? When we studied the previous chapter, we saw three things happen: 1) we heard heaven worshiping God in light of Babylon's fall, 2) we saw the Bride of the Lamb, the Church, being prepared for her wedding day and marriage supper, and 3) we saw the destruction of the Beast, the false prophet, and (19:18) “all men, both free and slave, both small and great” at the final battle. So if the end has come, as everything seems to indicate, why is there a concern about Satan deceiving the nations? The nations that have just been destroyed?

We have to remember that though the visions in Revelation are revealed in a certain order, they do not always reveal a strictly chronological progression of events. Sometimes they fast forward. Sometimes they rewind. We know in the final section here that the visions are revealing how God will judge His enemies, and their judgments are presented in the reverse order of how they were first presented: chapter 12 introduced the dragon, who is Satan, chapter 13 revealed the beast and the false prophet, and chapter 14 introduced Babylon.

And so starting in chapter 17, we began to read about how God will destroy each of these enemies, starting with Babylon in chapters 17 and 18, the beast and the false prophet in chapter 19, and now the dragon here in chapter 20. But just as chapter 17 gave us a more in-depth picture of Babylon the harlot, so too John is giving a fuller picture of Satan's judgment. And that judgment begins with a restraining, a restraining that will last for (20:2, 3) “a thousand years”.

Now as we have already seen over and over again, the numbers in this book are also highly symbolic. This is no less true for 1000. Not only is 1000 a traditional Hebrew way of talking figuratively about a large amount (e.g. “the cattle on a thousand hills” belong to God (Psalm 50:10)), but 1000 is also 10 (a number of fullness) times 10 times 10. That's three times, and three is a number of full testimony or confirmation.

So for a full and confirmed period of time, Satan will be restrained in terms of His deceptive agenda with the nations. Now before we talk more about the specifics of this restraining, I want to remind you that we've seen very similar imagery to this before, back in chapter nine. You may remember in the opening verses of that chapter how an angel with a key opened up this same bottomless pit and released a horde of demons. But as we talked when we studied that passage, those images did not symbolize the introduction of demons into the world, but simply an increase in demonic attacks. It was a picture, not of restraining, but of permitting.

 

2. A Reversing of Satan's Designs (20:4-6)

But look at how John's vision continues in verses 4-6. As I read those verses, think about how they might connect to what we just learned about Satan's judgment. Verse 4...

Then 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 those 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. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed 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.

The first connection between vs. 1-3 and 4-6 is easy to spot: both passages deal with the same period of time, “a thousand years”. So we could say, while Satan is restrained, the saints were reigning...with Christ. Why might this be something to highlight in a passage concerned with God's judgment on the devil? Well, look back at verse 2. Do you recognize the wording there? And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan...

We heard that same language back in 12:9...And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

So I believe that very particular list of titles is used again here in chapter 20 in order to point us back to chapter 12, and to the judgment described there. Remember what is being described in chapter 12: Satan's judgment began at the cross of Jesus Christ. Now listen to a very important passage, one that I believe connects Revelation 12 and Revelation 20. This is from John's own Gospel, chapter 12:31, 32. Only days before His death, Jesus declared...

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. [32] And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Because Jesus took the punishment for our sins, all nations have a way back to God. That is, Satan's power to deceive all nations is restrained. Now, similar to the demonic army that came out of the abyss in chapter 9, the symbolism of Satan's imprisonment is not absolute, but points to a change of severity. But this time, it is decreasing in severity. Does Satan still have power to deceive? Of course. But not like he did before Christ came.

Remember what John told us in his first letter about the devil: We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (I John 5:19) But because Jesus died for sinners from all nations, men and women from all nations can come out from under the blinding influence of the devil. But remember what we also read in chapter 12 about those no longer imprisoned by Satan's lies: And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (12:11).

Isn't this the same group described in 20:4...Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. You see, Satan's design is to destroy those he cannot deceive. But even if he is allowed to destroy us, to take our very lives through persecution, we are still more than conquerors. That's what Revelation 20:4-6 is describing.

When men with swords or guns, when those tools of the dragon and the Beast come with death, we come to life. If we die in Jesus, we live...and reign, with Jesus. And this departing to be with Christ is so intimately connected with our bodily resurrection in light of His bodily resurrection, so much so that John refers to it here as “the first resurrection”. But didn't we already hear about this same promise when Jesus spoke to the church at Smyrna? 2:10, 11...

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. [11] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

Did you see the parallels there? I like what pastor and writer Sam Storms said about the relationship here between “the first resurrection” and “the second death” (i.e. lake of fire). He writes: The believer DIES PHYSICALLY but experiences SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION! The unbeliever is RESURRECTED PHYSICALLY but experiences SPIRITUAL DEATH! For the Christian, to die is resurrection. For the non-Christian, to be resurrected is to die.

So just as we find the book's fifth blessing or benediction in verse 6, this whole passage also points us back to the book's second blessing back in 14:13...Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

 

3. A Recounting of Satan's Defeat (20:7-10)

So if the restraining of Satan symbolized in verses 1-3 took place through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and if those who die in Christ now reign with Him in the first stage of their resurrected life, then what will happen after this full and confirmed period of time? Well, what will happen is exactly what we've already seen will happen. Look at 20:7-10. We read...

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison [8] and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. [9] And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, [10] and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

So first of all, notice the very specific aim of the devil's deceiving work, once he is no longer restrained; He sets out to do what he has been unable and is still unable to do today: he mobilizes the world system in order to destroy the church. As I said last time: what “Revelation seems to reveal is that one day, mankind's hostility against God, their opposition to His rule, their indifference to His glory, their hatred of His commands, and their disdain for His people will reach to its most fevered pitch.”

But second, notice that what we read here is simply another description of what we've already seen throughout the book; only this time, Satan is highlighted as the main character. This is the “battle on the great day of God the Almighty”. (16:14) Who are “Gog and Magog”? Just symbolic names taken from Ezekiel 38 and 39, names used to describe the same kings mentioned in chapters 16 and 19, kings from “the four corners of the earth”. Moreover, just like 14:20, the wrath of God is unleashed here “outside the city”, a symbol of God's people.

Similarly, the fire from heaven here is a powerful picture of the very same judgment we saw Jesus dispensing at the end of chapter 19, when He destroyed the nations. And as we saw last time, there is and can be no real battle described here; we read only of God's victory.

So what is described in this chapter is not a second day of wrath or a second hour of judgment, a thousand years after the first; the wrath of God really will be finished with the seventh bowl. Rather, what we have here is another description of the same point in time, at the end of the world, when God, through Jesus, will decisively defeat all of His enemies. Just as the rest of the NT affirms, “The kingdom of the world [truly will, on that day (7th trumpet >> 7 bowls), once for all...will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

And as we read in verse 10, John sees the devil thrown into the same lake of fire that he saw in 19:20, the very place where the Beast and the false prophet were at the end of the previous vision. This is the fate of our great Enemy. His destiny is decided. It is a fixed fate.

 

III. We are Not Ignorant

So think about the importance of this vision, especially in light of what we know about the seven churches to whom this book was originally addressed almost two thousand years ago. They would have understood what the Apostle Peter wrote when he warned:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (I Peter 5:8-9)

Remember, many in the seven churches faced opposition from so-called Jews who, in reality, belonged to a “synagogue of Satan”. (2:9; 3:9 The devil would even be allowed to throw some of them into prison. (2:10) Some of these Christians were also dealing with the kind of cancerous false teaching that Jesus described as “the deep things of Satan”. (2:24) More than that, some of these disciples were feeling pressure from the civil authorities, authorities Jesus designated as “Satan's throne”. (2:13) At least one brother, Antipas, even lost his life.

Do you personally recognize that the devil is no less active today? That the lion continues to prowl and roar and hopefully devour? He most certainly does, in your life as well as mine. But as we see here, God has given us knowledge and understanding in regard to Satan. Listen to what Paul told the Corinthians about this:

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, [11] so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (II Corinthians 2:10-11).

The knowledge and understanding God gave Paul through His word showed Paul that unforgiveness, indifference, and disunity among God's people are the tools and goals of the devil. And so, by the grace of God, Paul resisted the devil, firm in his faith.

Remember, Satan's design is to destroy those he cannot deceive. If he cannot lure you away with sin, to take what he offers, he will attempt to take away what you already have, maybe even your life. Are you aware or ignorant of his designs? If God has given you knowledge and understanding about the dragon, how are you using it?

And based on what God has revealed to us this morning, we might adapt Paul's words and say, “We will not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his destiny.” He will stop at nothing to burn me. But he will burn. Suffering at the hands of a schoolyard bully is no fun. But if you could somehow catch a glimpse of the future, and witness a scene in which the principal catches the bully and expels him, wouldn't that encourage you to hang in there?

What is your ultimate confidence? Chapter 5, verse 9: And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...”

Jesus will build His church. And because the dragon has been restrained, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18) For I am sure that neither death...nor rulers...nor things to come, nor powers...will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

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