Sermon: When The Thousand Years Are Ended, Satan Will Be Released: Revelation 20:7-10

New Testament Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10; Revelation 16:12–16; 19:17–21; Revelation 20:1-10

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–10, ESV)

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (‘Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!’) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:12–16, ESV)

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:17–21, ESV)

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 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. 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, 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.” (Revelation 20:7–10, ESV)

Introduction 

The question that we have been asking over the past couple of weeks is, when will the events described here in Revelation 20:1-10 happen in relation to the bodily rerun of Christ? It is an important question, for it here that the pre-, post- and a-millennialists disagree. The pre-millennialists say “after”, the post-millennialists (speaking generally) say, “before, but mainly in our future”, and the a-millennialists say, “before, but in the past, present and future”.

I know that some (and by some, I don’t mean some of you) are tempted to avoid this topic after being exposed to these differences of opinion. I’ve heard some say, “I’m not an a-, pre- or post-millennialist. I’m a pan-millennialist. I believe that it will all pan out in the end.” And while I do understand the temptation to avoid this complex issue and to remain undecided, I cannot commend that approach for two reasons:

One, eschatology matters. What believe concerning the future will inevitably have an impact upon how we live in the here and now. Eschatology (the study of what the Bible has to say concerning the time of the end) produces more than theological banter. It is practice. It effects how live today. It effects what we value. It impacts our priorities. Our view of the end does indeed set our life off on a particular trajectory.

The practicality of eschatology is not hard to prove. What if there were no resurrection and, therefore, no judgement? What if men and women simply went to the grave, returned to dust, and were no more. Imagine that this is what you believed concerning the future. Would it impact the way that you live today? Without a doubt it would! Indeed, there are many in this world who think this way, and it does, without a doubt, have an impact upon their morals and their ethics. No resurrection. No judgement. No ultimate authority. No accountability. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

For all that has been said over the past couple of weeks concerning the differences between the pre-, post- and a-millennial positions, it should be remembered that we do agree upon a lot. We do believe in the same God and in the Christ whom he has sent. We believe in the resurrection of the dead. We believe in the judgement of the wicked and life in the world to come for those washed in the blood of Christ. While considering the differences between the pre-, post- and a-millennial positions it would be very foolish to loose sight of our common ground. But it would also be foolish to think that the difference don’t matter. They do.

I wonder if you could take some time to think about what impact holding to a pre-, post- or a-millennialist position would have upon your life today. And when I say “holding” I mean really believing it to be true, and not mindlessly or heartlessly holding to the position. Indeed, all three positions hold much in common, what difference would their distinctive’s make in your life today. I say the differences would be rather profound.

Is Satan bound from deceiving the nations today, or his he not? Put differently, what kind of authority did Christ receive when he rose from the grave? Is Satan under his thumb, or is he not? The answers to these questions are immensely practical, for they do effect our ability to walk courageously in this world in face of difficultly.

And where are things headed? Will everything return to a focus upon ethnic Israel in the future, with a rebuilt brick and mortar temple in Jerusalem and the resumption of animal sacrifices. You do know that some dispensational pre-millennialists send lots of money to organizations that are preparing for the rebuilding of this temple in Jerusalem. Why? Because they really believe their view. They really believe that in order for Christ to return and to usher in their millennium the temple must be rebuilt. They see it as kingdom work.

I wonder, what would you think as a follower of Christ if the temple in Jerusalem were rebuilt and animal sacrifices were resumed today? I am not asking, how would you view this politically?, but how would you view it theologically? How would you interpret that action in light of the Holy Scriptures? Would you applaud it as something good and God-honoring? Or would you condemn it as something idolatrous and false? The New Testament scriptures clearly condemn it. For the Jewish people to continue on with the Old Covenant forms of worship means that they are persisting in their rejection of Jesus as the Christ.  The New Testament teaches that Jesus is the Christ and that he has fulfilled the Old Testament. He himself said, “believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:21–23, ESV). I could go on and on demonstrating that New Testament condemns the rebuilding of a brick and mortar temple, the confutation of blood sacrifices, and the ongoing distinction between Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God, for in Christ we are one! But I wonder, how would you interpret a rebuild temple in Jerusalem today? Would you approve of it, theologically speaking? I think that a lot of Christians today would applaud it! Dispensational pre-millennialists have had such an impact upon our culture with their fiction books and their movies, and they have made a mess of our eschatology. They have introduced so much confusion, and I would not be surprised in the least to see the evil one use this confusion to severely divide the church in the future, when many will be found applauding that which God has clearly condemned. Did not Christ himself say to the Jewish people concerning the temple, “See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38, ESV)? Was not the writer to the Hebrews clear that Christ fulfilled these Old Covenant forms of worship, and thus they have been taken away.

The point is this: eschatology matters. What you believe concerning the trajectory of things will determine how you live now. I know the example is extreme, but there are some dispensational pre-millennialists who, when they think of “kingdom work”, they think of temple building. But for those of us who are a-millennialists, we know that the kingdom of God advances in the world when the gospel is proclaimed, and when the church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, is built up strong and true.

I’ll say much less concerning how the post-millennialist view would impact the way that we live in the hear now only because the post-millennial view is less prominent. But it should come as no surprise that there are some post-millennialists who act as is the mission of the church is to promote the transformation or Christianization of culture. Indeed, we all agree that when the gospel spreads and when churches thrive, cultures are sometimes impacted for the better. But is it the mission of the church? We would say no. But if your view is that in the future a golden age will come where the cultures of the earth are Christianized so that Christ does then rule and reign, it is not surprising that you might make this – the Christianization of cultures – your mission.

But the a-millennialist says, no, the church is to proclaim the gospel. She is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching those disciples all that Christ has commanded. She is to do this no matter the condition of the surrounding culture. She is do this expecting opposition, and boldly, knowing that Christ does rule and reign even now, all authority in heaven and earth having been given to him. 

So much more could be said concerning how our eschatology impacts the way that we live today – our values, our priories, our confidence in Christ, producing either to boldness or fear. The point is this, eschatology matters. Whatever you believe, you should believe it sincerely and from the heart. But know that getting it wrong has consequences. Eschatology matters.

The second reason that I cannot commend the dismissive attitude of the, so-called, pan-millennialist, is that God has revealed things concerning the end to us in his word. Friends, we are not free to simply dismiss that which God has revealed in his word because we find it difficult. We are to humbly receive God’s inspired, inerrant, clear and authoritative word, and we are to live by it. If the matter is not clear to us, it is not due to some defect in God’s word, but in us. God speaks clearly, but we do not always listen well.

The Partial Judgement of Satan

Here in Revelation chapter 20 everything has come to focus upon the judgement of the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. The two beasts and the harlot have been introduced and have been judged by the end of Revelation 19. Now we are shown the judgement of the dragon, who was first introduced to us in Revelation 12.

Notice that the judgement of the dragon comes in two stages. Initially he is bound, but eventually he will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur… [where he will be] tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, ESV).

When was Satan bound? When was he judges initially?The answer is that he was bound at Christ’s first coming.

He was then bound, not entirely, but specifically “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended….” (Revelation 20:3, ESV). Satan was partially judged at Christ’s first coming. He was defeated and detained then. He was restrained so that the church might carry out her mission to take the gospel to the end of the earth. No longer does Satan have authority over the nations to keep them in darkness, for the nations have been given to Christ as his “heritage, and the ends of the earth [his] possession” (Psalm 2:8, ESV). Indeed, Christ is King, and his kingdom was at hand (inaugurated) at his first coming, and it will be here in fulness (consummated) as his second. Satan has not been eliminated, then. He has not been rendered absolutely powerless. Indeed, he is alive and he is ferocious, like a rabid dog on a chain. He does still “[prowl] around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). As true as this is, we must not ignore what the scriptures say, that he is also already judged, defeated, detained and restrained.

This will be his condition throughout the period of time signified by the “1,000 years” of Revelation 20. Call it “the church age”, call it the age of “the age of the Spirit”, call it “this present evil age”, call it “the millennium” – whatever you call it, it is the period of time between Christ’s first and second coming. It is during this time that people experience the first death, that is physical death. And it is during this time that those who die in Christ do then experience the first resurrection – they do rule and reign with Christ, not in body, but in soul. “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death [that is, the final judgement after the return of Christ] has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6, ESV). It is during this age that Satan is bound. He has already been partially judged. He is defeated, detained and restrained.

The Final Judgment of Satan

When the 1,000 years are ended Satan will be fully and finally judged. He will be removed entirely from the world. He, along with everyone else who opposes God and resists his rule, from among both angels and men, will be be “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” (Revelation 20:10, ESV).

This will happen at the same time, or shortly thereafter, as what was described in Revelation 19:20:, where we read, “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20, ESV).

If you assume that the book of Revelation is organized chronologically you will think that the two beasts will be judged, then a thousand years will pass after which the dragon will be judged. It is far better to recognize that the book is organized thematically. First it describes the judgement of the two beasts, but now it focuses upon the judgement of Satan. In the book of Revelation the judgement of Satan comes 10 verses after the judgement of the beasts, but in fact these events will transpire on the same day. Both will happen at the end of this present evil age when Christ returns bodily to judge the living and the dead.

You see where things are going in the book of Revelation, don’t you? God’s creation is being progressively purged of all that is evil. It is being purged of all the darkness that did enter into it by the fall of man. The light is being separated now from darkness, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. And what will remain at the end of time? God will abide with his people in the new heavens and the new earth. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). God and Christ and his people will remain, along with his elect angels. Everything that is evil will be relegated to the lake of fire. This including the dragon himself, that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He is here in Revelation 20:10 removed from the scene, not to be mentioned again.

The Release of Satan

Not only does Revelation 20 speak of the binding of Satan at Christ’s first coming, and the final judgment of Satan at his second coming, it also says something about the releasing of Satan. This we must consider.

Satan’s release was first mentioned at the end of verse 3. Picking up with verses 2: “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 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” (Revelation 20:2–3, ESV).

So Satan was bound from deceiving the nations at Christ’s first coming, but he will at the end of time be released. And what do you think he will do when he is released? Undoubtably, he will do that which he was restrained from doing while bound.

Verse 7 picks up where verses 3 left off and describes it to us: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 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” (Revelation 20:7–8, ESV).

When will this happen?

It will happen at the end of the end of the thousand years and immediately before Christ returns.

What will Satan do when he is released?

He will again deceive the nations.

Notice that it is not one or two nations that he will deceive, but “the nations that are at the four corners of the earth.” This is another way of saying, “the nations throughout all of the earth”, or “all nations. They are here called “Gog and Magog”, not because only two nations are in view, for that would contradict what has just been said concerning the nations being gathered from the four corners of the earth, but so that we might see this end time event in light of what was said in Ezekiel 38 and and 39 concerning Israel’s pagan oppressors under the Old Covenant. Gog and Magog oppressed God’s people, and God judged them. The same thing will happen at the end of time, but on a universal and climatic scale. Furthermore, we are told that those gathered for battle are like the sand of the sea. They are so numerous, they cannot be counted.

What will these nations do, once they are again deceived at the end of time?

Certainly they will be given to unbelief and to rebellion against God and Christ. More than that, they will cooperate to ferociously oppose and oppress God’s people living throughout the earth, so as to destroy them.

Verse 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…” (Revelation 20:9, ESV).

So will there be a “great tribulation” at the end of time?

Not if you have in mind the “great tribulation” of the pre-tribulational pre-millennialists. No, there will not be a great tribulation that lasts three and one half years that begins after the Christians are secretly raptured out of the world, all others being left behind. That story is a myth.

But yes, there is reason to believe that at the very end of time the church – that is to say, the true church – will find herself under assault, as the nations of the earth come against her to seek her destruction.

I read from 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10; Revelation 16:12–16; 19:17–21; Revelation 20:1-10 at the

beginning of this sermon in order to demonstrated that the New Testament in general, and the book of Revelation in particular, portrays the days immediately preceding the return of Christ as difficult days for the people of God. False teaching will abound. Political powers will persecute. Indeed, the Antichrist, who is also called the lawless one will himself be present, “whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV). The nations will be gathered to war against Christ and his people. When all is considered it is evident that the church will find herself under an organized and worldwide assault before Christ comes. It is to this situation that the Lord will return to rescue his beloved bride.

Revelation 16: 12-16 describes the last day as a day when the “kings of the whole world [will be assembled] for battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14, ESV).

Revelation 19:17 John “saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’ And [John] saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:17–20, ESV).

And here in Revelation 20:9 we read, “And they [that is the armies of the nations of the earth who are like the sand of the sea in number] 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…” (Revelation 20:9, ESV).

Notice a few things about this passage.

One, it is yet another perspective on the last day which has been described to us already in 16:12ff. and 19:17ff.

Two, it is symbolic. No, all of God’s people will not literally be gathered together in the beloved city of Jerusalem. And no the nations will not literally surround that city with their armies. Jerusalem symbolizes God’s people living throughout the earth. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, remember. In this age the holy place is protected (measured) by God while the outer court and the holy city is left exposed (unmeasured) and is given over to the nations to be trampled (see Revelation 11). Though on the visionary level we do see hoards of soldiers rushing swiftly and unhindered across open plains towards the city of Jerusalem, on the historical level the church will be indeed by scattered across the whole earth just as she is now. But the nations will conspire together to persecute her to the point of inhalation. That is the meaning of the vision.

Three, notice that God is sovereign even over these nations as they assault the bride of Christ. It is God who allows them to gather against his people. He permits it. It is his decree that by assembling them in this way, he will then judge them. I think this must have been a great encouragement to the Christians who originally received this letter in the first century A.D. who were experiencing persecution. From the human perspective they would have been tempted to say, “where is God?” as they suffered at the hand of the Romans. But what does the book of Revelation reveal? That God is sovereign still. He is seated on his throne. And so is Christ. They see all, they have all power, and they are able to keep those who belong to them. If it true of the great persecution that will come upon the church at the end of time, it also must be true of the temporary and limited persecutions experienced throughout the world even today. God is not asleep at the wheel. All that happens is according to his decree. That evil that he permits is not by a bear or purposes permission. No, there is a reason for it, and our God is infinitely wise, and fiercely faithful to those upon whom he has set his love.

Four, notice how quickly our Lord makes an end of the dragon. In verses 10 we simply read, “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” (Revelation 20:10, ESV).

The brevity of the description of Satan’s destructions is quite astonishing especially when you consider how much trouble he has caused throughout history beginning with his first appearance in the garden when he did tempt the first woman and the first man. By the looks of things you expect the battle to be great, Christ and his army fighting against Satan and his. By the looks of things – as we look out upon the world and observe the power of the nations and the forces of darkness – and also as we consider the vision of Revelation 20 and see Satan and his hoards as numerous as he sand of the sea – you would think it would be quite an epic battle. But the Lord makes quick work of the evil one. He is slain by the word of Christ, “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.” On that day the enemy of God and of the people of God will no longer threaten.

Conclusion

Let us expect conflict to the very end.

Christ told his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33, ESV).

Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, ESV).

Let us not loose heart when we face of tribulation.

Christ said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

Peter said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13, ESV).

Let us remember where God and Christ are now and truly believe that they are all powerful and able to bring us safely home.

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