The Binding Of Satan With A View To Gog And Magog - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
(Revelation 20: 1 -10)
1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are. and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Before we enter into the interpretation of these verses, we wish to make a few preliminary remarks.
First of all, it should be observed that Scripture knows of only one coming of the Lord; and this coming marks the end of the world, and that too, by way of a universal catastrophe, as well as the inauguration of the world to come, the new heavens and the new earth.
This observation precludes the view of the premillenarians, who speak of two comings of Christ. The one is called the rapture, the other the revelation. The former will take place some time before the great tribulation, the latter after that tribulation. At the former will take place the resurrection of the just and the change of those believers who are faithful and look for His coming; the latter will witness the resurrection of the tribulation-saints and the inauguration of the millennium. In the rapture the Lord will come for His saints, to take them with Him in the air; in the revelation He will come with His saints, destroy Antichrist, and with His people reign over the nations. But even in both these comings the end of the world is not realized. They will mark the end of this "age;" but they inaugurate another age, that of the millennium. Only after the millennium is the last enemy, death, destroyed and eternity, or "the ages of ages," ushered in. When, therefore, the premillenarians speak of the coming of the Lord, they have in mind especially the "rapture" and the "first resurrection." This may be expected momentarily, may come at any time The blessedness of that rapture is that those who are deemed worthy of it shall escape the great tribulation under Antichrist and have part in the marriage supper of the Lamb.
We cannot possibly agree with this view, nor with the premillenarian interpretation of Scripture generally and of Revelation 20:1-10 specifically. First of all, it is an essential element in this view that it is based upon an erroneous interpretation of the Old Testament, which leads to a separation of Israel and the church, as if they were two separate peoples. The former, Israel, is the kingdom people; the latter, the church, is the body of Christ.
A correct interpretation of the Old Testament in the light of the New will lead to the conclusion that Israel and the church are not two peoples, but one.
Then too, the view of the two comings, the rapture and the revelation, is based on a wrong interpretation of several passages of Holy Writ. An outstanding example of this wrong interpretation is that of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." It is claimed that this passage of Scripture plainly teaches what the premillennialist terms "the first resurrection," that is, the resurrection of the just in distinction from the resurrection of the wicked, which is supposed to take place after the millennium. Further, it is claimed that the word used in vs. 17, "to meet," means, according to the original, "a going forth in order to return with." The meaning accordingly is that we shall be caught up with Christ in the air in order to return with Him later.
But all this is quite arbitrary, and certainly is not the correct interpretation of the text in 1 Thessalonians 4. As to this "first resurrection," anyone who reads the text without prejudice, without millennially colored glasses, can readily see that it makes no distinction between the dead in Christ who shall be raised first and the dead outside of Christ who shall be raised later. But the distinction is between the dead in Christ, that is, those who have died before His coming, and the living in Christ, that is, those believers who shall be alive at the parousia. The resurrection of the former shall occur before the change of the latter. That is the meaning of the text. And so they shall meet the Lord together in the air. And the interpretation given of the word "to meet" as if it should imply the idea of a returning with Christ is a pure invention. The Greek term does not even remotely suggest this notion. Nor does the rest of the passage harmonize with the premillennial conception of the rapture. The text quite clearly refers to a public and universally announced coming of the Lord. The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. If this means anything at all, it certainly means that there will be nothing private or secret about this coining, but it will be loudly proclaimed to all the world. But according g to the millennial view, this will be a coming only for the church, only for the faithful believers. The world will not even notice this private coming of the Lord, except that certain persons will suddenly be strangely missed. And while the millennial view emphasizes that there will be a return from this rapture and that it will last only during the years of the great tribulation in the world, the text, on the contrary, emphasizes that it will be forever:
"And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Then too. the idea that believers must look forward to their final redemption through the coming of the Lord before the great tribulation is contrary to all the current teaching of Holy Writ, which not only warns us to expect tribulation, but also, rather than exhorting us to rejoice in the idea of escaping it, emphasizes that we shall consider it a great honor and privilege to suffer with Christ. To suffer in behalf of Christ is given us of grace, Phil 1:29. The millennium hope of escaping the tribulation is not spiritual, but carnal. And it is as dangerous as it is false, because it fills its followers with a false hope which will leave them unprepared in the evil day.
In the fourth place, the Bible throughout clearly connects with the one and only coming of the Lord the end of this world, the final salvation of the whole church, the last judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Consider, for instance, Matthew 24:29-31: -Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." And thus, in Matthew 25:31, ff., we read: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." And once more, consider the Lord's own interpretation of the parable of the tares: "The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," (Matt. 13:39-43).
Finally, this view is based on an interpretation of the Book of Revelation which is neither in accord with the highly apocalyptic contents of the whole book nor with the evidently symbolic presentation of Chapter 20 itself. It is quite impossible to read this twentieth chapter of the Book of Revelation as if it recorded a simple historical event which will take place some time in the future, an event which will follow in time upon what was revealed in Chapter 19 of the same book. Such an interpretation is quite impossible.
These are the preliminary remarks which I wanted to make before entering into the interpretation of the text itself. And this is certainly evident, that Scripture teaches not all kinds of different comings of the Lord, but only one coming.
The Binding Of Satan
And now we will interpret the text itself.
John writes that he "saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed for a little season."
It is very evident that in these words the Seer of Patmos describes not what he saw happening historically, but what he beheld in a vision. A strictly literal interpretation of the text, therefore, is not in harmony with the nature of the passage. Nor is it possible. No one thinks of the possibility of a literal interpretation when in Revelation 13: 1 the prophet tells us that "he stood upon the sand of the sea and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." It is understood without difficulty that all this was seen by John in a vision. And the same is true of the entire passage of the Book of Revelation which we are now discussing. It is not contradicting, but a correct interpretation of Scripture when we say that John did not actually see an angel come down with a great chain in his hand and the key of the bottomless pit, and that he did not actually see that the devil was bound and shut up in the bottomless pit, but that he saw all this as it was represented to him in a vision.
Neither must a vision be interpreted as if it were a mere and direct foretelling of events as they shall actually happen. It would not be interpreting but doing violence to Scripture and also to this particular passage of Scripture if we should paraphrase these verses in the following fashion: "Then shall an angel come down from heaven with the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he shall lay hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and shall bind him a thousand years." Such a paraphrasing of the text completely disregards the fact that the passage speaks of a vision. The question is rather: what is the central idea of the vision? What fact does John here behold as being realized before his eyes? And the answer to this question is readily given: that the devil is bound by a divine decree, so that he is prevented from accomplishing his purpose. The angel coming down from God to carry out this decree, the key of the bottomless pit, the great chain, the shutting and the seating, all these may be regarded as belonging to the form of the vision only. But they all serve to emphasize the fact that Satan is bound by the divine decree securely and effectively, so that during the period of his confinement he cannot carry out his evil purposes.
We must also understand, for a correct interpretation of this widely discussed part of the Book of Revelation, that it is extremely important that we conceive of it in its true light, that is, merely as another apocalyptic picture of some phase of the "day of the Lord." Any attempt to carry into this prophecy the time element and interpret it as if the events here foretold follow in time upon those referred to in Chapter 19:1121, must fail. In 19:17, ff., we have the picture of the destruction of all nations. Yet here we still meet with those very nations that live on the four corners of the earth. This can be understood only if we take the stand that in Revelation 20:1-10 a new aspect of the same "day of the Lord," other phases of which have been pictured before, is presented here. This particular vision presents to us the aspect of the judgment upon Gog and Magog, together with an explanation of the fact that these nations appear upon the scene last, and of the final judgment of the dragon, the devil. Hence, we may not read as if John had written,---Andafter this shall the devil be bound a thousand years, etc.," as all the premillennialists must needs do. But we must leave the text as it stands:---And I saw an angel come down from heaven, etc." The angel has "the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand." Evidently John beholds the angel in some human, physical form. For "the key of the bottomless pit," confer Chapter 9, verse 1. The bottomless pit is the proper temporary abode of the devil and his angels, (cf. 11 Peter 2:4). The key and the chain are not to be allegorized. In the picture they are just that, and nothing else. They represent the power of the angel to open and shut the pit and to bind Satan.
Before we go further, we must ask the question not only, but also very definitely answer it, whether this imprisonment of Satan, this secure confinement of the devil, must be regarded as absolute and complete, so that he is restrained in all his activity, or as relative and in part, so that the restraint placed upon him limits him in part, only in a certain direction, and dooms him to partial inactivity only.
This question is answered in the text. And the text replies to this question, without a doubt, that the restraint is partial and with a view to a certain sphere of action. For the purpose of the binding of Satan is designated in verse 3 as being "that he should deceive the nations no more." And in verse 8 we are informed still more definitely that when he shall be loosed for a little season, he "shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea." If we take these two passages in connection with each other, it may be regarded as established, in the first place, that the binding of Satan is limited to certain nations which are called Gog and Magog; and, secondly, that his confinement prevents him from deceiving those nations; and, in the third place, that the deception which by his imprisonment, or the restraint that is put upon him, he is prevented from realizing is what would otherwise cause these nations to gather for battle against the camp of the saints and the beloved city.
Of Gog and Magog we read in Ezekiel 38:2, ff., and Ezekiel 39:1-16. There Gog is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, of the land of Magog. They constitute a vast horde that descend upon Israel from the north, even from the limit of the horizon, to make a final onslaught on the people of God. But hailstones, fire, and brimstone from heaven cause their utter destruction. In the passage of Revelation which we are now discussing these same hordes are simply called Gog and Magog; and now they are described as living on the four corners of the earth and as coming on the camp of saints from every direction. Israel here is to be taken, in harmony with all Scripture, in the New Testament sense of the word. The vision of the restored Israel of which Ezekiel 38 and 39 speak has been realized in the church of the new dispensation. It is "the camp of the saints," and it is "the beloved city;" that is, Christianity in its widest sense, as it exists and develops in the new dispensation and corresponds to the nations of Israel in the Old Testament. It is represented in the text as being situated in the center of the earth. Around it, on the four quarters of the earth, that is, outside of the pale of history, are nations which remain pagan. Although also from them the elect are gathered into the church, as nations they remain distinctly heathen. Gog and Magog, therefore, are heathen nations in distinction from nominal Christendom.
We may note here that the dragon, the devil, upon which the angel lays hold, is described in all his evil powers. He represents the prince of this world, the spiritual power behind all the antichristian forces of opposition to Christ and His church, (cf. Chapter 12:3, 4). Moreover, he is described here in all his evil purposes and power of deceit. He is the old serpent, referring, of course, to the temptation in paradise. He is called the devil, that is, the liar and deceiver, mud-slinger, accuser of the brethren. And he is described, or named, as Satan, the opponent, the adversary of Christ and of the cause of God in the world. In the vision the angel overpowers the devil and securely binds him with the chain, casts him into the bottomless pit, locks the pit, and sets a seal upon him, that is, seals the pit against all violation.
The devil, therefore, is very securely bound. And he is bound with respect to these heathen nations as such in the passage we are now ,discussing. The passage teaches, therefore, that the devil is bound in such a way that he cannot marshal the nations of Gog and Magog to battle against the church, the beloved city, or, if you please, against the Christian nations. He may in this very period of his restraint do many things, both among the nominally Christian nations and among the peoples who are called Gog and Magog. He may go about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, as he actually does also. But he is prevented from deceiving those nations so as to gather them to battle.
The Time Of Satan's Being Bound
The period of this restraint is designated as a thousand years.
Again, it would be very arbitrary to interpret this number in its literal sense. For, in the first place, all Scripture attaches a symbolical significance to numbers, as it also does to colours and dimensions. Numbers such as one, three, four, six, seven, ten, and twelve, and their combinations and products, represent certain realities of the kingdom of God. The earthly relations are also in their numbers the picture of the heavenly and spiritual realities of God's covenant. That this is true is evident as soon as we call to mind that, for instance, in our weekly period of time there is a combination of six plus one, labor and rest, time and the eternal sabhath, the completion of the kingdom of God; or that seven in Scripture, and especially in the Book of Revelation, occurs evidently as the combination of three and four, the Triune God and the world, the perfection of God's covenant. Besides, the number twelve occurs as the product of three and four, which is evidently the number of the elect, - the reason why there are twelve tribes, twelve apostles, twelve times twelve thousand servants of God who are sealed, twelve plus twelve elders around the throne of God and of the Lamb. These numbers abound in Scripture, and more emphatically in their symbolical significance in the Book of Revelation. The whole book is based on the scheme of the number seven. There are seven seals to the book which is opened by the Lamb. The seventh seal dissolves itself into seven trumpets. And the seventh trumpet reveals itself as comprehending seven vials. There are seven golden candlesticks, even as the complete picture of the church in the world is represented by the seven churches of Asia.
But this is equally true of the number ten and its products, especially in the thousands. The days of tribulation for the church of Smyrna are ten. The number of the servants of God who are sealed is ten times ten times ten, multiplied by one hundred forty-four. The number of those who appear on Mt. Zion with the Lamb, who have His Father's name written on their foreheads, is one thousand times one hundred forty-four, (cf. Rev. 14). The antichristian beast appears with ten horns. The length and breadth and height of the New Jerusalem are twelve times a thousand furlongs. In the light of all these facts, as well as in connection with the apocalyptic character of the Book of Revelation in general, we are certainly justified in saying that it would be arbitrary to insist that the thousand years of Revelation 20 must be understood in the literal sense of the word.
Now, the number itself suggests completeness, a fulness of measure. It is a round number. All the instances in Scripture where this number occurs denote the same idea. There are ten plagues upon Egypt, indicating the fulness of the wrath of God upon Pharaoh and his people. There are ten commandments, expressing the fulness of God's ethical will for men. We feel, as it were, spontaneously that there could not be either nine or eleven commandments. There are one hundred forty-four thousand people of God according to the election of grace, i.e. ten times ten times ten times one hundred forty-four. Thus there are ten virgins, ten talents, and ten days of tribulation for the church of Smyrna. In all these instances the number ten, evidently, expresses the idea of fulness or completeness. It represents the idea of completeness determined by the will and counsel of God. Now, the number one thousand in the text is the number ten in the third power. Besides, it does not speak of days or even of hours, but of years; and therefore it suggests the idea of a long period- On all these grounds we interpret the text as indicating a long period of time, fully determined by the will and counsel of God, a period which must be fulfilled before the devil can be permitted to deceive the nations which live on the four corners of the earth.
The above interpretation is based on the text. This is fully justified by the entire character of the Book of Revelation. It is also in harmony with the line of Scripture in general. Of all this there can be no doubt.
Besides, this explanation is capable of application to history itself and to actually existing conditions in the world of today. The period of the thousand years is to be applied to this entire dispensation until the time shortly before the second coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven. The fact that the vision in the passage we are now discussing follows the vision of the second coming of Christ mentioned in Chapter 19 cannot be adduced as an objection against this view, for the simple reason that the order of the Book of Revelation is not chronological but rather idealogical. Repeatedly the book follows the development of the world to its very end from a certain point of view in order then to resume the drawing of the same picture from a different viewpoint. Thus, for instance in Chapters 6:12-16; 11:15-19; 14:17-20; 16:17-21; 18; 19:11-21.
In the chapter we are now discussing we have the same phenomenon, now from the viewpoint of the history and end of Gog and Magog. The nations of Gog and Magog, who live on the four corners of the earth, I would identify as the peoples which in the new dispensation never played a part in the history of the world, but which in our very day are waking up. I refer to the overwhelmingly strong heathen world, the nations of China and Japan, the great and strong multitudes in India, the followers of Confucius and Buddha, of Islam and Brahmanism, the millions of Africa and of the islands of the sea. What it would mean if these nations were permitted to unite and marshal their tremendous forces against the nominally Christian nations can easily be surmised. The church would have no place in the world, no room for development. But the devil is bound with respect to them. In the old dispensation he might repeatedly deceive the nations to come against Israel. Egypt and Assyria, Babylonia and Persia, Greece and Rome, all had a controlling influence in the history of the world. In the new dispensation, however, this relation is exactly the opposite. The Christian nations 'are the historical powers, and Gog and Magog were hitherto apparently asleep. The prince of this world is restrained from employing these' forces against the church, the beloved city, the camp of the saints. The devil is bound, as we said, in regard to the nations of Gog and Magog.
The Reign Of The Saints
And now the vision changes. For John tells us that he "saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them." This part of the picture evidently represents a people who reign, a royal people. For such is the meaning of their sitting on thrones, as well as of the statement that judgment was given unto them. For to judge is a function of royalty, implies authority to rule.
The question, however, is: who are these royal people? Directly the text does not answer this question, does not inform us who they are, nor where we must look for their thrones. But in the latter part of verse 4 John plainly describes these same people, as he continues: "And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a. thousand years." That the thousand years refer to the same period as that in which the devil is bound with respect to Gog and Magog is self-evident. In that entire period these people reign with Christ. And they are saints in glory before the final resurrection, the resurrection of the body. For the expression "souls of them that were beheaded" permits no other interpretation.
The Chiliast denies this in order to be able to save his theory of an earthly millennium and of a separate resurrection of the saints. But the denial is without support in Scripture. It is rather strange that he who always would insist on a literal interpretation of Holy Writ in this case looks about for a figurative explanation. Yet so he does. It is essential to his theory of the millennium that these "souls of them that were beheaded" should be transformed into the resurrected saints in their glorified bodies. If he does not succeed in this, his interpretation of the entire passage must needs be regarded as false. Hence, he argues that in this expression we have an illustration of the figure called synecdoche, according to which a part must be taken for the whole. As we speak of so many sails, meaning ships, as we speak of a hundred head, meaning cattle, so the Scripture speaks of souls, signifying persons. All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt were threescore and ten; in the ark few, that is, eight souls, were saved; on the day of Pentecost about three thousand souls were added to the church; and there were in all two hundred threescore and sixteen souls with Paul in the ship, (Gen. 46:27; 1 Peter 3:20; Acts 2:41; Acts 27:37). Hence, the Chiliast argues that we must interpret the expression "the souls of them that were beheaded" in the same figurative way, as referring to resurrected persons.
There are, however, two weighty objections against this mode of interpretation, which prove it false beyond a shadow of doubt. The first objection is that whenever the above-mentioned figure is employed, whether in our daily language and secular literature or in Holy Writ, uniformly a numeral is used in connection with it. We can speak of a hundred head and fifty souls; but we do not merely speak of head and of souls. And in all the instances quoted the Bible follows the same rule. Seventy souls came with Jacob into Egypt. Eight souls were in the ark. .Three thousand souls were added to the church. Two hundred seventy-six souls were in the ship. But in Revelation 20:4 we simply read, "And I saw the souls." John does not employ the figure in this instance. And the second objection is in the addition "of them that were beheaded." What a strange way of referring to persons in the body, whether corruptible or resurrected, it would be to speak of the souls of them that were beheaded. The Chiliast must admit this. He must relinquish the attempt to save his theory of the earthly millennium by thus imposing his interpretation upon the simple and strange words of Scripture.
And surely, the statement in verse 5 that "this is the first resurrection" does not change matters whatsoever. The Chiliast indeed adduces this clause m support of his contention that verse 4 refers to risen saints. Nevertheless, he is mistaken. The text plainly says: "This is the first resurrection." And the pronoun "this" refers back to the statement in verse 4 concerning the souls that reign with Christ. In answer to the question, therefore, what is the first resurrection, we cannot introduce our own preconceived notion; but we are bound to the text, and are therefore constrained to say: The reign of the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus is the first resurrection.
Scripture speaks of the resurrection of the dead in more than one sense. It refers to regeneration in John 5:25: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.---The same resurrection is meant in Ephesians 5:14: -Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." In Revelation 20:5, however, the first resurrection refers to the state of the saints in glory immediately after death. They are delivered from battle and from persecution and from the suffering inflicted on them by the antichristian forces that are always in the world throughout this dispensation, and they reign with the Lord.
The expression "the first resurrection," therefore, does not refer to a separate group of saints who are raised first, in distinction from the raising of the wicked a thousand years later as the second resurrection, but to a state or degree in the resurrection of the saints. That this is the correct interpretation a comparison with the similar expression "the second death" corroborates. For "the second death" refers to the ultimate state of death in hell, (Rev. 20:14). First and second death, therefore, are different stages of death, and not different groups of dead people. But surely, this establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the first resurrection also refers to a stage in life and glorification. If we may complete the parallel, we would say that even as the first death is physical death, so the first resurrection is the glory that follows immediately upon physical death; and even as the second death is the state of perdition of body and soul in hell, so the second resurrection is the final state of glory after the resurrection in the glory of the body. Hence, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
Finally, as an objection against this interpretation the millennialist cannot adduce the first part of verse 5, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." Certainly, the rest of the dead are the ungodly dead. And it may be frankly admitted that the form of the expression would almost invite us to complete it as follows: "Then they also shall live again." But it must be remembered that the text does not say this and that we have no authority to add to Scripture. Besides, even the millennialist would not venture to finish the expression in that fashion. For although also the wicked shall have a certain rising from their graves and receive their bodies again, it cannot be said of them that they shall "live" again. Their resurrection will be a resurrection to eternal perdition. And Scripture clearly teaches that this going forth out of the grave unto perdition will take place at the same time, as in one hour, with the resurrection of the righteous unto glory, (cf. John 5:29). So, then, the text in Revelation 20:5 can only mean that while the souls of the righteous were seen as living in glory and in power, the rest of the dead had no place in this picture at all, and did not live again. And when they do appear once more, it will be to be sent into perdition, to be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
These blessed and glorified saints, then, reign with Christ. On earth they endured suffering for Christ's sake. It was given them of grace to have the testimony of Jesus and the word of God in their hearts and in their mouths. And therefore, it was given them also in the cause of Christ to suffer with Him, (cf. Phil. 1:29). For they had this testimony in the midst 'Of an antichristian world. That the antichristian power is here described as it will manifest itself in its ultimate realization and consummation does not signify that only the saints who shall live and suffer in the last days, shortly before the coming of Christ, are included in these saints who reign with Christ. Essentially the power of Antichrist, the beast and his image, are always in the world. And always the believers have the testimony of Jesus and the Word of God. And they always refuse to worship the beast and his image, and refuse to receive his sign in their right hand or in their forehead. And therefore the entire church triumphant in heaven is meant by these reigning saints. They reign and judge the world with Christ. Now they are in glory with Him and are free from all suffering and persecution. It is a reign which commenced in heaven with the exaltation of their Lord at the right hand of God.
That the saints who overcome and endure unto the end shall reign with the Lord in glory is a common idea in Scripture. "And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father,
(Rev. 2:26, 27). And again: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne," (Rev. 3:21).
Concerning this reign with Christ, it is evident that centrally and essentially it is a reign of the exalted Lord, to Whom is given all power in heaven and on earth, a name that is above all names. But even as the saints while they are still in this world and must suffer in the cause of Christ nevertheless have the victory and overcome and judge the world by faith in Christ, so they shall participate in His glorious reign in heaven, when they shall be completely delivered from all the power of the enemy and be with Him forever and ever. And they shall be given to know His works with regard to the final realization of the kingdom of God, even as He knows the Father's counsel and is found worthy to open the book with its seven seals. They shall perfectly know the mind of Christ, and He shall have no secrets from them. They shall concur in His judgments of the world, and thus shall partake in them. And they shall rejoice in the full realization of His perfect victory. And, finally, this reign of Christ with respect to the world is such, that almost until the very end the devil shall be bound with respect to Gog and Magog, so that he cannot deceive them and gather them for battle against the camp of the saints.
Satan Loosed To Deceive The Nations
But this is not the end. For "when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the. four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven and destroyed them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast arid the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
What is here presented in a separate vision had partly been pictured in a different setting in preceding chapters. We may gather from Chapter 16:12-16 that this deception of the nations that live on the four quarters of the earth by the devil, to gather them together for battle, will be realized in the period of the sixth vial. This is also in harmony with the statement in Revelation 20:3 that "he must be loosed for a little season." Shortly before the end of this world this final deception of the nations shall take place.
In Chapter 16 we read this: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." In this passage the reference is evidently to the same going forth of the devils to the nations that live on the four quarters of the earth, the kings of the whole world, to deceive them and gather them for battle. And we learn besides that this deception of the nations through the devil shall proceed immediately from the antichristian kingdom. Unclean spirits shall proceed from the center of the antichristian world, and they shall have their influence upon the nations that live on the four corners of the earth. It matters not now what is presented by these unclean spirits. They certainly signify a three-fold influence of the antichristian civilization. And the final result of this three-fold antichristian influence will be that the nations thus affected will unite their forces for war, the last war that shall ever be fought on earth.
Again, a similar presentation of the same period of history we find in Chapter 17:12-17. There mention is made of ten kings who as yet have received no kingdom, but shall receive power as kings one hour with the beast. The fact that they are kings in distinction from the antichristian power proper, as well as the fact that their dominion shall last but one hour with the beast, that is, "a little season," suggests that these ten kings are again the same as the power of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20, and as the kings of the whole world and the kings of the cast that are mentioned in Revelation 16. If this is correct, then we learn from the passage in Revelation 17 that the first result of the deceptive influence of the devil through the medium of the three-fold antichristian influence will be that the heathen nations of Gog and Magog shall join into one great world-power with the central antichristian dominion. For one hour, for a little season, the world-power shall realize its greatest ambition, and a strictly universal empire shall be established, of which also the heathen but civilized nations form an integral part. However, this cannot last. For ultimately the ten kings shall hate the whore and shall make her desolate and naked and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire, Rev. 17:16. The ultimate result, therefore, of the deception of the devil through the antichristian influences upon the heathen nations shall be that they shall be gathered for battle against the very center of the antichristian dominion.
If we combine these different elements, which undoubtedly have bearing upon the same historic event of the future, we may come to the following conception. In the nominally Christian world shall ultimately be realized the final consummation of the antichristian world-power, the power of the beast and the false prophet. It will be an empire in which shall be represented the highest ambitions of man; and they shall be realized to the utmost. From a purely humanistic viewpoint, it will be a glorious kingdom. And thoroughly humanistic it will surely be: religiously, scientifically, socially, industrially, and politically. But it will be anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-church. The saints who refuse to receive the mark of the beast shall have no place in that kingdom. In the meantime, influences shall issue forth from that central realization of the antichristian kingdom upon the nations that live on the four corners of the earth. And these nations shall be civilized. They shall become conscious of their power. And they shall for a time join forces with the beast and the false prophet to form one great world-empire. But under the influence of the so-called mission work of the antichristian unclean spirits, they were indeed awakened out of their prolonged slumber, became conscious of their power, and quickly adopted the antichristian civilization. Nevertheless, they remained pagan in every respect. Though they give their power to the beast for one hour, for a little season, this cannot possibly last. The deception of the devil must work out till the bitter end. And they will ultimately gather as separate forces for the last war, which will be a world war in the strictest sense of the word. Looking upon the nominally Christian world, - which will in fact be antichristian, though the church will still exist in her midst, - as the real Christian nations, as the church of Christ indeed, they shall do as the nations of the old dispensation did with respect to Jerusalem, and shall say:--Letus go up to Jerusalem; let Zion be defiled; let our eye look upon Zion!" This shall be their guilt: for their purpose shall be to fight against the camp of the saints and the beloved city, against God and His Christ and against the church. But it will also be their deception. For, as in the old dispensation God used the nations in their hatred against the Holy City to chasten and destroy a Jerusalem which had actually become Sodom, so He will use the hostile spirit of the heathen nations to destroy the antichristian power and cat the flesh of the great whore. The camp of the saints they will never touch. The people of God shall look for the coming redemption, which shall then be very nigh. For it will be upon this final scene of confusion and iniquity that the Lord will appear in judgment to destroy His enemies and to deliver His saints, in order to give them the victory forever.
If we thus conceive of the end of Gog and Magog, it is needless to conclude that we are living in significant times. A humanistic modernism claims the right and title to the name of Christianity, - a religion without the Christ of the Scriptures, without the incarnation of the Son of God, without the cross, without the resurrection, a religion of this world, based on human imagination rather than on the Word of God in the Scriptures. In the meantime, the power of men develops with tremendous strides in every sphere of life. And the influence of this modern spirit is felt far outside of the Christian world. For modernism has its missionaries. The nations on the four corners of the earth are waking up. The millions upon millions in China and Japan clamor for their own place in the midst of the nations of the world. No, we do not mean to speak of the day and the hour when Christ shall come. But we do emphasize that God's people must not be deceived. They must know the times and know what Israel ought to do at all times and seasons. They must above all watch, and keep the testimony of Jesus and the Word of God; and they must steadfastly refuse to worship the beast and the image of the beast. For blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments' And let us be of good cheer! For our King is given us of Israel's God. He has all power in heaven and on earth. He has a Name above all names. The victory, therefore, is His, and ours through Him. "In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world!"
We must add a few words yet about the rest of this section. In verse 9 we read about the judgment of the nations: "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." We may note here:
a) That in this verse the prophecy contained in this section of Revelation changes again from direct prediction, as we had it in the preceding, into the form of the vision. in the vision John now beholds the nations marching up from the ends of the earth against "the beloved city."
b) That in the vision "the camp of the saints" and "the beloved city" dare not to be allegorized. They are certainly Jerusalem and the people of God encamped round about it. Only, we must remember that this is true only of the vision, and that also this part may not be read as if it were history literally foretold.
c) That therefore they violate all the rules of interpretation, who apply this prophecy in such a way that they find here a prediction that Jerusalem (the earthly capital of earthly Canaan) shall be rebuilt, that there Christ and His resurrected and glorified saints in their spiritual bodies shall live and reign a thousand years (the millennium), and that after the millennium the nations of Gog and Magog shall actually gather for battle against these glorified saints and their Lord. This interpretation errs because:
1) It violates the apocalyptic character of the whole Book of Revelation in general and of this passage in particular, and reads it as if it were literal history, although it may only be interpreted as a vision.
2) Because in the whole New Testament Jerusalem as it exists after Christ's exaltation is the church, the heavenly Jerusalem, (cf. Galatians 4:26 ; Hebrews 11: 16; Hebrews 12:22). And this is also true in particular of the Book of Revelation, (cf. 3:12; 21:22). It is quite in accord with this to explain "the beloved city" in this passage as representing the same Jerusalem.
3) Because "the first resurrection" is not the bodily resurrection, but the glorification of the saints with Christ after death, (cf. my interpretation of verses 4 and 5).
4) Because of the absurdity of the presentation of glorified saints in their incorruptible and spiritual bodies with their glorified Lord living in an earthly, material city in a coruptible and corrupt world and being actually attacked by earthly enemies with material weapons.
d) The camp of the saints and the beloved city, therefore, certainly represent the church and the people of God. And they represent the entire church, in the whole world and even in heaven. In the first place, the church, of course, is centrally in heaven in Christ their Lord and through faith reigns with Him. And they are actually in heaven as far as the church triumphant, or the church glorified, is concerned. In the second place, they are, notwithstanding their heavenly character, in part still in this world and are represented by the church visible on earth. And, thirdly, in their widest representation in the world they are known as Christendom, that is, nominal Christianity. It is especially Gog and Magog that look upon all Christendom, no matter how apostate, as the beloved city, even as the heathen nations in the old dispensation considered earthly Jerusalem to be the city of God, no matter how apostate and how wicked it had become.
The nations of Gog and Magog in compassing about and coming to battle against Christendom in its widest sense certainly intend to destroy "the beloved city," the cause of Christ, and to make paganism supreme in the world. In this they reveal their wickedness and become ripe for the judgment. God nevertheless uses them to inflict His judgments upon the antichristian world, (cf. Isaiah 10:5, ff.). There we read: "0 Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, Iwill punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and Ihave removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasurers, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire."
That fire from God out of heaven destroys them is evident and clearly stated in the text. We must also in this connection confer Chapter 16, verse 21. There we read: "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." Moreover, we can refer also to Chapter 19, verse 21: "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceedeth out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.'' All these passages refer to the same end although the presentation differs. In 16:21 it is the great hail that destroys them. In 19:21 it is the sword that proceeds out of the mouth of Christ that slays them. Here it is fire from God out of heaven. The idea is that all the wicked shall be killed in that last day in order to pass through the resurrection of damnation and to appear before the judgment seat of God in Christ.
Finally, in verse 10 of this chapter we have the judgment of Satan recorded: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
We may note here, in the first place, that by deceiving the nations which live on the four corners of the earth Satan performs his last act of wicked deception and rebellion against the Most High, and thereby fills the measure of iniquity, thus becoming ripe for judgment. In the second place, we must also note that, like the beast and the false prophet, he is here presented as being unworthy even of any public and formal judgment. He is immediately cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, that is, into hell, (cf. 19:20). This is true not of his fellow devils, but of Satan himself, as the prince of the devils, alone, even as it is not true of the followers and worshippers of the beast and his image, but of the beast and the false prophet only. In the third place, we may also note that this punishment consists in continuous torment day and night, and that too, without end, forever and ever. Those who teach that the agents of darkness will ultimately be annihilated and who deny eternal punishment may base their view on falsely conceived humane considerations; but Scripture everywhere contradicts this doctrine. The justice of divine retribution rendered to the wicked cannot be gauged by man's finite existence, but must be viewed in the light of the terrible nature of sin as committed against the infinite majesty of the ever blessed and glorious God. In this light we can somewhat understand that Satan and all his subjects, the beast and his worshippers, shall be tormented night and day forever and ever.
Behold, He cometh! He, the mighty Lord! And His second advent shall undoubtedly be the culmination of all wonders!
Let us be prepared. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. Blessed are those servants whom their Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching!