The Millennium: Part 8

The Millennium: Part 8

(Part 1)

“and when the thousand years were completed, Satan will be loosed from his prison” (Καὶ ὅταν τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη, λυθήσεται ὁ σατανᾶς ἐκ τῆς φυλακῆς αὐτοῦ). Verse 7 continues the progression of John’s narrative and takes place after verses 1-6. After the church age, Satan will be released from his prison to engage in a time of heightened spiritual warfare against Christ and His people. Just as his binding was the result of the authority of Christ who holds the keys, so he does not escape from prison and so release himself but is let out by Christ and is still under His sovereign hand.

“and he will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for the battle, of whom their number is as the sand of the sea” (καὶ ἐξελεύσεται πλανῆσαι τὰ ἔθνη τὰ ἐν ταῖς τέσσαρσιν γωνίαις τῆς γῆς, τὸν Γὼγ καὶ Μαγώγ, συναγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν πόλεμον, ὧν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν ὡς ἡ ἄμμος τῆς θαλάσσης). Verse 8 contains the effect produced by the release of Satan in verse 7, namely, the deception of the nations. The use of the infinitive πλανῆσαι conveys purpose, further specifying that Satan’s deception of the nations was an intended effect again of his release from prison. This shows that even Satan’s activity to deceive the nations is under the sovereign control of the one who bound and released him. Beyond the explicit mention of Gog and Magog, John makes several allusions to Ezekiel 38-39 in 20:8ff. Meredith Kline sees six:

The marshaling of hordes from the four quarters of the earth (Ezek 38:2–7, 15; 39:4; Rev 20:8); the march of the gathered armies to encompass the saints in the city of God, center of the world (Ezek 38:7–9, 12, 16; Rev 20:9); the orchestration of the event by God (Ezek 38:4, 16; 39:2, 19; Rev 20:3, 7); the timing of the event after a lengthy period in which God’s people were kept secure from such a universal assault (Ezek 38:8, 11; Rev 20:3); the eschatological finality of the crisis (Ezek 39:22, 26, 29; Rev 20:10 ˆ.); and the fiery destruction of the evil forces (Ezek 38:22; 39:6; Rev 20:9–10).[1]

These allusions give us yet another piece of evidence pointing toward recapitulation for John draws from the very same passage when he describes the final battle in 19:11-21. In 19:17-18, John nearly quotes Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20:[2]

Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20 “I will give you as food to every kind of predatory birdspeak to the bird of every wing…: ‘Gather yourselves together and come…so that you may eat flesh…you will eat the flesh of mighty ones and the blood of princes…And you will be satisfied at my table with horses and chariots, mighty ones, and all the men of war.’” Revelation 19:17-18 “saying to all the birds flying in midheaven: ‘Come, gather together for the supper of God to eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of horses and of the ones sitting upon them and the flesh of all free and slaves, and small and great.’” (cf. 19:21b: “all the birds were satisfied from their flesh.”)

It would seem then, that John is identifying the battle of 20:7-10 with that of 19:11-21. This is further supported by the parallels between the 20:7-10, 19:11-21, and 16:14-21. First, 16:14-21 also draws from Ezekiel 38 for its imagery, using the combination of an earthquake, collapse of cities, hailstorm, and God’s judgment on the nations found nowhere else in the OT.[3] Second, John uses the article in front of πόλεμος in 16:14, 19:19, and 20:8, indicating that they all refer back to the same battle which he first introduced in 11:7.[4] Third, 16:14, 19:19, and 20:8 use nearly identical language to describe the gathering of the nations for battle:[5]

16:14 τοὺς βασιλεῖς τῆς οἰκουμένης ὅλης συναγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν πόλεμον 19:19 τοὺς βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς… συνηγμένα ποιῆσαι τὸν πόλεμον   20:8 τὸν Γὼγ καὶ Μαγώγ, συναγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν πόλεμον  

What makes this even more significant is what John says in 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.” Since the battle of chapter 16 is contained within the sixth and seventh bowls of God’s wrath, and with them God’s wrath is finished, the battle of 16:14-21 must be the final battle and both the battle of chapter 19 (widely accepted as recapitulating the battle of chapter 16) and the battle of chapter 20, must recapitulate the same battle. Premillennialists who take Revelation 20 as chronologically following Revelation 19 are forced to hold a position that says there is a judgment of God’s wrath after “the wrath of God is finished” (15:1).[6]

The clause “their number was as the sand of the sea” is an allusion to God’s promise to Abraham to multiply his offspring in Genesis 22:17, but here, as in Judges 7:12, it is the armies arrayed against God’s people which are a parody of it. Satan has his own host which numbers like the sand of the sea, but it shall be utterly defeated by God.

Conclusion

We have argued that Revelation 20:1-8 begins a new section of recapitulation and describes the inaugurated binding of Satan and reigning of saints with Christ in heaven. The existence of “the nations” after the battle in 19:11ff as well as the identity of the battle in 20:7ff with the battle of 19:11ff through the use of the article and Ezekiel imagery places the conclusion of recapitulation on solid ground. Satan’s binding took place at Christ’s earthly ministry and is restricted by the purpose clause, “in order that he might not deceive the nations,” and does not imply total cessation from activity. The first resurrection is according to the former age and therefore a symbolic and paradoxical portrayal of the saint’s reign in heaven with Christ upon their death. This passage gives the heavenly perspective on history, one where God is absolutely sovereign and Satan is bound to His will. The passage moves toward the climactic confrontation between Satan and Christ where the Devil and his followers will be consigned to the second death whereas the followers of Christ will live with Him in the New Heaven’s and New Earth.

Much more could be said in defense of the amillennial view; throughout this essay we have not even made reference to the numerous other NT texts that support the amillennial view point. Toward that end, we commend to the reader the fruitful work of studying the close connection between the resurrection and consummation in John 5, 1 Thessalonians 4, 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Peter 3, the fulfillment of Isaiah 28:8 at the resurrection – 1 Corinthians 15:14 – and consummation – Revelation 21:4, as well as Sydney Page’s article, “Revelation 20 and Pauline Eschatology.”[7] Revelation 20:1-8 is John’s vision of the blessed reign of the saints in paradise. It is followed by the defeat and judgment of Christ’s enemies and the final, consummate vindication of His people in the New Heavens and New Earth.


[1] Kline, “Har Magedon,” p. 29.

[2] Table taken from Beale, NIGTC, p. 965.

[3] White, Recapitulation, p. 327.

[4] Op. cit., p. 328-329.

[5] Chart from Beale, NIGTC, p. 967. White, Recapitulation, p. 329-330.

[6] White, Recapitulation, p. 330-331.

[7] Page, Sydney H. T. “Revelation 20 and Pauline Eschatology.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 1980: 31-43.

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