“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.”(Revelation 20:1-6)
This sounds much like the angel back in chapter 9 verse 1, while in chapter 1 verse 18 we find that it is Christ who holds the key to hell and death. It is funny that Satan is overthrown by an unnamed angel; God doesn’t even dirty His hands within Himself. The key to the abyss means the authority over the abyss. We’ve seen the abyss earlier back in chapter 9, as a kind of a holding place of the evil spiritual elements. The demonic hoard of chapter 9 comes out of the abyss, and that’s where Satan is bound. While here in Luke 8:31 it’s where the demons that Jesus confronted in the Gadarene demoniacs were afraid to go. So, it’s obviously a holding place of evil spirits much like the concept of ‘Tartarus’ found in 2 Peter 2:4. “…and a great chain in his hand.” – now of course this idea of chaining spiritual beings is not something new in apocalyptic Judaism. Anyway, we see it in the Book of Enoch chapter 88:1 that an angel is bound hand and foot and thrown into a deep shaft. And so that’s something of a parallel here. Now it’s important to see the evil one is given all four of the titles by which he is designated: the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil, and the Satan (cf. Revelation 12:9). He’s going to be chained, thrown into the abyss which is going to be sealed for a thousand years. Of course, ‘a thousand years’ is symbolical in the sense that one thousand is the cube of ten, the number of completeness. Satan is completely controlled for the time that God has determined (cf. Isaiah 24:22), not as a punishment but in order that he may not deceive the nations during the thousand years. It is interesting to note that this is the only place in all Scripture that a ‘thousand years’ is mentioned. Because of the obvious use of symbolic numbers, to me the ‘thousand years’ is not a literal thousand years. I’m not denying it’s possible for an earthly reign of Christ. I’m just saying I think the thousand year is a symbol for a long complete period. A ‘thousand’ is used as a symbolic number several times in the Bible. Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Chronicles 16:15, Job 9:3, Psalms 50:10, Psalms 105:8, and 1 Peter 3:8 all use ‘thousand years’ in a symbolic nature. I think because of other symbols, and because it’s in a book that is obviously symbolic, and because there’s no parallel passage, and because Jesus said that His kingdom is not a temporal earthly kingdom when He was talking to Pilate in John 18:36, I tend to make the ‘thousand years’ symbolic, so I’m not a millennialist. But I don’t disagree there could be an earthly reign of Jesus Christ. I just think the ‘thousand years’ is symbolic.
Verse 3 – “…and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him,” – that’s the idea of a very specific binding to keep him from leading the nations astray anymore. And there’s the very specific thing that he’s trying to do if you go back to Chapter 12 verse 9 and chapter 13 verses 11-14 you will see the problem here. This idea of ‘leading the nations astray’ is exactly what’s going to happen a little later when Satan’s let loose for a little while; exactly why he’s let loose, I don’t know. Who exactly these nations are, I’m not sure, because back in chapter 19, they were supposedly all thrown into the lake of fire and killed, along with the idea of the idea of the beast being overthrown with the with the anti-Christ. Some say that it’s the nations who weren’t involved in the anti-Christ system. Others say it’s the remnant of those nations whose army was destroyed but the nations still existed. I don’t know there’s going to be even nations in chapters 21 and 22 when there shouldn’t be any nations at all because all that should be there is the redeemed. Some questions are very hard to answer through here. Now it says, “…to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must (moral necessity) be set free for a short time.” – exactly why, we’re not sure. Some say it’s to give man a chance for an option. Some say that this is the way that God’s going to show that He has been just and faithful in judging man. Because man even in a perfect environment of the Messiah reigning a thousand years still is going to rebel against Him at the end. That’s the best I can know.
In verse 4, “I saw thrones…” – this is an obvious allusion to Daniel 7:9. He does not say where they were, but literal millennialists usually place them on earth, although John does not say this. In the Book of the Revelation most thrones related to Satan and the beast (cf. Rev. 2:13; 13:2; 16:10) and they all appear to be in heaven. “…and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them.” – some say this refers to the martyrs who reign with Christ through the thousand years who sit on the thrones. The real question in verse 4 is how many groups are there? Some see three groups, others see two groups, and still, some see just martyrs’ reign. Well i don’t think there’s any Scriptural evidence for a martyrs’ reign only, because there are many passages that talk about that all of us will reign with Christ (cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Cor. 4:8; 1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 5:10, etc.). There’s an eternal reign of saints mentioned in Rev. 22:5, so this reign of martyrs doesn’t fulfill the other Scriptures when they are going to reign that’s why I’m not sure. I personally see two groups, and the place I see the second group is down where it says who refused to worship the beast. The Greek grammatical construction here allows for another group; and I think it’s those who didn’t worship the beast, but they weren’t killed by the beast, but they died a natural death, but they still did not prostitute themselves to beast worship. So, I particularly see two groups. Now the word ‘beheaded’ means to be beheaded with an axe, which was the capital punishment in the early republic of Rome, though later it was done in a different manner. “…because of their testimony of Jesus…” – you might want to see Rev. 1:9 where that phrased is used. Notice as it says, “and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” – now the word “came to life” is not the usual word for resurrection. It seems that the martyrs though slain in ignominy, lived on in heaven with Christ. Well not only did they live, “they reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. Nothing was lost, but in fact they gained everything; they gained victory and royalty.
Notice in verse 5, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed…” – now here’s the question, is it all saints that participate in the Millennial reign of Christ or just some saints; famous saints who were martyred in John’s day, saints who are modern everyday saints, and believers in John’s day, or all saints everywhere? Because it seemed the 2nd Coming was back in chapter 19, if it’s chronological, all the saints ought to be reigning with Christ. If so, then all believers participate in the first resurrection, and then all the lost participate in the second. Well, that’s a possibility, but this is the only place I know of where it talks about two resurrections. To me, Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; and Acts 24:15 and many more passages all talk about one resurrection. So, this is a brand-new truth, and it’s in a symbolic language so I’m not sure how to deal with it. Notice as it says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection…” – I wonder how dispensationalists deal with this when they have a secret rapture earlier that supposedly all the saints received their bodies which they say is 1 Thess. 4:13-18. If that’s true, how can this be the first resurrection; it seems to be the second. I think all eschatological systems have problems with the first and second resurrections. Now notice as it says here, “but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” – now this ‘priests of God’ goes back to Revelation chapter 1:6 and chapter 5:10 where the titles for the Old Testament people of God coming from Exodus 19:5-6 are applied to the church. The same truth can be seen in 1 Peter 2:5 & 9. “…and will reign with Him (Rev. 5:10 seems to be all the saints not just the martyrs) for a thousand years.” – this phrase seems to imply maybe the ‘thousand years’ are not meant to be taken literally, as the entire Book of the Revelation was written in symbols and imagery.