This Tuesday, we will be reading through Revelation 20 in preparation for the final resolution of Revelation and all of Scripture. In this chapter, all of evil and darkness, including Death and Hell, are destroyed.
As we have discussed before, time in Revelation is not necessarily linear. John is describing those things that happen in the eternal present before God. The battle with evil that began in Revelation 6 which continued through the Battle of Heaven in Revelation 12 and the Fall of Babylon last week, finds its end here. Each of these events that we have studied over the past several weeks are not so much discreet sequential events as the occurrence of the ongoing struggle with the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). The vision that John has and the message that John gives to us is that these battles are on-going and are continuing to take place now, but, in the end, the defeat of the spiritual powers of darkness, of death, the devil, and hell itself is assured. The End is not so much out there, as realized here and now.
These last two chapters of evil’s reign, chapters 19-20, is John’s means of describing to us the defeat of the darkness of this world. John paints his vision in vibrant and fantastical language. John writes of things that cannot be well articulated in black and white language. His language is more like a poem, or a parable, or a musical score, than actual events that have or will take place. This is the same problem Paul faces in describing the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 – words fail, but the hope that John and Paul illustrate is very real.
John’s vision this week opens with our return to the antagonist of Revelation 12. This is the Dragon, the ancient serpent who tempted Eve, and who also goes by the name of the Accuser (satan) or the Slanderer (diablos). Like in Isaiah’s vision (Isa. 23-24) that we looked at last week, so John’s vision sees Satan and his heavenly hosts become imprisoned as well. But in one last great failed effort, Satan musters an army of the deceived and engages in one last great battle as Ezekiel foresaw in his vision of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39.
After his last defeat, Satan is cast out of heaven. Rev. 12:8. After this defeat, Satan is cast into the pit of fire. This is the same place where the Beast and the False Prophet had previously been thrown. Rev. 19:20. This is the refining fire that we discussed last week or that we will read about in this Sunday’s epistle lesson from Hebrews 12:29.
There are two specific timing issues that occur in Chapter 20 – the Millennium in v.3 and the “forever” in v.10. John writes that Satan will be imprisoned for a thousand years during which time Jesus will reign with the martyrs. There are three different understandings of the thousand years and its relationship to Jesus’s second coming – amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism. A good discussion of these three different views is HERE. If you have time, please read the articles. None of these interpretations, however, lend themselves well to fitting a thousand years into any type of literal timeline, and the understanding of there will be a first resurrection for the martyrs and then a second resurrection for everyone else is not supported anywhere else in Scripture. Overall, maybe the best way of thinking about the millennium and the two resurrections is in a Jeremy Bearimy sort of way.
The other time issue concerns the time frame during which Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet are tormented in the fiery pit. Verse 10 says that they will be tormented for “ages of the ages.” The Greek word used for “ages” is aion (which is the root of the English eon). In its general usage, the word simply denotes a period of time, such as the lifespan of a human being or a nation, and not eternal. A good discussion of the temporal nature of the Greek aion is HERE. The meaning of this word raises the question as to whether the fiery pit is forever or whether it and its inhabitants are fully consumed or annihilated before the restoration of the new heaven and the new earth at the end of Revelation.
The final scene of God and the Lamb’s battle with evil culminates in the final judgment of vv. 11-14. As we looked at last week, judgment means making things just or right. The picture that John gives us, is one of a general resurrection of everyone who has ever lived. The judgment is based upon what they had done as written in the books, including the Book of Life. We had an earlier discussion about the book of life regarding the church of Sardis in Revelation 3:5. The idea of God keeping a ledger of our deeds upon which to judge us was common in the ancient near east so the gods would know who to bless and who to curse.
The problem that immediately arises at this final judgment scene is that a judgment based upon our works is antithetical to the entirety of the remaining witness of the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness and love of enemy in the Sermon on the Mount. As we looked at in our discussion of Revelation 14, one way of viewing this final judgment is that individuals are not judged, rather it is the good and evil that inhabits every human heart that is judged. The good goes on into the new creation of Revelation 21-22, and the evil is consumed in the pit of fire.
The good news that John brings us is that it is not only Satan that is defeated in the end, but ultimately it is both Death and Hell. After this final judgment Death and Hell no longer have any jurisdiction or claims on anyone. Death and Hell simply no longer exist. God’s victory is unconditional. For “Death has been swallowed up forever.” Isa. 25:8. It is finished.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Mediterranean pita turkey burgers. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues! O grave, I will be thy destruction!Hosea 13:14