R E V E L A T I O N.
This chapter is thought by some to be the darkest part of all this prophecy: it is very probable that the things contained in it are not yet accomplished; and therefore it is the wiser way to content ourselves with general observations, rather than to be positive and particular in our explications of it. Here we have an account, I. Of the binding of Satan for a thousand years, ver. 1-3. II. The reign of the saints with Christ for the same time, ver. 4-6. III. Of the loosing of Satan, and the conflict of the church with Gog and Magog, ver. 7-10. IV. Of the day of judgment, ver. 11, &c.
A. D. 95.
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 his 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.
We have here, I. A prophecy of the binding of Satan for a certain term of time, in which he should have much less power and the church much more peace than before. The power of Satan was broken in part by the setting up of the gospel kingdom in the world; it was further reduced by the empire’s becoming Christian; it was yet further broken by the downfall of the mystical Babylon; but still this serpent had many heads, and, when one is wounded, another has life remaining in it. Here we have a further limitation and diminution of his power. Observe,
1. To whom this work of binding Satan is committed–to an angel from heaven. It is very probable that this angel is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ; the description of him will hardly agree with any other. He is one who has power to bind the strong man armed, to cast him out, and to spoil his goods; and therefore must be stronger than he.
2. The means he makes use of in this work: he has a chain and a key, a great chain to bind Satan, and the key of the prison in which he was to be confined. Christ never wants proper powers and instruments to break the power of Satan, for he has the powers of heaven and the keys of hell.
3. The execution of this work, v. 2, 3.
(1.) He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan. Neither the strength of the dragon, nor the subtlety of the serpent, was sufficient to rescue him out of the hands of Christ; he caught hold, and kept his hold. And,
(2.) He cast him into the bottomless pit, cast him down with force, and with a just vengeance, to his own place and prison, from which he had been permitted to break out, and disturb the churches, and deceive the nations; now he is brought back to that prison, and there laid in chains.
(3.) He is shut up, and a seal set upon him. Christ shuts, and none can open; he shuts by his power, seals by his authority; and his lock and seal even the devils themselves cannot break open.
(4.) We have the term of this confinement of Satan–a thousand years, after which he was to be loosed again for a little season. The church should have a considerable time of peace and prosperity, but all her trials were not yet over.
II. An account of the reign of the saints for the same space of time in which Satan continued bound (v. 4-6), and here observe,
1. Who those were that received such honour–those who had suffered for Christ, and all who had faithfully adhered to him, not receiving the mark of the beast, nor worshipping his image; all who had kept themselves clear of pagan and papal idolatry.
2. The honour bestowed upon them.
(1.) They were raised from the dead, and restored to life. This may be taken either literally or figuratively; they were in a civil and political sense dead, and had a political resurrection; their liberties and privileges were revived and restored.
(2.) Thrones, and power of judgment, were given to them; they were possessed of great honour, and interest, and authority, I suppose rather of a spiritual than of a secular nature.
(3.) They reigned with Christ a thousand years. Those who suffer with Christ shall reign with Christ; they shall reign with him in his spiritual and heavenly kingdom, in a glorious conformity to him in wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, beyond what had been known before in the world. This is called the first resurrection, which none but those who have served Christ and suffered for him shall be favoured with. As for the wicked, they shall not be raised up and restored to their power again, till Satan be let loose; this may be called a resurrection, as the conversion of the Jews is said to be life from the dead.
3. The happiness of these servants of God is declared.
(1.) They are blessed and holy, v. 6. None can be blessed but those that are holy; and all that are holy shall be blessed. These were holy as a sort of first-fruits to God in this spiritual resurrection, and as such blessed by him.
(2.) They are secured from the power of the second death. We know something of what the first death is, and it is awful; but we know not what this second death is. It must be much more dreadful; it is the death of the soul, eternal separation from God. The Lord grant we may never know what it is by experience. Those who have had experience of a spiritual resurrection are saved from the power of the second death.
III. An account of the return of the church’s troubles, and another mighty conflict, very sharp, but short and decisive. Observe,
1. The restraints laid for a long time on Satan are at length taken off. While this world lasts, Satan’s power in it will not be wholly destroyed; it may be limited and lessened, but he will have something still to do for the disturbance of the people of God.
2. No sooner is Satan let loose than he falls to his old work, deceiving the nations, and so stirring them up to make a war with the saints and servants of God, which they would never do if he had not first deceived them. They are deceived both as to the cause they engage in (they believe it to be a good cause when it is indeed a very bad one), and as to the issue: they expect to be successful, but are sure to lose the day.
3. His last efforts seem to be the greatest. The power now permitted to him seems to be more unlimited than before. He had now liberty to beat up for his volunteers in all the four quarters of the earth, and he raised a mighty army, the number of which was as the sand of the sea, v. 8.
4. We have the names of the principal commanders in this army under the dragon–Gog and Magog. We need not be too inquisitive as to what particular powers are meant by these names, since the army was gathered from all parts of the world. These names are found in other parts of scripture. Magog we read of in Gen. x. 2. He was one of the sons of Japheth, and peopled the country called Syria, from which his descendants spread into many other parts. Of Gog and Magog together we only read in Ezek. xxxviii. 2, a prophecy whence this in Revelation borrows many of its images.
5. We have the march and military disposition of this formidable army (v. 9): They went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city, that is, the spiritual Jerusalem, in which the most precious interests of the people of God are lodged, and therefore to them a beloved city. The army of the saints is described as drawn forth out of the city, and lying under the walls of it, to defend it; they were encamped about Jerusalem: but the army of the enemy was so much superior to that of the church that they compassed them and their city about.
6. You have an account of the battle, and the issue of this war: Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured the enemy. Thus the ruin of Gog and Magog is foretold (Ezek. xxxviii. 22), I will rain upon him and upon his bands an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, and fire and brimstone. God would, in an extraordinary and more immediate manner, fight this last and decisive battle for his people, that the victory might be complete and the glory redound to himself.
7. The doom and punishment of the grand enemy, the devil: he is now cast into hell, with his two great officers, the beast and the false prophet, tyranny and idolatry, and that not for any term of time, but to be there tormented night and day, for ever and ever.
– Matthew Henry Commentary