************ Sermon on Revelation 20:7-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 18, 2009
Do you know whom we have been seeing again and again in John's visions in the Revelation besides God and Jesus, that is? We've been seeing Satan. In fact, Satan is mentioned more often in the Revelation than in any other book of the Bible. In Revelation 2 and 3, Satan is the one standing behind both the Jewish and the Roman persecution of Christians and he is the one who inspires idolatry and false teaching among the churches. In Revelation 9, he is the angel in charge of the bottomless pit. In Revelation 12, he is portrayed as the great red dragon seeking to stop God's plan of redemption by killing the child of the woman. Upon his defeat, he is hurled out of heaven and turns all of his hatred upon the church. Remember how he does that? Revelation 13 tells us of his two beasts: the beast out of the sea who persecutes the church; and the beast out of the earth, a false prophet, who tries to lead the church astray by false teaching. Together they work ceaselessly, inspired by Satan, to destroy the church even to this day. In Revelation 14, 16, 17, 18 we see the great harlot, Babylon, representing the nations in their rebellion against God, who works with the beasts as a tool of Satan.
We've also heard various names for Satan. His most common name is Satan, meaning adversary the adversary of God, Christ, the Gospel, and the church (Rev 2:9,13; 3:9; 12:9; 20:2,7). He is the King of the Abyss (Rev 9:11). He is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek, meaning destroyer (Rev 9:11). He is the great red dragon (Rev 12; 20:2). He is the devil (Rev 12:9; 20:2). He is the accuser of our brothers (Rev 12:10). He is the ancient serpent (Rev 20:2). He is the deceiver (Rev 20:8,10).
Satan is terrifying. He is scary. God's people would be foolish, indeed, to make light of him. He is a dangerous enemy. Yet, praise God, Revelation 20 is the last time we see him in the Bible. He never appears again. Never ever. Why? Because Revelation 20 shows us his eternal condemnation to the lake of burning sulfur.
It has taken a long time, a very long time, to get to this final judgment of Satan. It started, already, with the prophetic announcement of Satan's judgment in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15). And, Satan's doom was sealed with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Finally, Satan's judgment is fully realized in the judgment scene in front of us.
Now, remember, this judgment needs to take place so our salvation can take place. This judgment needs to take place so that, using the words of our choir, the chariots can come. Nothing, you see, can be allowed to mar the perfection and fulness of our future life. So, Babylon has been destroyed (Rev 18). The beast and the false prophet have been thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Rev 19:20). Now, the devil himself finally gets his due and is destroyed. All the enemies of God, Christ, the Gospel, and the church are gone and the chariots can come.
I Satan's Release from the Abyss
A Let's listen to Scripture as it first tells us about Satan's release from the Abyss:
(Rev 20:7-8) When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison (8) and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle.Why is Satan released? In order to gather the nations for battle. The original Greek actually says, "the battle." Or, "the war."
"The Battle." "The War." Everyone the age of my parents think only of World War II when they hear this. And, the generation before them thought automatically of World War I. "The Battle." "The War." The Revelation uses this term two other times:
(Rev 16:14) They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
(Rev 19:19) Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make [the] war against the rider on the horse and his army.
What is this war? What is this battle? It is described different ways in the Revelation. It is the battle on "the great day of God Almighty" (Rev 16:14), the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16). It is the battle when the beasts, the kings of the earth, and the unbelieving gather together to destroy the Lamb, Who is also the rider on the white horse (Rev 17:14, 19:19).
So, three times John mentions "the battle," "the war." But there is a difference each time. The first time, we see the spirits of lying demons gathering the kings of the earth for battle; but we see nothing of the battle itself (Rev 16). The second time, we see the beast and false prophet gathering the kings of the earth for battle; and, they are all defeated and destroyed (Rev 19). The third time, the veil is removed, the gloves come off, and we see it was and is Satan himself who gathers the nations for battle; and, he and his army is defeated (Rev 20).
B Did you notice the time frame for the release of Satan and the war? Scripture says "When the thousand years are over ..." (Rev 20:7). What thousand years? The thousand years that we looked at last time. The thousand years that represent the whole time between the two comings of Jesus Christ. Whenever the thousands years are completed and, remember, no one knows the day or hour (Mt 24:36) Satan will be released.
C Satan "will be released" (Rev 20:7). Which implies imprisonment, confinement, restraint. But we saw that last time, didn't we? Satan was seized, bound, thrown into the Abyss, and the Abyss was locked and sealed over him (Rev 20:2-3). Remember in what way he was restrained? Not from all his wicked and evil deeds! Not from persecuting the church! Not from tempting and luring God's people! Rather, he was restrained so he could no longer deceive the nations; he was restrained in his work of stopping the spread of the Gospel.
Satan is released. If you remember history, do you remember what Napoleon did when he escaped from the island of Elba? He reassembled his old army. Satan does the same thing he gathers together the nations of the earth. How does he do this? He uses deception, again. He deceives the nations. Just like the lying spirits. Just like the lying prophet. Just like the lying beast. It is not a case of Satan imitating the demons, the prophet, and the beast; rather, Satan is the father of lies, and the demons, the prophet, and the beast simply follow their leader.
I want you to also notice we are told in three ways that Satan's army is universal, world-wide. First, the nations are assembled from "the four corners of the earth" (Rev 20:8). This is not a scientific statement about the shape of the earth; rather, it is a phrase that means world-wide. Second, Satan's army is identified as "Gog and Magog" (Rev 20:8). In Ezekiel 38 and 39, "Gog and Magog" refers to the last days army from many nations that assembles together to destroy God's people. Third, in number the army is like "the sand on the seashore" (Rev 20:8). This phrase appears three times in the Old Testament. God promises Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as "the sand on the seashore" (Gen 22:17). When Joshua led Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land, they were opposed by King Jabin of Hazor who formed an army as numerous as "the sand on the seashore" (Josh 11:4). The same thing happened with Gideon; the army of the Midianites was as numerous as "the sand on the seashore" (Judges 7:12). Implying what? Implying a great number, a superior number, a multitude beyond counting. Implying, in other words, that Satan has the advantage.
D Against whom is Satan making war? John uses two phrases. First, John says Satan makes war against "the camp of God's people" (Rev 20:9). The camp. Which reminds us of what? Which reminds us of Israel traveling through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. At that time, where did God's people live? In condos? Single family homes? Apartments? Duplexes? Dormitories? They lived in a camp. Each tribe was assigned a place in which each family set up their tent. And, all of this encampment faced God's tent, the Tabernacle. In other words, they lived in God's presence. That is the image here. The church is the camp of the saints. She is Israel fulfilled. She lives in the presence of God. And, like Israel, she is a camp because she is making her way to a better place, a permanent place.
Second, John says Satan makes war against "the city [God] loves." There are two main cities in the Revelation: Babylon the harlot and the New Jerusalem. We are not to think of either of them as a literal city. Remember the other names of Babylon? She is also called Sodom, Egypt, Jerusalem (Rev 11:8). We learned she represents cultures and nations in opposition to God. As for the New Jerusalem, she is also described as the bride, the wife of the Lamb, the Holy City (Rev 21:9-10). She represents the people of God. In other words, "the city he loves" is a symbolic description of the church.
Do you see against whom Satan is making war? He is making war against the bride of Christ. He is making war against those who live in the presence of God. Which is why Satan's army "marched across the breath of the earth" (Rev 20:9). God's people are to be found in every tribe and language and people and nation, so Satan's army has to go worldwide in search of the church in order to destroy her.
II Satan's Eternal Destruction
A Up to this point, the outcome of "the battle, the war" looks bleak for the church. It looks bleak because looking for her destruction is an army beyond number from the four corners of the earth. It is at this point that God does the same thing for His people that He did in the days of Joshua and Gideon. What did God do? In the face of an overwhelming enemy, God fought for His people and defeated their enemy. John sees the very same thing happening. Notice, that Satan's release is quickly followed by Satan's eternal destruction.
What happens? "Fire came down from heaven and devoured them" (Rev 20:9). Fire came down and destroyed all those deceived by Satan. The destruction is sudden. The destruction is instantaneous. It is like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is like the destruction of the two sets of soldiers sent to arrest Elijah (2 Kings 1). Notice, in each case the judgment comes from heaven, from the throne of God. It is God's judgment.
Notice how thorough the judgment is. The fire "devoured" them. That is, the fire consumed them so not one thing remained. Not the least bit of evidence is left behind. It is as if they were never there, as if they never ever existed.
Remember, this is necessary before the chariots can come!
B And, notice what happens to the devil who deceived them. He
(Rev 20:10) was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.The unholy trinity of devil, beast, and false prophet are eternally united in torment "for ever and ever." And, there is never a break from this torment it goes "day and night."
Remember, this too is necessary before the chariots can come!
C What is missing here? What don't we find in John's vision? "The battle." "The war." Isn't that what this passage is about? But where is the battle? Where is the war? You did not miss it. Why? Because there is no battle! There is no war! Against the almighty God of the universe, there can be no battle, no war. Can you imagine an ant waging war against an elephant? Can you imagine a twig standing before a hurricane? The last battle? There is no last battle because before God, Satan and his army are nothing.
Think of what this means for you and for me. Lots of preachers on TV and the radio and in popular books have tried to scare us about the coming battle of Armageddon. They have literally left Christians quaking in their shoes. But there is no need to be scared about this battle, this war. There is no need to be scared because the battle becomes a non-event and the war is over before it has even started. And, one more thing: once the battle is over, once the war is done, the chariots can come.
III God's Sovereignty
Our Bible reading starts with a time when Satan "will be released" (Rev 20:7). His chains will fall off, his prison door will open, and he will go out in freedom in order to deceive the nations. But why? Was he found to be innocent? Were all the charges against him dropped? Was it a case of mistaken identity? Did someone post bail? Was he given time off for good behavior? Hardly!
The Greek of our passage is filled with passives. "Will be released" is passive. The devil "was thrown" into the lake of burning sulfur. "Was thrown" is passive. The devil, the beast, and the false prophet "will be tormented" day and night for ever and ever. "Will be tormented" is passive. None of these passives state the subject. None of these passives state the person doing the releasing, the throwing, and the tormenting. Because the subject is understood. What have we called this elsewhere in the Revelation? We have called it a "divine passive." God is the One Who is at work. God is the One Who does the releasing, the throwing, and the tormenting. And, God is the One Who sends the chariots.
We need to go back to a sentence I bet you think I overlooked last time the ending to verse 3. Listen to this sentence: "After that, he must be set free for a short time" (Rev 20:3). After what? After the binding. Of whom? Of Satan. What happens? He is set free for a short time. How short? However long it takes for him to assemble his army. Why? Notice the word "must." Satan "must" be set free. We know this as a "divine must."
Now, go back to the divine passives. God does the releasing, the throwing, and the tormenting. Why? Because it is all part of the plan. God's plan. It must happen.
Do you see what I am getting at? God is in control. God is in charge. God has a plan to save His people, to send the chariots, after Babylon has been destroyed, after the beast and the false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire, after the unbelieving nations of the earth have been devoured by fire, after the devil has been thrown into the lake of fire. God has a plan, and the events of Revelation 20 go, of course, according to the plan. God has a plan for Satan's destruction that goes back to the Garden of Eden. God has a plan for Satan's destruction that was sealed with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. God has a plan for Satan's destruction that reaches its ultimate fulfilment in the battle of Armageddon. God has a plan for Satan's destruction and Satan is helpless to stop that plan and the coming of God's chariots.
Let me end with words of comfort and encouragement from Luther's song that we sang just before this message:
And tho this world, with devils filled,Not only is Satan's doom sure, but also sure is our salvation. But each in its own time. First, the judgment of Satan. Then, the chariots of our salvation.
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro' us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
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