I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
Perhaps you grew up going to Sunday School and VBS like I did. I remember a lot of the old songs from those days. One in particular comes to mind as I write this. It went,
The devil is a sly old fox,
if I could catch him I’d put him in a box.
I’d put him in a box, and throw away the key,
for all the tricks he’s played on me!
This old children’s song aptly describes the feeling believers feel when it comes to our Adversary, the devil; the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. We long for the day when our enemy is locked away, unable to hinder and harass us ever again. Just such an event will occur at the beginning of the 1,000-year Dispensation of Divine Government. John the Revelator saw this event and recorded it in the book of Revelation. He wrote,
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.” [Revelation 20:1 – 3a]
John in the Spirit saw an event almost 2,000 years ago, that is still future to our time, that is the capture and binding of Satan in this place described as the, “bottomless pit”. Our enemy will be locked away for the entirety of the Kingdom Age. Oh, happy day, oh, happy day! Think of living on the earth without the presence of Satan, the great enemy of our soul! What a glorious time that will be. There will be no more mind games, no more attacks on our family and friends. No more hindering the spread of the Gospel. Oh, I can’t wait!
At the end of the 1,000 years however, the seemingly unthinkable will occur. John reveals this in the last part of verse 3,
“…But after these things he must be released for a little while.” [Rev. 20:3b]
After the 1,000 years, which again I believe is a literal period of time, the Bible not only says Satan will be released, it says he must be. That language is significant. Why? Because it connects this event, the release of Satan from the Abyss, with the eternal purposes of God. This is the same language we find for example in Matthew 16:21 as the Lord describes to His disciples how He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. We find this language in Luke 2:49 as the young man Jesus explains to Mary and Joseph how He must be about His Father’s business.
The same thought can be found in Luke 24:46, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?“ The thought here is somewhat veiled in our English translation. The thought really is, “In the eternal order of things, and in fulfillment of the eternal counsel of God as expressed in the prophecies, it was essentially fitting that Christ should suffer.” [Vincent’s Word Studies]
So in the same manner, we see Satan being released from the Abyss, in keeping with the eternal purposes of God. What purpose could his release possibly fulfill? Dr. J. Vernon McGee in his, Thru the Bible commentary, refers to this statement in Revelation 20:3 as one of the, “imponderable statements of scripture.” Why in the world, if Satan is bound, would you ever release him? In the same comment, Dr. McGee quotes Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer who says, “If you will tell me why God let him loose in the first place, I’ll tell you why God let him loose in the second place.” That is a valid point, wouldn’t you agree? After all, why not just annihilate him right after his rebellion? Avoid all of the sin, suffering, and evil in the world in one fell swoop, as it were. But you see, you and I are not God. We don’t see, know, and understand things from His eternal perspective. Dr. McGee continues, “Why did God let him loose? God has a great purpose in it. This is the great problem of evil: Why has God permitted it? Well, I believe that God is working out a tremendous program which is the mystery of God that is yet to be revealed to us. It is going to be revealed someday, and all He is asking us to do is to walk with Him by faith. We need to trust God and know that whatever He is doing is right.” I can’t say it any better than this.
The release of Satan from the Abyss will reveal two things I submit to you: 1) That after 1,000 years of incarceration, Satan remains unchanged. 2) The heart of man is still desperately evil and rebellious. Lets take a look at what will occur at the loosing of Satan from the Abyss in context. Starting again in Revelation 20:7, and reading through verse 10, we see a preview of what will occur at this time:
“Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” [Revelation 20:7 – 10]
So we see the old dragon, the devil, will still be in the deception business. He will not have changed a bit after 1,000 years of incarceration, and as as we said earlier, man in his natural, unredeemed state, will not have changed either. As soon as they have the opportunity, they will align themselves with an outlaw spirit, Satan, and will come against the people of God. God will bring swift judgment upon them.
The Greek word translated, “deceive” in verse 8 is planao, and it means, “to cause to stray, lead aside from the right way, metaphorically it is to lead away from the Truth, to lead into error, to deceive.” This is always the enemy’s business, to lead away from the truth, and to deceive.
During the Millennium millions of natural people on Earth will have had that period of time in which to accept Christ as Savior and truly submit to God. Having retained their fallen Adamic nature, they will be subject in various ways to the influence of Satan when he is loosed. Satan will recruit followers that will seek to help him overthrow the Kingdom of God, and he will lead them against the saints at Jerusalem.
Notice the reference to, “Gog and Magog” in verse 8. This is how the Gentile nations are referred to at this time. This reference should not be confused with the “Gog and Magog” of Ezekiel 38, 39. Perhaps this attack of Gentile nations will be similar to the earlier Gog and Magog attack, and that is why they are referred to as such, I am not certain. The events however are not the same. This attack in Revelation 20, and the judgment on these nations will occur after the Millennium. This will be a supernatural judgment, where fire will descend from God and devour them. At this time Satan, the great deceiver, will be cast, finally, into the Lake of Fire where the Beast and False Prophet will have been confined since the Battle at Armageddon (which will immediately precede the Millennium).
Following this will be what is referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment. This judgment is described in Revelation 20:11 – 15:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” [Rev. 20:11 – 15]
There is some interesting terminology in verse 11. Read it again. It says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.” I emphasized the word, “face” in this verse, because I wanted to call your attention to it. This is from the Greek word, prosopon, and it speaks of literally, “the face, the front of the human head, countenance, look, appearance, the outward appearance.” This particular noun appears 81 in the KJV, and 51 of those times it is translated, “face.” It is also translated, “presence” (7 times), “faces” (6 times), “person” (5 times), “countenance” (3 times), and “appearance” (2 times). God is spirit, and yet this describes an outward presence or appearance. God the Father, though spirit, has an outward person, and a real spirit-body. It is fascinating.
There are several things we need to observe concerning the Great White Throne Judgment. God is the Judge (Heb. 12:23 – 29; 13:4; Rev. 6:10; Acts 17:30, 31), as well as Christ (John 5:19 – 27; Acts 10:42; 17:30, 31; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 19:11). Those judged at this time will be the wicked, unsaved people of the entire human race (Acts 17:31; Rom. 3:6). However, this will not include the Beast (Antichrist), the False Prophet, or the “Goat” nations, because their sentence will have already been pronounced 1,000 years earlier, and that judgment will not need to be repeated (Matt. 13:30, 39 – 43, 49, 50; 24:51; 25:30, 31, 41, 46; Rev. 14:9 – 11; 20:10).
This judgment will occur after the Millennium, and after Satan has been cast into the Lake of Fire. It will be a specific, “Day of Judgment”, and will be set at a definite time (Matt. 10:15; 11:24; 12:36; Acts 17:31; II Pet. 2:4; Jude 6, 7). This Judgment will not take place on Earth, or in the atmosphere above the Earth, but in Heaven before the Throne of God.
At this time the Throne will still be in Heaven, because it will not come to Earth until after the Earth has been renovated by fire, which, it seems, will take place immediately after this Judgment (II Pet. 3:7). All the secrets of men (Rom. 2:16), their works, their thoughts, and all their actions will be judged (I Tim. 5:24; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12, 13).
Before man (and that is a reference to mankind, men and women), is condemned and punished, they will have their day in court, as it were, they will stand trial and understand clearly the reason for his (or her) judgment. There will be no excuse for, or criticism of, the sentence. Lost humanity’s conscience will divulge their sins (Rom. 2:12 – 16). The Law will be clear, and the Gospel will be a significant basis for the Judgment (Rom. 2:12 – 16; John 12:47, 48; Rev. 20:11 – 15). The Book of Life will be opened, and every person’s works will be revealed.
The Book of Life is referenced many places in scripture, and has significance in both Christianity and Judaism. The “Book of Life” is referred to in the following verses of scripture: (Ex. 32:23; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 20:11 – 15). There are other passages we could refer to as well, but these give a general overview of references to the, “Book of Life.” Notice the language, if you will, of Revelation 20:12,
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” [Rev. 20:12 emphasis added]
Their will be books opened at the Great White Throne, the Throne of God, where all of the lost of all the ages will have their day of sentencing in the High Court of Heaven. The books opened at the Great White Throne really merit a study all their own, and we may well do that in a future posting.
The dead who will be summoned to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment do not include angels, but mortals who have died and gone to Hell, which is an entirely different place than the Lake of Fire, or as we could say, eternal Hell, because the Bible says, “…Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” [Rev. 20:14] Hades is the present place of confinement for the souls of the wicked dead, and there they are conscious and in torment until the Resurrection (Luke 16:19 – 31).
I believe that the Bible is clear that Hell will have different degrees of punishment and torment and fire, just as Heaven will have degrees of rewards and bliss and comfort for those who are good and faithful. The degrees of punishment possibly could come primarily through the torment of a person’s inner conscience and awareness of evil deeds committed, together with the realization of failures made and the refusals to commit their lives to Christ.
It is important to understand that punishment is eternal. Those who receive life have everlasting life, and the same Greek word, aionion, which means “forever,” is also applied to the matter of punishment (Matt. 25:41 – 46; Mark 9:43 – 47; Luke 12:5; Hebrews 6:2; 10:26 – 31; Revelation 14:9 – 11; 19:20; 20:10 – 15; 21:8).
We have covered a lot of ground this time. I had hoped to finish our study on Dispensationalism this time. We will take one more session to do that. Next time, Lord willing, we will cover the renovation of the heavens and the earth. Plan to join us.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson