Introduction: Revelation 19 opens with the celebrations in heaven as Christ prepares to come to earth again. In the middle of the chapter, our Lord will dramatically return at the moment of the Battle of Armageddon. The battle will be over in an instant. One word from the lips of Jesus will overwhelm all the forces of darkness in this world. At the end of the chapter, we see the antichrist thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. But what of the devil himself? What happened to him? That’s where we begin with Revelation 20.
V. 1: The first word, “and” (Gk: kai) indicates that this is a continuation of the sequence of events in chapter 19.
V. 2-3: After the antichrist and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, a powerful angel will seize and bind the devil and throw him into the abyss. The abyss seems to be different from the lake of fire where the antichrist and false prophet were thrown. The lake of fire seems to be a permanent place of endless destruction—hell—but the abyss is that “supermax prison” referred to earlier in Revelation from which so many of the were virulent demons were held their release onto the earth during the tribulation. (The word abyss occurs nine times in the New Testament, seven of them in Revelation; but also see Luke 8:30-31). The devil was thrown into this abyss where he was bound for a thousand years. The phrase “thousand years” occurs six times in Revelation 20:1-7. I don’t know of any good way to interpret this except literally. Other time designations (forty-two months, three and a half years, 1260 days, etc., are literal). This is the Millennium—the thousand year earthly reign of Jesus Christ on this planet following His return to earth. During this time, earth will not be perfect or sinless. This isn’t the New Heavens and the New Earth. This isn’t the eternal state. But Satan will be bound and Jesus will literally be reigning and ruling.
V. 4: The martyrs of the tribulation will be resurrected. During the Tribulation period, many people will be saved, then martyred; their souls will have gone to heaven. But now their bodies are resurrected to reign with Christ a thousand years.
V. 5: The evildoers who died during the Great Tribulation won’t be resurrected until the end of time.
V. 6: Those who are resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium (the tribulation martyrs) are so much more fortunate and blessed then those who will be resurrected at the end of the tribulation (the wicked dead). I’m not sure if we’ll be on earth during this time. I believe Jesus will reign from both heaven and earth. There’s no reason He cannot have two seats of power. It’s hard for me to imagine that, having been glorified and taken to heaven, we’d have to come back to an imperfect world. Still, that seems to be the case with the resurrected tribulation saints. So it’s a mystery. The redeemed nation of Israel will be on the millennial earth. The survivors of the Great Tribulation will be on the millennial earth, and many of them undoubtedly will have been converted to Christ as the Jewish people did just prior to His return. Children will be born during the millennial reign, and the earth will be repopulated by survivors of the Tribulation. No other details are given of the Millennium; the main point of Revelation 20 is to explain that the Millennium occurs after the resurrection of Christ and before the final judgment and the eternal state. But there are vast amounts of Scripture in the Old Testament describing the Millennium (see Isaiah 2:1-5; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 11:1-9; Isaiah 65:18-25). The purpose of the Millennium is, in part, to fulfill the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament.
V. 7-10: After 1000 years, even with Satan bound, the sinful nature of humanity will break through. Satan will be released, and it appears that there will be a replay of the Battle of Armageddon. But this time Satan will not only be defeated but thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where the beast and false prophet had been thrown. Why is Satan released at all? Dr. W. A. Criswell in his commentary of Revelation answers that the only way it can be answered. He wrote, “We now come to a revelation in the Word of God that I cannot understand. I do not think any man can understand it. There is something here that lies beyond human comprehension…. We cannot fathom it. It belongs to the secret counsels of heaven.”
V. 11-15: This describes the final judgment on those who have rejected Christ. This is the most frightening paragraph in the Bible, and it brings home to us the reality of hell.
Conclusion: Florence Littauer in her book, The Gift of Encouraging Words, was at a motel on day, where she spent the day working on a writing project. Her right arm and back were fatigued, so she went to the pool to relax in the Jacuzzi. There she met a pleasant Canadian couple who asked her what she did. She explained that she wrote Christian books. The man, whose name was Carl, replied, “I’m a Christian, but just recently I met God on a new level.” He told her of a dream he’d had where he’d been walking down a road at dusk. Lights began to come on, and he could see the city straight ahead. As he trudged along, the stars began to shine and the moon came over the mountain. Suddenly, everything went black, and he was alone in the darkness. Flames liked up around his feet for a fleeting moment, and then they died away. There was no light, no stars, no moon, no shadows, no people, now sound. He screamed for help, but there was no response; he demanded light, but the answer was darkness. Soon he realized he was in hell. “Where are the flames?” he called out. “I thought hell was full of fire.” There was no answer, only total darkness, an utter absence of any ray of light. Then he cried out to God: “Father, forgive me; I’ll do anything you say if You’ll take me out of the darkness into the light. Show me light; give me hope.” At that moment, Carl awoke and he was crying, and he realized for the first time what God’s Word meant when it said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear.” And he realized afresh the power of Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world.” The reality of future judgment should drive us instantly and permanently to Him who is the light of the world.