Revelation 20:2

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; Revelation 20:2

The angel who came out of heaven who has the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain upon his hand now takes specific action against the ancient foe of man. John says, “He laid hold of the dragon.” This is the dragon introduced with this name in Revelation 12:3. This is the last time this epitaph will be used in the Bible. Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “The word is commonly derived from ἔδρακον, the second aorist tense of δέρκομαι to see clearly, in allusion to the sharp sight of the fabled dragon.”

The dragon, this sharp-sighted creature, is now seized. Though he may have great vision, it appears he didn’t see this coming. As far as the act of seizing him, the idea here is of one stronger grabbing and overpowering the weaker. It is comparable in thought to the parable of Jesus from Matthew 12:29 –

“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”

It then follows in thought from Paul’s words of Colossians 2:15 concerning Christ Jesus –

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

It is with this thought in mind that it appears most likely that this angel is none other than the Lord. It is He who gained victory over the dragon who Johns next says is “that serpent of old.” It is an obvious reference to the serpent introduced in the Garden of Eden where it says in Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Again, this is the last time that the epitaph “serpent” is used in the Bible. Things are coming to a close for him, even if he is not completely eliminated at this point.

To ensure who is being referred to, without any doubt at all, John next says, “who is the Devil and Satan.” The epitaph of “devil” was introduced in Matthew 4:1 during the temptation of the Lord Jesus –

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

This title will be used just one more time, in verse 20:10. Along with being called the devil, John’s fourth designating name is provided, Satan. That was first used in Matthew 4:10 by Jesus, showing that the devil and Satan are the same entity –

“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

The name “Satan” is derived from the Old Testament. Care must be taken when considering the word used there. The Hebrew word satan, is used 27 times. However, it simply means “an adversary.” It can be speaking of anyone who opposes another. The word is first used to describe the Angel of the Lord in Numbers 22:22 –

“Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.”

Also, it is incorrectly translated by most translations as the proper name of Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1 –

“Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.”

The reason this is incorrect is twofold. First, it is clearly explained in 2 Samuel 24:1 –

“Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’”

These words show that it is the Lord who moved David. The second reason is that the word satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1 does not include an article before it as “the accuser,” ha’satan. Only when the article is used does it refer to Satan as a proper noun. This name, ha’satan, is first found in Job 1:6 –

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”

This may seem like an unnecessary diversion from the contents of Revelation, but it is not. Understanding who Satan is, and understanding his role in warring against the people of the world at particular times, is an important precept that must be carefully evaluated in order to properly understand the Lord’s victory over him. This proper noun, the name “Satan,” will be used just one more time in the Bible, in verse 20:7.

Of these words so far, they are a close repeat of what has already been said in Revelation 12:9 –

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

For now, and of this angel (probably the Lord Jesus) who has seized Satan, it says, “and bound him for a thousand years.” The statement is simple and direct. But no reason is yet given why he is only bound for a thousand years. In verse 20:7, it will state that he is to be released, but even then, only an inference as to why this occurs can be made. For now, it is shown that this wicked entity will be bound for a thousand years.

Life application: One main principle of Bible interpretation is that if something can be taken as literal it should be taken as literal unless there are compelling reasons why it shouldn’t be. The Bible says all the way back at the beginning that Adam and Eve “…heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). There is no reason to disbelieve this, especially at this early point in Scripture. In fact, if this didn’t occur, then it sets the entire Bible up as a document that is convoluted, must be interpreted symbolically, and cannot be trusted in its literal sense.

This truth is the same with the 6 days of creation. The Bible proclaims that all things were created in 6 days. This has been, and it still is, based on the premise that a day is a day. Only with the time of the Enlightenment and the modern development of the theory of evolution has this been called into question. These are not trifling issues, but items of the greatest importance.

Understanding these things leads us to contemplate the subject verse. This dragon, who is the serpent and who is also known as the devil and Satan, is said to be bound by the angel from heaven “for a thousand years.” The dragon of the book of Revelation is understood to be the same foe that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. This identification with “that serpent of old” now calls out to us to revisit Genesis 3 and to believe that the account written there is, in fact, literal. There literally was a Garden of Eden, there literally was a command given by God, there literally was a temptation, there literally was a fall, and the Lord God literally did walk in the garden. These things are all to be taken as literal, factual accounts of what happened.

The veracity of the rest of the Bible stands or falls on the Genesis account. One cannot, without causing irreparable harm to proper doctrine and theology, dismiss or allegorize what is stated there. In the final three chapters of the Bible, we will see – time and again – references to the Genesis account and how what was lost will be restored. God is telling us to trust that His word is true and that there is a plan that we can hold fast to.

As noted above, the final name which is given in this verse, Satan, is the Hebrew ha’satan – the accuser. As noted, he is not the one who moved David to take the census in 1 Chronicles 21:1. Rather, there was a reason the Lord moved as an adversary in this manner. It was to complete the most important real estate contract in history. This purchase, recorded in both 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, still bears on the events of humanity today, and it allows us to know who the rightful owner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is.

We can know with all certainty that Jesus owns the land. Both the title deed and the genealogical proof of that deed passing to Him are recorded in the Bible. He will return and claim His right to it at the end of the tribulation period and from that spot, he will reign for “a thousand years” of uninterrupted peace. Satan is mentioned in the books of Job and Zechariah in the Old Testament in key passages that help us understand his role in what is going on.

We are asked to believe that there really is a tempter who presented himself as a serpent in Eden and who is the devil, known as Satan. He is a real foe, and he has really come against God’s people throughout the ages. And yet, his wicked actions have been used by God – time and time again, to work out His plan of redemption for the people of the world. The devil is a finite being with limited power. God is infinitely wiser than him, and He is also infinitely more powerful than him. The devil is a defeated foe when we call on Jesus Christ. As such, we are to have no fear of the devil.

One final point concerning this verse, which must be taken as literal, is that the devil is bound for “a thousand years.” In fact, the term “a thousand years” is going to be mentioned six times in the next few verses. It is the epitome of hypocrisy for scholars and theologians to “symbolize” or “spiritualize” this into anything other than a literal timeframe. And yet, in order to justify faulty theology, reformed theology – as well as other sects and cults – will claim that this thousand-year period is only “symbolic.”

They must do this in order to deny dispensationalism and the notion that God’s plan for the land and the people of Israel has not yet been fulfilled. But the premise of the tribulation period of Revelation is to show us that Israel is again in focus, and that Jesus is returning to rule from there and among them for “a thousand years.”

This thousand-year rule completes the picture started in the six days of creation. God isn’t doing something arbitrary. He is working out a plan based on this six-day creation pattern. Man’s time on earth is a six-thousand-year period until Christ comes to rule during the millennium. This thousand-year rule is symbolic of the final Day of Genesis – the seventh day of rest. In fact, in Isaiah, it says that when the Lord rules during this period, His “resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10).

Everything must be tied together in order to understand the fullness of what God is doing for His creatures and how He is doing it through Jesus. Yes, the thousand-year reign of the Lord from Israel is to be taken literally. To claim that it is “spiritual” or “symbolic” is to diminish the truth of God’s word based on one’s personal presuppositions, likes, or dislikes.

Stand firm on what God is doing and understand that He is in absolute control of all things! Great is God and great is His plan. And it is all centered on what He has done, is doing, and will do through JESUS!

Lord, we can search Your word forever and still find new treasures in it. Help us to believe what may seem incredible when it is spoken by You. Let us not trust in our own thoughts, but rather to rely on what You have so carefully and graciously revealed to us. Help us to stand fast on Your sure word. To Your glory, we pray, Amen.