Revelation #33 Revelation 20:1-6 The Dragon’s Demise


 Revelation #33 Revelation 20:1-6  The Dragon’s Demise


The thousand-year reign of Jesus, the thousand-year imprisonment of Satan, the millennium.  There are four classic ways of understanding the millennium.  The classic four all are attempting to explain the timing of the Second Coming of Christ. Premillennialism was the most common understanding of the early Church, a literal thousand years of Jesus and His saints reigning following the second coming.  The understanding called Amillennialism found popularity in the third century.  The reign was considered a spiritual rather than physical reality. Further, it was thought that the 1000 years began with Jesus’ ascension and would end with his second coming. Postmillennialism looks forward to Jesus coming again after 1000 years of the church defeating the enemies of God.  This view started to gain support in the 18th century and lost traction after World War I.  Dispensational Premillennialism probably the most parroted idea in our time is the renewal of a literal 1000 years of Christ reigning on earth, and therefore it is more of a prophetic view of things to come. Jesus returns and the millennium begins. Personally, I am a pan-millennialist, it’s all going to pan out in the end.


Let’s first consider verses 1-3 of Chapter 20 and see what we can figure out.


Revelation 20:1-3 (MSG)

I saw an Angel descending out of Heaven. He carried the key to the Abyss and a chain—a huge chain. He grabbed the Dragon, that old Snake—the very Devil, Satan himself!—chained him up for a thousand years, dumped him into the Abyss, slammed it shut, and sealed it tight. No more trouble out of him, deceiving the nations—until the thousand years are up. After that, he has to be let loose briefly.


John has told us that nothing good comes out of the Abyss.  In Revelation 9 out of the Abyss comes a plague of demon locusts.  In Revelation 11:7 even though the Beast is said to come out of the sea in chapter 13, John sees it also ascending from the Abyss. The Abyss is the source of evil in John’s vision (Ian Paul, TNTC Revelation, Vol 20, 1988, p. 176).  Now the Abyss has become the Dragon’s prison, from which that old Snake, the Devil called Satan can no longer influence the nations. Babylon, the Beast, and the False Prophet are no more, they aren’t even in prison they are gone, and now the mastermind of all this evil is taken out of the picture.


In John’s symmetry, his balancing the forces of good against the forces of evil, the One Upon the Throne’s nemesis was the Dragon. Here is this vision of the end, the Dragon doesn’t even seem to be a matter of great concern. God doesn’t even show up in the scene, and Jesus doesn’t show up in the scene, it’s an Angel that grabs the Dragon, chains it up, throws it into the Abyss, and locks the door. We know why, it is because the Dragon was defeated at the Resurrection that first Easter Sunday Morning. John gave us a glimpse of this defeat back in chapter 12 in which the Arch Angel Michael and his team dislodge Satan and its crew out of heaven. The mastermind behind the war that was waged against God and his people is so defeated not even an archangel is required to lock the Dragon away.


The prison sentence is 1000 years.  As with all the numbers we have encountered in John’s vision this number is not to be understood literally.  The number 10 is the number that indicates a time of transition into completeness. 1000 is 10 x 10 x 10, a 1000 years means the time it takes to get through the transition to completeness, and not 365,000 days.


Let’s look at this 1000 years from the perspective of the reign of Jesus. A poet by the name Albius Tibullus is credited with nick-naming Rome as the Eternal City sometime during the first century. Well, it seems that the rule of the Eternal City symbolically only lasted three and a half years. Do you remember chapter 12 with its 1,260 days, 42 months, 3 ½ years? This “time” period represented the intense tribulation the church battles symbolized by the two witnesses. Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV). The Eternal City falls in 3 ½ years but Jesus reigns for 1000 years. “The age of glory far outweighs the passing age of suffering” (Paul, p. 326).


Is this age of glory before Jesus returns, after Jesus returns, or is this prophecy or is this a present reality?  Let’s look to the witness of the scripture.


Ephesians 1:20-22 (MSG)

God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.


The scripture testifies to the truth that Jesus is already reigning. This is the present spiritual reality.  If Jesus is already reigning, when will Babylon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Dragon be taken out? That question of when, immediately convinces us that John is writing about future events, not present realities.  The forces of evil arise out of the chaos of the times, the forces of evil create untold suffering, the forces of evil are vanquished, and we can expect the forces of evil to come again when the majority turn their back on God. But because of what Jesus has already accomplished evil can never be triumphant. John’s original readers lived in the sure knowledge that this was exactly what was happening in their time.  In the End, and according to John, his readers were living in such times, Jesus sets all things in accordance with the will of God. Not a future event, but a present reality.


Where is this “set things right” world?  It’s in the person who has bent their knee to Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote: “God chose to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). The present spiritual reality is that Christ resides within believers, this is a way of saying He reigns within.  The hope of glory is empowerment to face the ongoing forces of evil knowing that evil can never be triumphant because of Jesus’ sacrifice, as believers expectantly wait for the Return.


You are living in the millennium right now.  1 year, 10, 100, 1000 literal years, no, until the time that the Father has set for the Son to return and consummate the Kingdom, making the reality in you, universal within the creation.


One of the most difficult tasks for the Western Thinking mind is to understand that John is not writing of the events of the future.  John’s temporal distortions make it impossible to anchor his vision to some sort of linear chronology.  The scripture declares Jesus is currently victorious. What John is telling us is the character of this present spirituality.  Babylon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Dragon are all defeated right now for the believer. We say at the incarnation, the birth of Christ, that Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God. An inauguration formally inducts a person into office, it is an observation of the beginning of something new. The Kingdom of God is fully inaugurated with the resurrection.  The consummation occurs at the second coming of Jesus.  This event has not happened on our timelines. When it does what already exists in Christ becomes fully actualized for everyone. 


Revelation 20:4-6 (MSG)


I saw thrones. Those put in charge of judgment sat on the thrones. I also saw the souls of those beheaded because of their witness to Jesus and the Word of God, who refused to worship either the Beast or his image, refused to take his mark on forehead or hand—they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years! The rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years were up. This is the first resurrection—and those involved most blessed, most holy. No second death for them! They're priests of God and Christ; they'll reign with him a thousand years.


Thrones always represent the right and authority to rule. John doesn’t tell us how many thrones he sees nor who is sitting upon those thrones. My interpretive leap is that the occupants of these thrones are believers. The gospel of Matthew reports Jesus as telling his disciples that in the consummation of the Kingdom, “those who have followed me” will rule (Matthew 19:27-30, see also Luke 22:29-30).  The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Corinth: “The day is coming when the world is going to stand before a jury made up of Christians” (1 Corinthians 6:2 (MSG). 


John also sees those who have been martyred for their refusal to compromise with Evil.  John is revealing that those who were killed for the Kingdom are alive and well.  Some scholars see this as a special resurrection.  Because of their sacrifice, the martyrs are resurrected before the group of believers who were not executed for their testimony.  Leaping further, the problem I have with this learned observation is that scripture indicates that there is only one resurrection of believers.


1 Thessalonians 4:15 & 16-17 (MSG)

“…when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they'll be ahead of us.”  “He'll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master.”


Believers are resurrected at the beginning of the second coming. Resurrection and transformation occur at the start of the 7th event.


John 6:40 (NIV)

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."


The scholars will argue for a two-tiered resurrection. One for the martyrs and another for everyone else, saints who were not executed and those who rejected God. The scholars put a heavy emphasis on this being the first resurrection of two.  Verse 6 reveals that the resurrected are blessed and holy. That the second death has no power over them.  Do we infer that the saints who were not executed for their witness are blessed or holy and might be in danger of the second death?  That just seems like an inference that should be immediately rejected.

So in my speculative leap, John is encouraging his readers that those who have died in Christ are not going to be left out.  This is very similar to what Paul wrote:


1 Thessalonians 4:13&14 (MSG)

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don't want you in the dark any longer… God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.


My position is that there is just one resurrection for all those who have bent their knee to the Lordship of Christ.


There is an incredibly powerful perspective that John presents to believers. Jesus has risen, sitting at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22, Hebrews 10:12), and therefore Jesus reigns right now (Matthew 28:18).  If you have bent your knee to the Lordship of Jesus, then right now, you have authority over Babylon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Dragon. This authority is exercised every time you say no to the seductions of evil and yes to God.


If in saying yes to God and no to evil, even if the forces of evil kill your physical existence, your spiritual life is intact. God protects and keeps you safe (Revelation 3:10). The martyrs are standing by the thrones, very much alive.  This thought is an encouragement to those believers who are tasked with dying for their testimony. It is also encouraging for those who escape the executioner to know that they, along with their brothers and sisters, are safe in Christ.


At the second coming, all who have died and put their faith in Jesus are resurrected, the physically alive believers are transformed, and the creation is freed from the influence of Babylon, The Beast, the Beast’s False Prophet, these cease to exist and the Dragon, satan itself, locked away.  Until that time your current spiritual reality becomes a universal reality, deal with all that the evil one can throw your way, victoriously, and live your life abundantly knowing that right now you have authority in Christ and can say no to the devil’s schemes and yes to God.


You have authority.  You choose to overcome.  You choose to be light and salt.  Jesus resides within, the Holy Spirit, and can break every chain, the habits, attachments, and addictions that hinder your transformation into the image of the One to whom you bent your knee. It can be an epic battle to overcome, but overcoming is your choice.  Exercise the authority that is yours in Christ. Now is your time to reign with Jesus.


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