Revelation 20 Commentary

Reigning with Christ (20:4-6)

Persecuted believers are now encouraged with a further revelation of their assured victory. Whereas Satan’s brief time of apparent triumph is replaced by a lengthy imprisonment, the Christians’ brief time of suffering is replaced by a lengthy reign with Christ. They may have been martyred, but now they are raised from death to share the resurrection life with Christ (4; cf. 1 Cor 15:51-57).

 

This raising of the believers is called the first resurrection. It is followed by the reign with Christ, symbolized by a thousand years. The believers share with Christ in the life of a new era where he rules as King, a position that the ungodly refused to acknowledge when he lived among them in the world. At the end of this reign with Christ there is a second resurrection, this time involving those who are not believers. Theirs, however, is not a resurrection to life, but a resurrection to damnation. They suffer that final punishment which John calls the second death (5-6).

Defeat of Satan (20:7-10)

At the end of the time of Christ’s reign Satan is released, but he soon shows that he has not changed his ways. As usual he deceives people and incites them to rebel against God (cf. 16:12-16; Gen 3:1-6). Rebels across the world unite against God and his people. As in a similar apocalyptic vision in the Old Testament, the anti-God leader is symbolized by a man called Gog who lives in the land of Magog. But, as in the Old Testament vision, Satan is allowed to draw all the rebels together so that God might destroy them all at the same time in one decisive act of judgment (7-9; cf. Ezek 38:1-9,16,18; 39:1-8). God then throws Satan into the lake of fire to join the antichrist and the false prophet. This is an imprisonment from which there is no release. It is the final punishment (10).

The last judgment (20:11-15)

When the rest of the dead are raised to life (see v. 5) the final judgment takes place. The one who carries out the judgment is the Lord of the universe, and he carries it out with absolute justice. At this judgment people face two independent witnesses. The first is the record of their works, according to which they will be judged. The second is the list of names in the book of life, which confirms whether or not they accepted God’s offer of pardon (11-13). All people, in the end, share either the blessings of heaven or the horrors of the lake of fire. Finally, death and the world of the dead are made as powerless as all other enemies (14-15; cf. 1 Cor 15:26,55).

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