68 Is God Vulnerable? Part 1
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Join us in a close look at the Millennium in Revelation 20 as we discover the vulnerability of God.
Is God Vulnerable?
The Millennium: The End of the Dragon
This chapter is problematic for two groups, those who minimize the relevance of the devil and those who see the enemy in the vision as the Roman Empire. This chapter is full of evidence that the real enemy is a non-human entity. A further surprise is that once Satan is imprisoned—he is let lose again. This is a conundrum for human justice. Once the perpetrator is captured it does not make sense to let him lose again. The Planet has been desolate for a millennium, a thousand years. As we shall see, the righteous have gone to heaven with Jesus and the wicked have come to a horrible end. Only Satan and his angels remain here on the Planet. It is a time of reflection on the consequences of sin by the saints and angels in heaven and Satan and his angels on earth.
20:1 Aangel (messenger) came down out of heaven@Cthis phrase refers to the messenger Jesus Christ as we have noticed in chapters 10 (1) and 18 (1).
Akey to the Abyss@Cpower to restrain demons (Luke 8:31; Rev 9:1).
Achain@Ccircumstances which restrain. Refer to verse three.
20:2 AHe seized the dragon . . . and bound him@Conly Jesus has cast the devil down (Jn 12:31). In chapter 18 Jesus was portrayed as an angel from heaven with great authority. Now it becomes clear this authority includes the power to bind the devil. This is not surprising, Jesus claimed the cross would do just this (Jn 12:31) and he gave this power to his disciples (Luke 10:17-18). At long last divine action is taken against Satan. It is long overdue according to the souls under the altar (6:10). Notice that there is no use of physical force by Jesus.
20:3 AHe threw him into the Abyss@CAbyss is mentioned seven times in the New Testament (Lk 8:31; Rev 9:1-2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1) and is the Aplace@ where evil spirits reside. This Aplace@ symbolizes the restrictions placed on Satan and his angels on this planet (2 Peter 2:4) since some are protected by God=s angels and His Spirit (Rev 7:1-4). Placing Satan in the Abyss means he cannot tempt anymore. This is accomplished through the removal of the saints to heaven and the death of the wicked under the seventh plague. There is no one to tempt since the earth is desolate. Notice that he is imprisoned not by violence against his person but by circumstances.
Aand locked and sealed it over him@CJesus has the keys of the kingdom (Mt 16:19) and the keys to death and hades (Rev 1:18) and so he can open heaven or lock up the Abyss.
AMust be set free for a short time@CWhy let him lose again? This is a very strange turn of events that is predicted. For millennia the dragon has harassed God and his creation and now that God has finally acted and captured the dragon Cto let him loose again is disappointing to say the least.
Most denominations believe Satan is restrained by the use of force and not set free again.
Dispensational Pre-millennialism: Jesus comes back to earth after the seven-year tribulation and binds Satan by force and rules in peace for a thousand years. Satan is not released.
Historic Pre-millennialism: Christians remain on the earth during the millennium and Christ binds Satan and he is not released again.
A-millennialism: Jesus will return but there is no literal millennium and no release of Satan.
Post-millennialism: The second coming of Christ is after the millennium and Satan is finally bound by force and not released again.
Many commentators find chapter 20 to be confused. Some have suggested that John, the author, died and this chapter is a collection of fragments that he had written which his students collected and arranged the best they could.
20:4 Agiven authority to judge@Bjudge who? The saved are in heaven and the lost are dead. It is clear who is saved and who is lost but what will I do if the one who brought me to Christ is not there. What if someone who persecuted me at every turn is there? There seems to be only one possibility. The saints will judge the verdict of God as to who was allowed into heaven. We will be judging God and the way he has dealt with sin and suffering. This might sound preposterous but we are doing this all the time. We decide if God is worthy or our worship. This is the choice we have. Refer to comments on 14:7.
Athey (souls) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years@Cfinally the cry of the martyrs in (6:9-11) is answered. The time of waiting is over for them. Saints have learned to be patient with God for this liberation. They wanted violent revenge on their enemies but God gave them, instead, the resurrection to eternal life.
The Millennium commences with the binding of Satan:
The saints, both those who are resurrected and the living ones, are taken to heaven (20:4) after the resurrection to life (John 5:28-29) at the Second Coming (1 Thess 4:16-17; 1 Cor 15:51-52). This is the first resurrection (20:6).
All the wicked are to be utterly and completely destroyed (Isa 14:18-20; 24:1-6; Jer 4:23-25; 1 Thess 5:3; 2 Thess 1:7-10; 2:10; 2 Peter 3:7,10-12). This is why Babylon is such an apt symbol for the kingdom of selfishness. In literal Babylon's complete destruction, never to be rebuild again, we have a parable of the end of symbolic Babylon never to rise again (Rev 14:9-10; chapters 17-20).
We can be certain the wicked have all been destroyed before the beginning of the millennium for the following reasons. Firstly, Jesus indicated the wicked are destroyed at the Second Coming (Lk 17:26-30). Secondly, the answer to the question asked in chapter 6:17, AWho shall be able to stand?@ includes only those who have the seal of God (chp 7). Thirdly, the seventh plague speaks of a destruction that defies the imagination. Part of this destruction consists of hailstones weighing 50 kg (16:17-21). Nobody can survive this plague. Fourthly, the destruction described at the end of chapter six sounds final. Lastly, Jeremiah speaks of the earth being Aempty@ (4:23) again. This can only be during the millennium since at the end of the millennium the saints return to the earth. Thus the Devil is bound (20:2), because there is no one to deceive on the Planet.
The Saints are busy in heaven during the Millennium:
For 1000 years (20:2-5) the saints will be judging (20:4) and reigning, which means serving with Christ (20:6). We can be certain of this since firstly, Jesus said He would come again to take us to the mansions He has gone to prepare in heaven for us (John 14:1-3), secondly, Jesus reigns now at God=s right hand and we will reign with Him (20:6), and finally, the New Jerusalem or God=s people come down from heaven (21:2).
The Millennium concludes with the following events:
The devil is released (20:3, 7) because sinners, that is the devil=s friends or the enemies of God, are resurrected (20:5). This resurrection (20:5), is the second resurrection, the resurrection to condemnation (Jn 5:29). The devil deceives or seduces sinners (20:8) into attacking the New Jerusalem (20:9) which has come down from heaven (21:2). The devil and sin are destroyed (20:10) in the lake of fire, which is the second death (20:14).
20:9 Afire came down from heaven and devoured them@Cthis fire, while it could include literal fire, is symbolic of total destruction for it can burn up death and sin (14). Jesus experienced this destruction at Calvary on behalf of every man and there was no literal fire at the time. Jesus was also against the use of fire on His enemies (Luke 9:54-56) and any desire to have the enemies of God destroyed is not of God. They will be destroyed but it is the consequence of sin. AEvil will slay the wicked@ (Psalm 34:21). Read also Psalm 9:16-17; 106:43; Haggai 2:22; Judges 7:22.
Under the picture of God and Magog (Ezekiel 38:14-20) we have an eschatological description of the end of sinners.
AI will summon the sword against Gog in all my mountains, says the Lord GOD; the swords of all will be against their comrades (Ezekiel 38:21).
Then also Zechariah has a similar description of self-destruction.
On that day men will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other (14:13).
We have a precedent in 2 Chronicles 20:22-24 where the disillusioned enemies of Israel destroy each other. Perhaps this is the antecedent for the parallel description in
Revelation (17:16) AThe beast and the ten horns you saw (agency) will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire (action).@
The end of sinners is also described in the sixth seal.
Revelation 6:16-17 AThey called to the mountains and rocks, >Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?@
We also have an Apocryphal source which supports this insight.
AIn those days, the father will be beaten together with his sons, in one place; and brothers shall fall together with their friends, in death, until a stream shall flow with their blood. For a man shall not be able to withhold his hands from his sons nor from (his) sons= sons in order to kill them. Nor is it possible for the sinner to withhold his hands from his honoured brother. From dawn until the sun sets they shall slay each other. The horse shall walk through the blood of sinners up to his chest, and the chariot shall sink down up to its top@ (1 Enoch 100:3).
This destruction takes place outside the city of God wherein he and his people are safe.
If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven (Revelation 3:12).
This means no one leaves the city to engage the attacking forces and the wicked outside the city are tormented in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. They do not cause the torment but have to witness it.
We also have a church father who commented on the end of sinners.
Scripture indicates that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire, and is not plunged into a fire which has been previously kindled by someone else or which existed before him. B Origin, First Principles 2.20.4 (trans. G. W. Butterworth); London: SPCK, 1936.
20:10 AAnd the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.@Cthis is the end of the originator of evil.
This end is described specifically as follows.
I made fire come out from within you (agency), it consumed you (action) (Ezekiel 28:18).
The death of Judas by suicide is a type of the end of the devil since Judas allowed himself to become the agent of Satan and evil (Luke 22:3). After Jesus was arrested and condemned Judas threw away the money, declared himself guilty of innocent blood and killed himself (Matthew 27:1-5). This is the inevitable result of sin. It is caused by guilt or self-loathing.
The death of Christ also demonstrates the end of one who carries guilt. In taking our guilt or self-loathing (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21) the emotional burden became such that Jesus died of a physically broken heart (John 19:34). Jesus knew his would happen and predicted it in this way.
John 10:17, 18 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
When Satan finally recognizes his guilt or self-loathing the cross death is inevitable for him as it is for any other sinner (Romans 6:23). Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ=s death for us.
As with the rest of the wicked this end is an implosion caused by evil or sin or self-loathing. It is significant that this non-human instigator of evil is centre stage for the duration of the millennium and for a short time after the millennium. This focus is the story of the demise of Satan and sinners and sin.
This is not a story about the Roman Empire or the Roman church but about Satan=s challenge to God and his Christ and what the consequences are for those who refuse God=s salvation.20:11 AA Great White Throne@Cbecause of the brightness of God (1 Timothy 6:16) and because all associated with God are dressed in white (3:4; 4:2-4; 19:8; Acts 1:10; Dan 7:9).
AEarth and sky@ refers to the places where the wicked Agreat and small@ (12) have tried to hide (6:15-17) but they must now stand before the judge of all the earth (Isa 34:4). It is the moment of supreme terror for those in rebellion against God for there is no place of safety, they have refused the only One who could have saved them from the consequences of sin. The righteous do not come into this judgement (John 3:18; 5:24; 1 John 3:14).
20:12 Ajudged according to what they had done@Cthis refers to the wicked who are judged according to their deeds. This is the banquet of consequences. Every rebel can see their own rejection of God=s grace and mercy (John 3:18; Philippians 2:10)
20:13 Asea . . ., death and hades gave up the dead@Call the wicked are raised only to die the second or eternal death. Why this occurs is an important question.
20:14 Adeath and Hades thrown into the lake of fire@Cdeath and the grave are destroyed. The second death is the death of death and the annihilation of its cause, sin. This is a profound promise, sin and death will never appear again, they have died or been destroyed forever. The second death is not the death we die now which Jesus referred to as Asleep@ (John 11:11, 25-26). The second death is the consequence of rejecting the eternal life which God has given us in Jesus Christ. It is eternal separation from God. It is to be annihilated, to cease from consciousness, to return to the nothingness we were part of before God created us.
20:15 Abook of life@CThis book is referred to as follows: contains names that can be blotted out (3:5; Ex 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28), belongs to the lamb (Rev 13:8), contains names written in it from creation of the world (17:8), is used in judgment of wicked (20:12), contains the names of those who will be in the city (Daniel 12:1; Phil 4:3; Rev 21:27).
Why are sinners resurrected at the end of the Millennium only to be destroyed?
The death we die now is the consequence of Adam=s sin. It is not the result of personal sin since little babies, animals and plants die but they have not chosen to sin. Their death is also the result of Adam=s moral choice.
Jesus= life and death and resurrection, as the Second Adam, is so powerful it opens the grave for ALL from the first death (Jn 5:28-29; Rom 5:6,8,15-19; 1 Cor 15:22; Heb 9:12, 28; 10:14, 18). Thus, Jesus= salvation-work places us ALL back in the position Adam was before he sinned. This is why Christ is referred to as the Second Adam. When the wicked are resurrected at the end of the millennium they have the choice Adam had in Eden. They can see life in the New Jerusalem in all its beauty and reality but they choose to follow the devil (20:8), as Adam chose to and so they suffer the second death because of their personal choice.
The judgment at the end of the millennium is not about the destiny of human beings. The saved and the lost are already separated. This judgement is about the character of God and everyone who has ever lived must be present to give their witness as to their knowledge of God. Can anyone show that God is selfish as the devil has claimed? All now see matters in their transparent reality and no evidence is found to support the devil=s claims. God is as he claimed, to be the source of only love
and compassion. There is no selfishness in him. He is light, life and love.
Traditional Christianity, based on ALet him who does wrong continue to do wrong@ (22:11) is loathe to allow God to give anyone a second chance even though God inspired the book of Judges and Hosea and Jesus Christ told the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) and restored Peter after he had denied Christ three times (John 21). God can provide the opportunity even when sinners have set their choice in concrete and will not use the opportunity. ALet him who does wrong continue to do wrong@ (22:11) is a reality statement for the sinner=s mind not the mind of God.
Sinners make a personal, purposeful choice against all the evidence they now have of God=s goodness and grace. There is nothing more which can be done for them and they experience the consequences of this choice (Romans 6:23). They are given this choice in the hope they will change their minds, but they do not. This is the addiction of sin, the awfulness of its holding power in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This Athing@ we call sin is a mystery in itself (2 Thess 2:7) and there is no explanation for our addiction to this destructive virus. The only prevention and cure is the grace of God perceived, received and conceived in the heart by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:10).
Jesus was insistent in his teaching that anyone who came to him would never be cast out (Jn 6:37) and never be lost (Jn 6:39). This resurrection brings closure to the origin of sin for it becomes clear to all that the wicked persistently refuse the grace of God and this includes the devil himself. Was Lucifer created with some flaw or was he created perfect? Giving Lucifer yet another chance to change his mind is a revelation to the universe that God never intended for him to become the devil.
It is the antitype of the scapegoat ceremony in the sanctuary service. The scapegoat was chosen by lot from out of two goats. There was no behavioural reason for this goat to represent evil and be led out into the wilderness to die. This indicated that there is no reason for Lucifer=s choice to become the devil. There was no predisposition in his creation to evil. It was a decided choice on his part. Without these events at the end of the millennium this question could be raised again. This second resurrection, painful as it is for the saved, brings the closure that is needed for the whole universe.
The Reason for the Millennium
At the cross, God in the person of Jesus Christ, assumed responsibility for all the evil and suffering on the planet (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the end of the millennium it becomes clear that this responsibility belongs elsewhere. This is why Satan is released from the Abyss to demonstrate the desires of his heart. The whole controversy is about a misunderstanding of what God is really like at the core of his being. It is not about executing Satan and his evil angels because if the misunderstanding is not cleared up it will result in another rebellion. Paul is clear that because of Jesus Christ=s life, death and resurrection every knee will bow to him eventually (Philippians (2:9-11), even Satan who wanted Christ to bow to him (Matthew 4:9) will bow and acknowledge that God is pure love and service to his creation (Cf. Psalm 22:29; Isaiah 45:21-24; Romans 14:11.) Thus the misunderstanding about God=s character is cleared up and the implosion of evil occurs. This is what the statement AIt is done!@ refers to. It is the third such statement. The first was at creation and the second at the cross: AIt is finished.@