20. The World's Millennial Night

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Verse 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

The event with which this chapter opens seems to follow the events of the preceding chapter in chronological order. The inquires that here arise are, Who is the angel that comes down from heaven? What are the key and the chain which he has in his hand? What is the bottomless pit? What is meant by binding Satan a thousand years?

Is this angel Christ, as some suppose? Evidently not. A direct ray of light is thrown from the old typical service directly upon this passage.

Satan is the Scapegoat. Christ is the great High Priest of the gospel age. On the Day of Atonement anciently two goats were taken by the priest, and lots were cast upon them, one for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat. The goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, was then slain, and his blood carried into the sanctuary to make an atonement for the children of Israel. After this the sins of the people were confessed upon the head of the other, or scapegoat, and he was sent away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, a place not inhabited. As Christ is the priest of the gospel age, a few arguments will show Satan to be the antitypical scapegoat.

The Hebrew word for scapegoat, as given in the margin of Leviticus 16: 8, is "Azazel." On this verse, William Jenks remarks: "Scapegoat. See diff. opin. in Bochar. Spencer, after the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians, thinks Azazel is the name of the devil; and so Rosenm., whom see. The Syr. has Azzail, the 'angel (strong one) who revolted.' " [1] The devil is here evidently pointed out. Thus we have the definition of the Scripture term in two ancient languages, with the oldest opinion of the Christians, in favor of the view that the scapegoat is a type of Satan.

Charles Beecher says: "What goes to confirm this is that the most ancient paraphrases and translations treat Azazel as a proper name. The Chaldee paraphrase and the targums of Onkelos and Jonathan would certainly have translated it if it was not a proper name, but they do not. The Septuagint, or oldest Greek version, renders it by {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, apopompaios, a word applied by the Greeks to a malign deity sometimes appeased by sacrifices. Another confirmation is found in the book of Enoch, where the name Azalzel, evidently a corruption of Azazel, is given to one of the fallen angels, thus plainly showing that was the prevalent understanding of the Jews at that day. Still another evidence is found in the Arabic, where Azazel is employed as the name of the evil spirit." [2]

Here is the Jewish interpretation:

"Far from involving the recognition of Azazel as a deity, the sending of the goat was, as stated by Nahmanides, a symbolic expression of the idea that the people's sins and their evil consequences were to be sent back to the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity." [3]

In a striking manner these views harmonize with the events to take place in connection with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, as revealed to us in the Scriptures of truth.

In the type we see the sin of the transgressor transferred to the victim. We see that sin borne by the ministration of the priest and the blood of the offering into the sanctuary. On the tenth day of the seventh month we see the priest, with the blood of the sin offering for the people, remove all their sins from the sanctuary, and lay them upon the head of the scapegoat. And we see the goat bear them away into a land not inhabited. (Leviticus 1: 4; 4: 3-6; 16: 5-10, 15, 16, 20-22.)

Answering to these events in the type, we behold in the antitype, the great offering for the world made on Calvary. The sins of all those who avail themselves of the merits of Christ's shed blood by faith in Him, are borne by the ministration of Christ into the new-covenant sanctuary. After Christ, the minister of the true tabernacle (Hebrews 8: 2), has finished His ministration, He will remove the sins of His people from the sanctuary, and lay them upon the head of their author, the antitypical scapegoat, the devil. The

devil will be sent away, bearing them into a land not inhabited.

"Let us contemplate that scene at Christ's return to earth. The Church has been judged; Israel has been judged; the Gentile nations have been also judged. . . . Now it is Satan's turn to be judged also; and our High Priest is seen 'putting' the moral blame to where it rightly belongs; judging the great corruptor and banishing him to a place of separation from the affairs of men." [4]

"Satan is not here, as some allege against this opinion, put on an equality with God; for the two goats were both brought 'to Jehovah,' and were His; while the very casting of lots, which was in itself a solemn appeal to God, shows that Jehovah claimed the power of disposal. Neither can it be objected that this was in any sense a sacrifice to Satan, for the animal was not slain to him; it was only sent to him in disgrace. Bearing upon it sins which God had already forgiven, it was sent to Azazel in the wilderness.

"The phrase 'scape,' by which the strange term Azazel is rendered in our version, came from the 'hircus emissarius' [goat emissary], of the Vulgate. The term Azazel may mean the 'apostate one' a name which Satan merits, and which he seems to have borne among the Jews. It was Satan that brought sin into the world; and this seduction of man adds to his guilt, and consequently to his punishment. Sin is now pardoned in God's mercy. The one goat was sacrificed as a sin offering; its blood was carried into the holy place, and the mercyseat was sprinkled with it. Guilt was therefore canceled; by this shedding of blood there was remission. But sin, though pardoned, is yet hateful to God, and it cannot dwell in His sight: it is removed away to a 'land not inhabited' severed from God's people, and sent away to man's first seducer. The sins of a believing world are taken off them, and rolled back on Satan, their prime author and instigator. Though the penalty is remitted to believers, it is not remitted to him who brought them into apostasy and ruin. The tempted are restored, but the whole punishment is seen to fall on the archtempter. Hell is 'prepared for the devil and his angels.' " [5]

This we believe to be the very event described in the verses under notice. At the time here specified, the sanctuary service is closed. Christ lays upon the head of the devil the sins which have been transferred to the sanctuary, and which are imputed to the saints no more. The devil is sent away, not by the hand of the High Priest, but by the hand of another person, according to the type, into a place here called the bottomless pit.

The Key and the Chain. It cannot be supposed that the key and chain are literal; they are rather used merely as symbols of the power and authority with which this angel is clothed on this occasion for the accomplishment of his mission.

The Bottomless Pit. The original word signifies an abyss, bottomless, deep, profound. Its use seems to be such as to show that the word denotes any place of darkness, desolation, and death. Thus in Revelation 9: 1, 2, it is applied to the barren wastes of the Arabian desert, and in Romans 10: 7, to the grave. But the use which specially throws light upon the meaning of the word here is found in Genesis 1: 2, where we read that "darkness was upon the face of the deep." The word there rendered "deep" is the same word that is here rendered "bottomless pit," and the text might have been translated, "Darkness was upon the face of the abyss, or bottomless pit." We all know that the word "deep" as there used is applied to the earth in its chaotic state. Precisely this it must mean in this third verse of Revelation 20. Let it be borne in mind that at the time the angel does this work, the earth is a vast charnel house of desolation and death. The voice of God has shaken it to its foundations; the islands and mountains have been moved out of their places; the great earthquake has leveled to the earth the mightiest works of man; the seven last plagues have left their all-desolating trail over the earth; the burning glory attending the general desolation; the wicked have been given to the slaughter, and their putrefying flesh and bleaching bones lie unburied, ungathered, and unlamented from one end of the earth to the other.

Thus is the earth made empty and waste, and turned upside down. (Isaiah 24: 1.) Thus is it brought back again, partly at least, to its original state of confusion and chaos. (See Jeremiah 4: 19-26, especially verse 23.) What better term could be used to describe the earth thus rolling on in its course of darkness and desolation for a thousand years than that of abyss, or bottomless pit? Here Satan will be confined during this time, amid the ruins which indirectly his own hands have wrought, unable toe flee from his habitation of woe, or to repair in the least degree its hideous ruin.

Binding of Satan. We well know that Satan, in order to work, must have subjects upon whom to work. Without these, he can do nothing. But during the thousand years of his confinement to this earth, all the saints are in heaven beyond the power of his temptations, and all the wicked are in their graves beyond his power to deceive. His sphere of action is circumscribed, and thus is he bound, being condemned throughout this period to a state of hopeless inactivity. To a mind that has been as busy as his has been for the past six thousand years in deceiving the inhabitants of the world from generation to generation, this must be a punishment of the most intense severity.

According to this exposition, the "binding" of Satan means simply placing beyond his reach the subjects upon whom he works. His being "loosed" means their being brought again by a resurrection to a position where he can again exercise his power upon them. On this exposition some say that we have mistaken the personnel, and have the wicked bound, instead of the devil. Yet how often do we hear, in the daily transactions of life, such expressions as these: My way was completely hedged up. My hands were completely tied. but when persons use such expressions, do we imagine that some insurmountable obstacle was literally thrown across the path they were traveling, or that their hands were literally confined with ropes and cords? No; we understand that a combination of circumstances rendered it impossible for them to act. Even so here. Why will not people grant to the Bible the same liberty of speech that they give without question to their fellow men?

More than this, there is here a great limitation of Satan's power, which may well be called a "binding." He no longer has the power of traversing space and visiting other worlds, but like a man he is confined to this earth, which he nevermore leaves. The place of the ruin he has wrought now becomes his gloomy prison house until he is led out to execution at the end of the thousand years.

Verse 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Exaltation of the Saints. From the devil in his gloomy confinement, John now directs our attention to the saints in victory and glory, the saints reigning with Christ. Their employment is to assign to the wicked dead the punishment due their evil deeds. From that general assembly John then selects two classes as worthy of especial attention: the martyrs who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and those who had not worshiped the beast and his image. The latter class, those who refuse the mark of the beast and his image, are of course the ones who hear and obey the third angel's message of Revelation 14. But these are not the ones who are beheaded for the witness of Jesus, as some who claim that the last generation of saints are all to be slain, would have us believe. The word rendered "which," in the expression, "which had not worshiped the beast," shows that there is another class introduced. The word is the compound relative, {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, hotis, "whoever," not merely the simple relative {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, hos, "who," and is defined by Liddell and Scott, "Whosoever, whichsoever, any one who, anything which." As one class, John saw the martyrs, and as another he saw those who had not worshiped the beast and his image.

It is true that {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, hostis, is sometimes used as a simple relative as in 2 Corinthians 3: 14; Ephesians 1: 23, but never in such construction as this, where it is preceded by the conjunction {GREEK CHARACTERS IN PRINTED TEXT}, kai, "and."

Lest anyone should say that if we render the passage "and whosoever had not worshiped the beast," we thereby include millions of heathen and sinners who have not worshiped the beast, and promise them a reign of a thousand years with Christ, we could call attention to the fact that the preceding chapter states that the wicked had all been slain, and the seal of death had been set upon them for a thousand years. John is here viewing only the righteous company who have part in the first resurrection.

To avoid the doctrine of two resurrections, some claim that the passage, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished," is an interpolation, not found in the original, and hence not genuine. Even if this were so, it would not disprove the main proposition that the righteous dead are raised by themselves in a "first resurrection," and that there is a second resurrection a thousand years later, in which all the wicked are brought from their graves.

But the criticism is not true, for all scholarship is against it. The English Revised Version makes no reference to this text as being "not found" in ancient manuscripts. The American Revised Version does not give the slightest hint that a part of the text is omitted. Rotherham's translation, though noting elsewhere "doubtful" renderings, says nothing about this text being spurious. It is found in Tischendorfs eight editions of the Greek New Testament, and in the Greek text of Westcoot and Hort. The sentence occurs also in all the Greek New Testaments issued by the world-renowned critics. Griesbach, Wordsworth, Lachmann, Tregelles, and Alford. Three or four Greek manuscripts do not have this sentence; sixteen hundred and ninety-seven of them do contain it if they have the Revelation at all.

Two Resurrections. "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." Whatever may be said to the contrary, no language could more plainly prove two resurrections. The first is a resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the thousand years. The second is that of the wicked at the end of the millennium. On such as have part in the first resurrection, the second death will have no power. They can pass unharmed through the elements which destroy the wicked like chaff. They will be able to dwell with devouring fire and everlasting burnings. (Isaiah 33: 14, 15.) They will be able to go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men who have transgressed against the Lord, as the quenchless fire and undying worm are preying upon them. (Isaiah 66: 24.) The difference between the righteous and the wicked in this respect is seen again in the fact that while God is to the latter a consuming fire, He is to His people both a sun and a shield.

Wicked Raised to Life. The wicked who are raised at the end of the thousand years actually live again as they have once lived on the earth. To deny this is to do violence to this scripture. In what physical condition they will be raised, we are not informed. It is usual to say on this point that what we have lost unconditionally in Adam, is restored unconditionally in Christ. With respect to physical condition, this should not perhaps be taken in an unlimited sense, for the race has lost greatly in stature and vital force, which need not be restored to the wicked. If they are brought back to the average mental and physical condition which they possessed during life or the period of their probation, that would certainly be sufficient to enable them to receive understandingly the last judgment due them for all their deeds done while living here upon this earth.

Verse 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Perdition of Ungodly Men. At the end of the one thousand years, the holy city New Jerusalem, in which the saints have dwelt in heaven during that period, comes down and is located upon the earth. It then becomes the camp of the saints, around which the risen wicked gather, numberless as the sand of the sea. The devil deceives them, and thus brings them to this battle. They are induced to undertake an impious warfare upon the Holy City, in prospect of some advantage to be gained by fighting against the saints. Satan doubtless persuades them that they can overcome the saints, dispossess them of their city, and still hold possession of the earth. But fire comes down from God out of heaven, and devours them. The word here rendered "devoured," Moses Stuart admits is "intensive," and signifies "to eat up, devour, so that it denotes utter excision." [6]

This is the time of the perdition of ungodly men the time when "the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also," and when the works that are in the earth shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3: 7, 10.) In the light of these scriptures, we can see how the wicked are to received their recompense in the earth. (Proverbs 11: 31.) We can see also that this recompense is not eternal life in misery, but an "utter excision," entire and complete destruction.

The Wicked Never Tread the New Earth. Two views deserve a passing notice at this point. The first is that the earth is renewed at the Second Coming of Christ, and is the habitation of the saints during the thousand years. The other is that when Christ appears the second time, He sets up His kingdom in Palestine, and performs in connection with His saints a work of conquest over the nations left on the earth during the thousand years, and subdues them to Himself.

One among many objections to the first view is that it makes the wicked come up in their resurrection, and with the devil at their head, tread with their unhallowed feet upon the purified and holy earth, while the saints, who have held possession for a thousand years, are obliged to yield the ground, and flee into the city. We cannot believe that the saints' inheritance will ever be thus marred, or that the fair plains of the earth made new will ever be soiled with the polluting tread of the resuscitated wicked. Besides outraging all ideas of propriety, there is no scripture from which even an inference can be drawn to support this position.

As to the second view, one among many of its absurdities is that although Christ and His saints have conquered the earth during the thousand years, at the end of this period the wicked get the upper hand, they lose their territory, the work of a thousand years is undone, and they are compelled to beat an ignominious retreat into the city for shelter, leaving the earth to the undisputed sway of their foes.

A Thousand Years in Heaven. In contrast with these theories, there is harmony in the view herein presented. The saints are with Christ in heaven during the thousand years while the earth lies desolate. The saints and the city come down, and the wicked dead are raised and come up against it. There the latter receive their judgment. From the purifying fires which destroy them come forth the new heavens and the new earth, to be the abode of the righteous throughout endless ages.

Subjects of Torment. From verse 10, some have argued that the devil alone was to be tormented day and night, but the testimony of this verse includes more than that. The verb phrase "shall be tormented" is in the plural, and makes affirmation concerning the beast and the false prophet, whereas it would be in the singular number if it referred to the devil alone. It will be noticed in the expression, "where the beast and the false prophet are," that "are" is a supplied word. It would be more proper to supply the words "were cast," coordinating with what was spoken of the devil just before. A more exact translation, too, supplies the word "also" after "where." The sentence would then read, "The devil was cast into the lake of fire, where also the beast and the false prophet were cast." The beast and the false prophet were cast into the lake of fire and destroyed, at the beginning of the thousand years. (Revelation 19: 20.) The individuals of whom their organizations were then composed, now come up in the second resurrection, and a similar and final destruction is visited upon them under the names Gog and Magog.

The Lake of Fire. Some reader may be inclined to ask for a definition of the lake of fire. As a comprehensive definition, may it not be called a symbol of the agencies which God employs to close up His controversy with the living wicked at the beginning of the thousand years, and with all the hosts of the ungodly at the end of that period? Literal fire will of course be largely employed in this work. We can better describe its effects than the thing itself. At the Second Coming of Christ, it is the flaming fire in which the Lord Jesus is revealed, the spirit of His mouth, and brightness of His coming by which the man of sin is to be consumed, the fire in which great Babylon shall be utterly burned. (Revelation 18: 8.) At the end of the thousand years, it is that day that shall burn as an oven (Malachi 4: 1); it is the fervent heat that shall melt the elements and the earth, and burn up the works that are in it; it is the fire of Tophet prepared for the king (the devil and his angel, Matthew 25: 41), the pile whereof is deep and large, and which "the breathe of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle" (Isaiah 30: 33). In short, it is the fire that comes down from God out of heaven. (On the expression, "tormented day and night forever and ever," see comments on Revelation 14: 11.)

Verse 11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake offire.

A Throne of Judgment. With verse 11, John introduces another scene in connection with the final doom of the ungodly. It is the great white throne of judgment, before which they are assembled to receive their awful sentence of condemnation, and death. Before this throne the heavens and the earth flee away, so that no place is found for them. A moment's reflection on the changes which must then take place in the earth will bring out the great force of this language. The scene is that of Peter's burning day, which is the "perdition of ungodly men," and in which even the "elements" melt with fervent heat. (2 Peter 3: 7-13.)

Fire comes down from God out of heaven. The works that are in the world are burned up, and the wicked are destroyed. This is the fire of Gehenna, which contains all the elements necessary to consume utterly every mortal being that comes under its power. (Mark 9: 43-48.) Then will be fulfilled Isaiah 66: 24: "They [the righteous] shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenced: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

Then also will be fulfilled in Isaiah 33: 14: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" The answer in the following verses shows it to be the righteous. This must be the time to which Isaiah's questions and answers apply.

In all this conflagration the elements are not destroyed. They are only melted and purged from the taint of sin and every token of the curse. The almighty fiat then goes forth, "Behold, I make all things new.

. . . It is done." Revelation 21: 5, 6. At the first creation, "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Job 38: 7. At this new creation, that song and shout will be augmented by the glad voices of the redeemed. So will this earth, wrenched for a time by sin from its intended orbit of joy and peace, be brought back renewed into harmony with a loyal universe, to be the everlasting home of the saved.

The Books of the Record. Men are judged out of the things written in the books, from which we learn the solemn fact that a record of all our deeds is kept on high. A faithful and unerring record is made by the angelic secretaries. The wicked cannot conceal from them any of their deeds of darkness. They cannot bribe them to pass over in the record their unlawful acts. They must meet them again, and be judged accordingly.

Execution of the Sentence. The wicked are to be punished according to their works. The Scriptures declare that they shall be rewarded according to their deeds. That the degree of suffering which each one is to endure is taken into the account as a part of the punishment for his sins, is evident: "That servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Luke 12: 47, 48.

The Book of Life. Why, it may be asked is the book of life brought forth on this occasion, when all who have part in the second resurrection, beyond which this scene is located, are already forejudged to the second death? At least one apparent reason is that all may see that none of the names of all the multitude who die the second death are in the book of life, and why they are not there; and if the names have ever been there, why they are not retained. Thus all the intelligences of the universe may see that God acts with justice and impartiality.

It is stated also that "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Here is the final epitaph of all the forces from first to last that have risen up to oppose the will and work of the Lord. Satan originated and led out in this nefarious work. A part of heaven's angels joined him in his false position and murderous work, and for him and them the everlasting fire was prepared. (Matthew 25: 41.) Men become involved only because they join him in his rebellion. But here the controversy closes. The fire is to them everlasting because it allows of no escape, and of no cessation until they are consumed. The second death is their punishment, and it is "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25: 46) because they never find release from its dread embrace. "The wages of sin is death," not punishing forever. Roman 6: 23.

To sum up the argument, "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Reader, is your name written in the book of life? Are you striving to avert in your own case the fearful doom that awaits the ungodly? Rest no until you have reason to believe that your name is among those who are to share at last in eternal life.


[1]    William Jenks, The Comprehensive Commentary, Vol. I, p. 410, note on Leviticus 16: 8.

[2]    Charles Beecher, Redeemer and Redeemed, pp. 67, 68.

[3]    Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 366, art. "Azazel."

[4]    Albert Whalley, The Red Letter Days of Israel, p. 125

[5]    John Eadie, Biblical Cyclopaedia, p. 577, art. "Scape-Goat."

[6]    Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, Vol. II, p. 369.




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