Will Christ Reign for a Thousand Years? (Part III)
Will Christ reign for a thousand years after His return? What does Revelation 20:1-10 and related scriptures say about the binding, the loosing, and the final doom of Satan?
Revelation 20:1-10 is the only passage in the Bible which speaks of a thousand-year reign of Christ. Some people interpret this passage and various Old Testament prophecies to mean that after Christ’s return but before the great white throne judgment and the end of the world, He will bind Satan for a thousand years and then set up an earthly kingdom in Old Jerusalem and rule in righteousness. But does this interpretation agree with the overall teaching of the Bible? To say it another way, does the Bible teach a millennial age between this present age and the eternal state?
Thus far, we have considered three major reasons why this interpretation disagrees with the overall teaching of the Bible:
1. The events of the Second Coming are final.
2. The Bible speaks of this present reign of Christ as being the “last days,” not a future millennial reign.
3. The kingdom of God has already come.
So then the question is asked, if Revelation 20:1-10 does not teach a literal millennium after the Second Coming, what does it teach?
Although this subject may appear difficult and controversial, it is very important that believers thoroughly understand what Revelation 20:1-10 and related scriptures say about the binding, the loosing, and the final doom of Satan, thereby frustrating his deceitful plans. Victorious spiritual warfare against our enemy is only possible if we know his tactics and the limitations of his power. We should always be willing to learn new truth, examine old truth, and correct what was erroneously held as truth.
Revelation 20:1-3 speaks of Satan’s being bound and cast into the bottomless pit, but does it tell us when this event occurs?
No, it doesn’t. Thus the question arises: Has Satan already been bound, or will he be bound in the future? Either he was bound at Christ’s first coming, or he will be bound at Christ’s Second Coming. These are the two possibilities we will consider.
Since wickedness is increasing and since the Bible clearly warns believers about “the wiles of the devil” and his “fiery darts,” many suppose that Satan will be bound when Jesus returns that he should “deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20:1-3). According to chapter 19, however, it would be meaningless for Christ to bind Satan at His Second Coming because verses 11-21 describe Christ as returning in “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” to judge the nations and to slay all His enemies, even the remnant. Since this chapter describes the Second Coming as Judgment Day, what would be the purpose of Christ binding Satan then? Clearly, there won’t be any nations left for Satan to deceive.
Then too, Jesus emphatically declared that He is returning on the last day and that the last day is Judgment Day (John 6:39,40; 12:48).
On the other hand, in light of the way people are being deceived today, and with the increase of violence, drugs, and divorce, how can one believe that Satan has already been bound? We can best understand this difficult subject as a paradox.
A paradox is “a statement that seems to say something opposite to common sense or the truth, but which may contain a truth.” For instance, Scripture says that Satan is bound and that his works are destroyed while it also says that he goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (Rev. 20:2; 1 John 3:8; 1 Peter 5:8). Another illustration of a paradox is found in Matthew 7:1 and 1 Corinthians 2:15. Jesus commanded, “Judge not” while Paul exhorted, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” Finding the true meaning of any biblical paradox is not easy; one must patiently and diligently compare scripture with scripture.
What exactly does the rest of the Bible say about the binding of Satan?
Let’s first consider the words of Jesus. He said, “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man [Satan]; and then he will spoil his house” (Mark 3:27). (The Greek word for bind is the same verb for “bound” that is used in Rev. 20:2.) This account is also recorded in Matthew 12:28,29 and Luke 11:21,22. Thus, three Gospels plainly speak of Jesus’ binding Satan at His first coming. These verses show that it was necessary for Christ to bind Satan before He could enter his domain and spoil his goods, that is, deliver his subjects—the souls of men.
Next, consider the words of the apostles who also taught that Satan was bound at Christ’s first coming. In fact, the same apostle John who writes about the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 records that at Calvary Satan was “judged” or “cast out” (John 16:11; 12:31). In fact, John recorded Jesus’ statement that Satan would be “cast out” as ruler of this world “now,” that is, at the cross, not thousands of years in the future (John 12:31). John added that “the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Further evidence that Jesus defeated Satan at Calvary is revealed by John in Revelation 12:1-11. This passage of Scripture speaks not only of Christ’s birth and victorious ascension to His throne, but of His triumph over Satan. Four times it speaks of Satan’s being “cast out” or “cast down,” which parallels Satan’s being cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:3). Since this passage definitely associates Satan’s defeat with the coming of salvation (purchased for believers on the cross), with the kingdom of God, and with believers’ overcoming by Jesus’ blood, there can be no doubt that Christ bound Satan at His first coming.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:6,7, Paul taught that evil and lawlessness, the works of Satan, are currently being restrained.
Furthermore, it was prophesied in the Old Testament that Satan would be defeated at Christ’s first coming:
• Genesis 3:15 reads, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This prophecy tells how Christ, the seed of the woman, would bruise the head of the serpent, which is Satan. The New Testament indicates that this prophecy was fulfilled at Calvary—“That through death he might destroy [Greek, ‘render powerless’] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
• According to Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1 shows that Jesus came to liberate souls from Satan’s captivity: Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
We have observed, then, that the Lord Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets witnessed that Jesus bound Satan at His first coming. In fact, as you may have already noticed, they described Satan’s defeat through Christ’s death and resurrection in equally strong or stronger terms, such as: having his head bruised (Gen. 3:15); being cast out and judged (John 12:31,32; 16:11; Rev. 12:7-11); spoiled and triumphed over (Col. 2:15). Also, his works were destroyed (1 John 3:8). Then too, the Bible declares that fallen angels are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment” (Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4). Furthermore, our Lord has “the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18) and has given the Church “the keys of the kingdom” and “power over all the power of the enemy” (Matt. 16:19; Luke 10:19).
Therefore, we are not looking for Satan’s defeat in the future. That has already been fulfilled at Calvary. Jesus truly defeated Satan by His sinless life, His atoning death, and His triumphant resurrection.
Someone has said that Jesus truly is stronger than the strong man “because He met Satan in the wilderness and overcame him; stronger, because all through His life He met the demons and cast them out; stronger, because in the hour of His weakness on the cross, He took a man from the very jaws of hell and carried him to Paradise; stronger, because He went up to heaven triumphant over the powers of hell.”
How do we know this? Having triumphed over Satan, Jesus has all
power in heaven and earth, not Satan (Matt. 28:18). The apostle
Paul proclaimed, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose,
and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom.
14:9; Acts 10:42). As King eternal, Jesus Christ is seated upon
God’s “holy hill of Zion” and has dominion unto “the
uttermost parts of the earth” (1 Tim. 1:17; Psa. 2:6-8; 110:1,2).
Jesus “is [not will be] Lord of lords and King of
kings” (Rev. 17:14). He is “the Prince [ruler] of the
kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5) and the “King of saints” (Rev.
In Psalm 22:28, David not only prophesied about the sufferings of the Messiah, but that “the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor [ruler] among the nations.” Jesus is in control of every name that is named (Eph. 1:19). He is now “ruling in the midst of his enemies” (Psa. 110:2) and when He returns, all His enemies will be destroyed. Yet, some find it difficult to comprehend that in a very real sense Satan is already bound. Perhaps they associate the binding of Satan with his being totally incapable of deceiving or tempting anyone.
How can Satan be bound and yet be active at the same time?
We know that Satan’s power is not totally limited. Paul recorded that even though Antichrist is restrained (the words withholdeth and let mean to “hinder” or “restrain”), “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:7,8). And John, who recorded that the Antichrist is in the bottomless pit prior to being loosed (Rev. 11:7; 17:8), also declared: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). “And this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3).
Clearly, then, while the apostles taught that the Antichrist is “restrained” and “shall come,” they also taught that “even now” there are “many antichrists” and that the “mystery of iniquity doth already work.” These scriptures definitely speak of sin and lawlessness working even while the
Antichrist is restrained and in the bottomless pit. Keeping in mind that it is Satan’s power which works through the Antichrist, we can understand how Satan can be bound and yet be active at the same time.
Thus, we have seen that interpreting Revelation 20:1-3 as being fulfilled at Christ’s first coming agrees with the apostle John’s overall teaching and that of Jesus and the apostle Paul.
What is meant by Satan’s being bound to “deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20:3)?
To understand this truth, we must interpret the Bible consistently with itself, not by our own feelings, nor by human reasoning or the traditions of men. By looking at scriptures which link Satan’s defeat with Christ’s first coming and God’s plan for the nations, we will better comprehend the sense in which Satan is bound.
“In times past,” that is, before Christ’s first coming, God “suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” and “winked” at their “ignorance” (Acts 14:16; 17:30). The light of God’s Word, for the most part, was restricted to the tiny nation of Israel. The Gentile nations “at that time” were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11,12). Since the Bible describes “the dark places of the earth” as being “full of the habitations of cruelty” (Psa. 74:20), one can imagine the miseries of the Gentile nations who walked in total spiritual darkness.
Christ’s first coming, therefore, brought “good tidings of great joy . . . to all people” (Luke 2:10). He came as “a light to lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) and to “redeem their soul from deceit and violence” (Psa. 72:14). As a result, “the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matt. 4:16).
It is significant that when “certain Greeks” came seeking Jesus, He declared, “Now shall the prince of this world [Satan] be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die” (John 12:31-33). Thus, it becomes clear that Jesus defeated Satan at Calvary for the express purpose of delivering not only Greeks but “all men” from Satan’s deceptive power, to draw them to Himself.
This is exactly what happened after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. On the Day of Pentecost, “men out of every nation under heaven” heard the gospel, and about three thousand souls were added to the Church (Acts 2:5-41). Later, five thousand men heard and believed the Word of God. We also read of the conversion of Samaritans (Acts 8:5); of an Ethiopian (Acts 8:37); of Italians (Acts 10:1, 44-48); and of Greeks (Acts 11:20,21). Thus, evangelism started at Jerusalem and eventually spread “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Truly, the kingdom of God has been spreading (like a stone growing into a large mountain) throughout the world so that people from every nation can become part of His kingdom (Dan. 2:35,44; Matt. 13:31,32). Today souls continue being redeemed by Christ’s blood “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9) as “repentance and remission of sins” is preached “among all nations” (Luke 24:47).
Therefore, Satan’s being bound to “deceive the nations no more” does not mean that Satan is curtailed from all activity, but that he can no longer deceive the nations (the Gentiles) as he did before Christ’s first coming.
Satan cannot prevent the gospel from going to the ends of the earth. Jesus Christ has been given all power over Satan (Matt. 28:18); thus, Jesus’ servants can go forth into Satan’s territory and preach the gospel so that they “in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds” might see “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Then too, Satan has become severely limited in his power to hold men in his captivity. As we have already seen, Jesus spoke of binding Satan with regard to spoiling Satan’s goods (Matt. 12:29), which means to deliver the souls of men from Satan’s captivity. When Jesus “ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8), that is, He delivered souls from the captivity of Satan and led them forth to become His captives, to serve Him in love.
If Jesus set the captive free, why are so many people yet held in Satan’s captivity?
There are two main reasons why Satan holds souls in bondage: (1) truth, which counteracts the lies of Satan and sets souls free, is not preached (John 8:32); (2) people are unwilling to turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. Since the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16), whoever hears the truth and obeys it will be set free “out of the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:25,26).
Those who do not obey the gospel, therefore, have only themselves to blame for remaining in their sins; they cannot blame the devil. Moreover, God holds them accountable and will judge them when Jesus is revealed (2 Thess. 1:7-9; John 3:18, 19; Rom. 2:4-6).
Aren’t many Christians backsliding because Satan is going about as a “roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8)?
Not necessarily. When taken together with verse nine, which says, “whom resist stedfast in the faith,” we see that Satan is bound in the sense that he is restrained. Although he comes as a roaring lion ready to devour, he cannot as much as touch the weakest believer who steadfastly resists him by faith. The Bible also says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Notice who does the fleeing!
Sometimes fallen believers may try to justify their sin by saying, “Satan made me do it,” but God holds each one of us accountable for our own sins because sin is a choice, an act of the will. It is not a matter of compulsion. It is always avoidable.
Moreover, while we know Satan is a tempter, we cannot blame him if we sin because the New Testament clearly teaches that we must give no place to the devil (Eph. 4:27); that we should resist the devil (James 4:7); and that we should put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:10-18). When believers fail to do these things, they themselves give Satan an advantage over them.
Satan absolutely cannot lead believers astray unless they give place to him. By faithfully abiding in Christ and obeying His Word, believers can always be victorious. The apostle Paul testified that “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). And the apostle John declared, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).
Lastly, as we shall yet discuss more fully, Satan cannot deceive entire nations (as he did before Calvary) and organize them against God’s people until such a time as God allows Satan to be loosed.
What is the significance of Satan being bound for “a thousand years” (Rev. 20:3)?
Some Christians claim that they hold to the teaching of a literal thousand-year reign after the Second Coming because they take all Scripture literally, without exception. Numbers in the Bible are not always used literally, however. “Thousand” is often used symbolically in Scripture to mean a great number: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, . . . but it shall not come nigh thee” (Psa. 91:7). “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). See also Eccl. 6:6; Psa. 50:10; 105:8. According to Webster’s Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word thousand is “a very great number.” Also, according to A Dictionary of Theological Terms by M. E. Manton, “the number one thousand represents completeness, i.e., the whole period between the first and the second coming of Christ.”
In addition, nowhere does the Bible teach that the thousand years occurs after the Second Coming. In fact, that interpretation of Scripture is not consistent with the “literal” interpretation of John 6:39,40 and 12:48, which shows that Jesus is coming to resurrect His saints and to judge the world on the “last day.” Clearly, there cannot be a thousand years after the Last Day, which is Judgment Day.
Since the binding of Satan began with Christ’s first coming, it follows that the thousand years also began with His first coming and extends until “a little season” before the Second Coming. Therefore, the thousand years, as recorded in Revelation 20, symbolizes a long period of time before Christ’s return and are part of the present reign of Christ.
To sum up, concerning whether Satan has been bound in the past or will be bound in the future, we have considered five scriptural reasons to believe that Satan has already been bound:
1. Satan cannot possibly be bound in the future, because after the Second Coming, there won’t be any nations left for Satan to deceive and time will be no more. Thus, his being bound would be irrelevant.
2. Jesus Himself linked the binding of Satan to His first coming.
3. The apostles taught that Satan has already been defeated by Christ.
4. It was prophesied in the Old Testament that Satan would be bound at Christ’s first coming.
5. The overall teaching of the Bible demonstrates that Satan has already been bound and cast out.
We have also considered the significance of Satan’s being bound. His power is restrained or limited. He cannot deceive the nations of the world to the degree that he once did. He cannot prevent the gospel from being spread to all nations. He cannot hold men in his captivity when the truth is preached and obeyed. He cannot prevent salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ from coming into the hearts of men when they believe (Rev. 12:9,10). He cannot cause believers to sin as long as they abide in Christ and give no place to him. He cannot totally deceive and organize all the nations and kings of the earth to come against Christ and His Church until he is loosed.
Clearly, then, there is no scriptural support for the idea that Satan will be bound at the Second Coming.
This message is available by tape or CD. For your free copy, call 540-387-1916. Ask for tape or CD #112—The Binding of Satan—When Does it Occur? Once again, the number to call is 540-387-1916. Also,
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Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. Hear more scriptural answers to timely questions: When will Satan be “loosed a little season” and for what purpose? When will Satan meet his final doom? Don’t miss this all important subject. Invite a friend to listen with you. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.