Jesus came in order “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hb 2:14,15).
Keep that statement in mind as we journey into what we assume might be one of the only statements of Scripture that could give some hint concerning the social conditions of the world before the end of all things at the final coming of Jesus.
The Hebrew writer clearly revealed the purpose for the first coming of the incarnate Son of God into this world. He came to deliver all of us who were held in the bondage sin. The serendipity of deliverance from this bondage was deliverance from the fear of death through a future bodily resurrection. Therefore, the gospel, and the preaching thereof, frees anyone of humanity who would seek to be delivered from both the bondage of sin and physical death. The deliverance from the bondage of physical death will transpire in the last day when all who are in graves will hear the voice of King Jesus when He comes to finalize all things.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus prepared those who were in the bondage of death. “This is the Father’s will who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (Jn 6:39). Therefore, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and will come forth” (Jn 5:28). Jesus gave hope to those who were walking in the bondage of physical death. Therefore, He promised that there would be a time when they would come out of their graves.
The gospel message of the bodily resurrection makes the gospel of the atoning cross make sense. Now consider this. Those who are in the bondage of sin and physical death can have hope only when they hear and obey the gospel of the cross. Their experience of resurrection from the grave of baptism is prophetic of the time in the future when they will experience the gospel of the final resurrection of the body. The gospel of the cross, therefore, makes no sense unless there will be an eventual deliverance from the bondage of physical death. There is thus an inherent truth in this: When the gospel of the cross and resurrection cease to be preached to those on this earth, then there is no reason to continue a world that is in the bondage of the fear of death. The end of the world will come when the world population ceases to be the opportunity for the populating of eternal heaven with gospel-obedient people.
Now we must venture into speculation as to when this end of the world will come. This introduces us to the message of Revelation 20. The background for what is revealed in this text was introduced with one statement that Jesus made concerning the purpose for His incarnation into this world: “How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Mt 12:29).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus was in the business of binding Satan in order to plunder his house. The plundering was finally realized at the cross, and subsequently revealed to the world by the apostles on the day of Pentecost (At 2). The binding began when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Three days later He was raised from the death in order to give hope to all those who were living in the bondage of sin and the fear of death.
A permanently dead Savior would be no Savior at all in reference to sin. Neither would this Savior give any hope of a future resurrection. The incarnate Son of God was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, which redeeming sacrifice was declared effective by the resurrection (Jn 1:29). He is thus the resurrection and the life for all those who would obey the good news of His incarnate offering at the cross (Jn 11:25,26).
It was when the seventy disciples returned from being sent out by Jesus on a limited commission that the light started to come on in their minds concerning the power that would be released through them in their future mission. They began to understand that Jesus was the One who would bind the power of Satan, and thus cast him down. Upon their return to Jesus, the disciples rejoicingly reported, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Lk 10:17). Jesus knew that they needed a life experience of what was to come.
Now we must not forget that Jesus saw in the near future the event about which He spoke to the disciples at that time: “I saw Satan fall from heaven as lightening” (Lk 10:18). Now we must not miss the metaphor of this statement. This statement is not talking about the literal fall of Satan as an angel from heaven. That subject was explained in other texts (See Rv 12:7-9). In this text Jesus revealed Satan’s fall from having the power of the fear of sin and death over man. His fall would be as lightening strikes from the heavens. Lightening strikes with a flash, in a moment, and in the twinkling of an eye. What we must not forget is that at the cross when Jesus said, “It is finished,” Satan fell as a flash from his throne of power over humanity (Jn 19:30).
In response to this statement, and the disciples’ experience of casting out demons on their limited commission, Jesus referred them to a promise of power that He would give to them in the near future. “I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. And nothing will by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19). This statement rings with metaphors, though one thing is literally clear. What Jesus would eventually give to His disciples would eventually empower them over all the power of the Devil. Therefore, we are reminded of what Paul wrote to the Roman disciples concerning this power, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes” (Rm 1:16).
Paul’s Romans 1:16 commentary on what Jesus said to the seventy is revealing. It is the power of the gospel that strikes down Satan from his spiritual reign over humanity. All those who hear and obey the gospel have delivered themselves from the bondage of sin, as well as the fear of death. They are free from any power that Satan might have to influence their lives in any manner. This message is so clear and powerful in reference to the ministry of Jesus, that when Jesus was coming to the end of His earthly ministry, and with the cross within sight, He proclaimed to His disciples, “Now is the judgment of this world. Now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (Jn 12:31). At the atoning death of the cross, Jesus cast down Satan as lightening and bound him with the gospel of God’s grace. The disciples would continue the casting down through the power of the gospel.
Now we come to the book of Revelation that was written several decades after the casting down of Satan from his reign over men through the power of sin and physical death. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, He “disarmed principalities and powers. He made a public display of them, triumphing over them” through the power of the gospel (Cl 2:15). We who have obeyed the gospel thus reign in this life with our King (Rm 5:17; 2 Tm 2:11,12). Therefore, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37).
In this age of preaching the gospel nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rm 8:28-39). We are living in the age where Satan has been cast down, and thus is bound by the “chain” of the gospel. He no longer reigns supreme over humanity by the power of sin and the fear of death. He may go about as a roaring lion (1 Pt 5:8), but he has no power over the gospel-obedient servants of King Jesus. Satan has been cast down. He has been imprisoned by the gospel. He is kept down by the gospel.
So John reveals in Revelation 20 that this age that began at the time of Satan’s casting down through the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, will continue until the Son comes again. This is indeed the “one-thousand-year gospel reign” of King Jesus. In order to emphasize this gospel reign, the book of Revelation is a series of seven repetitious cycles of the reign of the Son of God that started with His mission to come into this world in order to wage war against the enemy of humanity. Each vision takes the reader closer to the finalization of all things before King Jesus arrives on the scene.
Revelation 20 is the last of the seven cycles of this gospel war in reference to the victory of the Messenger from heaven over all the power of Satan. It is at the conclusion of this vision that John takes us to the end of all things. The incarnate Son of God initially came with power over Satan who had deceived the world from the days of the Garden of Eden. The binding “chain” was revealed at the cross, and subsequently preached to the world by the early disciples. It was preached in order to deliver from the fear of death those who had to walk in this world what was infested with the consequences of Adam’s fall.
As a Messenger from heaven, the incarnate Son of God came with a gospel “chain” by which He could bind “that old serpent who is the Devil and Satan” (Rv 20:1,2). The Messenger from heaven “bound him for a thousand years” (Rv 20:2). “Then he cast him into the abyss and shut him up, and set a seal on him so that he should not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished” (Rv 20:3). Those who have turned from the deception of the roaring lion “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rv 20:4). “But the rest of the dead [who did not obey the gospel], did not live until the thousand years [of the gospel reign of Jesus] were finished” (Rv 20:5).
We are now living in the “thousand year” reign of King Jesus. Those who have obeyed the gospel, and thus experienced the first resurrection from the waters of baptism (Rm 6:6), now reign with King Jesus (Rm 5:17; 2 Tm 2:11,12). Those who have not experienced this first resurrection—those who have not obeyed the gospel—will not be raised until the time when Jesus comes again. It is then the prophecy of what Jesus revealed in the context of John 5:25-29 will come to pass. On that occasion, Jesus said to His surprised audience, “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and will come forth” (Jn 5:28,29).
We conclude, therefore, that we are now living during what is described metaphorically in Revelation 20 as the one-thousand year reign. This is not a specific duration of years in consecutive 24-hour days. Those who move into literal interpretations in reference to understanding the letter of Revelation, not only violate the principle of figurative language (metaphors) by which John said he wrote the book, but they also find themselves caught up in endless contradictions (See Rv 1:1; 22:6). This is especially true when the literalists try to consistently understand Revelation 20. To be consistent, they must put literal chains in the hand of Jesus. They must find some literal dragon. They must find some abyss, or bottomless pit, which is an impossibility. They must consider the one thousand years to be literal 24-hour days, which one thousand years, therefore, have already passed since the binding of Satan at the cross in A.D. 30.
Therefore, in order to be consistent in our understanding of Revelation 20, we must understand that the one-thousand-year reign is metaphorical of the era in which we are now living, which era is now at least two thousand years in length. This is the “gospel dispensation.” This dispensation started at the cross and will continue until the gospel is no longer preached or received by those of this world. Once this time comes, then it is time for the end of this world.
Now if our preceding conclusions are correct, then we are left with a challenge to understand the last sentence of Revelation 20:3: “And after that [the one-thousand-year reign] he [Satan] must be released for a little time.” We would suggest that the interpretation of this “loosing of Satan” be made in view of some deductive conclusions. Therefore consider first that the purpose for the creation of the world, and all humanity, is to produce for eternity those who would live by faith. During the one-thousand-year reign, these would be those who believe on Jesus and obey the gospel in order to experience the first resurrection. We are living in this time of opportunity where the gospel is freely preached in order to produce candidates for heaven.
Satan is bound by the gospel throughout this “one thousand” year dispensation. He and his kingdom of darkness are continually kept bound and down when the gospel is preached to all the world. When the church is evangelistic, therefore, the kingdom of Satan is weakened by each person who obeys the gospel. But when the church fails in its responsibility to preach the gospel, then the reverse is true.
The one thousand years of gospel evangelism will thus continue until Satan is loosed. If Satan is bound by the gospel, then he is loosed when the gospel is not preached. The loosing of Satan, therefore, can happen when two things occur within the civilization of this present world: (1) When people become unreceptive to the preaching of the gospel, as it was during the days of Noah, then Satan reigns through deception and lies (See Gn 6:5). (2) When disciples stop preaching the gospel, then people are no longer able to hear and obey the gospel. If people do not experience the first resurrection through obedience of the gospel, then they will remain “dead” until the final coming when Jesus concludes the existence of the world.
In both of the preceding cases, the purpose for which the world was created is terminated after the “little time” when Satan has been allowed to run free without being bound by the preaching of the gospel. It is then that the one thousand-year dispensation is finished. It is then that it would be time for Jesus to come and terminate this world. Therefore, when the world is no longer receptive to the gospel, or the gospel is no longer preached, “then comes the end.”
One of the frightful realities about the Covid-19 pandemic was that the preaching of the gospel, outside the Internet, was/is greatly hindered. There was/is almost no personal preaching of the gospel during the lockdown. The draconian restrictions that were placed on those whose responsibility it was/is to preach the gospel hindered public preaching in many places around the world. For the Christian, his or her understanding of “lockdown” meant that the preaching of the gospel was often terminated at different places in this world. Because of the hysteria that was produced by the news media and Internet, people were stricken with fear. Thus in fear they brought themselves into the bondage of their own homes.
People now speak of a new era in which we must behave differently in our relationships with one another. Because of the harsh restrictions that are now placed on the assemblies of churches, Christians are moving into an era where one-another relationships are being strained. Is this the new era in which people will refuse to obey the gospel because they are afraid of coming into contact others at the Lord’s Supper in assembly? Are the assemblies of the disciples impossible because of social distancing? Has Satan been loosed into the world where the one-thousand-year gospel reign of King Jesus is almost brought to a close? If so, then Satan has truly been loosed from bondage.
If the preceding thoughts are all true, then at least one thing has been aroused in the hearts of those who know and love King Jesus. They feel as John concluded the book of Revelation after witnessing in the visions all the despair that was coming upon the early Christians by the atheistic state of the Roman Empire. John concluded, “He [Jesus] who testifies these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so [John responded], come, Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20). If the post Covid-19 era is so full of restrictions that we cannot function as the organic body of Christ in this world, then we would agree with John. “Lord Jesus, bring on what’s next.”
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Book 77: RISE & FALL OF CIVILIZATIONS
Book 93: A CERTAIN DESTINY