The Lord Jesus Christ has defeated the Beast, the Roman Empire, and the false prophet, the various mouths of the emperor cult (19:18-21). What comes next? These lines give in very general contours the progress of our Savior’s kingdom from the destruction of the old Roman Empire until he returns again in glory to throw Satan in hell forever. Remember that our Savior’s primary weapon is the sword of his mouth, the preaching of his gospel and the daily witness of his growing army of disciples. This whole period is described as the “Millennium,” or the 1,000 year reign of Christ. It is my belief that we are presently in that reign, as our Savior told his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27), proclaimed at his ascension (Matt. 28:18-20), and publicly declared at Pentecost (Acts 2:30-36). What are we to expect throughout this period? How will it end? These lines help us understand – a little. In good Old Testament fashion, we are given glimpses – like lightning flashes that help us see the horizon more clearly. The Lord encourages us by these flashes to be faithful and “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
The Binding of Satan (vv. 1-3)
Jesus Christ Bound Satan (Matt. 12:29; John 12:29-31; Col. 2:15)
The clearest way to understand the binding of Satan is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, the clearer to illumine the less clear. Our Lord stated that he was able to “spoil Satan’s house” because he had bound the strong man (Matt. 12:29). He added later that at the cross he would judge Satan and cast him down (John 12:29-31). In his life, he defeated Satan by the Word of God (Matt. 4:1-11); by his death, he destroyed the devil’s works (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). By his ascension, his victory over Satan was completed (Col. 2:15), and he “spoiled principalities and powers.” Thus, this binding of Satan is the work of Jesus Christ our Lord by which he, the “mighty angel who came down from heaven,” met and defeated Satan, cast him out of heaven, and bound him so that he would not deceive the nations as he had done from Eden to Calvary. It is a most glorious declaration of our Savior’s victory, and his victory over Satan in his life, death, and resurrection must govern our understanding of this passage.
Gospel Progress during Christ’s Reign
The world laughs at the sword of Jesus’ mouth. The Bible will beat us? Preaching is God’s power unto salvation? Christian witness to God’s grace, repentance from sins, and godliness will overcome the allure of pleasure and perversity? Yes. Why is this? Jesus Christ has entered his glory and kingdom. The 1,000 years are symbolic of the entire period of time until Jesus Christ returns. During this period, until near the end, Satan’s deceiving power is curtailed, for he is sealed up in the abyss. He can be resisted! Imagine that. How in the world can it be said that if “we resist the devil, he will flee?” Our Savior has defeated and bound him. When the gospel goes out purely, not the name-it-and-claim-it false gospel or progressivism or ritualism, but the true gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the devil is powerless to stop its advance. Speak the word, for Christ is King, not the devil. Stand fast for God’s truth, for Christ, not man, is King. The gospel will progress and the nations will be discipled, for Satan is bound. The church’s greatest missionary endeavors, past and present, are the direct fulfillment of the binding of Satan. Some peoples remain outside the influence of the gospel, which shows that the devil is not inactive during this period, but the Lord Jesus is reigning, marching, judging, and saving, until all his sheep are gathered into his fold. The nations, the Gentile peoples, men and women from every tongue, tribe, and family will be discipled to Jesus Christ, as we see happening each day.
The 1,000 Year Reign of Jesus Christ (vv. 4-6)
The Saints Reign with Christ: Daniel 7 Background
But so many believers died in those first three centuries. Many were beheaded, which was the Roman way of disposing of the lowest of the low. What of them? Daniel 7:22 promises that when Messiah takes his seat at the Father’s right hand, the saints will then rule with him. Though the Roman beast spoke great words against the saints, his judgment was taken away. Being beheaded cannot prevent the saints from rising to heaven to reign with Christ. And with them will be all in heaven and on earth who do not worship the image of the beast or have his mark on their foreheads. They will “live and reign” with Christ for 1,000 years. The church is one in Christ her head – the martyrs and the confessors, the faithful on earth throughout the millennial reign of Christ. They are alive in Christ; they have experienced the first resurrection. This is equivalent to the new birth. Our Lord Jesus said: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). By the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again by the word of Jesus Christ, raised to new life by faith in him. The first resurrection that all believers experience during Christ’s millennial reign is that they hear his voice and leave the grave of sin and death. And, in heaven or on earth, we reign with him as a kingdom of priests, even those who suffer horrible persecution and mockery for their allegiance to the Lord Jesus.
The First Resurrection and Its Blessing
But the rest of the dead – the unbelieving world that refuses to hear the word of Jesus Christ and submit to his reign (Eph. 2:1) – they remain dead. They do not live. “The name of the wicked will rot” (Prov. 10:7). The Lord Jesus will raise them to everlasting shame and judgment at the end of his millennial reign. But those who are regenerated by his Spirit – rejoice!! Blessed are those who are part of the first resurrection. Take this seriously, child of God. The world may hate you, and Satan may be hounding you, but you are blessed. You are alive with Jesus Christ, raised and reigning with him (Eph. 2:5-6). The second death – everlasting destruction in hell – has no power over you. You are delivered from condemnation and judgment. You are a priest of God, a king with Jesus Christ. How differently the Holy Spirit tells us to identify ourselves! We are not our sins, or our family connections, or our bank accounts, or our outward appearance – we are children of the Most High God, raised and reigning with Jesus Christ, even if you are in the worst circumstances imaginable. You are not dead, but alive. You are not a dead worldling, but a living disciple of the Lamb of God. Rejoice. Embrace God’s identity, his blessing upon your life. If you are on the fence or have not yet made peace with Jesus Christ, come to him or remain dead – dead to all that is good, dead to God, dead to hope, and dead to heaven. But Jesus Christ will make you alive. He was dead, but he is alive forevermore. Come to him and have life (John 5:40). If you are alive in him, walk by the Spirit and live by the faith of him (Gal. 2:20; 5:25). You will know more of his life and power, for he will reveal himself to you (John 14:21).
The Loosing and Defeat of Satan (vv. 7-10)
Satan Loosed and the Tares Gathered
We do not know how long this millennial period will last. “1,000” is a large, symbolic number -- 103 – so it may be that Christ’s gospel reign will last many thousands of years. During this period, the implication is that the Christian faith will grow more and more widespread, with increasing blessings for the peoples of the world. This is not the growth of forced conversions and ecclesiastical hierarchies but the new birth and true faith. We may have many thousands of years before Jesus Christ returns. There are many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, especially the fullness of the Gentiles being converted and the salvation of the Jews. There is much godliness yet to be gained. The church has been slow to learn, to take one example, that our weapons are not carnal and worldly but spiritual. We have too often forced Christ’s gospel into our narrow cultural and economic and political concerns, turning it into something very different. We must learn again the power of the preaching of Christ’s word. Some branches are learning it better than others. We must also go everywhere speaking the word, for this is the sword of Christ’s mouth. In every place there is so much more room for the growth of Christ’s gospel kingdom in souls, families, communities, and whole peoples. However long this reign of Christ lasts, there will be a period near the end in which the Lord will loose Satan from his restraints. He will resume his work of deception with renewed liberty – for a short time. There will be still be those men and nations during Christ’s kingdom that are not brought under his royal scepter, and these Satan will gather for one last stand against Jesus Christ and his church.
The Camp of the Saints Surrounded
Gog and Magog represent the “barbarian hordes,” as in Ezekiel. These are the peoples of the world who never submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are numerous “as the sand of the sea.” It does not mean they are a majority of the earth’s population, but they are at least a significant minority. The progress of the gospel during our Savior’s reign does not mean that everyone or every nation will be converted. In some places, unbelievers will remain dominant – marginalized and forced by public pressure to give quiet obeisance to the gospel and the Christian way of life, but never willingly or joyfully. There will be a progressively evident Christ-allegiance on earth, but not a universal allegiance. The deceived hordes will gather together against the “camp of the saints.” The church will come under siege, for a time. God’s “beloved city” will face one last battle, but it is a battle that never takes place. Fire from heaven, which I take to mean the coming of our Savior in glory (2 Thess. 2:8), will destroy this final gathering of the tares. Satan and his followers will be thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet already are. Odd that none of Christ’s later enemies are named. John is only given a glance at the future. It is more important that we are encouraged to be faithful to our Savior than that we are given every detail. This would diminish the importance of walking by faith and watching unto prayer day and night so that he does not find us asleep when he comes (Luke 12:37).
Take Seriously the Victory of Jesus Christ
Someone may have asked you, “What is your eschatology?” They are asking your view of the “end times.” A more biblical way of looking at eschatology is to consider our view of history. What do we think of the progress of the gospel between Christ’s ascension to rule over all and his visible return to consummate history and bring in the new heavens and earth? Is future earthly history bleak or glorious? Will the gospel prevail or lose? Does Jesus Christ reign, or the devil? God’s people have given a variety of answers to these questions. I hope you can see from this passage that an overarching teaching of the Holy Spirit is that Satan is not the ruler of this world or of history. He certainly works in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2) and lords it over the rebellious (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 John 3:10). But in terms of what is happening in the world, what is allowed to happen, and whose plan is being worked out, our passage gives a clear answer: Jesus Christ. He has bound the strong man. Satan is currently sealed in the abyss, curtailed from deceiving the nations in mass so that the gospel can go forward. The gospel is going forward, and Satan can be effectively resisted.
Resist the Devil: The Way to Overcome, Marginalize Evil
Popular Christian thinking gives far more power to the devil than it does to Jesus Christ. The devil is not to be ignored or trifled with, as unbelievers do when they raise statues or profess to worship him. Yet, if you and I can resist him by God’s word, then something has definitely changed since the days of the old covenant. If he must flee when we resist in faith (James 4:7), then there is a new sheriff in town, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of Satan’s best tools is the hopeless thinking that sin and evil are more powerful in time and space than Jesus Christ. This is a shocking thought, but it can assault the believer’s faith. Have we given up fighting sin in our lives and families? What is our expectation when we pray for righteousness and against sin in the lives of our families and the church? Do we expect Jesus Christ to be for us who he is – the reigning King? Or, has the oil of hope and gladness run out of our lamps? It is an important question, for “whatever is not of faith is sin.” The reign of Jesus Christ and his victory over the devil means that you and I are not permitted to credit Satan with more power than he has. We sin against God’s grace and covenant when we think that there is no hope for us in the battle against sin.
And yet, many do. Ask yourself: am I still praying and fighting? Am I using God’s word, meditating upon it, and using it as Christ’s own sword? Do I really believe that if I resist the devil in faith – on my face before my Father, trusting his promises and power, and casting all my burdens upon him – that the devil must flee? And why must he flee? Because “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” He must flee not because we are so much smarter than the saints of old. We live in better days than they did, for Jesus Christ, having died and rose again, has entered his kingdom and glory (Luke 24:26). He must flee because the Son of God our Savior has crushed his skull, broken his deceitful dominion, and established his salvation throne of refuge in heaven. This is the way his kingdom moves forward – when we take Jesus Christ seriously in his exalted glory at the Father’s right hand. Do not expect the world to do so, your children to do so, or your neighbors, unless we are taking his dominion, his victory, his glory, his beautiful person, and his present power seriously. This requires daily fellowship with him. He must be our Lord so that we are seeking and doing what he says in his word and seeking his strength. Then, in his strength and grace, he will bring forth abundant fruit in us – joyful obedience, hopeful warfare, and trusting prayer. This is all from Christ. He asks you to bring nothing to the fight. He has already won it. He is our faithful Captain and compassionate Priest. He commands us to come and draw all from him, to be made new by him, and to follow him.
Rejoice: Labor, Suffering, Victory, Glory
These are great days to be alive. When this age of Christ was first dawning, he said: “Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear and have not heard them” (Matt. 13:17). We have him, the Son of God, the desire of the ages, the exalted Son of Man sitting on David’s throne. He has come and brought in everlasting righteousness and an end to sacrifices by the sacrifice of himself. This is his age. Rejoice! We can resist the devil, and he will flee. Rejoice! We have the promised Spirit interceding for us. Rejoice! We are forgiven and reconciled to our great God. We are righteous before him and adopted as his children. Rejoice! We do not work in this life as drudgery but as servants of Christ. Our labors are not in vain, and they will follow us (1 Cor. 15:58). Every cup of water, act of service, kindness under duress, patience under provocation, is done for the Lord Jesus and by his power. Even suffering now takes on a higher significance. “If we suffer with him, we will reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). Afflictions “work for us an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:18). Everything is changed because we live in the reign of Jesus Christ. Some generations are slow to learn this and know little of his power because they do not understand or submit to his reign, and thus do not act in faith upon his power and promises. Others are so gripped by the desire for earthly kingdoms that they have little taste for him and therefore do not seek his kingdom. Let us keep our eye upon the glory that is – Christ Jesus, seated at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us, ruling over all for our sake, opening heaven to us.
Look for Christ’s Glorious Appearing
Far greater glory is coming. Our Lord will reign until all his enemies are made his footstool, but there will be a rebellion at the end. He will destroy it with the “brightness of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). God’s grace teaches us not to put all our eggs in the basket of this life. There is suffering and hardship now, along with our Savior’s kingdom (Rev. 1:9). We possess this treasure of our Savior’s gospel and kingdom in fragile vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). We are easily broken, find that we cannot do the good we really want to do, and often suffer hardships for Christ’s sake. God’s grace teaches us to “look for the blessed hope and appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Our Lord will return and perfect his kingdom, hand it over to his Father as a finished work, and then with his Father and the Spirit be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28). We cannot endure faithfully or fight courageously against sin and Satan unless we are assured of our Savior’s return in glory. His glorious appearing is a cardinal doctrine of our faith, the fire in our bosom, the light when all other lights go out. He cannot forget us. He cannot stop ruling and perfecting what concerns us. Evil cannot win. The King, Jesus Christ, will prevail.