REVELATION 20 - The First & Second Resurrections
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, in. chronological order, the events of the preceding chapter. The inquiries that here arise are, Who is the angel that comes down from heaven? what are the key and chain which he has in his hand? what is the bottomless pit? and what is meant by binding Satan a thousand years?
1. The Angel. — Is this angel Christ, as some suppose? — Evidently not. A bright ray of light is thrown from the old typical service directly upon this passage. Thus, Christ is the great High Priest of this dispensation. On the day of atonement, anciently, two goats were taken by the priest, upon which lots were cast, one for the Lord, and the other for the scape-goat. The one 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 which 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, or a place not inhabited. Now, as Christ is the priest of this dispensation, so by arguments, a few of which we here introduce, Satan is shown to be the antitypical scape-goat.
(1.) The Hebrew word for scape-goat, as given in the margin of Leviticus 16:8, is Azazel. On this verse, Jenks, in his Comprehensive Commentary, remarks: “Scape-goat. (See diff. opin. in Bochart.) Spencer, after the oldest opinion of the Hebrews and Christians, thinks Azazel is the name of the devil; and so Rosenmüller, whom see. The Syriac has Azzail, the angel (strong one) who revolted.” 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 scape-goat is a type of Satan.
Charles Beecher, in Redeemer and Redeemed, pp. 67, 68, 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 ἀποπομπαῖος (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 what 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. In addition to these, we have the evidence of the Jewish work Zohar, and of the Cabalistic and Rabbinical writers. They tell us that the following proverb was current among the Jews: ‘On the day of atonement, a gift to Sammael.’ Hence Moses Gerundinensis feels called to say that it is not a sacrifice, but only done because commanded by God.
“Another step in the evidence is when we find this same opinion passing from the Jewish to the early Christian church. Origen was the most learned of the Fathers, and on such a point as this, the meaning of a Hebrew word, his testimony is reliable. Origen says: ‘He who is called in the Septuagint ἀποπομπαῖος, and in the Hebrew Azazel, is no other than the Devil.’
“In view, then, of the difficulties attending any other meaning, and the accumulated evidence in favor of this, Hengstenberg affirms with great confidence that Azazel cannot be anything else than another name for Satan.”
(2.) In the common acceptation of the word, the term scapegoat is applied to any one who has become obnoxious to the claims of justice; and while it is revolting to all our conceptions of the character and glory of Christ to apply this term to him, it must strike every one as a very appropriate designation of the Devil, who is styled in Scripture the accuser, adversary, angel of the bottomless pit, Beelzebub, Belial, dragon, enemy, evil spirit, father of lies, murderer, prince of devils, serpent, tempter, etc., etc.
(3.) The third reason for this position is the very striking manner in which it harmonizes with the events to transpire in connection with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, as far as revealed to us in the Scriptures of truth.
We behold in the type, (a) the sin of the transgressor transferred to the victim; (b) we see that sin borne by the ministration of the priest and the blood of the offering into the sanctuary; (c) 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 scape-goat; and (d) the goat bears them away into a land not inhabited. Leviticus 1:1-4; 4:3-6; 16:5-10, 15, 16, 20-22.
Answering to these events in the type, we behold in the antitype, (a) the great offering for the world made on Calvary; (b) the sins of all those who avail themselves of the merits of Christ’s shed blood by faith in him, borne, by the ministration of Christ while pleading his own blood, into the new-covenant sanctuary; (c) 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 scape-goat, the Devil; and (d) the Devil will be sent away with them into a land not inhabited.
This we believe to be the very event described in the verses under notice. The sanctuary service is, at the time here specified, 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, and 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. Hence this angel is not Christ. For a full exposition of this subject, see the work, Looking unto Jesus; or Christ in Type and Antitype.
2. The Key and 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 upon this occasion.
3. 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 passage which specially throws light upon the meaning of the word here is 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; so that passage might have been translated, “Darkness was upon the face of the abyss, or bottomless pit.” But we all know what is meant by the word deep as there used; it is applied to this earth in its chaotic state. Precisely this it must mean in this third verse of Revelation 20. At this time, let it be borne in mind, 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 footprints over the earth; the burning glory attending the coming of the Son of man has borne its part in accomplishing 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 end thereof. Thus is the earth made empty and waste, and turned upside down. Isaiah 24:1. Thus is it brought back again, partially, at least, to its original state of confusion and chaos. (See Jeremiah 4:19-26, especially verse 23.) And 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 the abyss, or bottomless pit? Here Satan will be confined during this time, amid the ruins which indirectly his own hands have wrought, unable to flee from his habitation of woe, or to repair in the least degree its hideous ruin.
4. The 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, he being at this time confined to this earth; and thus is he bound, being condemned throughout this period to a state of hopeless inactivity. This, to a mind that has been so busy as his has been for the past six thousand years in deceiving the world, must be a punishment of the most intense severity.
According to this exposition, the “binding” of Satan means simply the placing beyond his reach of the subjects upon whom he works, and his being “loosed” means their being brought again, by a resurrection, to a position where he can again exercise his power upon them. Over this exposition some assume to grow merry, telling us that we have mistaken the parties, and have the wicked bound, not 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, etc. But do we understand, when persons use such expressions, that some insurmountable obstacle was literally thrown across the path they were traveling, or that their hands were literally confined with ropes or cords? — No; but simply that a combination of circumstances rendered it impossible for them to act. Just so here; and why will not people grant to the Bible the same liberty of speech that they give, without question and without ridicule, to their fellow men in the common intercourse of life? But 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 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, till he is led out to execution, at the end of the thousand years.
4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
The 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 being 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: first, the martyrs, those who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus; and secondly, those who had not worshiped the beast and his image. This class, the ones who refuse the mark of the beast and his image, are of course the ones who hear and obey the third 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 he slain, would have us believe. The word rendered which, in the expression, “and which had not worshiped the beast,” etc., shows that there is another class introduced. The word is the compound relative, ὅστις (hostis), not merely the simple relative ὅς, and is defined by Liddell and Scott, “Whosoever; whichsoever; any one who; anything which;” and by Robinson, “One who; some one who; whosoever; whatsoever.” 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 ὅστις is sometimes used as a simple relative, as in 2 Corinthians 3:14; Ephesians 1:23, but never in such constructions as this, preceded by the conjunction καὶ.
Lest any one 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 with Christ of a thousand years, we would call attention to the fact that the preceding chapter states that the wicked had all been slain, and the seal of death has been set upon them for a thousand years; and John is viewing only the righteous company who have part in the first resurrection.
To avoid the doctrine of two resurrections, some claim that the passage, “But 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. All scholarship is against it. The Revised Version retains the passage.
Two Resurrections. — “The rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished.” Whatever may be said to the contrary, no language could more plainly prove two resurrections; the first, a resurrection of the righteous at the commencement of the thousand years; and the second, that of the wicked at the end of that period. 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.
The Wicked Raised to Life. — The wicked who are raised at the end of the thousand years as really 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 we have 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 enjoyed during life, or the period of their probation, that would certainly be sufficient to enable them to receive at last understandingly the reward due them for all their deeds.
9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed [are] they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See [thou do it] not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The Perdition of Ungodly Men. — At the end of the one thousand years, the holy city, the New Jerusalem, in which the saints have dwelt in heaven during that period, comes down, and is located upon the earth, and becomes the camp of the saints, around which the resurrected wicked come up, numberless as the sand of the sea. The Devil deceives them, and thus brings them up to this battle. They are induced to commence 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, Professor Stuart admits is “intensive,” and signifies, “to eat up, devour, so that it denotes utter excision.” (Hudson’s Christ our Life, p. 146.) This is the time of the perdition of ungodly men, — the time when the elements shall melt with 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 receive 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, in their resurrection, come up, with the Devil at their head, and tread with their unhallowed feet upon the purified and holy earth, and the saints, who have held possession for a thousand years, are obliged to yield the ground, and flee into the city. But 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; for besides outraging all ideas of propriety, there is no scripture from which even an inference can be drawn to support it.
And as to the second view, one among many of its absurdities is that notwithstanding Christ and his saints have conquered the earth during the thousand years, at the end of this period the wicked get the upper hands of them, 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. Those who wish, may rack their brains in trying to harmonize the inconsistencies and absurdities of such theories, or may endeavor to draw consolation from the dubious prospect. For ourselves, we prefer better employment and a brighter hope.
A Thousand Years in Heaven. — In contrast with these theories, there is a beautiful harmony in the view herein presented; namely, that the saints are with Christ in heaven during the thousand years while the earth lies desolate; that the saints and the city come down, and the wicked dead are raised and come up against it; that the latter there receive their judgment; and that 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.
The 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 is more extensive than that. The verb “shall be tormented” is in the plural, and agrees with the beast and false prophet; whereas it would be in the singular number if it referred to the Devil alone. It will be noticed that in the expression, “where the beast and false prophet are,” are is a supplied word. It would be more proper to supply the words were cast, answering to what was spoken of the Devil just before. The sentence would then read, “The Devil was cast into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet were cast.” The beast and false prophet were cast in there, and destroyed, at the commencement of the thousand years. Revelation 19:20. The individuals of whom those 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; it is the spirit of his mouth and brightness of his coming by which the man of sin is to be consumed; it is the fire in which great Babylon shall be utterly burned. Revelation 18:8. At the end of the thousand years, it is the 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 therein; it is the fire of Tophet “prepared for the king” (the Devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41), the pile whereof is deep and large, and which “the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle.” Isaiah 30:33. It is the fire that comes down from God out of heaven. (On the expression, “tormented day and night forever and ever,” see on chapter 14:12.)
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 of fire.
With verse 11, John introduces another scene to take place 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. The city is then located upon the earth, the foundations of course extending under its whole area, so that it will not be affected by any changes that may take place, or any conditions which may exist, in the earth beneath it. Fire comes down from God out of heaven.
First, the works that are in the world are burned up; and by the poisonous gases evolved, and the flames, 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); and then will be fulfilled Isaiah 66:24: “And 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 quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Secondly, the heat is raised till all the material of which this globe is composed, is fused like the ores in a smelter’s furnace, and the whole earth becomes a fluid, fiery, molten mass. Upon this the city floats, as the ark of Noah floated upon the waters of the flood. Then will be fulfilled 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, and this must be the time when it will be fulfilled.
Thirdly, there is one stage more to be reached. It is well known that with a sufficient degree of heat, any substance on this earth can be reduced to the condition of gas, and thus become invisible. So will it be then with this whole earth. The heat being raised to a sufficient degree of intensity, would not the whole earth be converted into gas, and become invisible, and thus appear most literally to flee away, so that no place is found for it? The city would then seem to be, as virtually it would be, suspended in mid-heaven.
But the elements are not destroyed. They are only, by that process, purged from the last and minutest taint of sin, and every token of the curse. The almighty fiat again goes forth, “Behold I make all things new. ... It is done” (Revelation 21:5, 6), and the particles combine again to compose a new world; and there beneath the wondering and admiring gaze of all the redeemed and the angelic host, the work of creation is gone through with again. 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 Record. — They 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 their record any of their unlawful acts. They must meet them all again, and be judged accordingly.
The Execution of the Sentence. — They are to be punished according to their works. The Scriptures declare that they shall be rewarded according to their deeds. There are, then, to be degrees in the punishment of the wicked; and it may be asked how this can be harmonized with the view that death is the punishment for sin, and comes upon all alike. Let us ask believers in eternal misery how they will maintain degrees in their system. They tell us the intensity of the pain endured will be in each case proportioned to the guilt of the sufferer. But how can this be? Are not the flames of hell equally severe in all parts? and will they not equally affect all the immaterial souls cast therein? But God can interpose, it is answered, to produce the effect desired. Very well, then, we reply, cannot he also interpose, if necessary, and graduate the pain which will attend the infliction of death upon the sinner as the climax of his penalty? So, then, our view is equal with the common one in this respect, while it possesses great advantages over it in another; for while that has to find its degrees of punishment in intensity of pain alone, the duration in all cases being the same, this may not only have degrees in pain but in duration also; inasmuch as some may perish in a short space of time, and the weary sufferings of others be long drawn out. But yet we apprehend that the bodily suffering will be but an unnoticed trifle compared with the mental agony, that keen anguish which will rack their souls as they get a view of their incomparable loss, each according to his capacity of appreciation. The youth who had but little more than reached the years of accountability, being less able to comprehend his situation and his loss, will of course feel it less; to him of older years, more capacity, and consequently a deeper experience in sin, the burden of his fate will be proportionately greater; while the man of giant intellect and almost boundless comprehension, — who hence possessed greater influence for evil, and so was the more guilty for devoting his powers to the service of that evil, — being able to understand his situation fully, comprehend his fate, and realize his loss, will feel it most keenly of all. Into his soul the iron will indeed enter most intolerably deep. And thus, by an established law of mind, the sufferings of each may be most accurately adjusted to the magnitude of his guilt.
That the degree of suffering which each one is to endure is taken into the account as a part of the punishment of his crimes, is evident from Rom. 2:6-10. Paul, here speaking of the future “judgment of God,” says: --
“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality [he will render], eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness [he will render], indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.”
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? One apparent reason, at least, is, That it may be seen 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 were not retained; that all the intelligences of the universe may see that God acts with strict justice and impartiality.
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” This is the final epitaph of all the forces that have risen up from first to last, to oppose the will and work of the Lord Almighty. Satan originated and led out in this nefarious work. A portion 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 therein 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. 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.”
“And 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 not till you have reason to believe that your name is registered in the list of those who are to share at last in the blessings of eternal life.