May 9, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 22:20 in the audio file.
Series: Just Conquer #57
One of the greatest, tongue-in-cheek, self-defeating but still quite edifying quotes is from Friedrich Hegel about history: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Applying the observation to itself we would not learn this reality, but it does remind us that we’re not good at seeing. As Solomon sagely wrote, that “what has been done is what will be done” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), including the pattern of not noticing patterns.
For about six thousand years, that being the approximate length of human history, human beings have been rebelling against God. It started with Eve, and Eve’s disobedience is especially archetypal (a recurring motif) because she was deceived by the ancient serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:13, 2 Corinthians 11:3). Once Adam joined her in that sin, all mankind was considered unrighteous and every person is born unto rebellion, that is, with a bent to go his own way. Previous to those bites, Adam and Eve were not carriers of rebel DNA, but now the devil has material to work with.
For six millennia there has been enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). We may not want it to be so simple, but there really is only worship and obedience to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, or there is a “fiendish parodying” with “endless manipulations” and “deceptions” all for the purpose of establishing “the devil’s illusions (of) of a social ‘reality'” (Joe Boot, Gospel Culture, location 535). While this has been true for all time, it will take its ultimate form in the Great Tribulation when the dragon delegates authority to the beast and the nations are deceived. They will put on such a show, but it is destined to end in fire.
At the end of Revelation 19 we saw the Second Coming of Christ to defeat the nations in the battle of Armageddon. At the start of Revelation 20 we saw the devil bound for a thousand years and then the reign of Christ on earth with His resurrected saints for a thousand years. During the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom there will be those who experienced the first resurrection and there will be others who have not died. I believe many of those non-resurrected humans living in the Kingdom will be Israelites, and I believe that there will be some who are from other nations that were not participants in the battle of 19:17-21 who “come quietly,” so to speak, into honoring the One who rules on the throne in Jerusalem. Jesus will govern on earth, Satan will be bound in the pit, and the earth will be full of the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9).
But…Revelation 20:7-10 tells us what happens at the end of the thousand years. With a hat tip to C.S. Lewis, we now come to The Last Battle. And the lesson we will learn is that even with a divine King ruling in perfect truth and justice, the hearts of men will rebel. If there’s one thing we learn from history, it’s that men are rebels.
There are five parts to this paragraph.
For the sixth time in seven verses the millennium is referenced. And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison.
The NASB translates, “when the thousand years are completed,” a little better nuance than ended, because of two things. First, the verb is a form of teleo, related not just to something being over, but something being brought to its objective, its telos. Second, we were supposed to be looking for this end due to the last part of verse 3: “until the thousand years were ended (the same form of teleo). After that he must be released for a little while.”
The “must” is a divine must. It could be translated, “it is necessary.” But who decides what is necessary? And is there a reason that binding and then releasing for a short time is essential?
God is clearly the one writing the story, and in His plan He purposes that Satan be removed from earth so that he cannot be busy with his deceptive work and then be released from his prison (another indicator that it is not just restrictions on his power but elimination of his presence) to deceive again, as the next verse states. And the reason appears to be to make the point as starkly and strongly as possible: no matter how much time goes by, not only the devil, but men do not want to submit to God.
Satan will be released, perhaps by the angel or perhaps by God Himself, and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.
Upon release he has two purposes, or it may be one mission with the means he knows best, his “spiritual gift.” He comes out to deceive the nations and to gather for battle, or in stages, he deceives them into gathering.
A thousand years has not changed the devil’s mind; he is still hell bent on using image-bearers and dragging them with him in rebellion against their Maker. And, a thousand years has not changed the nature of man; he is still susceptible to lies and manipulation and will hope against reality that Jesus can be rejected, again. It is the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 2.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
This is the history of the heart of man. This will be the final hurrah, which turns out to be only is his final humph.
Gog and Magog are names used in Ezekiel 38-39 to describe the opposition to Israel, and Gog was the king while Magog was the land of Gog (Ezekiel 38:2), (though there was a son of Japeth named Magog (Genesis 10:2)). The context in Revelation 20:8 itself gives the clue that they are not limited to two persons or to a person and a place, but are a way to describe the nations that are at the four corners of the earth.
This refers to Gentiles, and we’ll see in the next verse that they assault Jerusalem. This final showdown was prophesied, as is the final outcome. Their number is like the sand of the sea, and though so many men were killed and became bird-food in the battle at the end of chapter 19, that does not mean that every person on earth was in that war. With a thousand years of peace and prosperity around the earth, it should not be surprising that a hoard of human rebels could make up a new army at the end of the millennium. If the battle depended on numbers, it appears that the advantage is to Gog and Magog.
The last battle occurs at a different location than the battle at Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.
The beloved city is Jerusalem. This is the location of the throne of the King of David, and was prophesied as the place where the nations would concentrate their forces. If, as I’ve pointed out, the Jews have been gathered back to Israel, then they would be the camp of the saints.
At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:17)
Alternatively, this is a metaphor for persecution of the church: “The church is now and will be the true Israel in the midst of whose camp God’s presence tabernacles” (G.K. Beale). “So after a long period of gospel glory, Satan is permitted one last attack on the object of his malice, which is the Christian church” (Douglas Wilson).
For those who recently read Ezekiel in the Bible Reading Challege, you may have noticed that in chapters 36-37 Israel is restored to the land and then a war involving Gog and Magog follows in chapters 38-39. The Pre-Miller understands a literal fulfillment of passages such as Isaiah 62:1-4, especially 4. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet…You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.” And then the devil deceives men into assaulting the blessed.
At Armageddon the armies were “slain by the sword that came from the mouth” of the Rider on the white horse, from the mouth of Christ (Revelation 19:21). Following that, the birds of prey feasted on the flesh. A different method, but with similar dispatch, defeats the army here. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. No effective resistance at all is mustered, and, no effort by the saints is required to put them down.
Fire came down when king Ahaziah sent groups of 50 out to Elijah in 2 Kings 1:10-14.
If 19:19 and 20:9 are the same battle, as non-Premillennialists must interpret, then these are two ways of talking about the same event, which, to some, is not “an event” anyway, but a picture of regular successful defense by the church. That makes descriptions “such as fire came down from heaven” dramatic, and it makes “consumed” overkill. The Pre-Miller understands one battle before the thousand years and a second battle, this last battle, after the thousand years.
Before the thousand years began the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). Then third member of the unholy Trinity was bound for the millennium, then released, and now he joins them.
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The description sure makes it sound as if the beast and the false prophet were there already, which fits with the progressive nature of the paragraphs.
That said, “But all three can be seen as thrown into the fire at the same time” (Beale). I don’t know how that conclusion is reasonable, but it is made by some.
After this the devil is not mentioned any more in Revelation; the “ultimate bruising of his head (Genesis 3:15)” (Thomas). The final rebellion has been occurred and the only thing remaining in human history is the last judgement, which we’ll see in 20:11-15. This is the devil’s destiny.
We are beholding the Lord wrongly if we read Revelation and are being transformed into a more fearful people. We should be more like Elijah on Mt. Carmel and less like Elijah running from Jezebel.
God loves the rebels out of their rebellion, otherwise rebels will be glad for any opportunity to rebel.
The cultural and political implications of this millennial lesson are significant and relevant. When Jesus reigns on earth, when perfect justice is done, when great earthly blessings are given, and resurrected saints are knowable and visible, it will still only be the elect who love to submit and serve Christ. Others may enjoy the greatest period of common grace on earth, they will be its beneficiaries, but a growing resentment in some will be a sufficient target for the unbound devil to deceive them into attacking Christ.
This does not mean that Christians should keep Christ out of the public sphere. It means that we must trust Christ to make us fruitful as we acknowledge His name and call others to do the same. But if He does not call men to Himself, they will come to resent Christ and those who bear His name. That is true now and will be during the millennium, because if there’s one thing we learn from history, it’s that the heart of man is easily deceived into defiance against God.
Honor your father and your mother; such is a commandment with promise. Resist the devil, and he will be frustrated. Ask God to enlarge your heart so that you may run in His ways.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, ESV)