This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 24th, 2011. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 20.
Rev.20 — THE BATTLE AT THE END OF THE EARTH
We now come to the most difficult passage in the book of Revelation – the Millennium. Ironically, interpreters have historically used the Millennium as The Key Concept to understanding Revelation. This has led to controversy, interpretations that wander far from Scripture, and ultimately has made Revelation a book for experts with charts – with the result that Revelation has been a book used to fuel controversy – but not used to edify the church
Three views of the Millennium have divided interpreters… Premil – which puts the Millennium off into the future, Postmil – which states that the Millennium is happening now and that the world is getting better, and A-mil – which says the Millennium is a symbolic picture of the church – and this is the view that is most in keeping with the visionary nature of Revelation, and which, I think, can be the most edifying as we look at the passage.
Take Up Your Identity as the Delivered Resurrected People of God!
As Freed and Delivered People: Ch.20 begins with an angel coming down out of heaven to seize and bind the serpent and throw him into the Abyss. This image of binding Satan points back to the teaching of Jesus in Matt.12:29, where Jesus tells the Pharisees, in effect, that he has cast out a demon because he has entered the strong man’s house and bound him first – and then plundered him.
The picture of Satan being bound, then, is a picture of the work of Christ on the cross – having overcome the Accuser, bound him and taken spoils. It is a picture of our deliverance from the strong man.
Zechariah 3:1-5 gives us a very vivid picture of what the binding of Satan looks like. Here Joshua – the high priest of Israel, is covered in filth – standing before God as Satan stands at his right hand and accuses him. But God silences the Accuser and snatches Joshua from judgment – dressing him in clean clothes.
God has spoken for us! God has bound the Accuser who is too strong for us – and has shut him up so that there is no longer anyone condemning us.
As Raised Up and Reigning Saints: In his vision, John also sees thrones set up for those who suffered martyrdom and for those who did not receive the mark of the beast or worship his image
. These are those who take part in the first resurrection – who come to life and reign with Christ for 1,000 years.
Again, this is a picture of the church from a heavenly point of view – not only delivered but reigning. We who have been raised to life through Christ are reigning – which is not to say that we are problem free – but that we are ruling alongside of Christ by functioning as priests. We are actively taking part in the work of God in the world as those who speak the truth about God and lead others to Christ. We have authority and power to do this work.
This is also a picture of security – Notice what is said about those who take part in the first resurrection… (1) The 2nd death no longer has any power over them, (2) they are blessed and holy. If anything, this picture points to the very supernatural state in which those who are in Christ live. We have been raised (see Eph.1) and are taking part in the first resurrection. God has given us this glorious image so that we will be confident of our standing in Christ – so that we will take up our identity and recognize the privileged and blessed state we live in – so that we will see what it means that we are holy to God and his possession. And we are given this image in the middle of two battle pictures (Rev.19:11ff and Rev.20:7-10). Why?
Remain Secure Even Though Your Enemy is Attacking You.
Satan Must Be Released: In this vision of the church, after the 1,000 years, Satan is released and begins to wreak havoc on the church. He goes out and deceives the world – he gathers the nations of the world and surrounds the people God loves with overwhelming forces – set to destroy them.
Interpreters have looked at this as some great futuristic battle in which Jerusalem is surrounded. However, there are clues that this picture is symbolic. For one thing, the picture of the nations like sands of the seashore marching across the breadth of the earth sounds more like the visionary picture of the Dragon standing on the shore of the sea calling the beast up from the sea. Also, the reference to Gog and Magog (vs.8) – a symbolic prince and army from Ezek.38-39, who attack the people of God while they are at peace – and who God destroys by fire and earthquake – suggests this may not be talking about an actual physical battle.
A Picture of Ongoing Sin: What we have here is a new picture of the meaning of ongoing sin in the church. We see and struggle with our sin as willful rebellion and as brokenness. But, at least in this passage, sin is pictured as an attack on the church. The Ezekiel 38-39 passage supports this idea, because in it Israel is living peacefully before God, when Gog and Magog decide to attack without provocation – in order to plunder her. Much of the passage is an expression of God’s fury at Gog and Magog for attacking his people and God’s promise of judgment.
Sin is an Attack on the Church: What is it, then, that we are meant to see about the ongoing presence of sin in our lives? We are meant to see that, while, yes sin is willfulness and rebellion on our part and needs to be repented of… from God’s point of view, sin is an attack – a violation of his beloved people by His enemy. The church is pictured here as being surrounded by an overwhelming multitude of forces, and under attack. This picture very much ties in with a passage like Romans 7 – in which Paul says – “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” — Rom 7:15b-17, 19-20
We are given this picture in the middle of this passage on spiritual battle so that we might not be overwhelmed with despair or fear – but believe that God does truly love us. God sees our sin and is angry at our enemy!
Sin Will Be Utterly Destroyed By God: Take note, in vs.9b-10, that despite the fact that we have just looked at spiritual warfare in CH.19 – here at the end of the battle God himself sends fire down from heaven – completely destroying the power of the enemy – and roots out and does away with the deceiver and his works. Death and Hades – the curse of death – are also destroyed and thrown into the fire. Sin and the curse are an attack and a violation and God himself will destroy them.
Come Eagerly to Judgment.
White Throne Judgment: It is with this picture of the church that we, now, come to the White Throne Judgment. Each person is judged according to what he or she has done with his or her life – and those who have taken part in the first resurrection have lived as priests and reigned with Christ. Their hope is reward and glory. Those, on the other hand, who have lived merely for their own ends, who have been deceived by Satan can have no hope in their works and will suffer loss.
What will this White Throne judgment be like for us? As we have seen before – it will be a retelling of our lives from Christ’s point of view – like the retelling of Abraham’s life in Romans 4. We will hear our stories told and see our lives in a way that is glorious and blessed – because we reigned with Christ and were delivered by him. Our names will be found in the book of life because we trusted in Christ.
This is God’s perspective on the spiritual battle that we are struggling with and fighting right now. It is a perspective that ought to fill us with joy and confidence and hope.