Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. – Rev. 20:1-3
The crescendo of Revelation begins with a truly unprecedented event: The capture and temporary removal of Satan. For the first time since his fall, the former Son of the Dawn (cf. Is. 14:12) is actually bound, locked up and prevented from doing anything to influence the world.
Without wanting to start a whole eschatological debate, we can safely say that this event precedes what we refer to as the millennial (thousand-year) Kingdom of Christ. In the narrative of the apostle John, the neutralisation of Satan ushers in a long period in which Christ reigns with His people on earth as described in vv.4-6 below.
Now, I tread carefully here because it is so easy to become lost in various theological opinions concerning the millennial kingdom. It is not my intention to discuss here the merits of a-, pre- or post- millennialism. Suffice to say that I take a simple, as-face-value-as-I-can reading of Revelation, and that leads me to understand the millennium Kingdom as a real, historical future period of time, when our prayer “your Kingdom come” (Mat. 6:10; Luke 11:2) is actually fulfilled.
But is there anything else here other than information about the future? Is there a reason why the Lord told John to pass on this part of the Last Days vision?
Think of this: Paul wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16), and even though Revelation came at least two decades later, the principle obviously still applies. I hope that when we approach the Word of God, we approach it with that great promise at hand, making sure that every word, phrase and chapter profits us like this.
So back to the Kingdom. What strikes me is that God has complete control over Satan. Although it is a frequent teaching of the Bible (think Gen. 3:14-15; Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6), only here is so explicitly shown, because it is so final. This isn’t demons leaving a man and possessing pigs (Luke 8:26-34) or any other such event. This isn’t spiritual warfare; it’s a completely sovereign act of God.
Notice the language: there’s no struggle; no effort; no great war; no doubt that this will happen. The angel comes down, grabs Satan, binds him and locks him up for a predetermined time, and when he’s out again in v.7, it’s because he’s released, not because he escapes. It’s an event that takes place on God’s timing and schedule and even Satan himself can do nothing to prevent it.
Christianity is not Yin-Yang. God and Satan are not equal but polarised forces that hold the cosmos in balance. This isn’t about good vs. evil. This is God being God. This is God having control over absolutely everything and everyone and doing as He pleases (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). In fact, what else is the whole book of Revelation except a detailed witness to God’s sovereignty? It’s not a revelation of things that might or might not fully or partially take place, maybe, we’ll see (cf. Rev. 1:1). There’s no monkey-wrench in the cogs, nothing that can or will mess up even the slightest detail of God’s plans for mankind.
Try to think about this next time you watch the world news. We said it our study in Ecclesiastes, we’ll say it again: There is nothing – no event, no accident, no tragedy, no failure, no success, nothing – outside of God’s control. Every atom in our body is completely dependent on Him, but we’re too spiritually stupid to realise it. Thus, we burn our lives out as if we control the universe.
Here then, is why we learn about Satan’s removal in the future: It’s comforting to his enemies – those who, through Christ, are free from Satan’s grasp (cf. Eph. 2:2) but, this side of eternity, are in constant struggle with him, his ministers and his designs (1 Peter 5:8). By knowing Satan’s complete submission to God in the midst of our own battles, we can run even faster to our sovereign Father’s protection and know the tremendous joy and peace – yes, peace – of trusting in His hands that never fail when everything else seems to.