In our last post, we examined Jesus’ words to His disciples recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asserts that He WILL build His church using the witness of the Apostles of the gospel and the gates of hell would NOT prevail against it. We also saw that Jesus gave the Church the keys to the kingdom, that through the proclamation of the gospel, they would render the loosing and binding that is already established in heaven by the Sovereign Lord.
So, how does this tie into Revelation 20? Revelation 20:1-6 is the apocalyptic version of Matthew 16:13-20. In other words, John puts into symbolic form what Jesus instructed the disciples concerning the Church. Therefore, Revelation 20:1-6 is a picture of the Church and the Church age carrying out the very words of Jesus. How so?
In this post we will focus upon Revelation 20:1-3 (we will cover verses 4-6 in the next). These verses pertain to the binding of Satan. In verse 1, there is an angel (messenger) coming from heaven (the place of absolute authority, where Jesus is today), with a key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. Is this a literal key and literal chain? Of course not, this is apocalyptic language. Like in Matthew 16, the key represents authority. Listen to Jesus’ words in Revelation 1:17, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” By nature of His death and resurrection (the gospel), Jesus has the keys of authority over death and Hades (hell). These are the same keys invested to the disciples in Matthew 16. This angel is exercising the authority of Christ, the authority of the gospel, over Satan, the chief leader at the gates of hell (Hades). And what about the chain? It is simply a symbol of binding, imprisonment, limited power and effect. That is, Satan’s power is real, but limited–limited to what takes place from the bottomless pit (the source of demonic activity in the Revelation).
Please note that Satan is not completely incapacitated in these verses, but his power is limited that “he might not deceive the nations any longer.” The binding of Paul in the book of Acts did not completely hinder Paul. He was limited, but still able to write and minister. In terms of the binding of Satan, the verse specifically states the purpose is so that he cannot ultimately stop the progress of the gospel. Why? Because Jesus has the keys, has given them to the Church, the Church proclaims the gospel, and now we enter into the strongman’s house (as Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled Matthew 12:29) and reverse what Satan started in the Garden of Eden, as the children of God are brought forth from all nations, the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Revelation 5:9). Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom is no longer restricted to or centered upon Israel, but now it advances through the whole world (the fullest expression of OT anticipations). And, the gates of hell CANNOT prevail (literally, succeed in overpowering or defeating) against it.
But secondly, and primarily in this passage, the inhibition to deceive the nations relates to Satan mounting a global attack against the Church, an attack that will happen at the end of the age (see Revelation 20:7-10), that ultimately results in his final defeat, the consummation of what started at the cross and resurrection of Christ, and the complete and final fulfillment Genesis 3:15 will take place. When will this occur? At the end of the 1,000 years, which is to be taken symbolically (because everything else in the Revelation is symbolic). This is the complete period of the gospel kingdom’s work on earth, the Church age, the period between the first and second coming of Christ.
So, John simply states what Jesus promised concerning the Church Matthew 16. Though Satan roams around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour, and while he deceives and accuses the saints of God, he CANNOT have final victory over the Church. He cannot extinguish Christ’s New Covenant Community. The gates of hell WILL NOT prevail against the Church.
I think this is clearly substantiated by church and modern history. The more the enemies of the Church have tried to stop and extinguish the Church, it has only caused it to grow and flourish. This is true in Communist China, the Middle East, and hostile Africa. We can show statistically that as men under Satan’s control have tried to kill and wipe out the Church, numerically it has grown substantially. This has happened in the first century and the modern era. The point is, Satan is attacking the Church violently (using the Beastly governments, the False Prophets of religious error, and Babylon the seductress of this world’s riches). At times, it seems he is gaining a foothold over the Church (like using Babylon and False Prophets to lull the American Church to compromise and ineffectiveness). But the TRUE Church will always prevail against the kingdom of darkness, meaning that true believers who make up these churches will also gain the victory. On what ground—the already attained victory secured by the death and resurrection of Christ! As my former NT professor used to say, “D-day has occurred, V-day is assured.”
Do you belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ, the One purchased by His blood and brought to life through His resurrection power? Do you belong to the local community of the saints of God, sharing life together in the Spirit? Then you belong to the Invincible Church. In our next blog, we will finish looking at Revelation 20:4-6 and show how the saints gain final victory over the weapon of hades—death.