1And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
This messenger is a servant of God, as all of them have been. He, like most, represents a human agent doing the will of God (either knowingly or ignorantly). The key is a form of authority and shows that God has given this messenger the power to do what God wills for him to do.
As in all scripture, this pit is a trap for beasts. It is bottomless, as said before, because of the magnitude of the beast it must trap. The consistent nature of the pit must be maintained. It has nothing to do with the end of the kosmos. The great chain further indicates trapping and binding a beast. In this case, the “dragon” of Revelation 12.
2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
As already touched on (Revelation 12), the dragon is the Jewish persecuting powers.
Here is the one other exception to literal time use in the book of Revelation. Rather than a span of time, this signifies the extent of the binding of the dragon as a complete binding. The Jewish powers that sought to persecute the Christians were completely incapable of persecuting Christianity when Jerusalem was surrounded by the Roman army (Luke 21:20). The dragon could no longer hunt the woman of chapter 12.
3And 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 Jews are contained completely in Jerusalem and unable to interact on any terms of trade, culture, or other (except in military defense from the army surrounding it). The pit or trap is the siege of Jerusalem itself. The little season where the dragon is loosed are some who escaped the destruction in the way that Zedekiah escaped in 2 Kings 25 and as prophesied in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Refer back to Ezekiel 38-39 and Masada-Hamonah. Further ties to this will come in this chapter with the reference to Gog and Magog in verse 8.
This is a difficult figure for many commentators, but all one has to do is read the OT to find out its meaning. A pit is a trap for an animal. That it is bottomless shows that it is large enough to capture any sized animal, even a dragon. Note how many things come up out of the pit in Revelation. This is not oblivion or eternal damnation, but a place to trap and bind wild beasts. The Roman army (Gog’s army) was strong enough and vast enough to trap Jerusalem (who was not expecting an attack from the East).
The harlot who deceived the nations with her wealth, her acceptance of their cultures and religions and all the things the harlot did…these were taken from the Jews when Jerusalem was destroyed and her economy with her.
4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
More than most, this verse is the center of misinterpretation, and for many it is the beginning of interpretation of the book (instead of 1:1 where interpretation should begin).
A. I saw thrones, and they sat upon them...Edit
This vision represents authority to judge by those who sit on the thrones. As there is only one throne of God, this does not represent judgment by God.
B. I saw the souls of them that were beheaded...Edit
Those on the thrones were the martyrs who had died preaching the gospel and who had not given in to the Caesar worship preached by the land beast.
It is important to note here that only those who had been beheaded as martyrs are being referred to here. It is their thrones, their life, their reign, not Christ’s that is being discussed. To attribute this to anything else is to completely ignore the object of this verse, the thing that John actually sees.
C. and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.Edit
These that had been faithful unto death lived, not in the literal sense, but through their testimony. They reigned with Christ, ruling by example and showing others what it meant to serve Christ during this period of tribulation. They set the standard by which others who lived at that time would be judged. That they were willing to die for the cause of Christ prompted many more to convert to Christianity in the wake of the fall of Jerusalem and during the rest of the Jewish War. These martyrs showed that Christ’s cause was a cause worth dying for and their example went far to preserve the church during the last days.
See also Hosea 11.
The thousand years again is not the literal time span but the extent to which they lived and reigned with Christ. Their dominion was complete, perfect in nature.
5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
This is a reference to the cause of Christ in general. The cause itself, once thought dead, was resurrected when Judaism was ended. In the next verse we will connect the terms.
6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Those who take part in the first resurrection will be priests of God and Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. Remember, these are not the specific martyrs of 20:4. These are the rest of the dead. This reign as priests was for a different thousand years, a different reign. The rest of the dead are not physically dead at all, they are representative of the cause of Christ itself as in Ezekiel 37. These are those adopted children of God who are kings and priests (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10).
- 1. First resurrection = the rest of the dead living after the 1000 years were finished. (Rev. 20:5)
- 2. First resurrection = not hurt of the second death (Rev. 20:6)
- 3. Not hurt of the second death = those that overcometh (Rev. 2:11)
So those who take part in the first resurrection and are not hurt of the second death are those that overcometh.
- 4. First resurrection = eat of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7)
- 5. First resurrection = are given to eat of the hidden mana, and a white stone with a new name (Rev. 2:17)
- 6. First resurrection = will be given power over the nations (Rev. 2:26)
- 7. First resurrection = the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev. 3:5).
- 8. First resurrection = I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (Rev. 3:12)
- 9. First resurrection = I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Rev. 3:21)
All of these tie in together echoing the parable of the talents. Those who were found faithful and productive when Christ returned were given greater responsibilities within the kingdom, to rule over the nations from the New Jerusalem, which is the church. This is not the end of the kosmos, but the end of the Jewish system of things and the full establishment of the church 40 years after its founding.
7And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
When the siege of Jerusalem ended. See verse 3 above.
8And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
Gog, the king of locusts (according to the Septuagint – Amos 7:1) is the leader of the Roman forces just as discussed in Ezekiel 38-39. The deception of the nations is the Jews who manage to escape and evade Gog long enough to reach Hamonah (Ezekiel 39:16)[Historically – Masada] on the edge of the sea [of Galilee] (Ezekiel 39:11). They draw the armies there and bog them down in siege from a much more defensible position. Note that the dragon deceives the nations “which are in the four quarters of the earth”. The deception is against the nations represented in the Roman army who are in Palestine. The gathering of Gog and Magog to battle is not an authoritative gathering but a drawing in to a trap.
9And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
This is the last look at Jerusalem as God’s people, a sad testament to what they had been and what they could have been. It echoes these verses:
Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Matthew 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this age.
Matthew 22:7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
2 Thessalonians 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note that most of these verses are in Matthew, the gospel account written to the Hebrews. I encourage you to read the full context of these passages to get their complete meaning.
10And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The persecuting powers during the last days are stopped and destroyed including the Jews (the devil), the beast (Rome under the Caesar murdering Christians who would not worship him), the false prophet (who promoted Caesar worship during the Jewish Wars). The tormented day and night for ever and ever is a reference to the fact that these particular entities represented here, their cause was at an end with no hope of resurrection.
11And 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.
The old heaven and old earth as seen in 2 Peter 3. This will be contrasted in the next chapter.
12And 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. 13And 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.
This is not Judgment Day at the end of the kosmos, but the judgment echoed in Matthew 25:31-46. It is a judgment of causes, of nations, not individuals.
14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Remember that Death was the 4th horsemen of Revelation 6. He was followed by Hades. That these symbolic servants of God were tossed into the lake of fire to suffer the second death should indicate that this is not a literal reference to what most call “Hell”. Just as those who take part in the first resurrection do not take part in the second death, those who take part in the second death do not take part in the first resurrection. It is the death of causes. Death and Hades, the dragon and the other two beasts, all those who were not found in the book of life, these are all concepts related to the last days, to the end of Judaism. Death and Hades join those on the side of evil in the second death indicating that there is no more need for them in this context. The Jewish system from a Biblical perspective is utterly, completely, and finally ended with no possibility for resurrection. That which is old has finally vanished away (Heb. 8:13).
In Truth and Love.