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5-33 Devil And Satan Bound

Revelation 20: 2, 7 & 10: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years”. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison”. “And 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”.

Popular Interpretation

These verses are taken to indicate that the serpent in Eden was the Devil, and that this is a personal being which is responsible for spiritually deceiving the world.


1. Verse 10 says that Satan is to be thrown into the lake of fire for ever. Eternal fire represents total destruction (Jer. 17:27; Jude v. 7) - it is not to be taken literally. Thus Satan is to be totally destroyed. Angels cannot die or be totally destroyed (Lk. 20: 35-36), therefore Satan is not an angel. Death is also “cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14). Death is not a being or person, it is an abstract concept. Death being cast into the lake of eternal fire, shows that it is going to be totally ended/destroyed. The beast and false prophet are also there. From what we learn earlier in Revelation these are human organizations, and according to this verse are also to be destroyed. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death”; those who commit sin will be punished with death, not eternal fire, therefore the lake of fire where they are must represent total destruction and death. Revelation 20:14 says as much: “the lake of the second death”.

2. We have seen in Comment No. 6 on Revelation 12: 7-9, that the Devil being called “that old serpent” means that whatever is represented by the Devil - be it our evil desires or a political system - has the characteristics of the serpent in Eden.

3. We have seen in our Comment on Revelation 12: 7-9 that the dragon is not a literal dragon, therefore the serpent is also to be taken figuratively.

4. We have seen that sin and spiritual deception come from our own evil heart (Mk. 7: 21-23; James 1:14-15). Jeremiah 17: 9 says that our heart is too deceitful for us to fully appreciate just how deceptive it is. We have also often seen that this evil heart is sometimes termed “Satan”; but Satan is not a force outside that evil heart - it is the heart itself.

5. Notice that Satan’s deceit of the nations and all of his powers were totally in control of God (Rev. 20: 2, 3 & 7). Satan is not a free agent to act as he wishes, without regard for God.

6. If the Devil in the sense of a personal being is caught hold of and bound at the start of the 1000 years, i.e. at the return of Christ, how then are we to understand that the Devil was "destroyed" by the death of Christ, and by the fact that a perfect Jesus had human nature (Heb. 2:14)? How come he is still running free at the time of Christ's return? Further, Jesus had prophesied how in His death, He would "bind" [same Greek word] the "strong man" and enable us to spoil the Devil's house (Mt. 12:29). The Devil in the sense of sin and the power of sin was indeed bound by the Lord's death. The parable of the wheat and tares helps explain things further- the tares, the people and systems who follow the Devil in the sense of the desires of sin, grow together with the wheat, until the Lord comes and the Angels go forth and "bind them in bundles to burn them" (Mt. 13:30). Here in Rev. 20:1,2 we have an Angel binding the Devil and then burning him in the lake of fire. There's an evident connection here. Surely the idea is that those people and systems who have followed the Devil / the flesh / sin will be exposed for whom they are, bound by the Angels, and destroyed by the end of the 1000 years. The Lord uses the same figure of 'binding' to describe how the condemned people at the final judgment will be 'bound hand and foot' by the Angels and then destroyed (Mt. 22:13).

7. I suggest that here again we have an example of Scripture alluding to contemporary incorrect ideas and deconstructing them. The Jews until about 150 B.C. believed that Messiah would return and establish His Kingdom on earth. But influenced by their humiliation under the Romans, they came to believe that the world was too evil for Messiah to return to, and that it required a 1000 year period of purification by the Jews before Messiah could return. Slavonic Enoch 22-23, which has been dated at around 50 A.D., stated this specifically. Revelation was therefore written with this idea current in the surrounding Jewish world. I suggest that this incorrect view is being alluded to and deconstructed, by stating that Messiah will come at the beginning of the 1000 years and 'purify' the earth forcibly by figuratively 'chaining' Satan. Thus Messiah is to come and purify the earth Himself, rather than the Jews having to purify the earth for 1000 years before Messiah could come.

Suggested Explanations

1. Revelation 20:2 has clear links with Revelation 12: 9 - “the great dragon...that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world”. We have interpreted this as having some reference to a political organization which epitomizes the Devil, i.e. man’s evil desires. The fact that it is “bound” for the 1,000 years of Christ’s Millennial reign (i.e. the first part of this Kingdom which He will set up on earth at His second coming), shows that this organization is very much in evidence in the last days before His coming - i.e. now.

This organization is “bound” during the Millennium. It then reappears, with God’s permission, at the end of the 1,000 years (v. 7) and inspires a political confederacy of nations to attack Christ (v. 8) - “God and Magog, to gather them together to battle”. This has many echoes of the confederacy against Christ in these last days before the second coming (cp. Ez. 38:2; Rev. 16:14 & 16). The same kind of political system will, perhaps, be allowed to develop again at the end of the 1,000 years. However, it is totally destroyed, v. 10, along with the other political systems - “the beast and the false prophet” - that meet their end at Christ’s second coming. The whole book of Revelation is full of allusions to the Old Testament prophecies. Rev. 20:1-3 is surely based upon Is. 24:21,22, which prophesied that the kings of the earth will be gathered together, imprisoned in a pit and punished. It is these very human "kings of the earth" who are described in the more figurative language of Revelation as "Satan".

2. From what we know of conditions in the Millennium (the 1,000 years reign of Christ at the start of the Kingdom of God), the “Devil and Satan” here clearly also represent the evil desires within man and the expression of those desires in sin. In the Millennium, the curse that was put on the earth in Eden will be greatly reduced. The deserts will be fertile (Is. 35:1), there will be no more famine (Is. 35: 7; Ps. 67: 6; 72:16) and therefore man will not have to work so much in the sweat of his face to stay alive (Gen. 3:17). However, man will still have to till the ground and “sweat” to some extent (Is. 65:21). Although people will live much happier and longer lives, there will still be death - if a man dies at 100 years of age he will be thought of as a mere child (Is. 65:20). This is why, at the end of the 1,000 years, there will be a second resurrection (Rev. 20: 5-6) for those who die during that 1,000 years.

Sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). The curse on the earth came because of sin, and to some degree is perpetuated because of our continued sinning - “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all (men) have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The reduction of the curse will therefore be because man is sinning less, although it will still be there to some degree because the people are still sinful descendants of Adam. An accurate way of saying that man is sinning less is to say that the Devil - the evil desires and sins of man - is bound for 1,000 years, but resurges at the end, leading to a rebellion against Christ.

If this was the fault of an evil being outside of people, he should be punished, but they are punished (Rev. 20: 9) because they have given way to the Devil within them. When the Devil is cast into the lake of fire, so is death (Rev. 20:10 cp. v. 14), implying that the Devil and death are closely connected - which they are, because “the wages of sin (the Devil) is death” (Rom. 6:23); the Devil “had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14). Thus the Devil here in Revelation 20 is also our evil desires; they deceive the whole world, seeing that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” and is obedient to the lusts of the flesh (i.e. the deception of the Devil) - 1 John 5:19; 2:16.