[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
20 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
This is the fourth vision, in the series of seven. In Revelation 9:1, an angel was given the key to the abyss. This is most likely a different angel. It is not an actual key, but signifies authority over the abyss. The chain would also not be literal
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
This is the same red dragon from chapter 12. John explicitly identifies it, so we cannot confuse it with the beast from the sea or the beast from the earth. While the chain may not be literal, it symbolizes the angel’s authority to physically restrain Satan.
Isaiah 27:1 says, “In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
3 And 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.
Satan, the liar and father of lies (John 8:44), will not be able to influence anyone during this time. That he cannot deceive the nations, shows that there will be non-believers left on the earth. Daniel 7:11-12 states that the three kingdoms, which ruled alongside the kingdom of the Antichrist to form the beast-kingdom, will still exist at this time, but will have lost their authority.
In Matthew 25:1-12, Jesus told a parable, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” The bridegroom, in this parable, represents Jesus, and the bride represents the church (all Christians). How many of the ten virgins did the bridegroom marry? None. They do not represent Christians or the church. The virgins represent the unsaved who have neither committed themselves to Christ or to the Antichrist. Some will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom, some will not.
4 And 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.
“And I saw” indicates a new scene, which is the fifth, in the series of seven, which deal with God’s judgment.
It is not clear who, besides Jesus, is sitting on thrones, but it may be those beheaded for being Christians, as they will be given the right to reign with Christ for the thousand years. Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on thrones alongside him (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). It is at this point that the unbelievers will be judged to determine if they are allowed to enter the millennial kingdom.
Notice that these martyrs are obedient on several fronts. They are faithful for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, they refused to worship the beast or his image, and they refused to receive the mark of the beast. They are not beheaded only for being Christian, but for steadfastly defying the beast.
Some argue that this is not a literal thousand years, and point to 2 Peter 3:8, which says that to the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. Yet, that verse is from God’s perspective, while this verse is from man’s perspective. Also, John specifically says six times that it will be a thousand years. On the other hand, scripture always validates scripture, but a literal thousand year reign is not validated anywhere else in scripture. This period does, however, appear in Isaiah 65:17-25 to be at least several hundred years long. So, either it is a literal thousand years and Isaiah was simply not being specific, or the thousand years in Revelation is symbolic for a very long and predetermined amount of time.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The resurrection of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:12), as well as the resurrection of all dead saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16), must occur during the first resurrection. Notice that this verse does not say that the resurrection occurs at this specific point, but simply that those reigning with Christ are from the first resurrection. We must be careful to pay close attention to the chronology of the seals, trumpets, and bowls. This resurrection occurred at the sixth trumpet, and the saints literally began to reign with Jesus at the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 we learn that the resurrection will occur in stages, with Jesus being the first (see also- Rev. 1:5), then all saints at the second coming of Jesus, then the last will be people saved during the millennium. This is the first resurrection of saints. It should also be noted that to be resurrected is not the same as being raised from the dead. The Bible speaks of many people who were raised from the dead, yet every single one of them died again. To be resurrected is to be raised to eternal life.
6 Blessed 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.
This verse makes it clear that there will be no unbelievers resurrected before the end of the millennium. While the Bible does not specifically mention a second resurrection, it does mention the second death four times (2:11; 20:6; 20:14; 21:8). The second death will have authority to claim those who belong to it, but the saints from the first resurrection will not have to fear it.
They will physically reign, with Christ, a thousand years, before the nations (Rev. 2:26-27). This cannot be some spiritual reign, as some suppose.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
While there are many verses, in the Old Testament, about the millennium, John skips this period, and goes straight to the end of it. (see- Isaiah 11; Isaiah 65:17-25; Ezekiel 40-48)
After a thousand years, Satan is released, and will immediately resume his agenda.
8 And 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.
That the nations still exist at the end of the millennium shows, once again, that unbelievers will enter this period. Isaiah 65 speaks of people being born, and dying, during this time. The saints of God will neither die, nor have children, as we will be in our resurrected bodies. It will be only those having mortal bodies that will repopulate the earth and make up the nations which will be deceived by Satan.
We should take note that the nations are so quickly deceived by Satan. This is truly sad, considering how the thousand years began. Jesus was physically present, the Christians were finally perfect in their resurrected bodies, the only unbelievers allowed to enter were those who expressed no hatred toward God, and also Satan was not around to deceive anyone. It is true that man’s heart is inclined, always, toward evil.
The identity of Gog, and Magog, is subject to much debate. The only other places that the Bible mentions them, is in Ezekiel 38-39. Many believe, however, that the two accounts are not related. The timing of this verse is after the millennium, while the timing of Ezekiel appears to be sometime before the millennium.
9 And 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.
At this point, all unbelievers will be annihilated from the face of the earth.
10 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.
The lake of fire was specifically prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). The beast and false prophet were symbolically thrown there in Revelation 19:20.
11 And 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.
This is the sixth, of the seven visions. This event is commonly called “The great white throne judgment”.
At this point, the earth and sky, as we know it, will be destroyed. The earth will not cease to exist, but will be destroyed in the same sense that it was destroyed during Noah’s flood (2 Peter 3:6).
12 And 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.
This is the last, in the series of seven visions, which deal with God’s judgment. The dead, not the living, are judged. They are judged according to their wicked deeds.
13 And 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.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
This is symbolic. Death and hell are not persons that they can literally be thrown into the lake of fire. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said that He holds the keys to death and hell. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says that the last enemy Jesus will destroy is death (see also- Hebrews 2:14-15). Hell, or Hades, is the holding place for the wicked who are awaiting the final judgment, after which they will be cast into the lake of fire. At this point, hell will have no more purpose. (See- 1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
First, the unrighteous will be gathered and removed, then the righteous will be gathered and brought into the eternal kingdom (Matthew 13:24-30).