Imprisonment of Satan

The Devil is bound in the Abyss until the appointed time when he is released to launch his final assault against the saints – Revelation 20:1-3.

Next, the book of Revelation describes how Satan is bound in the “Abyss” for the “thousand years” until his release at the end of the period. During his imprisonment, he is prevented from “deceiving the nations.” Only after he is loosed is he free to mislead them. The passage includes several verbal links to the expulsion of Satan from heaven in chapter 12.

The “Abyss” was introduced when the “fifth trumpet” sounded and a “star from heaven was given the key to the Abyss.” With this key, the “star” opened the “Abyss” to unleash an army of “locusts” upon the earth.

Dungeon Photo by Nathan Wright on Unsplash
[Photo by Nathan Wright on Unsplash]

Elsewhere in the book of 
Revelation, “stars” represent “angels,” and that is likely the case in the “fifth trumpet.” Similarly, in chapter 20, an angel has the “key to the Abyss” with which he seals the Devil in the pit - (Revelation 1:19-20, 9:1-4).

  • (Revelation 20:1-3) – “And I saw an angel descending from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain upon his hand; and he laid hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and fastened and sealed it over him that he might not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years should end, after these things he must be loosed for a short time.”

DRAGON’S IMPRISONMENT


In chapter 9, the “Abyss” has a “king” over it called Abaddon and Apollyon, meaning “Destruction” and “Destroyer,” respectively. Evil forces are released to torment the “inhabitants of the earth” who do not have the “seal of God.”

In chapter 20, the angel descends from heaven with the authority to bind the Devil, not to release him. This locates the casting of Satan into the “Abyss” BEFORE the events detailed in chapter 9.

John describes a “great chain” in the angel’s hand, and this demonstrates that the image is not literal. A spiritual being cannot be held by a physical chain.

As before, Satan is described as “the Dragon, the Ancient Serpent who is the Devil and Satan.” The four names provide links to chapter 12 where the “Dragon” is expelled from heaven:

  • (Revelation 12:9) – “The GREAT DRAGON was cast down, the ANCIENT SERPENT, he that is called the DEVIL AND SATAN; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.”

The reference to the “Ancient Serpent” recalls the Genesis account where the “serpent” tempts Eve in the Garden. In chapter 12, the “Dragon” is “cast” (ballō) to the “earth.” Likewise, Satan is now “cast” (ballō) into the “Abyss.”

Previously, he was expelled from the heavenly “court” and lost his prosecutorial powers because of the exaltation of the “son.” In the interpretation of that vision, his expulsion is part of the victory achieved by the “brethren” through the “blood of the Lamb” - (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9-11).

In chapter 20, the angel “cast him into the Abyss…that he might not deceive the nations anymore,” another link to the twelfth chapter where the “Dragon” is called “the deceiver of the whole habitable earth (oikumené).” However, in the “Abyss,” Satan is not bound from all evil activities, but only from “deceiving the nations.”

THE ABYSS


The ABYSS.” As with the “great chain,” the term cannot be interpreted literally as a bottomless pit somewhere underneath the earth.  A spirit can no more be held in a hole in the ground than it can be bound by a metal chain.

In the “fifth trumpet,” the “star” uses his “key” to unleash demonic forces that “ascend” from the “Abyss.”  In chapter 11, the “Beast from the Abyss ascended” to wage war with the “Two Witnesses.” And in chapter 13, the same “Beast” is seen “ascending from the sea” to wage “war with the saints.” All these passages are connected by verbal and visual links.

Similarly, in the book of Daniel, four beasts ascend from the “sea”, and the latter represents the nations of the earth. In Revelation, the “Beast was, and is not, and will ascend from the Abyss.” After its ascent, the “inhabitants of the earth” will “wonder” at its revival. Later, the Devil rises from the “Abyss” to “deceive the nations” which then “ascend” over the earth to destroy the “saints.

Thus, the theme of something evil that “ascends from the Abyss” to “deceive the nations” and attack the “saints” is repeated several times in Revelation- (17:8, 20:7-10).

Chain - Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
[Chain - Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]

After this, he must be loosed for a SHORT TIME.” This refers to the appointed time when Satan is released to “deceive the nations” and lead them in an attack against the saints. The “short time” is referenced several times in the book, the period when Satan is released to “gather” the nations for his “war” against the “saints” - (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 9:14-15, 12:12-14, 16:12-14, 17:10).

THOUSAND YEARS


The thousand years.” This is the only passage in the Bible that refers to this thousand-year period. Numbers in Revelation are figurative, and several numbers are multiples of smaller numbers - some doubled, tripled, and even cubed for effect.

For example, the “144,000” males from the “twelve tribes of Israel” is a multiple of 12 - (12 x 12 x 1,000). The “thousand years” is a multiple of 10 and corresponds to the “tribulation of ten days” endured by the church at Smyrna.

The thousand-year period points to the interval between the coronation of the “Lamb” and the release of Satan for the final “short time” and his final “war” against the church. In the interim, he is authorized to persecute the church and otherwise cause suffering. But he is unable to “deceive all the nations” and launch his last attempt to annihilate the “saints” until the designated time.

In the twelfth chapter, the enraged “Dragon” attempts to destroy the “woman” but is prevented from doing so for the “season, seasons, and half of a season.” Only afterward is he authorized to wage war against the “seed of the woman.” So also, in chapter 13, the “Beast from the sea” is only able to launch its “war” against the “saints” after being authorized to do so. And now, in chapter 20, the Devil is not released to launch his final “war” until the end of this period at the appointed “short time” when he is “loosed.”

In short, the wars waged against the “Two Witnesses” by the “beast from the Abyss,” against the “rest of the seed of the woman” by the “Dragon,” against the “saints” by the “Beast from the sea,” and by Satan when he is released to attack the “camp of the saints” all portray the same final attempt by the “Ancient Serpent” to destroy the people of God.

Likewise, as the verbal links demonstrate, the “ascent of the beast from the Abyss,” the “ascent of the beast from the sea,” and the release of the Devil from the “Abyss” all picture the same release of the Devil from the pit at the end of the age.



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