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26 October 2019

War and the Judgment of Satan

SYNOPSISThe Dragon is released from the “Abyss” for a “short season” to gather the nations in a final attempt to annihilate the saints. Instead, it produces the final overthrow of Satan – Revelation 20:7-10.


by Kirsten Drew on Unsplash
The point is now reached for the judgment and final downfall of the Dragon, the Devil. In its second major literary division, the book of Revelation introduced the cosmic enemies of the Lamb - The Dragon, the “Beast from the Sea,” the “Beast from the Earth,” and Babylon, the “Great Harlot” (Chapters 12 through 14). In the third division, it presented their destruction but in reverse order - Babylon, the beasts from the sea and the earth, and now, the “Dragon,” Satan (Chapters 17 through 20).

The “Dragon” was defeated by the appearance of the messianic “son” when he was “cast down” to the earth and, thereafter, no longer able to hurl accusations against the “brethren” in the heavenly court.  The saints overcame him “by the blood of the Lamb.” Although still able to cause trouble, the Devil since that defeat has been prevented from destroying the Woman Clothed with the Sun or her “seed,” at least, not until a future final “short season.” In the interim, God protected her in the “wilderness” from Satan’s full power for a “season, seasons, and half of a season” (Revelation 12:1-17).

Likewise, in Chapter 20, the “Dragon” was imprisoned in the “Abyss” for a thousand years until a final “short time” at the end of the period. Only then would he be released from the Abyss to deceive the nations into a final assault against the “camp of the saints.” That “season” has now been reached.

  • (Revelation 20:7-10) – “And as soon as the thousand years shall be ended, the Accuser shall be loosed out of his prison, and will go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, the Gog and Magog, to gather them together unto the battle — the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they came up over the breadth of the land, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. And there came down fire out of heaven and devoured them; and the Adversary that had been deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where [were] both the wild-beast and the false-prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night, unto the ages of ages.”

When the thousand years shall be completed.” The Greek term rendered “completed” is teleĊ. The same term is applied in several preceding passages that look forward to this same climactic moment, as follows:

  • (Revelation 10:7) – “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be completed.”
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they shall have completed their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the Abyss shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
  • (Revelation 15:1) – “And I saw another sign in heaven…seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is completed the wrath of God.”
  • (Revelation 15:8) – “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”
  • (Revelation 17:7) – “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be completed.”
  • (Revelation 20:3-5) – “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, until the thousand years should be completed; and after that he must be loosed a little season…But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were completed.”

Satan will be loosed out of his prison.” This “prison” is identical with the “Abyss” (verses 1-3), and the “loosing” of the Devil is synonymous with the Dragon’s “ascent” from the Abyss/Sea (compare - Revelation 9:14-15).


When previous passages described the “ascent of the Beast,” it had the characteristics and authority of the “Dragon” - It did the bidding of Satan on the earth (Revelation 12:3, 13:1-3).


The previous image of the “Beast ascending from the Abyss” corresponds to the release of Satan from the same “Abyss” at the end of the “thousand years.” Compare, carefully, the following passages:

  • (Revelation 9:1-2) – “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the Abyss. And he opened the Abyss and there ascended a smoke out of the pit.”
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they shall have completed their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the Abyss shall make war against them.”
  • (Revelation 13:7) – “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast ascending out of the sea.”
  • (Revelation 17:8) – “The beast that you saw was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the Abyss, and go into destruction."

At that time, the Devil will “go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.” Previously, the Dragon was described as the one who “deceives the whole habitable earth” - The creature who, enraged, went off to destroy the woman and her “seed,” they  who had the “testimony of Jesus.” Fortunately, God protected the “Woman” and the “Dragon” was unable to prosecute his murderous plan until a final “short season” (Revelation 12:9-17).


Trial of Jesus
Similarly, after the opening of the sixth seal, John saw four angels standing at the “four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow…until we have sealed the servants of our God.” The “four corners” of the earth represent the entire world. Once again, followers of the Lamb were protected from persecuting forces, at least for now (Revelation 7:1-3).

The reference to “Gog and Magog” identifies this global force with Ezekiel’s prophecy of an invasion of ancient Israel by “Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” The difference now is this army is transformed into a worldwide force - It is not an alliance of regional nations from the Middle East, and the ensuing “battle” covers the entire earth (Ezekiel 38:1-2).

To gather them together to the war.” The same phrase was used previously to anticipate a future “battle,” a clause derived from Daniel 7:21. Note the parallels below. In each case, earthly forces were gathered to the “war,” singular, against the saints of the Lamb and his “armies.” The several “battle” scenes in Revelation all point to the same event, the last attempt by the “Dragon” to destroy the followers of the Lamb:

  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.”
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “The beast that ascends out of the Abyss shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
  • (Revelation 12:17) – “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed.”
  • (Revelation 13:7) – “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints.”
  • (Revelation 16:14-16) – “They are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole habitable earth to gather them to the war of that great day of God Almighty…and he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
  • (Revelation 19:19-20) – “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

The number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” This description recalls the passage from Chapter 13 when John saw the Dragon “standing on the sands of the sea” as the “Beast was ascending” from it. And elsewhere the book, the “sea” is a functional equivalent of the “Abyss,” the place from which evil creatures “ascend” to persecute the “saints” (Revelation 13:1-7, 15:1-4).


Paul in Prison
And they ascended over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints.” The sentence is another allusion to the prophecy from the book of Ezekiel in which the invading force “ascends and comes like a storm, like a cloud to cover the land…You will ascend against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land” (Ezekiel 38:9-16).

The camp of the saints and the beloved city.” John mixes his metaphors. Whereas, in Ezekiel’s prophecy, “Gog and Magog” invaded the land of Israel, now, the Devil leads his force to destroy a “camp” and a “city.”

Camp” recalls the image of Israel as a pilgrim people in the Wilderness. “Saints” in the book of Revelation refers consistently to followers of the Lamb from every nation, including but by no means limited to Israel (Revelation 5:8, 11:18, 13:7).

The “beloved city” corresponds to the “new Jerusalem” and “bride” of the Lamb in contrast to the “great city,” the “Harlot” Babylon. Humanity is divided between two cities – “Babylon” and “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 3:12, 21:2).

Fire came down from and consumed them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.” This is a further allusion to Ezekiel’s vision, as follows:

  • (Ezekiel 38:22) – “And I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone.”
  • (Ezekiel 39:6) – “And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am Yahweh.”

Where the beast and the false prophet are.” The “Beast” and “False Prophet” were cast alive into the “Lake of Fire” at the end of their war against the Lamb. Thus, the narrative climaxes with the destruction of the final cosmic enemy of the Lamb and his people (Revelation 19:17-21).

 

The judgments of “Babylon,” the “Beast from the Sea,” the “False Prophet,” and the Dragon all occur at the climax of the same final “war.” This argues against any chronological sequence or passage of time between their respective judgments. Each of the Lamb’s major enemies is judged and cast into the “Lake of Fire” at the end of the same battle.

 

The application of “war” language to the Devil’s attempt to destroy the “saints” suggests strongly that this “war” portrays the persecution of the church by the earthly vassals of Satan, not battles fought between conventional armies and nation-states.


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