What does Revelation 20 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
In prior chapters, John described his vision of the final judgments on earth, leading up to the defeat of the Antichrist and the False Prophet at Armageddon. Following that conflict, the two Satanic figureheads are cast into the lake of fire. This chapter unfolds the Devil's destiny afterwards.

John sees an angel binding Satan with a great chain and confining him to the bottomless pit for a thousand years. During this time, it seems Satan is not allowed to exert his normal influence on the world. Part of this binding, and eventual releasing, seems to be to prove that mankind is desperately wicked—even after a millennium of peace, some people will still choose to reject God, as seen later in the chapter. During this time, those who were saved during the tribulation are brought back to life: the first resurrection (Revelation 20:1–6).

Satan's release at the end of the thousand years results in a rebellion. This is a sad commentary on man's limitless ability to reject God and follow his own stubborn pride. Even after ten centuries of peace and righteousness, led by Christ Himself, so many people will be willing to follow Satan that "their number is like the sand of the sea." Once again, those who oppose God will be soundly defeated—this time, however, Satan is cast forever into the lake of fire. There will be no escape or temptation from the Devil any more (Revelation 20:7–11).

After the final defeat and punishment of Satan, the rest of mankind is resurrected. These are the non-believers, brought back to life in the second resurrection. This brings them to a great white throne, symbolic of purity and justice. Unlike the rainbow throne described in earlier chapters, this one is austere. Those who died in Christ are judged on the basis of His life, rather than their own—those are the persons whose names were written in the book of life (John 3:16–18). In contrast, here at the great white throne judgment, unbelievers are judged on their own deeds, which means damnation (Romans 6:23). Every person who did not follow Christ is consigned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15).

At this point in Revelation, victory over death and evil is complete. Every harm, every wrong, and every sin has been punished. Every person who followed God has been restored and rescued. Satan is gone forever. All wrongs have been made right. What follows in the next chapters are John's visions of the eternity believers will share with Christ.
Verse Context:
Revelation 20:1–3 describes the Devil's punishment, following the doom of the Antichrist and the False Prophet we read about in Revelation 19:20–21. Satan is enclosed in the bottomless pit, to be released at the end of a thousand years. Matthew 24:29–31 reports the coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation, and Matthew 25:31–46 describes the judgment of the nations that takes place when Jesus inaugurates His kingdom on earth.
Revelation 20:4–10 focuses on the reign of Christ during the millennium: the thousand years of Christ's rule on earth, as well as what happens at the end of that era. The millennial reign begins after the Devil is imprisoned in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1–3) and before the unrighteous dead of all periods of history are judged and consigned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15). These events precede the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven (Revelation 21).
Revelation 20:11–15 occurs just after the end of the kingdom reign of Christ on earth, when Satan was released for a brief time. He gathered rebel forces together to battle God and His saints, but lost and was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7–10). The next event described by John is the judgment at the great white throne. This is the point where unbelievers are judged according to their actions—a death sentence for everyone not saved through Christ (Romans 6:23). Chapter 21 describes the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven and the beginning of the eternal age.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation chapter 20 represents the final lesson, final judgment, and final victory of the end times. Satan is bound, but not destroyed, and released after a thousand years of peace and righteousness. Proving that no evidence or reason to believe in and follow Jesus is enough for those determined to rebel, some follow Satan and are destroyed in a rebellion. Those who died without faith in Christ, through all of history, are resurrected to face the great white throne judgment. There, they are sentenced for sin and consigned eternally to the lake of fire.
Chapter Context:
This chapter comes between the account of our Lord's decisive victory at Armageddon and the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven to earth. It focuses on the beginning of Jesus' reign on the earth and the great white throne judgment when unbelievers from all periods of history are judged and sentenced to eternal suffering in the lake of fire. Daniel 7:18, Isaiah 11, Joel 3:16–21, Obadiah 1:21, and Micah 4:2 are just a few of the Old Testament references to the reign of Jesus on the earth. After this point in the end times, evil has been entirely and completely defeated.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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