Bible Prophecy in Chronology series (post #24)
It is surprising that The Revelation doesn’t have much to say about Christ’s millennial reign. The whole time period is covered in just six verses (Revelation 20:1-6). In order to get the full description of those 1,000 years, we have to dig our way through multiple passages from the Old Testament prophets. And that’s what we did last time.
So, now we move past Christ’s millennial reign and into the area of post-millennium events. John starts off his record of those events with a bang. He says, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from prison” (Revelation 20:7). As we learned in a previous post (post #22), Satan and the other fallen angels will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit (the site known in the New Testament’s original Greek as Tartarus) for the duration of the millennial reign. As soon as those 1,000 years are ended, though, Satan will be set free. John doesn’t specifically mention the other fallen angels being set free, but it is safe to assume they will be. After all, he doesn’t mention them being initially imprisoned either (Revelation 20:1).
And what does Satan do upon the moment of his release? Is he a changed devil? Has a thousand years in the hole given him an attitude adjustment? Is he now ready to finally submit to the God who created him? Nope, not a chance. John says that he “will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8). The devil, if he is anything, is incorrigible. So much for bottomless-pit rehabilitation.
Okay, now let’s identify the players in this new battle. Who are “the nations which are in the four corners of the earth”? These nations consist of the worldwide descendants of those tribulation-period survivors/believers who went into the millennial reign in their earthly bodies. In my last post, I explained that at Christ’s Second Coming He will welcome those believers into His kingdom age and heal their bodies completely. These people will then proceed to live long lives (centuries) in the kingdom age, build houses, plant crops, and prolifically produce offspring. How many offspring? John says the number of world citizens at the end of the millennial reign will be “as the sand of the sea.”
But there is a problem with these descendants who are alive on the earth at the end of the millennial reign: They are lost! How is that possible? Remember that the tribulation-period survivors/believers will carry mankind’s inborn, Adamic nature of sin into the kingdom age and pass it down to their descendants. Those descendants will in turn pass it down to their descendants, who will in turn pass it down to their descendants, etc., etc. My guess is that the first generation will, in vast majority, accept King Jesus as their Savior and Lord. With each passing generation, however, the number will dwindle until finally, in the end, Jesus will be ruling over a planet of rebels. The fact that Jesus will still be reigning over the earth will prevent these rebels from displaying their rebellion outwardly but they will certainly be lost, unbelieving rebels inwardly. Consequently, as soon as Satan is released from the bottomless pit and starts raising an army to march against Jesus, he will find willing volunteers from all around the globe.
Now let’s turn our attention to identifying the “Gog” and “Magog” John mentions in verse 8. In post #7 from this series, I referenced Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 in regards to a coalition army that will come against Israel sometime in the tribulation period and be devastatingly defeated by God. This army will be led by “Gog,” who will come from the land of “Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2). “Gog” is described as “the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:3). Since “Gog” will come from a place that is “far north” (Ezekiel 38:14-15, 39:1-2) of Israel, most commentators figure him to be a future leader of that land we call Russia. Under this reasonable interpretation, the land of “Magog” is Russia.
Well, all that makes good sense, but what does any of it have to do with the army that Satan will amass to march against Jesus at the end of the millennial reign? My answer is that God’s written word reverts back to the names “Gog” and ‘Magog” in naming this army as a way of symbolically showing that this army will march toward Israel with the same ferocity with which Gog marched out of Magog over a thousand years earlier. In other words, this army will head toward Israel with the same wild-eyed zeal, gusto, and determination to destroy Israel. I’m not even sure they will have weapons. If they do have them, they will have made them outside Christ’s will in the millennial reign.
If nothing else, this passage should teach us that man’s spiritual problem isn’t his environment. Despite having been born into an idyllic world reigned over by Jesus, and having lived their entire lives in that world, these people will stubbornly refuse to yield to His lordship and will embrace the first alternative (Satan) as soon as he becomes available. Really, though, this shouldn’t come as such a shock to us. Remember that Adam and Eve fell into sin from the perfect environment of the garden of Eden. Like I said, man’s spiritual problem isn’t his environment. I’m not saying that a person’s environment can’t be a factor in his/her spiritual condition, but what it can never be is the bedrock root of the person’s sin. That problem runs far deeper than one’s surroundings.
And so what will become of this great army that follows Satan as he marches toward Jerusalem for yet another showdown with Jesus? Would you believe they last only one verse? Revelation 20:9 says: “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”
In the end, Satan’s final rebellion won’t amount to much, will it? All of his human soldiers will be instantly “devoured” by fire thrown down from God the Father in heaven. I take the word “devoured” there to mean “incinerated.” Their bodies will be turned to ashes and their souls will be banished to hell.
The “beloved city” mentioned in the verse is obviously Jerusalem. But who exactly are “the saints”? If nothing else, the New Testament teaches in passage after passage that each Christian is a “saint” (even though we surely don’t always act saintly). I feel confident in saying, though, that the “saints” of Revelation 20:9 are all the believers from the entire scope of human history beginning with Adam and ending with the last believer from the kingdom age. Evidently, by the time of this last battle on earth, all of history’s believers will be enjoying the blessing of an eternal, glorified body and no new converts will be joining the ranks of the saved.
As for what becomes of Satan, Revelation 20:10 says: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast (the Antichrist) and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” This “lake of fire and brimstone” is commonly known as “the lake of fire” or “the eternal lake of fire.” It equates to that place that is called Gehenna in twelve instances in the New Testament’s original Greek.
In each of the twelve usages, the old King James translation translates Gehenna as “hell.” This has caused great confusion because the K.J.V. also translates the Greek words Tartarus and Hades as “hell” even though Tartarus, Hades, and Gehenna are completely different places. Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4) is a place exclusively reserved for the incarceration of fallen angels. It’s the “bottomless pit” where Satan and the other fallen angels will spend the thousand years of Christ’s millennial reign. Hades (Luke 16:23, Acts 2:27-31, Revelation 6:8, etc.) is the “hell” that is open for business now, the place our minds envision as hell. When a lost person dies today, his/her soul goes there. Gehenna (Matthew 5:22-30, Mark 9:43-45, Luke 12:5, etc.) is the “lake of fire” that will one day officially replace Hades as eternity’s hell. (I’ll say more about that in the next post.)
Currently Gehenna has no occupants. Its first occupants will be the Antichrist and the False Prophet as they are cast in there alive (body and soul) immediately following the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:20). You see, one of the major differences between Gehenna and Hades is that whereas Hades only receives souls (with the bodies going to graves), Gehenna receives the bodies as well.
Nevertheless, the places are similar in that each of them features flame, suffering, and torment. You’ll notice that Revelation 20:10 says of the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and Satan in the lake of fire: “And they will be tormented tormented day and night forever and ever.” These words stand in stark contrast to the idea that eternal punishment will not be “eternal” after all, but will instead amount to instant and total obliteration in the fires of God’s judgment. Never doubt that damnation means the perpetual, unceasing torment and suffering of the individual for all eternity.
And so Gehenna then will be the final stop for the unholy trinity of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. That leaves only the eternal abodes of history’s lost and saved for us to cover in this series. And we’ll get half of that done in the next post. So, until then, keep looking for the Rapture of the church – that split second when Jesus will step into earth’s sky and snatch away the body of each and every Christian. That is the next event on God’s schedule of prophecy, and it really could happen at any moment.