The Millennial Kingdom – is the thousand year reign described here that of a literal kingdom on
earth? And is it a future reign—or is it already in progress? Are the two resurrections which
bracket the thousand years to be understood as literal, physical raisings from the dead? Or are
they spiritual resurrections, related to faith? Or are they some combination of the two? When
Satan is bound for the duration of this period, how complete is his binding? Who binds him
and how is he bound? Is he bound even now?
In the previous chapter we saw Christ ride forth under the declaration that he would (1) strike
the nations, and (2) rule them with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15+). The striking took place during the
Campaign of Armageddon. Now, the “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16+) is
to take up His promised earthly reign (Mat. 6:10). It would seem most natural that if His Second
Coming occurs in Revelation 19:1+, then the rule described here (Rev. 20:4+) would follow
upon His physical return.
The view we set forth is that of the earliest Church Fathers, known as premillennialism or
chiliasm—the belief that Christ returns before His kingdom commences on earth for one
thousand years. This believe was universally held by the early Church to teach a literal
resurrection, and thoroughly consistent with Jewish views.
Depending upon how one understands the first few verses of this chapter, one will most likely
wind up in one of the major interpretive camps: premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial.
Only the premillennial interpreter takes the verses in their most literal way—symbolism being
used to describe literal events yet future. The other two interpretive positions are forced into
spiritualizing elements of the passage in order to achieve self-consistency among elements
within the passage (e.g., the nature of the resurrections, the binding of Satan, the duration of
I saw an angel coming down from heaven
John has previously seen other angels coming down from heaven on divine missions. A mighty
angel came down from heaven to stand upon the sea and land and declare God’s dominion
retaking the earth (Rev. Rev. 10:2+). An angel with great authority came down from heaven to
declare the destruction of Babylon (Rev. Rev. 18:1+). Even before this angel takes action, we
know that he is on a mission from the throne having divine authority. Given his mission, it is
remarkable that he is not even described as being great or mighty. Nevertheless, he will be able
to easily dispatch Satan to his millennial prison.
having the key to the bottomless pit
In the ninth chapter, John saw a “star” which fell from heaven having the key to the shaft of this
same earthly compartment (Rev. Rev. 9:1+). The star (angel) opened the pit to loose the
demonic locusts at the fifth trumpet judgment. Here, an angel will perform the opposite action
with his key: locking up the bottomless pit, probably by means of securing the same shaft. If
the star which loosed the locusts was Satan, the irony which confronts him now is being a
prisoner in the very abyss which he was previously able to unlock. See commentary on
Bottomless pit – Gr: ἄβυσσον [abysson] : a very deep gulf or chasm in the lowest parts of the
a great chain in his hand
This is not the first time where an angelic power will have been said to be chained: “God did
not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of
darkness” (2Pe. 2:4) and “the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own
above, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day”
(Jude 1:6). Since spiritual beings, such as angels like Satan, cannot be restricted by physical
means, we must understand the chain to denote a supernatural restraint which is ultimately
provided by God for the express purpose of the angel’s task. In a similar way that the rebellious
angels were locked away and unable to roam, so too will be Satan. The figure of a chain is
used: the restraint provides no degree of freedom whereby it may be stretched.
In our discussion of The Rise of Allegorical Interpretation, we saw that once the tether of literal
interpretation is cut, there is virtually no limit to the variety of fanciful solutions which may be
provided as possible explanations for the meaning of the text. And so it is with amillennialism
which denies the plain meaning of the text and takes almost the entire passage as an
imprecise approximation of the spiritual authority now present in the Church. Here, we are told
that an angel will bind Satan. Although the Church is never said to be an angel, amillennialist
Kik is sure it is the Church which has this chain and that Satan is currently bound:
It is not difficult to ascertain by what means Satan is bound. The chain is the Gospel. Wherever
a soul is released through the preaching of the Gospel there Satan is restrained and limited. . . .
Unfortunately the Church of today does not realize the power that Christ has given her. Christ
has placed in her hands the chain by which she can bind Satan. She can restrain his influence
over the nations. But today the Church bemoans the fact that evil is becoming stronger and
stronger. She bemoans the fact that the world is coming more and more under the control of
the Devil. Whose fault is that? It is the Church. She has the chain and does not have the faith to
bind Satan ever more firmly. Satan is bound and the Church knows it not! Satan can be bound
ever more firmly and the Church does it not! [emphasis added]6
Amillennialism (Greek: a- “no” + millennialism) is the view in Christian eschatology which states
that Christ is presently reigning through the Church, and that the “1000 years” of Revelation
20:1-6 is a metaphorical reference to the present church age which will culminate in Christ’s
return. It stands in contrast to premillennialism, which states that Christ will return prior to a
literal 1000 year earthly reign; and postmillennialism, which states that Christ’s return will follow
a 1000 year golden age ushered in by the church.)
Amillenialism is taught in the Catholic, Presbyterian, Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican
According to amillennialism, the chain is riddled with lack of faith. Its ability to restrain is
compromised because the Church doesn’t realize it already has this chain. Satan would be
bound ever more firmly if she would just realize this fact. Immediately we meet with a
characteristic of amillennialism which fails to do justice to the text: the binding is not truly a
binding. It is “loose” and needs to be ever more firmly pulled in. Amillennialism teaches that
Satan was bound at the cross:
According to the preterist view, Satan is currently bound (Revelation Rev. 20:2-3+) and crushed
(Romans Rom. 16:20). The enemy was not just defeated de jure (legally) at the cross, but has
been crushed de facto (in fact). Therefore, there is no external spiritual roadblock prohibiting
Christians from reigning and ruling now.7
If the binding of Satan is now and its ineffectiveness is found in the weak faith of the Church,
then what hope is there that he will ever be bound by this means? By the measure of
amillennialism, even the “super apostle” Paul was unable to muster the necessary faith to get
the job done:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the
flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He
said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest
upon me. (2Cor. 12:7-9)
Paul was unable to “bind” Satan because Satan is not bound in this present age. His binding is
future, after the Second Coming of Christ and during the Millennial Kingdom.
1 George H. N. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978,
2 Charles Feinberg, Premillennialism or Amillennialism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1936), 212.
3 Matthew Waymeyer, Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate (The Woodlands, TX: Kress
Christian Publications, 2001, 2004), 13.
4 See Literary Structure.
5 The angel with the key to the pit seen with the angel showing John the New Jerusalem in the
background. Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore
6 J. Marcellus Kik, Revelation Twenty: An Exposition (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing Company, 1955), 19-20.
7 Thomas Ice, “Some Practical Dangers of Preterism,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds.,
The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 423.
vs. 2 He laid hold of the dragon
Laid hold – Gr: ἐκράτησε [ekratēse] : “take into one’s possession or custody . . . arrest . . .
apprehend someone.”1 The dragon is the most-frequently used title for Satan in the book of
Revelation (Rev. 12:3-4+, Rev. 12:7+, Rev. 12:9+, Rev. 12:13+, Rev. 12:16-17+; Rev. 13:2+, Rev.
13:4+; Rev. 16:13+; Rev. 20:2+).
that serpent of old
Serpent of old – Gr: τὸν ὄφιν τὸν ἀρξαῖον [ton ophin ton arxaion] : the serpent, the ancient
[one]. This alludes to the serpent in the garden of Eden, which Satan used to deceive Eve (Gen.
Gen. 3:1-6). His title as dragon and serpent were seen in the heavenly war, when he was cast
out: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (Rev.
Rev. 12:9+). Now that his two human accomplices, the Beast and the False Prophet, have been
cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20+) and his demonic forces are imprisoned in the burnt
regions of Babylon and Edom (Revelation 18:2), he must fend entirely for himself.
In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing
serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea. (Isa. 27:1)
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, in the
generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent? (Isa.
Bound – Gr: ἔδησεν [edēsen] : used of actual binding and imprisonment, as they attempted to
bind the demoniac of the Gadarenes with chains (Mark 5:3). Used of John the Baptist who was
bound in prison by Herod (Mark 6:17), it can also be used in a metaphorical sense, as when
describing the deformed woman bound by Satan (Luke 13:16). Paul said that he went to
Jerusalem, “bound in the spirit” (Acts 20:22). This angel is able to bind Satan with no mention
of a protracted struggle. This is an indication of the great authority which the angel has which
attends his divine mission. Although he is also a creature, a mere angel like Satan, he is
empowered by the Creator and is able to bind any creature with ease—even Satan himself.
This is the de facto (actual) fulfillment of what was accomplished de jure (legally) at the cross.
In the bruising of Christ’s heel, the serpent had ultimately laid the groundwork for the bruising
of his head: “And I will put enmity Between you [the serpent] and the woman, And between
your seed and her Seed [Christ]; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His
heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Here is the foundational question regarding the binding of Satan. Is he truly bound or isn’t he?
The text will make plain that his binding is complete because it is followed by his being casting
into the bottomless pit which is then sealed. Those who assert that Satan is bound even now
are faced with a dilemma because it is obvious both from Scripture and real experience that if
Satan is bound today, then “his chain is too long!” Hence, amillennialists demonstrate great
zeal (and considerable confusion) in their attempt to explain this “binding” such that it is not
really a binding.
B. B. Warfield, whose eschatology seems to embrace some of the elements of both
amillennialism and postmillennialism, attempts to support the idea that Satan is bound in
respect to heaven. He writes: “The ‘binding of Satan’ is therefore in reality not for a season but
with reference to a sphere; and his ‘loosing’ again is not after a period but in another sphere: it
is not subsequence but exteriority that is suggested. There is, indeed, no literal ‘binding of
Satan’ to be thought of at all: what happens, happens not to Satan but to the saints, and is
only represented as happening to Satan for the purposes of the symbolical picture. What
actually happens is that the saints described are removed from the sphere of Satan’s assaults.
The saints described are free from all access of Satan—he is bound with respect to them:
outside of their charmed circle his horrid work goes on.”2
The basic problem with interpretations which assert that the kingdom described in this
passage is actually upon us now, having begun at the cross, is that they are unable to
understand or unwilling to recognize the delay between spiritual accomplishments and their
outworking in the physical realm. On the way to Jerusalem prior to presenting Himself as king,
just a few days from His crucifixion, Jesus stopped to teach a parable “because they thought
the kingdom of God would appear immediately” (Luke 19:11-15). The parable concerned a
nobleman who “went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke
19:12). He instructs his servants to attend to his affairs in his absence. His kingdom is not
received until the time of his return: “And so it was that when he returned, having received the
kingdom, he then commanded these servants” (Luke 19:15). This parable, we might observe,
was specifically intended to do away with the delusion that God’s kingdom on earth is fulfilled
in the Church today. Christ accomplished everything necessary for the establishment of the
kingdom at the cross, but the time was not right for its commencement—there was to be an
intervening age: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own
authority” (Acts 1:7).
The amillennialist, in his headlong zeal to make God’s kingdom on earth be now, ignores the
many interpretive indicators otherwise. We agree with the amillennialist at one point: if the
kingdom of God on earth is now then Satan must be bound even today. But the premise itself
Amillennialism must deny reality to cling to this error as Kik describes:
That something drastic happened to Satan with the first advent of Christ is seen also by the
words of John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be
cast out.” . . . In spite of the above passages there are people who will not believe that Satan is
bound or that he has been cast out of his sphere of influence. They simply will not believe the
words of Christ. “If Satan were bound and cast out,” they argue, “why is there so much evil in
the world? If we believe that Satan is bound we must deny our senses.” It is better to believe
Christ than it is to believe our senses.3
Kik confuses lack of faith with unsound interpretation. It is not our disbelief which tells us that
Satan is not bound, it is our proper reading of God’s word which confirms our real experience.
John 12:27-35 illustrates the work Jesus would do on the cross, not the immediate entrance
into the Kingdom reigning on earth or the binding of Satan, as evidenced by the warning of
Jesus to the disciples in this passage. A sound interpretation of the text is in complete
alignment with our experience: Satan cannot now be bound. The type of “faith” which Kik
espouses is a blight on the people of God. It is founded on a flawed interpretation of God’s
word and tries to fly at all costs, even denying reality, to the detriment of the believer. In this, it
is like the faith of Christian Science which attributes the reality of sickness to an illusion of the
Typical are amillennial explanations of the binding which is no binding at all:
There has been a binding of Satan. It is such a binding that he cannot touch a Christian. . . . We
read in Revelation Twenty that Satan is also bound as far as deceiving the nations is
concerned. Where previously he had completely deceived the Gentile nations now [after the
cross] he could no longer do so. This does not mean that no one within a nation could not be
deceived. There might be many within a Gentile nation that would be deceived by the cunning
of Satan. Even though Satan is bound as far as the individual Christian is concerned, yet a
Christian may, for a period of time or concerning a certain doctrine, be deceived. So also in
regard to the nation. It simply means that Satan would no longer be in complete control of the
nations as he was before the coming of Christ. [emphasis added]4
We can agree with Kik at one point: Christians can indeed be deceived concerning doctrine:
amillennialists are deceived concerning the doctrine of the binding of Satan! Even a cursory
examination of Scriptural passages written after the cross and the resurrection indicate that
Satan is not presently bound:
Satan filled the heart of Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit resulting in the death of he and his wife
(Acts 5:3). Paul said that Satan is blinding the eyes of nonbelievers in this current age so that
they should not receive the gospel (2Cor. 4:3-4). Paul told the Corinthians that Satan
transforms himself (deceptively) into an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14). Paul was given a thorn in
the flesh, “a messenger of Satan” to keep him humble (2Cor. 12:7). Paul told the Ephesians
that the prince of the power of the air “now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
Paul told the Ephesians not to give place to the devil (Eph. 4:27) and that they wrestled against
“spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (. Eph. 6:12). Paul was hindered by
Satan from visiting the Thessalonian church (1Th. 2:18). The coming of the lawless one, the
Antichrist, will be “according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying
wonders” (2Th. 2:9). This is fulfilled, in part, by the activities of the False Prophet documented
in the book of Revelation.Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan so that they might
learn not to blaspheme (1Ti. 1:20).James warns believers to submit to God and resist the devil
Peter warns believers to be sober and vigilant because “your adversary the devil walks about
like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pe. 5:8). John tells us that “the whole world
lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1Jn. 5:19). Satan is a source of deception throughout
the events of the book of Revelation (Rev. 12:9+; Rev. 13:14+; Rev. 18:23+; Rev. 19:20+; Rev.
20:8+, Rev. 20:10+).
Here is a foundational danger of amillennialism: in their appropriation of “kingdom now”
theology, they deny reality. But an important part of reality is the factual, historical resurrection
of Jesus Christ. Amillennialists need to ask why a skeptical world should believe their witness
concerning the historical fact of the crucifixion of Jesus for sin when they hold a theology
which essentially denies reality?
This strange theory, the origin of which is traced to the Romish notion that the church is the
kingdom, contends that whatever millennium there may be is being experienced in the present
age. Its advocates interpret the book of Revelation as a description, or varied, descriptions, of
this church age. . . . In their unenviable attempt to fit all the events anticipated in the Revelation
into the history of this age, the amillennialists indulge in a form of speculation almost
unsurpassed. Their abandonment of reason and sound interpretation has but one objective in
mind, namely, to place χίλιοι chilioi years—six times repeated in Revelation,
chapter 20—back into the past and therefore something no longer to be anticipated in the
future. The violence which this interpretation imposes upon the whole prophetic revelation is
such that none would propose it except those who, for lack of attention, seem not to realize
what they do. . . . In sheer fantastical imagination this method surpasses Russellism, Eddyism,
and Seventh Day Adventism, since the plain, grammatical meaning of language is abandoned,
and simple terms are diverted in their course and end in anything the interpreter wishes.
How much better to take both Scripture and our real experience at face value—especially
when they speak in concert that Satan is not bound at the present hour. The binding of Satan
at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom is part of the seventh bowl judgment which was
poured out upon the air, the domain of the “prince of the power of the air” (Rev. 16:17+ cf. Eph.
2:2). The same bowl judgment also brought about the incarceration of his demonic hoards.
Thousand – Gr: χίλια [chilia] , from which chiliasm is derived: the belief in a literal one thousand
year reign of Christ on the earth.6 As with all progressive revelation, this passage provides
information which was not before revealed—the duration of the Millennial Kingdom. Although
critics are fond of observing that little more is revealed concerning the kingdom in this
passage, the characteristics of the kingdom are set forth at length elsewhere in God’s word—
especially in the OT—so God has no need to repeat Himself here. Even though the duration of
one thousand years is listed no less than six times in this passage, few are those who take it at
Once we deny that one thousand years means one thousand years, there is no end to the
suggestions which can be offered as to what period is really in view as illustrated by Kik again
in his book:
“The term thousand years in Revelation Twenty is a figurative expression used to describe the
period of the Messianic Kingdom upon earth. It is that period from the first Advent of Christ
until His Second Coming. It is the total or complete period of Christ’s Kingdom upon earth. . . If
the binding of Satan began with the first coming of Christ then it follows that the thousand
years began with His first coming. . . . Now the natural objection to this view is that the period
from the first coming of our Lord to the present time can hardly be described as a Millennium.
For one thing wars have not ceased and wickedness is still very much prevalent. As someone
has stated: “if Satan is bound he must have a long tether.” All appearances seem to be against
the view that we are in the millennium now. The trouble is that we have altogether a too
materialistic concept of the millennial blessings.: [emphasis added]7
Again we meet with amillennialism’s characteristic denial of reality. We are actually in the
Millennium now: our error is that we just don’t happen to realize it! This detachment from reality
can reach ridiculous extremes: Rev. 21:1+-Rev. 22:1+. If this is true, then we all must be living
in the ghetto side of the New Jerusalem. But there is no ghetto in the New Jerusalem.”8 In this
rush to assert that every work of God has already come to pass, amillennialists devalue the
promises of God. If this is the sum total of God’s kingdom on earth, then what’s there to get
excited about? If most of the people living on earth in the kingdom have no idea they are even
in such a kingdom—much less know and acknowledge the king—how can it be a kingdom in
any real sense? In this, amillennialism has more in common with bizarre cults which specialize
in “spiritual realities” and brainwash their adherents to ignore objective reality. This is unhealthy
and unscriptural. Our God is a God of reality who does not ask us to deny the obvious:
Is the binding of Satan . . . so ineffective that murderers of saints, that dangerous enemies, still
exist? What, then, becomes of God’s promises, if persecution, sore trail, threatened death and
violent death itself is the characteristic of the Millennium?9
1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 448.
2 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,
3 J. Marcellus Kik, Revelation Twenty: An Exposition (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing Company, 1955), 17.
4 Ibid., 27.
5 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1976),
6 The ‘ch’ is pronounced as a ‘k’: kill-iasm.
7 Kik, Revelation Twenty: An Exposition, 28-29.
8 Thomas Ice, “Some Practical Dangers of Preterism,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds.,
The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 420.
9 George H. N. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978,