Revelation of John 20This chapter begins with a fresh and glorious vision which St. John had of an angel's descending from heaven, to bind Satan for a thousand years; and herein we have observable,
1. The person binding, the angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus (for he only has the keys of the bottomless pit, of hell, and of death, Rev 1:18. This angel is here said to come down from heaven, and with a great chain in his hand, denoting his omnipotent power and sovereignty over Satan, and his ability to restrain him.
Observe, 2. The person bound, Satan; where mark, that he is set forth here by five names, he is called the Dragon, the Serpent, the Old Serpent, the Devil, and Satan.
And note, Christ's power is set forth in as many terms as the devil has titles, he is said to lay hold on him, to bind him, to cast him into the bottomless pit, to shut him in, or seal him up for a thousand years, that is, to restrain him and render him incapable of doing such mischief to the world as he had done before.
Observe, 3. What we are to understand by Christ's binding Satan: some thereby do understand Christ's overthrowing the power of the devil in the heathen world; his casting down those strong holds of Satan, to wit, ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and lying oracles, by the light and power of the gospel, preached among the Gentiles; his curbing of Satan, that he should no more cozen the world with heathenish delusions as he had done.
Others understand this binding of Satan to be after the destruction of antichrist; when the Jews shall be converted, and there shall follow a quiet and peaceable state of the church for a long time, styled here a thousand years; during which time Satan shall be bound, and there shall be no molestation from him.
From the whole learn, That be the devil never so devilish, Christ has power to overpower him. Christ has a great chain in his hand to bind Satan: intimating, that how mighty and malicious soever Satan is, Christ has him as a dog in a chain.
But observe a little, how Christ's power meets with and masters Satan's power: the devil carries power in his name, he is called a dragon; in his nature, as being an angel; in his numbers, which are numberless: but Christ overpowereth him, so that he cannot do his own will without him; he bound him in the execution of his malice, though his malice be boundless.
Satan is bound in a double chain, in a chain of justice, and in a chain of providence; he cannot move a foot either to tempt or trouble us, without a permission from Christ.
These words are conceived to set forth the glorious and happy condition of the church of Christ here on earth, during the time of Satan's restraint; and the term of a thousand years, shows that will be the longest happy condition that ever the militant church enjoyed, for purity of ordinances, for increase of light and knowledge, for the power of godliness, for the abundance of professors, for the more open and public profession of Christianity, for outward freedom and peace, and all this for a long continuance of time; which happy state and condition is here set forth by thrones, showing the saints' dignity and dominion over the enemies.
And whereas St. John says, he saw the souls of martyrs who had shed their blood for Christ, the meaning, say some, is, he saw them in their successors of the same faith, those pious Christians which should at that time live, and in their principles and practices are like the holy martyrs; these shall then enjoy a more quiet, happy, and comfortable state, during this time, than the servants of God enjoyed at any time before.
Yet observe farther, That this glorious condition of the church is not absolute, but comparative only, both in respect of purity, and in respect of peace; for whilst the church is on this side heaven, there will be both corruptions within, and temptations without: hypocrites there will be, and offences will come, though freedom from all these will at that time be more than usual; yet taking up the cross, and being conformed to Christ in his sufferings, will be duties belonging to saints whilst the world endures.
Observe lastly, That yet there is no ground from hence to expect Christ's personal reign upon earth, or his corporal presence with his church here: for it is not said that he reigned with them, but that they reigned with him; denoting that this kingdom is spiritual, consisting in purity and peace, in righteousness and joy, in the Holy Ghost.
As to a personal reign of Christ then with his people here on earth, it seems not probable, because the scripture is silent of it, and joins Christ's personal coming and the day of judgment together. Besides, were Christ personally upon earth, how should we enjoy him, and converse with him? It is impossible we should enjoy a glorified Christ until our bodies be spiritualized, which they will never be until they get to heaven.
Once more, What will become of the saints during these thousand years of Christ's supposed presence with them? Either they will live all that thousand years, (which is not rational to suppose,) or they will die in that time; if they die, and go to heaven, they will go from Christ, and not to him, and must for a time be absent from him, instead of being for ever with him; and doubtless heaven will be a melancholy place, if Christ be out of it.
The sum then is this, "That the saints living and reigning with Christ, holds forth the flourishing condition of the church militant: the expression of sitting upon thrones, speaks an honourable condition that the church will be certainly in, after the downfall of antichrist; and the term of a thousand years, shows it will be the longest happy condition that ever the church enjoyed."
God Almighty hasten that desirable time.
By the rest of the dead, understand the subdued enemies of the church in their successors, who are said to be dead politically, in respect of their outward condition, which will now be very low; they lived not again a political life; that is, they did not regain or recover that power to persecute the church, which once they had, but are now divested of in great measure, namely, until the thousand years are finished; then they shall have liberty again to vent their enmity against the church, joining with Gog and Magog, as their predecessors, the worshippers of the beast, did combine together before them.
This is the first resurrection, that is, the living again of the saints, in that glorious manner before described, in holy societies, with greater degrees of purity and peace.
Learn, That the reformation of the church, after the ruin of its Pagan and Papal enemies, is as a splendid and glorious resurrection to her; and accordingly such as are sharers in this political resurrection are pronounced blessed: Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, that is, blessed are they that shall have their lot to live in this happy time, when the means of holiness will more abound, and the measures of holiness be more extensive and universal.
The second death shall never affect them: everlasting misery shall be escape of them; and they shall be priests unto God, to offer up, not expiatory, but gratulatory, sacrifices of prayer and praise unto him; and as the priesthood is spiritual, so is the kingdom also.
They shall reign spiritually over their lusts and corruptions, and have greater power to overcome temptations, and this for a thousand years; that is, during the time of their living here, in that part of the happy millenium in which they shall live, they shall in that time enjoy a more holy, happy, peaceful, and flourishing condition, than the church of God did ever so long enjoy in former times.
Some will have all this to be understood concerning a spiritual resurrection from the grave of sin to a life of holiness and grace; over such indeed the second death or everlasting misery shall have no power: but though this may be alluded to, yet a political, not a spiritual, resurrection seems here to be principally intended.
Observe here, 1. A prophetical prediction, that when the long time of the church's liberty and peace shall be expired, which is here expressed and set forth under the notion of a thousand years; God will then take off his restraint from the devil, and he shall influence the wicked world once more to make opposition against his church: When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. Behold here Satan's restless malice against mankind, and particularly against the church of Christ.
Observe next, That Satan is first said to deceive the nations, and then to gather them together to the battle against the saints: the same saints, either in their persons or in their successors, who did formerly reign, will now suffer But by whom? Gog and Magog; where is probably an allusion to these two names mentioned often in the Old Testament, who were the last enemies of the Jewish church before Christ's first coming.
In like manner the last enemies of the Christian church are here set forth by that name, who shall be utterly destroyed a little before Christ's second coming to judgment. Satan with all his united power, and combined force, will attempt the whole body of the Christian church before his last and fatal overthrow.
Observe lastly, That after the destruction of these agents and instruments of Satan's fury, his own full and final destruction is declared; which may be called his second imprisonment in that lake of fire and brimstone, which is both easeless and endless, there to keep company with the beast and false prophet to all eternity.
Behold here the dceiver and the deceived plagued together; the devil that deceived, and the beast and false prophet that were deceived by him, and were his instruments to deceive others, are cast together into the lake of fire, to be tormented for ever. Satan was indeed condemned to this before, and reserved thereunto, but the actual and final execution thereof is suspended until the end come.
Here is another vision which St. John saw, namely, a lively representation of the great day of judgment, when all, both good and bad, that ever lived, shall be raised and sentenced according to their works: the state of the wicked is set forth in this chapter, and the happy condition of the righteous in heaven gloriously described in the two next chapters.
Observe here, 1. The judge described as sitting upon a throne, or seat of judgment; a throne, to denote that this judge is a king; and a white throne, to denote the purity and righteousness of this judge; and a great white throne, because erected for a great Judge, and for a great service, namely, the judging of the whole world.
Observe, 2. The dreadful majesty and glorious power of this judge declared, that neither heaven nor earth are able to abide his presence, but are said to flee away, and that there was no place found for them.
Observe, 3. The persons judged are here described, and that,
1. By their condition and qualification, all the dead, both small and great; all that ever lived, and all that shall then be found alive.
2. By their posture, they stand before the judge, whilst he sits to show his authority.
3. By the manner of proceeding, which is represented as being after the form of well-ordered judicatories here on earth; wherein the books are produced, namely, the book of God's omniscience, and the book of conscience, the book of the law, and the book of the gospel. They that had not the written law, shall be judged by the law of nature; they that had the written law are to be judged by that; and they that had the gospel, to be judged by that; and every one according to their works.
Observe, 4. The execution of the sentence of this great judge upon the wicked and impenitent world; they are cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
From the whole learn, 1. That it is certain that there shall, and necessary that there should, be a day of judgment.
2. That in that day there will be no exemption of any persons from the examination of the judge. I saw all the dead, small and great, stand before God.
3. That Jesus Christ, called here God, (which clearly proves his deity,) shall come in the clouds to judge the world; and will then be found such a judge as the riches of the wealthiest cannot bribe; such a judge as the power of the mightiest cannot daunt; such a judge as the subtilty of the wisest cannot elude; such a judge as there is no appealing from, no repealing of, his sentence.
Learn, 4. That as the same person shall be judged, who formerly lived, so in the same bodies that died, and were either buried in the earth, or consumed in the sea. The sea gave up her dead; by which understand all places, though attended with never so many improbable circumstances of a resurrection, shall yet give up the dead. Death and hell, that is death and the grave, gave up the dead which were in them; that is by the power of God were made to restore them.
Learn, 3. That the sentence denounced will be according to every man's work at the great day; according to the nature and quality of the wicked man's works shall his judgment and punishment be; according to the sincerity, not according to the imperfection, of the righteous man's works, shall his reward be.
God grant that the consideration of this may so far influence us, that no profit may tempt us, no pleasure entice us, no power embolden us, no privacy encourage us, to do that thing, of which we cannot give a good account in the day of judgment.
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