2020 will be a year for the record books. Many things caught people by surprise. Some aspects of the year were truly alarming. For people sensitive to eschatological issues, it provided a goldmine of signs, prophetic allusions, and apocalyptic scenarios. If you are concerned with the state of the nation and wonder what God is doing in the midst of world history, the book of Revelation can offer insight and hope. The aged apostle John was on the prison island of Patmos, exiled because of his service for Christ. A fresh round of persecution appeared imminent. Churches were fragile and vulnerable. Some had allowed heretical views to creep into their ranks, thus weakening their witness and resistance to evil. God’s answer for John was a fresh encounter with the risen Christ (Rev. 1:17). What followed changed everything for the apostle. He was allowed to view current events and the end times from heaven’s perspective.
Over the next few weeks, I encourage you to read Revelation 19-22. By doing so, you’ll survey the last chapters of human history. It’s a fascinating read! Chapter 19 begins with heavenly worship. The battle of Armageddon looms, yet rather than wringing their hands in worry, the heavenly hosts are having a praise service. The word “Hallelujah” is used four times in the first six verses! Then Christ appears on a magnificent white horse, leading His holy army against the evil forces of the Beast and the false prophet. Christ makes short work of the wicked horde and casts the Beast and the deceitful prophet into the lake of fire (vv. 17-21).
Next comes chapter 20, which is where I’ll focus. The chapter begins with an angel coming down from heaven with a great chain in his hand (20:1). Some places in this book mention that a mighty angel appears. But here we are not informed that the angel is particularly powerful. Yet he seizes Satan and consigns him to the abyss. Satan wants you to believe his power is on par with God’s. Yet it only takes one angel to lock him up! Satan’s sinister power lies more in his ability to deceive than in actual power.
Those who have been martyred for the cause of Christ are then resurrected and invited to rule with Christ for 1,000 years (20:4-6). It is a profound mystery why a God who is so powerful allows His precious saints to suffer harm at the hands of evil people. But serving God does not mean you are exempt from suffering. In fact, faithful obedience increases the odds of suffering. But Revelation assures us that no persecution for Christ is overlooked, undervalued, or unrewarded.
One of the most profound mysteries of the Bible is why, after 1,000 years, God releases Satan from his confinement. After the damage he has done throughout history, why release the cruelest, most prolific murderer in history? Clearly, God intends to prove or accomplish something. How might you expect a former convict to behave if he had just finished a 1,000-year sentence? Is a millennia sufficient time to encourage second thoughts and rehabilitation? What does Satan do immediately upon release? He deceives the nations and convinces them to wage war against God! One thousand years in prison has not altered Satan’s character or values one bit. And what about the nations? They have functioned for 1,000 years free of Satan’s influence. They have enjoyed peace and God’s rule on earth. Yet at the first opportunity to rebel, they do. They gather from the ends of the earth to assault God’s kingdom, only to be miraculously defeated once more. This time Satan is cast into the lake of fire to join the Beast and the false prophet, never to trouble humanity again (20:7-10).
Finally, in the last scene of the chapter, God sits upon a great white throne, judging all humanity (20:11-15). People are judged according to their works. No good deed is overlooked. No sin is left unpunished. Even death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire, banished forever from human experience. Truly an epic, breathtaking chapter!
What does this passage mean for today? Several truths apply to our current circumstances.
First, God is steadily working out His eternal purposes on earth. Step by step, God is bringing time to a close and a new heaven and earth into existence. Though we do not see much of what God is accomplishing in our days, we can be confident that He is putting everything in place and drawing us ever closer to the last days.
Second, evil never gives up. Liberal society maintains an unwavering optimism in people’s ability to rise to their greatest potential. But history demonstrates that people are irreparably tainted by sin and unable to change their nature. Satan cannot change, regardless of the discipline he endures. People cannot free themselves from their evil instincts, even without Satan prodding them toward sin. You must not be shocked when society reaches new depths or leaders fail morally. Such sinful behavior is to be expected until Satan is finally dispensed with once and for all. Governments cannot legislate people to be good or moral. Government leaders who suggest they can make people better are lying.
Third, Satan is a liar and a deceiver. The devil would like you to believe that he is the evil equivalent of God. But he is just a really good liar. He deceives entire nations. He can convince society to make bad decisions.He blinds people to believe they can avoid consequences. When entire nations choose to take a slippery slope to their own destruction, Satan is involved.
Fourth, Satan can be defeated. One angel, and not even a particularly mighty one, was all it took to chain Satan and hurl him into the abyss. Later, Satan is thrown into the lake of firewithout any mention of the difficulty of the task. While martyrs suffer at Satan’s hands, God clearly has ample forces at His disposal to defeat Satan at any time He chooses. We should not fear evil or be intimidated by it. Its ascendancy is temporary. Its proud boasting and blaspheming will be silenced.
Fifth, a day of accounting is coming. A day is approaching when all people will give an account before God for every action they have taken. At times, evil people brazenly act with apparent impunity. But books are being recorded. One day, even the most powerful leaders on earth will stand humbly before the great white throne to give an account for their actions to the One from whom we can conceal nothing. That thought ought to make you tremble (2 Cor. 5:10-11).
These times are indeed challenging. But, two thousand years ago, Christians were facing difficult times as well. The truths that gave them hope and inspired them to persevere are the same truths in which we find solace as well. Only we are two thousand years closer to their fulfillment.