|THE VICTORY OF THE LAMB
Series: The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Seven
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 27, 2019
This morning we are jumping ahead to Revelation 20. But before we get into chapter 20 we need to make sure we’re all up to speed together on when chapter 20 fits into the big picture flow of the revelation given to John. So, a brief review of how we got here Hang on to something.
God’s plan. Jesus is central. Follow Jesus. If you’ve been with us - hopefully this is kind of familiar. It summarizes a significant part of what Revelation is all about.
Tracing that theme through the first 19 chapters of Revelation - looking at the chart - left to right - in chapter 1 Jesus is revealed to us as the ever living Lord God Almighty Who has accomplished our salvation by His own death and resurrection.
Jesus Who - in chapters 2 and 3 - is revealed to be in the midst of the 7 churches - very much aware of the spiritual condition of each church and the obstacles and struggles they’re facing. That the church has continually faced. Even today. Here at Creekside.
Jesus appeals to each church to respond to His evaluation of their spiritual condition and what they’re facing - to respond by trusting Him - to choose to by faith follow Jesus. And repeatedly Jesus promises great reward to those who will conquer - who will by faith continue to follow Him.
Chapter 4 invites us into the Throne Room of God and lays out the framework for The Great Tribulation.
John is given a vision of God who is in sovereign control over all of what takes place in history - past - present - future. And is at work through all of that history redeeming mankind from our depravity and sin. God’s plan.
Then chapter 5 focuses on Jesus - who is central to what God is doing in history. Jesus who is worthy to open the scroll that God hands Him - Jesus who has authority to execute the contents of the scroll. The scroll which contains God’s will for the consummation of history.
We saw that the basis of Jesus’s worthiness - to take the scroll - His authority to break the seven seals - to redeem the world - to execute judgment - even the victory that we ourselves look forward to - the basis of all that is not because of Jesus’ military or political might or any other power or ability found in creation.
The basis of Jesus overcoming - overwhelming - all-encompassing - all-conquering victory is His perfect submission to the will of God the Father - following the will of God even in death - even His own sacrifice of crucifixion in our place.
The revelation of Jesus’ worthiness and authority is given to John’s readers to give them hope - courage - to inspire faith - as Jesus calls His Church to remain faithful - to follow Him - and so conquer.
Chapters 6 to 19 - as the seals are broken and the scroll is unrolled - there is unparalleled “great” tribulation. What is the justified and purposeful wrath of God being let loose on mankind.
Last Sunday - as we moved through the “great” Tribulation - our focus was not on the fine details - seeking to understand all of the symbolism.
Because as much as much as we might be tempted to think that this revelation is about symbols and creatures and angels and thrones and on and on and even someplace in all that… about us.
This revelation is about… Jesus Christ. Jesus Who is central to everything God is doing in history. And what it means to follow Him.
What we saw in the midst of all that tribulation - and the hatred and rebellion of the world against God being directed by the world against God’s people - that God’s people are continually pressured and faced with the choice to compromise and cave in to the world’s economics and politics - it’s culture.
It is a symbolic vision and a very real choice - that is before every generation of the church. Even us today.
That choice has always carried with it very harsh and severe consequences. Following Jesus too often has meant that those who choose to remain faithful are persecuted - tortured - often martyred. Next Sunday we will be joining with our Christian siblings around the world to pray for the persecuted church.
Finally - on the right - at the end of chapter 19 - Jesus - the King of kings and Lord of lords - returns in judgement at the head of heavens army composed of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language - those who have repented - those who have remained faithful - who have followed.
And Jesus conquers over His enemies simply by His word. He holds accountable those who have refused to repent. What is a scene of battle and carnage depicting the destruction of those who reject Jesus. Then those who’ve deceived mankind are thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur - what is the place of final forever punishment and torture.
And then what we’ll come to next Sunday - God’s kingdom and justice coming here on earth as it is in heaven. The future realization of the kingdom - the marriage of heaven and earth - which is coming.
Still holding on to something?
If you are able - will you stand with me as we come together before God’s word and as I read for us from Revelation 20.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Then I say a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.
Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Chapter 20 most probably focuses on what takes place about here in the timeline of future history.
Most probably - meaning when we get to heaven we can discuss how much of this we really didn’t understand.
Chapter 20 continues the results of the battle that takes place at the end of the tribulation at the end of chapter 19.
At the end of that battle - 20:1 - we’re told that Satan is bound with a chain. Meaning he’s restrained. His power and authority are limited.
And he’s not only bound but he’s thrown into the pit - literally “the abyss” - the place where demons are imprisoned. Meaning Satan and his demons are removed from the earth.
Purpose being - verse 3 - “so that he [Satan] might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousands years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.”
Total removal for 1,000 years. After which - verse 7 - Satan is released from his prison and will come out to - once again - deceive the nations - and to gather the nations again for war.
At which point we’re told that there is huge final battle and Satan and his minions themselves are thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur to be tormented day and night forever and ever.
All of which raises a number of questions. Yes? Most of which we may never have the answer to even when we get to heaven and at which point it probably won’t matter anyway.
But three questions that are helpful for us to deal with today.
First: “What’s up with the thousand years?”
Second: “Why?” Why after binding Satan - and in the midst of a time of peace when Satan and his minions no longer have influence on the earth - why would anyone ever let him out again? Just throw him into the lake of fire to be roasted forever and ever and be done with him and them forever and ever.
Question One: What’s up with the thousand years?
These 1,000 years are one the most controversial and fought over issues of Scripture. Probably the most debated passage in John’s revelation. Even the church fathers - way back when - and theologians since then - they’ve all disagreed about what these 1,000 years actually are.
Briefly summarizing all that - in an effort to get to question three about the practical significance of all this for us - briefly summarizing - looking at the chart.
There are two basic ways of looking at these 1,000 years and a number of other interpretations that in some way relate to these two basic interpretations of what these 1,000 years actually are. What theologians call “the millennium” which comes from the Latin “mille annum” meaning “a thousand years.”
One perspective sees the 1,000 years a being figurative. Meaning the 1,000 years are symbolic. What is the amillennial perspective - or “a-mil”. “a” meaning “no” or “none”.
Basically - the amill perspective believes that these 1,000 years are part of the church age. What we’re in now and until Jesus returns. Meaning that between now and when Jesus comes back there will not be a literal 1,000 year reign of Jesus yet to come. “no mil”
They say that the binding of Satan took place at the cross when Jesus overcame Satan. And Satan has been bound throughout the history of the church since then. Perhaps with a really really long chain. But bound none-the-less. His influence and activity has been restrained.
The other perspective sees the 1,000 years as being a literal - actual - 1,000 years. What is known as the premillennial perspective - or “pre-mil”. “pre” meaning that Jesus comes back before the millennium and then Jesus establishes his rule on earth for 1,000 years - a literal kingdom. During which time Satan will be chained and bound and then released the end of those 1,000 years.
There are really good - solid - Bible believing theologians and scholars who hold either of those two perspectives or some variation of one of these. And there are really good arguments for and against each of these positions.
And most probably we’re not going to know which is right - the definitive answer to question number one - until we get to heaven.
Which brings us to question number two: “Why let Satan out?” Which most probably we do have an answer to. And in fact, the answer to question two may help us in understanding what might be the “what’s up?” of question one.
Notice that ultimately both positions arrive at Jesus returning and leading the army of heaven - people from every nation, tribe, and language - who have remained faithful. Jesus returning as the King of kings and Lord of lords to deal with evil and vindicate His followers. This final battle that takes place before the Great White Throne of Judgment happens.
100 plus years ago, Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables - Victor Hugo wrote: “In the twentieth century war will be dead. The scaffold will be dead. Hatred will be dead. Frontier boundaries will be dead. Dogmas will be dead. But man will live. He will possess something higher than all these: a great country, the whole earth, a great hope, the whole heaven.”
Looking back on the 20th century - was Victor Hugo right?
What Victor Hugo touches on is a dream that’s echoed in the hearts of mankind since day 1. That a day will come - a golden age of human history - when there will be peace throughout the world and abounding prosperity.
And mankind keeps working at that and hoping. Governments and politicians promise it. We’ve learned from the mistakes of the past. We’ll get it right this time. Trust us. And people do. Because we all long for something better.
But imagine - Satan - who deceives us with messed up sexuality and lusting after power and wealth and greed and the potential of our knowledge and ability. Deceives us with drugs and food and alcohol and pleasure. Deceives governments and leaders and nations.
Satan and his minions always working behind the scenes and sometimes in plain sight. Quietly speaking lies into the ears and minds and hearts of mankind.
That’s pretty much human history.
But imagine Satan bound - removed - sealed off - for a thousand years unable to deceive the nations. Whether that begins at the cross or at the end of the Great Tribulation. What would that be like?
And those who have chosen to follow Jesus - and have been martyred - will rule and reign with Jesus for a thousand years. What will that be like?
Most probably a lot different than today. Yes?
And yet, notice that both perspectives of the millennium end up with Satan’s release and his again deceiving the nations. Nations - seemingly as soon as Satan is released - they respond by gathering from the 4 corners of the world - in an army so large it is literally uncountable - numbers like grains of sand on the beach.
Nations - existing in this millennium of peace under the rule of Jesus - nations in rebellion against God that God will defeat and that God will judge at the Great White Throne.
Which is hard to imagine.
If Satan is bound then why such evil. Even today - if the amill position is right - almost 2,000 years after the cross - why are we seemingly moving farther away from God’s peace and not experiencing even greater depths of God’s peace.
And if the premil position is right - then why after even 1,000 years of peace - the rule of Christ on earth - how can there exist such a willing and ready gathering of so many - perhaps millions - who are ready and willing to again follow the great deceiver in rebellion and sin against God?
The answer - which touches the answer to the why question - the answer is that while Satan is restrained, sin is not. Meaning that we alone are responsible for our own sin.
Most probably - the 1,000 years of peace and blessing are here to demonstrate, beyond any question or doubt, to demonstrate to those reading this revelation what is very hard for us to admit to and even to believe about ourselves. That you and I belong to a fallen race and the you and I and everyone else since Adam have been born depraved with a basically evil nature.
That is so opposite to how mankind - endlessly engaged in a self-help program - totally opposite of how mankind thinks of ourselves.
The prophet Jeremiah warns us - Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
“Trust your heart” can be really dangerous advice.
Humanity has been compared to a man who fell down a well and started crying out for help. A man passing by heard his cry for help. Leaned over the well and asked the man down in the well what he wanted. The man in the well said he wanted to get out.
The man looking down into the well thought for a moment and finally took out a piece of paper and wrote something on it and dropped it down into the well. The man in the well grabbed the paper and looked at it. It said, “Ten Rules on How to Keep Out of Wells.”
One of our major problems as humanity is that we by ourselves we don’t realize we’ve fallen into a well or maybe we have WDS - well denial syndrome. Somehow we have this idea that we’re suppose to live in a well. That this is what being human is all about. We stubbornly refuse to cry out for help - or to accept the help we need. With our clever ideas and efforts we keep on trying to improve the bottom of the well. And we can’t understand why we’re so miserable.
We are desperate for God’s salvation. For His redemption. We are desperate and hopeless without it. If we do not have a savior - if Jesus is not crucified - resurrected - and returning - there is no hope for any of us.
I see that it in my own life. Maybe you see it in yours? I see it lived out every day of my life. I don’t need help to sin. I am a sinner.
I wish I could tell you that I never have and do not succumb to my pride - my ego - my selfishness. That my thoughts always have been and always are pure and holy and in complete accord with God’s will.
That’s - most probably - why Satan is bound and released - and why this 1,000 years is here. To declare before creation - and John’s readers in the 7 churches and the Church - us - that God is justified in His wrath - in His judgment - and His condemnation - of sinners like us - and the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy and love towards sinners like us - all to His glory.
The millennium - whatever it is - how the millennium ends is the exclamation point on the appeal that Jesus makes to the 7 churches - to the Church - to choose to faithfully follow Him and so conquer. In a sense - an appeal to choose wisely and the illustration of why that choice is so crucial.
Those who follow Jesus - the army of heaven who return with Him at the final battle. They’re not with Jesus because they’re clever or powerful or wise or knowledgeable or great theologians or righteous and holy people of their own merit who have served God out of their own abilities.
They return with Jesus because they have chosen to remain faithful to Him - to follow Jesus as He submitted to the will of God - giving up their lives in total surrender - even death - as Jesus did on the cross.
And so - in contrast to those who persist in sin and rebellion against God - who will be judged - those who follow Jesus - return with Him - in conquest and victory.
Which is extremely practical for us to think about. Question three. Because, given the choice I’d like to be with Jesus returning from heaven and not on the earth waiting for judgment. Wouldn’t you?
A few years back I was driving on I5 out on the westside. It was late a night - pitch black. Way off in the distance there were a few lights.
Suddenly, in the distance there was a burst of bright white light - and then blackness. About ten minutes later traffic slowed to a crawl. From what I could see, on the side of the road there had been a fire. There were a lot of emergency vehicles - cars pulled to the side of the road - the flashing of emergency lights - lots of people standing around. And something very different - we were driving over downed power lines - stretched across the road.
Later I found out what had happened. Maybe some of you remember this?
A pilot and friend were flying north in their Cessna. Low on fuel - they were in contact by radio with a trucker below. The trucker was helping to guide them to the airport at Harris Ranch. Apparently they didn’t see the high voltage power lines - and they flew right into these suspended lines - the plane exploded and they were killed.
None of us knows when we’ll enter eternity. Maybe today.
The Bible is not silent about what comes next. Hebrews 9:27: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
It is appointed. It’s a fixed certainty. We all have an appointment with physical death. Once. After death comes judgment.
Meaning there’s no cycle of reincarnation - no purgatory - no spiritual dark place or prison verses paradise where we get to make up our minds - no question mark hanging over someone’s life as to where they’ll spend eternity. There is a final - complete - end to life on earth after which each of us will be held accountable to God for how we lived our lives.
Revelation 20 - starting at verse 11 - describes what’s coming. John: Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it.
Great meaning there is no greater - no higher - authority. White meaning pure and holy. Him - meaning God seated on His throne of judgment. His verdict alone is holy and righteous.
From His - God’s - presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. Which is a phrase that has the idea of everything going away. Whatever was of this old sinful corrupted earth is removed to make room for the new. God in control. History is over.
Verse 12: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
All of mankind will come before the Judgment Throne of God - before His sovereign power and holiness. There’s no escaping from this.
All of us will be there - the rulers and the peons - the rich and the poor - from wherever we’ve been buried or from wherever we’ve been living - we’re all going to be there.
Books are opened. Books that are the record of everything that we’ve done. How we’ve lived our lives.
Not what we say we believe. Or what we hope others think we believe. But what we really believe. What goes on in us at the core of who we are. What we know. What God knows about us.
Our actions and our hearts - everything about us is preserved in God’s great library. The whole record of every life is made known before all. Judgment will be based on that. Judgment will be according to what each one of us has done. The living out of what actually is true of our hearts. Depraved as that may be.
Verse 14: Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire - the second death. Not physical. But spiritual. Actual. Eternal.
The Bible describes this second death as eternal separation from the holy God - a very real and nasty - evil - place. A lake made not of refreshing water but of fire. A place of eternal burning and choking - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - unending weeping - sorrow - gnashing [grinding] of teeth. A bottomless pit - no physical or solid surroundings - total isolation - utter darkness - eternal desire eternally unfulfilled - eternal death.
Perhaps the most dreadful torment will be the realization that it’s too late for repentance. Perhaps the great horror of the second death is not physical pain. But, the consciousness that one deserves what he’s getting - forever.
We’re told that there is one other book - the Book of Life. Those whose names are written into the Book of Life enter into eternity with God. What we will look at in more detail next Sunday. But for now we need to pause and think soberly about the eternal significance of having our name written in that book of life.
The seals and the trumpets and the bowls - the Great Tribulation - the 1,000 years and the battles and God’s revelation of judgment to come and the horrendousness of the Lake of Fire - all of that - actual or symbolic - is revealed to the 7 churches - to the Church - to us - Jesus appealing to His church to follow Him - to bring us deeper into the reality of what it means to follow Jesus… or not.
When we’re tempted to compromise with the world - or to cave in to it’s pressure and persecution - to see beyond all that deception and drama - to the end of history - and to choose to follow Jesus. Jesus who is central to what God is doing to redeem us. Jesus who conquers. Jesus who will return in victory with those who follow Him.
Because ultimately what’s here - Jesus’ appeal - isn’t about death and judgment and death but about life and eternity with God. Our knowing - without a shadow of a doubt - that our name - my name - your name is written in the Book of Life. That God has written it there.
John 3:16... God so loves each of us that He gave His only Son to die for us. God’s offer of salvation laid out for us - whoever will respond to that offer with belief - turning from their sin and trusting Jesus as their Savior - God promises - that we will not perish - but we will have eternal life - now and into eternity with God.
1. Quoted by Ray Stedman: “One Thousand Years of Peace”, Revelation 20:1-15, April 22, 1990, © 2010, Ray Stedman Ministries
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.