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THEOLOGY > Future > The Millennium > Binding of Satan    


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 (Rev. 20:1-3).

With brevity and clarity the binding of Satan is predicted. He will be bound and limited for a determined period, incarcerated in order that his devious ways may be terminated for a thousand years. But after that period is ended he will be freed for a brief time. And following his short-lived rebellion, he will be permanently confined to the lake of fire.

An immediate question is how much of this language in Rev. 20 is literal: all, none, or some. Perhaps a differentiation should be made between the fact of Satan’s incarceration and the method by which it is brought about. In other words, Satan will be bound, meaning that his activities will be limited and drastically reduced—this part is literal. But will an angel hold a literal key in his hand? Will the angel also have a literal chain? Will a spiritual creature be bound in a literal manner? To these questions it would seem that the answer is the negative. So, the point is that these verses inform of a literal event, but the fact is conveyed via symbolism. Several truths that are explicit or implicit in the text will be presented:

Satan is powerful – If he is not powerful then he would not have to be bound in order to have his activity controlled. According to the Scriptures he is an exalted and mighty angel (see: Creation of Lucifer). He was created with rank and position, and both of these are surely accompanied with great power. He is a creature to be feared.

But it should be remembered that his power is created power; it is not inherent power. His power has been granted to him. The One who created him also created him with the power that he has; so his power is conferred power, or derived power. What has been given can be taken, therefore, he can and will be bound.

To affirm that Satan is powerful but limited in power is to affirm that he is contingent; he is dependent, dependent on God, not only for his power, but also for his very existence. Satan is not autonomous, meaning that his deeds are independent of God. It is God who is Sovereign (see: God is Sovereign).

Satan’s activity is deception – This is the best word to describe the deeds of Satan. Twice in Rev. 20, the deception of Satan is referenced: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer” (v. 3), and “Satan . . . will come out to deceive the nations” (v. 8). Both of these references attest to his ability to deceive, and not only his ability but also his activity, which is the reason for him being bound.

“Deceive” or “betray” are translations of planaō, a verb used approximately fifty times in the New Testament. Jesus warned His followers not to be deceived by the appearance and activity of false christs (Matt. 24:4-5, 24; Mk. 13:5-6; Luke 21:8), and Paul exhorted believers not to be deceived in their thinking and living (I Cor. 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7; II Tim. 3:13; Tit. 3:3). Believers can be deceived.

The prime example of Satan’s deception is in Eden, when he promised Adam and Eve that if they would eat the fruit, contrary to what God had predicted, they would have life and likeness to God, rather than death in all of its dimensions, initial spiritual death and ultimately physical death (see: Death). He was subtle or crafty in his ways; the conversation with Eve reveals his manipulation and betrayal of them (see: The Speaking Serpent). Initially in the Garden and subsequently after the Garden individuals often succumb to his wiles.

The binding is the temporary limitation of Satan and is necessary because of his use of people, his ability to beguile and betray. His influence is so great that he is able to gain absolute control over individuals who surrender to his deceit, case in point is the coming Antichrist who will be empowered and used by Satan (see: The Antichrist).

Satan’s tenure is limited – The text asserts that “he must be released for a little while” (Rev. 20:3). Satan’s time is running out; his time of activity is approaching that final time when he will be released and only have “a little while” (see: Satan’s Destiny).

God is more powerful than Satan – The angel that binds Satan comes “down from heaven”; he comes from God, he represents God, he is doing the bidding of God, and he has the power of God. Succinctly the Scripture states that the angel “seized,” “bound,” and “threw”; so effortlessly does God control Satan.

Contrary to Satan’s derived power, God’s power is inherent power. It is inherent power because God is Self-existent. He exists in and of Himself, so all of His attributes are internal to Him; none are from without—none are conferred (see: God’s Essence). God is omnipotent; and because God is all powerful, He cannot be successfully opposed.

In contrast to God, Satan’s power, as stated above, is conferred power or derived power. He can only do what he is allowed to do. He is not more powerful than God; consider the story of Job. At each step in the account, Satan had to seek and to receive permission from God before he could act.

The binding of Satan manifests the power of God over him, the power of good over evil; in the presence of God Satan is powerless. God can bind Satan, or He can release him. The power belongs to God.

God controls the historical process – God is not removed or aloof from the development of history; in fact, all of history is unfolding according to His eternal and determined purpose (see: God is Sovereign and Theistic Determinism). History is not a chance process, but is the design of Deity.

Even evil does not have an independent existence, independent in the sense that it operates outside of the prerogatives of God. Therefore, evil in the ultimate sense is not a problem for God—it is merely fulfilling His incomprehensible purpose (see: The Problem of Evil).

The binding of Satan exposes the contention that all of the created order is in the midst of a supposed evolutionary spiral of upward mobility; instead, in spite of technological and scientific advancements, the spiral of history is decidedly downward, and is headed toward certain judgment and a complete end of the present order. The Day that is coming (see: The Day of the Lord) will not confirm the optimism of the agnostic and atheist, but will substantiate the affirmations of the Biblical Theist (The Starting Point).

God’s ultimate achievement will be a new creation that is free of evil – The temporary binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium is anticipatory of his final binding and confinement to the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennium. John writes:

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 (Rev. 20:10).

Satan must be defeated once and for all if the nations and individuals are to be free of his deception and deceitful activity. Of course this by itself will not mean the end of evil, for though evil is closely associated with Satan, it does have an existence of its own separate from the evil one (see: The Character of Sin). But the elimination of Satan from the historical process will be a step in the direction of freeing creation from evil.

The ultimate achievement will be realized when the One who said, “I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5) makes all things new. When God acts then there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). In that day the former things, including evil, will have passed away (Rev. 21:4).

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