Revelation 20

The Word Made Fresh

1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven. In his hand was a great chain, and the key to the bottomless pit. 2He caught that ancient snake, the dragon, who is really the devil called Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  3Then he threw him into the pit and sealed it over him and locked it so that he could not deceive the nations until the thousand years had passed. After that he must be released for a time.

4Then I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given the authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony to Jesus and to the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image, and they did not have its mark on their foreheads or hands. They were restored to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5All the others who had died did not come back to life until after the thousand years had passed. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and sacred are all those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, and they will serve as priest of God and Christ, and reign with him for a thousand years.

7When the thousand years have passed Satan will be released from his prison. 8He will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – and gather them for battle. There are as many of them as there are sands of the sea. 9They marched over the whole earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints and their beloved city. Then fire came out of heaven and overwhelmed 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 suffer torment day and night forever and ever.

11Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, but found no place for themselves. 12And I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne. The books were opened. Then another book, the Book of Life, was opened, and the dead were judged for their works that were recorded in the books. 13Then the sea coughed up its dead, and Death and Hades surrendered their dead, and all of them were judged based on what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire – the lake of fire is the second death – 15and all whose names were not found in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire.


1-3: The last we saw of the dragon was in chapter 16 where the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet were under attack from the armies of heaven. The beast and the false prophet were destroyed in the lake of fire and the reign of Christ was begun, but what of the dragon, the Satan? Now John’s vision shows him that another angel from heaven captures the dragon and locks it away in the bottomless pit for 1000 years after which it must be let out “for a little while.” Since most of the images and numbers in Revelation are clearly symbolic there is no reason to think that John intends this to be taken literally. Notice, though, that the Satan’s job is to deceive the nations, not just individuals.

4-6: The vision continues with the appearance of thrones on which are seated those who have been given the authority to judge. This is perhaps a reference to the twenty-four elders seated around the throne of God (4:4-5), but the connection is not certain or necessary. Those who were martyred for the faith (John specifically says “beheaded” here, but not all martyrs were put to death by beheading) are raised from the dead and are joined in this first resurrection by those who had not worshiped the “beast” nor were marked with the sign of the “beast” on forehead and hand. All of these are to reign with Christ for a thousand years. Others will not be resurrected until the thousand years are complete. Those who share in this first resurrection are not harmed by the “second death.” This was prophesied earlier in the book (see 2:11).

7-10: After a thousand years the Satan will be allowed to emerge from his prison to attempt once again to deceive the nations. Much ink has been spilled in an effort to identify Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but never together except here in verse 8. Gog plays a role in the prophecies of Ezekiel, but even there it is not possible to identify it with a particular location. I think it is not likely that John meant the terms to specify any nation or place on earth. I think “Gog and Magog” is simply an expression he uses to refer collectively to every nation, much as we use the expression “high and low,” as in “I searched high and low for …” The Satan is successful in assembling a considerable number of enemies of God and they make one last futile attempt to take over control of the world, but their attempt is thwarted by an act of God. The Satan is then thrown into the “lake of fire” to join the “beast” and the false prophet.

11-15: John sees the final judgment of the world unfolding before the great white throne of God. The dead from the sea, from Death and from Hades are given up to judgment according to their deeds which he sees as written in books that recorded their lives and another book, the “book of life,” which contains the list of those whom God had determined from the beginning to be included in the new creation. Once the judging is completed, John sees Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire, the “second death” which cannot be overcome. Death and hell are no more.


No matter how terrible things become, or how bad things seem, God is making sure that everything will inevitably move toward the outcome God has planned. “Even the hairs on your head are counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)