After Revelation covered Christ’s defeat of Satan’s earthly agents in chapter 19, we now see the defeat of Satan himself. Yet, we see Revelation describe this in two parts with Christ’s 1,000-year reign in between. We must also note that John did not say at the start of this section, “And after these things,” which he frequently does in Revelation. This means that what John now covers may not necessarily follow in time with what he covered in chapter 19.
Read Revelation 20:1-3
Revelation 1:17-18: [Jesus speaking to John:] “I am the first and the last and the living one. And I was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.”
– Remembering that “angel” means messenger, who is the angel described in these verses?
– The Greek word for “nations” in verse 3 is ethnee, the same for “Gentiles.” What is verses 2-3 saying if we understand the meaning to be “Gentiles”?
– Then when was Satan defeated?
– How did this usher in the New Covenant, which intentionally brought in Gentiles?
Yet, it is reasonable to ask: “Why is the symbolic length of Satan being bound 1,000 years? Why isn’t it some other symbolic number?” This brings us back to lesson 2 for a review on the symbolic meaning of number groups.
Read Revelation 20:4-6
– Where are those who “had been beheaded” and “had not worshiped the beast”?
– Therefore, where are they reigning with Christ for 1,000 years?
– How are they reigning (in other words, all who have faith in Christ are part of His _________)?
– “The rest of the dead” refer to another group, those who did not have faith in Christ. Why is that they “did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended”? What then happens?
– For those who have had have the first death of baptism (and have remained in it), what then of the second death? (vs. 6)
Victory of Christ over Satan (20:7-10)
Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 cover the vision Ezekiel had of the defeat of Gog and its leader, Magog. Gog and Magog were names connected with an invasion of Israel, which was so devastating that it became synonymous with evil. Yet, in Ezekiel, the power of this invading force was suddenly halted by the overwhelming might of God. Jerusalem was not destroyed. That’s the background we are to have as we read John’s description in verses 7 through 10.
Read Revelation 20:7-10
– If Satan being bound had earlier led to many Gentiles believing in Christ, what happens when Satan is released?
– Yet, who is defeated?
The Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment (20:11-15)
Read Revelation 20:11-15
– Who is the One on the “great white throne”?
– What does He do?
– What does someone’s name being in the book of life symbolize?
- Christ Binds Satan
- Revelation 20:1-2, John 12:31-33, Ephesians 3:10, and Colossians 2:15
- Christ Reigns through His Church
- Revelation 20:2-6, 1:5-6, and 5:9-10; Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:13-14
- Satan is Released
- Revelation 20:3, 7-8; Matthew 24:4-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5
- The Resurrection and Judgment Day
- Revelation 20:10-21:5, 11:15-18; Matthew 25:31-46
- Eternity of Heaven or Hell
- Revelation 21:6-8, Matthew 13:40-43, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Excursus: The Sordid History of the “Rapture”
Those who hold to what is called “The Rapture” believe that Christ’s second coming will take place in stages. They hold that Jesus will remove all Christians from the earth, while differing end-time scenarios may take place.
Differing groups have different theories about when the rapture will be, depending on whether they hold a Pre-, Mid- or Post-Tribulation view. Only the Post-Tribulationists believe that the rapture and Christ’s second coming take place at the same time. The Pre- and Mid-Tribulationists hold to more than one “second coming” of Christ.
But what is the source of this teaching? If you read the early Church fathers, it is nowhere to be found. Yet, today, rapture thinking is so prevalent that some believe that if someone denies the rapture, he is not even a Christian.
The Rapture’s Beginnings
The origins of “The Rapture” began during the Counter-reformation, which was the Roman Catholic response to the Reformation movements in Europe. The Pope then commissioned three Jesuit Priests to study Daniel 9:22-27 (70 weeks of prophecy), the Book of Revelation, and Ezekiel. Their goal was to see if those texts could be understood in a way to show that the Pope was not the Anti-Christ, as Protestants were alleging.
The three Jesuits were:
- Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) of Salamanca,
- Luis de Alcazar (1554-1621) ofSeville, and
- Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine (1542-1621).
So, in 1585, Francisco Ribera submitted a doctrine called “futurism,” which today is called “The Rapture.” Ribera’s published work was called “In Sacram Beati Ionnis Apostoli & Evangelistate Apocoalypsin Commentari,” which can still be found in the Bodleian Library inOxford, England.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Roman Catholic Church, despite its desire not to show the Pope as the Antichrist, rejected their work as theological fiction. The Pope considered the work flawed and ordered a copy only to be kept in their archives.
The Rapture is Rediscovered
Over 200 years later, a librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Samuel Maitland (1792-1866) was appointed to be the Keeper of the Manuscripts atLambethPalace, inLondon,England. He came across Francisco Ribera’s rapture theology and had it republished in 1826, 29, and 30.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) became a follower of Maitland’s end-time views. Darby, in his zeal, influencing the seminaries of Europe combined with 7 tours in the United States, changed the end-times thinking of many pastors, which began to have a trickle-down effect into the churches.
The Rapture Today
Yet, the idea of the “rapture” did not widely catch fire within North American Christianity until the 1970s with Hal Lindsey’s popular book, The Late Great, Planet Earth. Today, the Left Behind series continues to promote this teaching. However, even among Protestants, the “rapture” is a new. For example, in the Southern Baptist’s 1963 and 2000 “Faith and Mission Statement,” you will find no mention or teaching of “The Rapture” in its mention of the “Last Things.”
Jesus’ View of the Rapture
Nowhere does Jesus ever say that He would return secretly to “rapture” Christians. Instead, He promised to be with His Church in all tribulations: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Even more, Jesus had this to say about being the persecuted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for the reign of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:10).
But the Bible Says, “One Will be Left and One Will be Taken”!
- Matthew 24:40-41: [Jesus said,] “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and one left.”
- Luke 17:34-35: [Jesus said,] “I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: One will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding grain together: One will be taken and the other left.”
Those who see “The Rapture” in Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35, only understand those verses based on our English translations, not the original Greek of the New Testament. So then, what do those verses mean? The Greek word for “left” or “left behind” is the Greek word for “forgiven”: aphiami. And that’s the point: one will be taken (where is not explicitly stated) and one will be forgiven. These passages refer to Christ’s second coming on the Last Day when He will judge the living and the dead and separate believers from unbelievers.
The idea of the so-called “Rapture,” where Christians will be whisked to heaven and non-believers will be left behind is nothing but a false teaching. It was a false teaching even rejected by the Roman Catholic Church, which became a North American Christian fad from the 1830s that, sadly, has stuck around. But false teaching is still false teaching.