1: And I saw an angel decending out of heaven
- Coming down with a commission from God. Jesus Christ himself
overthrew the beast: the proud dragon shall be bound by an
angel; even as he and his angels were cast out of heaven by
Michael and his angels. Having the key of the bottomless pit
- Mentioned before, (Re 9:1).
And a great chain in his hand - The angel of the bottomless pit
was shut up therein before the beginning of the first woe. But
it is now first that Satan, after he had occasioned the third
woe, is both chained and shut up.
2: And he laid hold on the dragon - With whom undoubtedly
his angels were now cast into the bottomless pit, as well as
finally "into everlasting fire," (Mt 25:41).
And bound him a thousand years - That these thousand do not
precede, or run parallel with, but wholly follow, the times of
the beast, may manifestly appear, 1. From the series of the
whole book, representing one continued chain of events. 2. From
the circumstances which precede. The woman's bringing forth is
followed by the casting of the dragon out of heaven to the
earth. With this is connected the third woe, whereby the dragon
through, and with, the beast, rages horribly. At the conclusion
of the third woe the beast is overthrown and cast into "the lake
of fire." At the same time the other grand enemy, the dragon,
shall be bound and shut up. 3. These thousand years bring a
new, full, and lasting immunity from all outward and inward
evils, the authors of which are now removed, and an affluence
of all blessings. But such time the church has never yet seen.
Therefore it is still to come. 4. These thousand years are
followed by the last times of the world, the letting loose of
Satan, who gathers together Gog and Magog, and is thrown to
the beast and false prophet "in the lake of fire." Now
Satan's accusing the saints in heaven, his rage on earth, his
imprisonment in the abyss, his seducing Gog and Magog, and being
cast into the lake of fire, evidently succeed each other. 5.
What occurs from Rev 20:11 - Rev 22:5, manifestly follows the
things related in the nineteenth chapter. The thousand years
came between; whereas if they were past, neither the beginning
nor the end of them would fall within this period. In a short
time those who assert that they are now at hand will appear to
have spoken the truth. Meantime let every man consider what
kind of happiness he expects therein. The danger does not lie
in maintaining that the thousand years are yet to come; but in
interpreting them, whether past or to come, in a gross and
carnal sense. The doctrine of the Son of God is a mystery. So
is his cross; and so is his glory. In all these he is a sign
that is spoken against. Happy they who believe and confess him
3: And set a seal upon him - How far these expressions are
to be taken literally, how far figuratively only, who can tell?
That he might deceive the nations no more - One benefit only is
here expressed, as resulting from the confinement of Satan. But
how many and great blessings are implied! For the grand enemy
being removed, the kingdom of God holds on its uninterrupted
course among the nations; and the great mystery of God, so long
foretold, is at length fulfilled; namely, when the beast is
destroyed and Satan bound. This fulfilment approaches nearer
and nearer; and contains things of the utmost importance, the
knowledge of which becomes every day more distinct and easy.
In the mean time it is highly necessary to guard against the
present rage and subtilty of the devil. Quickly he will be
bound: when he is loosed again, the martyrs will live and
reign with Christ. Then follow his coming in glory, the new
heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem. The bottomless pit is
properly the devil's prison; afterwards he is cast into the
lake of fire. He can deceive the nations no more till the
"thousand years," mentioned before, verse 2, (Re 20:2) are
fulfilled. Then he must be loosed - So does the mysterious wisdom
of God permit. For a small time - Small comparatively: though
upon the whole it cannot be very short, because the things to
be transacted therein, (Re 20:8,9), must take up
a considerable space. We are very shortly to expect, one after
another, the calamities occasioned by the second beast, the
harvest and the vintage, the pouring out of the phials, the
judgment of Babylon, the last raging of the beast and his
destruction, the imprisonment of Satan. How great things these!
and how short the time! What is needful for us? Wisdom,
patience, faithfulness, watchfulness. It is no time to settle
upon our lees. This is not, if it be rightly understood, an
acceptable message to the wise, the mighty, the honourable, of
this world. Yet that which is to be done, shall be done: there
is no counsel against the Lord.
4: And I saw thrones - Such as are promised the apostles,(Mt 19:28,Lu 22:30).
And they - Namely, the saints, whom St. John saw at the same time,(Da 7:22),
sat upon them; and Judgment was given to them.(1Co 6:2). Who, and how many, these are, is not said. But
they are distinguished from the souls, or persons, mentioned
immediately after; and from the saints already raised. And I saw
the souls of those who had been beheaded - With the axe: so
the original word signifies. One kind of death, which was
particularly inflicted at Rome, is mentioned for all. For the
testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God - The martyrs were
sometimes killed for the word of God in general; sometimes
particularly for the testimony of Jesus: the one, while they
refused to worship idols; the other, while they confessed the
name of Christ. And those who had not worshipped the wild beast,
nor his image - These seem to be a company distinct from those who
appeared, (Re 15:2). Those overcame, probably, in such contests
as these had not. Before the number of the beast was expired,
the people were compelled to worship him, by the most dreadful
violence. But when the beast "was not," they were only seduced
into it by the craft of the false prophet. And they lived - Their
souls and bodies being re - united. And reigned with Christ - Not on
earth, but in heaven. The "reigning on earth" mentioned,(Re 11:15), is quite different from this.
A thousand years - It must be observed, that two distinct
thousand years are mentioned throughout this whole passage.
Each is mentioned thrice; the thousand wherein Satan is bound,(Re 20:2,3,7), the thousand wherein the
saints shall reign, (Re 20:4-6).
The former end before the end of the world; the latter reach to
the general resurrection. So that the beginning and end of the
former thousand is before the beginning and end of the latter.
Therefore as in the second verse, (Re 20:2) at the first
mention of the former; so in (Re 20:4) at
the first mention of the latter, it is only said, a thousand
years; in the other places, "the thousand,"(Re 20:3,5,7), that is, the thousand mentioned before. During
the former, the promises concerning the flourishing state of the
church, (Re 10:7), shall be fulfilled; during the latter,
while the saints reign with Christ in heaven, men on earth will
be careless and secure.
5: The rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years
- Mentioned, verse (4).
Were ended - The thousand years during which Satan is bound both
begin and end much sooner.
The small time, and the second thousand years, begin at the
same point, immediately after the first thousand. But neither
the beginning of the first nor of the second thousand will be
known to the men upon earth, as both the imprisonment of Satan
and his loosing are transacted in the invisible world.
By observing these two distinct thousand years, many
difficulties are avoided. There is room enough for the
fulfilling of all the prophecies, and those which before seemed
to clash are reconciled; particularly those which speak, on the
one hand, of a most flourishing state of the church as yet to
come; and, on the other, of the fatal security of men in the
last days of the world.
6: They shall be priests of God and of Christ - Therefore
Christ is God. And shall reign with him - With Christ, a thousand
7: And when the former thousand years are fulfilled, Satan
shall be loosed out of his prison - At the same time that the first
resurrection begins. There is a great resemblance between this
passage and (Re 12:12). At the casting out of the dragon,
there was joy in heaven, but there was woe upon earth: so at the
loosing of Satan, the saints begin to reign with Christ; but the
nations on earth are deceived.
8: And shall go forth to deceive the nations in the four
corners of the earth - (That is, in all the earth) - the more
diligently, as he hath been so long restrained, and knoweth he
hath but a small time. Gog and Magog - Magog, the second son of
Japhet, is the father of the innumerable northern nations toward
the east. The prince of these nations, of which the bulk of that
army will consist, is termed Gog by Ezekiel also, (Eze 38:2).
Both Gog and Magog signify high or lifted up; a name well
suiting both the prince and people. When that fierce leader of
many nations shall appear, then will his own name be known. To
gather them - Both Gog and his armies. Of Gog, little more
is said, as being soon mingled with the rest in the common
slaughter. The Revelation speaks of this the more briefly,
because it had been so particularly described by Ezekiel.
Whose number is as the sand of the sea - Immensely numerous:
a proverbial expression.
9: And they went up on the breadth of the earth, or the
land - Filling the whole breadth of it. And surrounded the camp
of the saints - Perhaps the gentile church, dwelling round
about Jerusalem. And the beloved city - So termed, likewise,
Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 11.
10: And they - All these. Shall be tormented day and night
- That is, without any intermission. Strictly speaking, there is
only night there: no day, no sun, no hope!
11: And I saw - A representation of that great day of the
Lord. A great white throne - How great, who can say? White with
the glory of God, of him that sat upon it, - Jesus Christ. The
apostle does not attempt to describe him here; only adds that
circumstance, far above all description, From whose face the
earth and the heaven fled away - Probably both the aerial and the
starry heaven; which "shall pass away with a great noise." And
there was found no place for them - But they were wholly dissolved,
the very "elements melting with fervent heat." It is not said,
they were thrown into great commotions, but they fled entirely
away; not, they started from their foundations, but they " fell
into dissolution;" not, they removed to a distant place, but
there was found no place for them; they ceased to exist; they
were no more. And all this, not at the strict command of the
Lord Jesus; not at his awful presence, or before his fiery
indignation; but at the bare presence of his Majesty, sitting
with severe but adorable dignity on his throne.
12: And I saw the dead, great and small - Of every age and
condition. This includes, also, those who undergo a change
equivalent to death, (1Co 15:51).
And the books - Human judges have their books written with pen and
ink: how different is the nature of these books! Were opened - O
how many hidden things will then come to light; and how many will
have quite another appearance than they had before in the sight
of men! With the book of God's omniscience, that of conscience
will then exactly tally. The book of natural law, as well as
of revealed, will then also be displayed. It is not said, The
books will be read: the light of that day will make them visible
to all. Then, particularly, shall every man know himself, and
that with the last exactness This will be the first true, full,
impartial, universal history. And another book - Wherein are
enrolled all that are accepted through the Beloved; all who lived
and died in the faith that worketh by love. Which is the book of
life, was opened - What manner of expectation will then be, with
regard to the issue of the whole! (Mal 3:16), &c.
13: Death and hades gave up the dead that were in them
- Death gave up all the bodies of men; and hades, the receptacle
of separate souls, gave them up, to be re - united to their bodies.
14: And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire
- That is, were abolished for ever; for neither the righteous
nor the wicked were to die any more: their souls and bodies
were no more to be separated. Consequently, neither death nor
hades could any more have a being.