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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Apocalypse 20 ]


APOCALYPSE 20
Lonnie Branam

The interesting events predicted in Revelation 20 are based on the events referred to in Revelation 19:1-6. In that chapter we see God's people in heaven rejoicing and praising God because He judged the great church harlot sitting on the dragon beast, located on the seven hills of Rome. . In causing her to fall, God avenged the blood of His servants shed by this woman. God elaborates on this woman in Revelation 20 by speaking of a restraint that He would place on Satan and her for a thousand years. John sees an angel come down from heaven with a big chain in his hand. He bound the Devil with a big chain, that old Serpent, who beguiled Eve and who deceived and corrupted all nations of the earth for a very long time when the harlot ruled the earth. Of course, this is symbolic; you cannot put a literal chain on a spirit being. After chaining him, the angel cast him into the bottomless pit which is the prison of all fallen angels. As a result of this binding, Satan would not be able to religiously deceive the nations any more until the thousand years came to an end. But after the thousand year period ends the chain will be removed, and Satan will be released from prison for a short time. The implication is that during this short season of time, Satan may again be able to deceive and corrupt all nations. You can read about this in Revelation 20:1-3.

Following this scene, John saw the souls of Christians who had been beheaded because they struggled against the harlot, remained faithful to Jesus and God's word, and had not worshiped the woman on this beast. This woman, called a harlot, is mentioned in every chapter in this book from Revelation 11-20. Everything discussed in this chapter has to do with the same religious woman who corrupted the earth and shed much blood of Christians. As opposed to this unfaithful woman, the announcement is made that the true bride of Christ is arrayed in her wedding gown, and the wedding invitation is expressed like this, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Most of this book is about these two women, the one His true church; the other the apostate church(Revelation 12 and 17). . The woman on the beast claims to be His bride, but she is a woman whom Christ has rejected, but now because of these judgments on the devil and this woman, the true bride is making herself ready for the marriage when Christ makes His return. Strangely, reference is made to the souls of beheaded Christians in heaven whose bodies are still the graves, but they reign with Christ in paradise while this woman ruled on earth.. Yet they are said to have had some kind of a resurrection, but all who were not


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Christians did not experience a resurrection until the end of the world and the general resurrection of the dead. This chapter concludes with the end of the world, the great white throne judgment, and the general resurrection of the dead. At this time all will be judged according to their works. The devil, the harlot, the beast, death, Hades, and all whose names were not found in the Lamb's Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire. All expositors agree that Revelation 20:1-6 is among the most difficult passages in the entire Bible. Our salvation does not depend on understanding this difficult passage, but I would suggest that an important basic rule of Bible interpretation should be respected in the study of difficult Bible passages. The rule is that a difficult passage should never be used to contradict an easily understood passage of scripture. A questionable scripture should never be used to contradict an unquestionable scripture.

I would like to comment first on the binding of Satan for a thousand years. An angel descends from heaven with a key and a chain in his hand. He seized Satan, also called the dragon, put a chain on him and locked him for a thousand years. There is much speculation on this passage. We hear much about the millennium and what life will be like on earth at this time. The word millennium comes from the Latin language and means a period of a thousand years. It is believed to be a future time of happiness, peace and prosperity on earth. The most popular interpretation of the millennium is that it will begin with the second coming of Christ, at which time Christ will set up His kingdom and rule His kingdom in person here on the earth. The theory is that before this thousand year period begins, Jesus will appear just above the earth and raise all saved people from the graves and take them to heaven for seven years. They call this the rapture. All the wicked dead will remain in their graves. Only saved people will be raised from the dead, and this is supposedly the first resurrection. The wicked dead will remain in their graves till the millennium ends and the world comes to an end Then all the wicked dead will be raised, and that will be the second resurrection. This speculation calls for two physical resurrections separated by a thousand years, and this is not taught in God's word.

At the so-called rapture, all the saved will be taken to heaven for seven years and then return to earth with Jesus to reign with Jesus on the earth during the millennium.. These people believe when the saved come to earth with Jesus, they will be in their glorious resurrection bodies and live among people on earth still in their physical bodies. This


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speculative theory would have us believe there will be a combined, glorified and fleshly state of humanity. during the millennium. Just how heavenly beings and earthly beings could socialize I have not heard anyone say. You can read this chapter for yourself, , but you will not find any of these imaginary ideas or teachings. . These people are reading things between the lines that are not there. This theory is the speculation of all Bible speculations. It is not found in the word of God. It sounds to me like an exercise in daydreaming or fantasy. This is an example of using a difficult passage to contradict a clear passage of scripture.

This interpretation contradicts two very clear and indisputable teachings in the New Testament. One direct contradiction is that the kingdom of Christ will not be established on earth till Christ returns and begins the milllennium. The kingdom of God has been on the earth for two thousand years and began in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem. The church and God's kingdom are one and the same thing. In Colossians 1:13 Paul; wrote these words to the members of Christ's church in Colosse: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” . The church is Christ's kingdom; all Christians are citizens in that kingdom; and when Christ returns He will take the church-kingdom to heaven and present it to God, the Father. .. There will be no millennium when Christ returns. The coming of Christ will take place after the millennium, not before the millennium. When Christ comes back, the earth will then be destroyed, and the heavens will passage with a great noise. After the judgment, the saved will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air and will be taken to heaven where they will be with Christ forever. The saved will never return to the earth. This is a clear, indisputable, and unquestionable truth.

The above millennium theory has another direct contradiction with a clearly revealed truth. It speculates that there will be two literal resurrections separated by a thousand years. It supposes the saved people will rise from the graves a thousand years before the wicked dead. Jesus revealed the truth about the one general and universal resurrection of the dead in John 5:28, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the grave will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.” According to Jesus, there will be one general resurrection of the dead of both the good and evil. The good and evil will rise from the dead on the same day and hour.



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What then should we believe about the Christians in this vision who had been beheaded and their existence in paradise is called the first resurrection? The first resurrection was something that happened to people who became Christians on earth, who lived faithfully to Christ. But they were beheaded for their faithfulness, at which time their souls entered paradise. That is all we know and are told about the first resurrection. It was spiritual resurrection of souls to paradise. We are distinctly told that John saw the souls of Christians, not their bodies. They had been beheaded in the struggle with the apostate church, and and their bodies were still in the grave. This was a resurrection of souls, not bodies. I would suggest that in some sense this was a spiritual resurrection. . The New Testament speaks only of two resurrections; one is a spiritual resurrection from being dead spiritually, , and the other is a literal resurrection of the body from the grave. In John 5:25 Jesus said, “Most assuredly I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” The “dead” in this passage were people dead in sin; the word “live” refers to a spiritual resurrection to a new life in Christ.

When people obey the gospel and become Christians, their new life in Christ is compared to a resurrection. Before baptism all people in the sight of God are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. In Romans 6:4 Paul wrote these words to people in Rome who had become Christians, “Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Now this is the first resurrection that people experience who become Christians. I would suggest that these indisputable truths may help us understand what happened to these beheaded Christians who were in a wonderful place at the same time their bodies were in the grave. These people had obeyed the gospel of Christ during their lifetime and died in the struggle with false religion. Their first resurrection was a spiritual resurrection from a dead life of sin into a new spiritual life in Christ. Their souls had gone to paradise where they were supremely happy. I believe we can say that all who obey the gospel of Christ, live a Christian life, are faithful to death and then go to the happy place called paradise, this total experience may well be called the first resurrection. In my judgment, the only first resurrection mentioned in scripture is a spiritual resurrection, and the second resurrection will be a literal physical resurrection of our bodies from the grave. But what about verse 5 which says, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” There is probably no text in this book about which


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commentators are more hopelessly disagreed than this verse. This cannot be ignored in any fair interpretation of this millennial passage. After considering all the opinions expressed, I favor the view that it refers to all the dead both good and bad–who will be raised bodily at the judgment.

What then should we believe about the thousand years or the millennium? The purpose of this binding of Satan was to give comfort to Christians persecuted by an apostate church. The binding of Satan during this prophetical time assures Christians that Satan will be sufficiently restrained so that he can no longer deceive all nations as he did before this thousand year period began.. Thus this chapter describes not so much a millennium of Christians, but a millennium of the overthrow of Satan. This chain was not a literal chain; Satan is a spiritual being. The chain simply symbolizes some kind of restraint or restriction God would place on the Devil. We are not specifically told what it was that God would do. God left us to figure that out. This did not mean that Satan could not continue to deceive people. Please note the word says that he would no longer be able deceive the whole world. He would not be able to universally corrupt mankind as he did during the Dark Ages.
It may be that this thousand year period is directly related to the preceding thousand year period of the Dark Ages when Satan had deceived the whole world and trampled underfoot the original church of primitive Christianity. Please note in verses 8-10 that after the thousand years of binding, Satan will be loosed for a short season, and this implies the entire world may again be deceived, corrupted, and Satan may once again persecute and cause havoc in the true church. Then Christ will come to the aid of the church, and we are told the beast and the false prophet(the woman) shall be destroyed. Hence, this must be some kind of a spiritual binding and restraint on Satan..

Satan deceived all nations during the Dark Ages. The millennium is a period comparable time-wise to the time she ruled the world in darkness and superstition. Now it may possibly be that the prediction is that the thousand year period during the Dark Ages will be succeeded by a thousand year period of goodness, peace, and blessing to the human race. The woman in Revelation 17 is connected to the millennium because this chapter closes with the promise that she and the beast on which she has ruled from 500 A.D. till the end of the world will be destroyed. However, the only restraint placed on Satan during these wonderful years is that He has lost his power to

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universally deceive the whole world as he did during the Dark Ages. . God did something that weakened him. What kind of a restraint was symbolized by that chain?.

I agree with those expositors who believe that the only chain that can restrain the Devil is the truth of God revealed in the New Testament and preached to all nations. No supernatural restraint was to be placed on him. Only the Bible can keep him in the pit. It is the view of many sound gospel preachers that the free circulation of God's truth throughout the world is the chain by which God restrains Satan. We need no other chain, for the scripture says that the gospel of Christ is God's power to salvation. The scripture says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Why will Satan flee from Christians? Because Christians believe and obey the word of God. Jesus resisted Satan by saying, “It is written.” When the word of God is powerfully proclaimed in the world, there is always a binding of Satan, and a powerful restraint is placed on his activities. When the Bible is not widely and powerfully proclaimed to mankind, Satan is loose and out of the pit, deceiving the world. God uses Christians to put a chain on the neck of Satan. If Satan is put in the pit, Christians must put him in the pit . and keep him in the pit.

Let me now tie this all together with the consistent explanation of the Apocalypse I have presented for your consideration. . During the Dark Ages when the woman of Revelation 17 ruled the entire world with an idolatrous and innovative form of Christianity, she used the sword to support her religion. Moreover, she was able to do this by locking the Bible to the pulpits and keepiing the Bible in the Latin language. The Bible was literally taken away from the world. Satan was loose and free and deceived all nations, but this chapter tells us that sometime in the future, there is going to be long period of time when the religion of Christ is going to greatly bless all nations. I agree with many good expositors of God's word that the words, “a thousand years, ” is symbolical and means simply a long but indefinite period of time. It may possibly be introduced and perpetuated by the gospel prevailing over moral and religious evil and by winning many people to Christ. I am well aware of the fact that many good preachers do not agree with this view. Many are of the opinion that evil has not been rooted out of the world for sixty centuries and never will. However, they have no plausible explanation for the binding of Satan, and what will happen during this long time of a thousand years when God will put a chain on Satan and curtail his evil activity. B.W. Johnson in his


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Johnson in his commentary on the book of Revelation says that the millennium will be a period when righteousness will dominate the earth, and the gospel will take such a hold on men that Satan will lose his power over them. Here is a quote from his commentary, “The millennium will probably come in quietly. The chain of divine truth shall bind the great author of evil so that he will lose his influence for a long period of time, and men will devote themselves to righteousness and peace.” This thousand year period mentioned in the book of Revelation when Satan shall be restrained has helped me to understand many prophecies in the Old Testament that have been a puzzle to me. If you care to explore them, here are a few that will interest you: Daniel 7:23-27; Romans 11:25,26; Ezekiel 47:1-12; and Zechariah 14:8,9.

Let me make one more comment on this fascinating passage, and feel free to disagree with me. It is my personal opinion. The apostles were living in the last days because the Christian Age is the last period of human history. Our generation has moved two thousand years closer to the end of time. Yet, the gospel has had a rather limited degree of success in converting the world. The gospel was very successful during the first 300 years of church history because the Bible was powerfully proclaimed among all nations of the first century. But many in the original church fell away from the truth about 500 A.D. and formed the first major denominational church in Christianity, from which all other denominational churches came into existence. The true church went into the wilderness about 500 A.D.(Revelation 12). For all practical purposes the true church was hidden from the world for a thousand years. . To my knowledge there is no historical reference to the original New Testament church by secular or religious historians during the Dark Ages. The woman in Revelation 17 was the only widely publicized church for a thousand years in secular history. So the original church has been successful on earth only for the first 300 years and the 500 years since the Reformation in the 1500's. I would like to think this thousand-year period when Satan will be restrained and no longer able to deceive all nations of the world represents a time of success that has never been seen before in the history of the Christian religion. Christ deserves more than Christians have done for the past two thousand years. Could it be possible that the Reformation, when the Bible was given back to mankind, was the beginning of a movement that would eventually usher in this prophetical thousand year period? Some sound preachers hold this view. In the last 500 years the original

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Christian religion of the first century has made a phenomenal recovery. There has been a substantial Restoration of the Christian religion as it was practiced in the first century, especially in the United States.

I will close with this thought. Could it be possible that in this time when there are Bibles in most every nation of the earth and the knowledge of God, in a measure, covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, that we are in the twilight period of the coming millennium, the predawn of the millennium mentioned in this chapter? I don't know, but it is an exciting thought! At least, we can say the Christian religion is having the greatest effect on mankind since the days of the apostles in the first century and the few centuries that followed. I am sorry I presented such a long dissertation on Revelation 20, but the complexity and importance of this chapter demanded a more lengthy explanation.


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