Notes on Revelation 20:7-15

Revelation 20:7-15; Zechariah 14:4
CHAPTER 20: 7-15
Verses 7, 8 contain a very important and humiliating principle. It is impossible, in whatever position man may be, that he should not fall if he is left to himself, and if he has not communicated to him from God a life of which the grace of God is the strength. Jesus manifested in glory does not change the heart. This change is a work of grace. As soon as those even who have seen the glory are no more kept from temptation by the power of God Himself, where they are subjected to temptation, they fall and Satan makes them at once his slaves. Satan, being loosed, comes up out of the bottomless pit, upon the earth, not into heaven, where he re-enters no more. When at last banished from the earth, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are since the beginning of the millennium, and shall never come out of it. This is a proof that the judgment of the wicked [dead] does not take place at the coming of Christ. When the great white throne is there, the earth flees away; and this is not the return of Jesus.
In the present dispensation, God visits the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name; Acts 15:1414Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. (Acts 15:14). Satan is opposed to this people in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, and who have the foretaste of the glory and the joy that belong to the people of God. The consequence is, that they are a separate people, who fail in rendering testimony if they enter, however little, into the ways of the world. Already, in Abraham, God takes out of the world a people to Himself, whom He leaves in the world. Israel was, as a nation, separated from the world. An Israelite could not espouse a Gentile. This separation was according to the flesh, not the result of faith.
In the church, it is individual faith which causes this separation. All the precepts of the gospel suppose a state of persecution; Matt. 5:38-48; 20:1638Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38‑48)
16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:16)
. Everything supposes opposition; Luke 14:25-3225And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. (Luke 14:25‑32). If there were a Christian world, the precepts of the gospel would not have any application.
During the thousand years, on the contrary, Jesus shall be the Prince of this world, of which Satan is now the prince. Now, all those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; 2 Tim. 3:1212Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12). We are called to suffer; and if the world were really christianized, we should be called to run with the tide instead of contending against it.
When Satan shall be bound, all that will be changed, and this opposition of the world will cease. The Lord Jesus shall reign in righteousness; there will be no temptation, and the mass of people will be really governed by Him. If this took place in the present dispensation, all the precepts of the gospel would become useless and out of place. Under the reign of Christ, the church, which has already suffered, will be seen glorified, and the world blessed, without Satan's temptations, living in peace and under the government of the Son of man. It does not follow that every soul on earth shall be converted.
If the reign of a thousand years were a spiritual millennium, it would not be possible that Satan could be loosed to seduce all those who would have the life of Christ in them. Instead of that, it is a government without temptations; and when Satan is loosed, he carries man away with him in spite of the sight of the glory of Jesus; and this is the final trial which displays how impossible it is for God to trust in the creature; John 2:2424But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, (John 2:24). We are called to trust the faithfulness of God, because we have learned that God cannot trust us.
It would be extraordinary in a dispensation for man not to be subject to trial and temptation in the ways of God. Those of the millennium are to be tempted like others. The consequence of it is the same-man falls. Even the presence of Christ does not prevent it; and the heart is so irremediably wicked and evil, that in the presence of Jesus it will yield to its passions and lusts, and please himself instead of pleasing Jesus. Innocent man fell-still more does he when he is no more innocent.
During the manifestation of the glory of Christ, the revolt cannot be hidden. Man may see the glory of Christ, be convinced of it, and oppose himself to it! Lazarus being risen, the Jews wish to put him to death with Jesus, because of the testimony rendered to the power of Christ. If the heart of man is not converted, renewed, and kept of God, it is capable of anything. Verses 9, 10. They will make war with the saints and with the city beloved of God.
At that time the whole world shall be the sphere of the judgments of the prophecy. With the Jews the promises and the ways of God are circumscribed in the land of Canaan, which is simply also called the earth. Later this sphere extends itself, and the four monarchies, then Christendom, become the prophetic earth. Jesus shall reign over the whole inhabited earth, and prophecy shall then extend over all its surface. If, when Christ is manifested in glory, the world oppose the people of God, it is not surprising that the same thing should happen now that Christ is hidden. To think otherwise is to be in illusion.
To understand the glory of Christ in the church, the church must be separate from the world. When the church is mixed up with the world, this only spoils the church and Christians. The world never draws towards Christians, and it cannot do so, for its own nature cannot allow it; but Christians may to their own loss draw near the world, because the old man is still in them.
Verse 10. The beast and the false prophet are in the lake burning with fire and brimstone since the judgment of the earth. Satan is not there. He reigns in a public-house, in balls, in the opera, in the theater, in concerts, etc., and he rules in the hearts of men by presenting to them things pleasant to their lusts. When Satan shall be in the lake burning with fire, he will not reign there; he will be there as the most miserable being. At the beginning of the millennium the beast and the false prophet will be thrown there alive. Satan is only bound in the bottomless pit, from whence he shall come out again to tempt men.
As long as Satan is in heaven, he is the prince of this world. There are idolaters, a Babylon, and that secret influence which deceives the heart of man, so as to make him look at a piece of wood as a god. These are the effects of the deceits of the enemy. What has become of the greatest part of the human race? They are plunged in idolatry. Civilization does not draw man out of it; the people of antiquity, whose civilization has been transmitted to us, did not through it come out of idolatry; and the most enlightened men submit themselves to things which their own reason rejects, because they are under the influence of Satan. When Satan has come out of the bottomless pit, he can no more exercise this influence, because he cannot go up into heaven again and give himself out for a god before men. He can only excite them to open revolt.
Verses 11-15. Satan being set aside, here is the judgment of the dead. The judgment of the great white throne only applies to the dead. Then it is that the resurrection of judgment takes place; the resurrection of life is for those only who shall reign. The effect of judgment is that " in thy sight shall no man living be justified," Psa. 143:22And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. (Psalm 143:2). It is only those who have the life of Christ in themselves that will escape from the lake burning with fire and brimstone. To be judged according to our own works is to be condemned.
One thing that will prove that the question here is not concerning the coming of Christ is, that the place of the great white throne is not mentioned; whereas Acts 1:1111Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11) announces the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth, and Zech. 14:44And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:4) shows Him to us on the Mount of Olives. It is from that mountain that He was taken up from the midst of His disciples, and it is on that mountain that He will again set His feet. It is not at all the great white throne. When this appears, heaven and earth flee away from before His face. This is not the coming again on the earth. The dead appear before Him. For the judgment of the living He must come again where the living are to be found. In the other case, it is all over with the heaven and present earth.