The wedding feast began with war and judgments
Before there could be a peaceful wedding celebration, Jesus had to first eliminate His evil opposition, the oppressors of His bride. Revelation continues:
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
(Rev. 19:11-21 NIV)
The beast (the Roman Empire at that time) and its pagan priests had oppressed and persecuted the Christians. Jesus judged them and took those people out of the way, casting them into hell.
The birds gathered for GOD's feast for them, eating the flesh of all the dead soldiers.
The "thousand years" and first resurrection
Next, we see that Satan was also bound for a time:
1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
(Rev. 20:1-6 NIV)
Note: To be transparent, I don't yet understand why GOD chose such a long-sounding timeframe as 1,000 years here. I'm going to show you why in just a bit.
To recap these verses:
- A strong angel seized Satan and bound him for a thousand years.
- At this time, the martyrs were resurrected and reigned with Jesus for that thousand year period.
Satan released, Gog and Magog, and the great resurrection and judgment
Continuing in Revelation 20:
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Rev. 20:7-15 NIV)
Who were Gog and Magog?
Rev. 20:8 is an allusion to Ezekiel 38, a prophecy regarding Gog and Magog.
Gog was the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal within the land of Magog (per Eze. 38:2-3). Going all the way back to Gen. 10:1-2, Magog, Tubal and Meshek were sons of Japheth, the son of Noah.
According to first century Jewish historian and soldier Josephus, Japheth's descendants spread out to Europe and western Asia. Regarding Magog, specifically, Josephus said:
Japhet, the son of Noah, had seven sons: they inhabited so, that, beginning at the mountains Taurus and Amanus, they proceeded along Asia, as far as the river Tansis, and along Europe to Cadiz; and settling themselves on the lands which they light upon, which none had inhabited before, they called the nations by their own names. For Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians, [Galls,] but were then called Gomerites. Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians.
(Antiquities of the Jews, b.1, c.2, s.6)
So we're talking about Gentiles to the north.
Look what GOD said through Ezekiel about Gog and Magog:
38:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. 5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, 6 also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops—the many nations with you.
Note: Remember, these people were the descendants of Ham and Japheth, the other sons of Noah (see Gen. 10:1-12). GOD was speaking here of the other nations who joined with Rome in persecuting the Christians around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
7 “‘Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. 8 After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety. 9 You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.
Note: Here we have another reference to the second spiritual gathering of Israel—the gathering referred to by Jesus at the time of the feast and His second coming.
Also observe the use of the language "like a cloud" with reference to the coming of these armies. This is the same metaphor Jesus used for His own second coming.
10 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. 11 You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people—all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. 12 I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.” 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?”’
14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? 15 You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. 16 You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
Note: The phrase translated "In days to come..." in the NIV in v.16 is actually, "In the last days..." That, again, gives us an indication of when these things would take place. (Remember, "the last days" in the Scriptures always referred to the timeframe of the end of GOD's covenant with physical Israel.)
17 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them. 18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’
39:1 “Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. 2 I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. 4 On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. 5 You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the Lord.
Note: Read Rev. 20:9. Ezekiel and Revelation described the same events.
7 “‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel. 8 It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.
9 “‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. 10 They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.
11 “‘On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east of the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog.
12 “‘For seven months the Israelites will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I display my glory will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign Lord. 14 People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground.
“‘After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search. 15 As they go through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will leave a marker beside it until the gravediggers bury it in the Valley of Hamon Gog, 16 near a town called Hamonah. And so they will cleanse the land.’
17 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan. 19 At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk. 20 At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.
Note: Eze. 39:17-18 perfectly parallels Rev. 19:17-18.
21 “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay on them. 22 From that day forward the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God. 23 And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.
25 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. 26 They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. 27 When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
(Eze. 38:1-39:29 NIV)
What tremendous and beautiful promises GOD gave to His people! What wonderful insight into His beautiful heart?
It should be obvious at this point how interconnected these things are. Ezekiel relates to Revelation and to Joel. All of them relate to the Song of Moses and to Jesus and Isaiah and Daniel.
The Scriptures truly all tell a single story: how GOD replaced the physical with the spiritual and how that transformation continues in individual hearts and lives of those who come to Him to be recreated even today and forever.
Returning our focus to Revelation (20:7-15), to recap:
- Gog and Magog (the nations aligned with the Roman Empire) surrounded GOD's people (spiritual Israel) to harm them, but...
- GOD saved His people with fiery judgment against those nations.
Satan cast into hell
Rev. 20:1-6 tells us Satan had been temporarily released from His prison in order to deceive these nations, just as Ezekiel had prophesied.
GOD's purpose for Satan having been completed, GOD then cast Satan into hell eternally.
This answers a huge question for us:
Where is Satan today?
Satan is in hell, where he is in torment, not running the place like some playground bully as is so often foolishly depicted.
Don't overlook the significance of this truth.
It is only this understanding—that Satan has already been judged and is being punished eternally—which answers the big question:
Why would GOD allow Satan to roam free and deceive the world for 2,000+ years after Jesus defeated him through the cross and resurrection?
The answer: He didn't.
Heaven and earth fled from Jesus' presence
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
(Rev. 20:11 NIV)
Jesus had said that the Law of Moses would exist until heaven and earth passed away (see Matt. 5:18). And Peter reminded the Christians that the elements would melt with fervent heat, giving way to the new heavens and new earth (see 2 Pet. 3:10-13).
Keep in mind that the word "earth" in the Scriptures can also be translated "land." The old land was physical Israel, Canaan, with its physical capital of Jerusalem. The new land is spiritual Israel, the church, the New Jerusalem.
The old land and its heavens passed away, just as the one so filled with evil in Noah's day passed away (see 2 Pet. 3:6).
The mass resurrection and judgment
With Satan and the false prophet having been cast into hell, it was time for the mass resurrection and judgment.
But first, the final enemy had to be defeated: death.
As Paul had previously written:
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
(1 Cor. 15:22-28 NIV)
At this point in time, we see the fulfillment of Paul's prophecy regarding the end of death.
Resuming with Revelation, we read:
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Rev. 20:7-15 NIV)
Note: Observe how often "the dead" is found in this passage. This text, like Daniel 12 which we've studied in the past, makes it clear that the resurrection and mass judgment was of those who were already dead. The text mentions nothing of not-yet-dead souls who were transported before the throne, as is widely believed.
Observe the similarities of this text with that of Daniel 12 and Matthew 25. They are discussing the same events.
40 “At the time of the end ... 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
(Dan. 11:40a, 12:1-4 NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
(Matt. 25:31-32 NIV)
This understanding of Dan. 12 and Matt. 25 is consistent with what Paul taught in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, as we studied previously.
Why the "1,000 years" is perplexing to me
As promised, I want to close this post by explaining why the 1,000 year period of Revelation 20 is confusing to me.
Events on either side of the thousand year reign of Rev. 20:1-6 seem clear.
- Eight times (NIV), the letter states that the vision concerned things about to take place "soon." The whole vision, not just bits and pieces, was said to be soon.
- In Rev. 6:10-11, the martyred souls (who were resurrected at the 1,000 year time period in Rev. 20) are seen under the altar and told to wait a little while longer, until all of them had been killed.
- Satan is seen loose and pursuing the Christians in Rev. 12:17.
- After Jerusalem's fall in Rev. 19:1-3, Satan is cast into the abyss which begins the 1,000 year period.
- The faithful martyrs are resurrected and reign with Jesus for 1,000 years.
- After the 1,000 years, Satan is temporarily released.
- Then GOD delivers His children from Gog and Magog and Satan is cast into hell, followed by the mass resurrection and judgment.
The problem with the 1,000 years is that such a long timeframe does not make sense when lined up alongside the rest of the Scriptures, as I have presented in this series.
For example, Jesus taught that, at Hi second coming:
- Jerusalem would be destroyed,
- The righteous would be gathered to Him,
- The dead of all nations would be gathered to Him and judged.
There is no hint of delay—certainly not a lengthy time period like a thousand years—found in Jesus' description of what would transpire.
For these reasons, and especially the way all other Scripture perfectly harmonizes regarding these things, as I have shown throughout our journey together, I am forced to conclude that the "thousand years" of Rev. 20 is a figurative time period that described a relatively short span of physical time.
Why GOD would use such a long descriptor for what apparently was but a very short time escapes me. I continue to study and pray for insight regarding this mystery.
Below is a timeline that illustrates the conundrum I've described above.
We can easily prove from the Scriptures everything on either side of the 1,000 years.
That this 1,000 year period is nowhere else discussed in Scripture further complicates its understanding. Everything else in this lengthy series of posts can be proven and counter-balanced with more than one text, and often many.
Want to go deeper into eschatology, including the book of Revelation? Check out my 15 in-depth video lesson course: Understanding the Biblical Meaning of Revelation.
Got questions or comments? Leave them below. (I'm truly happy to help. But please, carefully read the entire series first.)