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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Revelation 20

 

 

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Verse 1

Coming down out of heaven (καταβαινοντα εκ του ουρανουkatabainonta ek tou ouranou). As in Revelation 10:1; Revelation 18:1.

The key of the abyss (την κλειν της αβυσσουtēn klein tēs abussou). As in Revelation 9:1.

A great chain (αλυσιν μεγαληνhalusin megalēn). Paul wore a αλυσιςhalusis (alpha privative and λυωluō to loose) in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16, as did Peter in prison in Jerusalem (Acts 12:6).

In his hand (επι την χειρα αυτουepi tēn cheira autou). “Upon his hand,” ready for use. See επιepi with the genitive in Revelation 1:20.


Verse 2

He laid hold on (εκρατησενekratēsen). First aorist active indicative of κρατεωkrateō to seize.

The dragon (τον δρακονταton drakonta). Accusative after εκρατησενekratēsen instead of the genitive as in Revelation 2:1. He has been behind the beast and the false prophet from the start. Now he is seized.

The old serpent (ο οπις ο αρχαιοςho ophis ho archaios). Precisely the description in Revelation 12:9, only the nominative is here retained, though in apposition with the accusative τον δρακονταton drakonta a frequent anacoluthon in the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:5, etc.). Swete calls it a parenthesis.

Which is (ος εστινhos estin). The relative here relieves the construction and takes the place of ο καλουμενοςho kaloumenos in Revelation 12:9 before Διαβολος και ο ΣαταναςDiabolos kai ho Satanās bound him (και εδησεν αυτονkai edēsen auton). First aorist active indicative of δεωdeō a thousand years (χιλια ετηchilia etē). Accusative of extent of time. Here we confront the same problem found in the 1260 days. In this book of symbols how long is a thousand years? All sorts of theories are proposed, none of which fully satisfy one. Perhaps Peter has given us the only solution open to us in 2 Peter 3:8 when he argues that “one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” It will help us all to remember that God‘s clock does not run by ours and that times and seasons and programs are with him. This wonderful book was written to comfort the saints in a time of great trial, not to create strife among them.


Verse 3

Into the abyss (εις την αβυσσονeis tēn abusson). The one in Revelation 9:1. and the one spoken of by the legion of demons in Luke 8:31 under the charge of the angel of the abyss (Apollyon, Revelation 9:11) who is either Satan himself or a kindred power. “Already he has been cast out of Heaven (Revelation 12:9), now he is cast out of the earth, and returns to his own place” (Swete).

Shut it and sealed it (εκλεισεν και εσπραγισενekleisen kai esphragisen). Effective first aorists active indicative of κλειωkleiō and σπραγιζωsphragizō he should deceive no more (ινα μη πλανησηιhina mē planēsēi). Negative purpose clause with ινα μηhina mē and the first aorist active subjunctive of πλαναωplanaō Glorious relief after the strain of the previous visions of conflict. Small wonder that Christians today cherish this blessed hope whatever the actual meaning may be.

Until should be finished (αχρι τελεστηιachri telesthēi). Temporal clause of future purpose with αχριachri (as a conjunction like εωςheōs) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεωteleō Repeated in Revelation 20:5 and see αχριachri and the subjunctive in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8.

He must be loosed (δει λυτηναιdei luthēnai). Sad necessity, alas, with δειdei and the first aorist passive infinitive of λυωluō a little time (μικρον χρονονmikron chronon). Accusative of time. Whatever the thousand years means, it is here said plainly that after it is over the devil will again have power on earth “for a little time.”


Verse 4

And they sat upon them (και εκατισαν επ αυτουςkai ekathisan ep' autous). First aorist active indicative of κατιζωkathizō Another period here apparently synchronous (Revelation 20:7) with the confinement of Satan in the abyss. No subject is given for this plural verb. Apparently Christ and the Apostles (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30) and some of the saints (1 Corinthians 6:3), martyrs some hold.

Judgment was given unto them (κριμα εδοτη αυτοιςkrima edothē autois). First aorist passive of διδωμιdidōmi Picture of the heavenly court of assizes.

The souls (τας πσυχαςtas psuchas). Accusative after ειδονeidon at the beginning of the verse.

Of them that had been beheaded (των πεπελεκισμενωνtōn pepelekismenōn). Genitive of the articular perfect passive participle of πελεκιζωpelekizō old word (from πελεκυςpelekus an axe, the traditional instrument for execution in republican Rome, but later supplanted by the sword), to cut off with an axe, here only in N.T. See Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2 for previous mention of these martyrs for the witness of Jesus (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10). Others also besides martyrs shared in Christ‘s victory, those who refused to worship the beast or wear his mark as in Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9.; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20.

And they lived (και εζησανkai ezēsan). First aorist active indicative of ζαωzaō If the ingressive aorist, it means “came to life” or “lived again” as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14.

And reigned with Christ (και εβασιλευσαν μετα του Χριστουkai ebasileusan meta tou Christou). Same use of the first aorist active indicative of βασιλευωbasileuō but more clearly constative. Beckwith and Swete take this to apply solely to the martyrs, the martyrs‘ reign with Christ.


Verse 5

The rest of the dead (οι λοιποι των νεκρωνhoi loipoi tōn nekrōn). “All except the martyrs, both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Beckwith). But some take this to mean only the wicked.

Lived not until the thousand years should be finished (ουκ εζησαν αχρι τελεστηι τα χιλια ετηouk ezēsan achri telesthēi ta chilia etē). See Revelation 20:4 for the items here. “To infer from this statement, as many expositors have done, that the εζησανezēsan of Revelation 20:4 must be understood of bodily resuscitation, is to interpret apocalyptic prophecy by methods of exegesis which are proper to ordinary narrative” (Swete). I sympathize wholly with that comment and confess my own ignorance therefore as to the meaning of the symbolism without any predilections for post-millennialism or premillennialism.

This is the first resurrection (αυτη η αναστασις η πρωτηhautē hē anastasis hē prōtē). Scholars differ as to the genuineness of this phrase. Accepting it as genuine, Swete applies it to “the return of the martyrs and confessors to life at the beginning of the Thousand Years.” According to this view the first resurrection is a special incident in the present life before the Parousia. It has no parallel with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the dead in Christ are raised before those living are changed. Some think that John here pictures the “Regeneration” (παλινγενεσιαpalingenesia) of Matthew 19:28 and the “Restoration” (αποκαταστασιςapokatastasis) of Acts 3:21. No effort is here made to solve this problem, save to call attention to the general judgment out of the books in Revelation 20:12 and to the general resurrection in John 5:29; Acts 24:15.


Verse 6

Blessed and holy (μακαριος και αγιοςmakarios kai hagios). A fifth beatitude (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9) already and two more to come (Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:14, seven in all). Here αγιοςhagios is added to the usual μακαριοςmakarios The second death (ο δευτερος τανατοςho deuteros thanatos). The spiritual death of Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8 in contrast to the first or physical death. This language raises a question about the interpretation of the first and the second resurrections, whether both are of the body or one of the spirit. There seems no way to reach a solid conception about it. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 there is no mention of the resurrection of any save “those of Christ” (οι του Χριστουhoi tou Christou), though the end follows (1 Corinthians 15:24). However, Paul elsewhere (Acts 24:15) speaks of the resurrection of the just and of the unjust as if one event.

Priests of God and of Christ (ιερεις του τεου και του Χριστουhiereis tou theou kai tou Christou). As in Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:5.

Shall reign with him (βασιλευσουσιν μετ αυτουbasileusousin met' autou). As promised in the same passages. The servants of God are to be priests with Christ and to reign with him (Matthew 19:28). In Revelation 5:10 επι της γηςepi tēs gēs (upon earth) occurs, but this item does not appear here. “No hint is given as to where this service is to be rendered and this royalty to be exercised” (Swete).


Verse 7

When are finished (οταν τελεστηιhotan telesthēi). Indefinite future temporal clause with οτανhotan and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεωteleō “whenever are finished.”

Shall be loosed (λυτησεταιluthēsetai). Future passive of λυωluō no longer bound as in Revelation 20:2. He uses the future as a prophet in Revelation 20:7, Revelation 20:8, but in Revelation 20:9, and Revelation 20:10 he uses the aorist as a seer.

Out of his prison (εκ της πυλακης αυτουek tēs phulakēs autou). For πυλακηphulakē in this sense see Revelation 2:10. Out of the abyss of Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:3.


Verse 8

To deceive the nations (πλανησαι τα ετνηplanēsai ta ethnē). First aorist active infinitive of purpose of πλαναωplanaō Satan‘s chief task (chapter 12 to chapter 18, in particular Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:10).

Which are in the four corners of the earth (τα εν ταις τεσσαρσι γωνιαις της γηςta en tais tessarsi gōniais tēs gēs). Clearly the reign with Christ, if on earth, was not shared in by all on earth, for Satan finds a large and ready following on his release. See Revelation 7:1 (Isaiah 11:12) for “the four corners of the earth.”

Gog and Magog (τον Γωγ και Μαγωγton Gōg kai Magōg). Accusative in explanatory apposition with τα ετνηta ethnē (the nations). Magog is first mentioned in Genesis 10:2. The reference here seems to be Ezekiel 38:2, where both are mentioned. Josephus (Ant. I. 6. 1) identifies Magog with the Scythians, with Gog as their prince. In the rabbinical writings Gog and Magog appear as the enemies of the Messiah. Some early Christian writers thought of the Goths and Huns, but Augustine refuses to narrow the imagery and sees only the final protest of the world against Christianity.

To gather them together to the war (συναγαγειν αυτους εις τον πολεμονsunagagein autous eis ton polemon). Second aorist active infinitive of purpose of συναγωsunagō a congenial task for Satan after his confinement. See Revelation 16:14 for this very phrase and also Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:19.

Of whom (ωναυτωνhōn- ως η αμμος της ταλασσηςautōn). Pleonasm or redundant pronoun as in Revelation 3:8 and often (of whom - of them).

As the sand of the sea (hōs hē ammos tēs thalassēs). Already in Revelation 13:1. Clearly then the millennium, whatever it is, does not mean a period when Satan has no following on earth, for this vast host rallies at once to his standard.


Verse 9

They went up (ανεβησανanebēsan). Second aorist active indicative of αναβαινωanabainō a return to the manner of the seer as in Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:5.

Over the breadth of the earth (επι το πλατος της γηςepi to platos tēs gēs). ΠλατοςPlatos is old word, in N.T. only here, Revelation 21:16; Ephesians 3:18. The hosts of Satan spread over the earth.

Compassed (εκυκλευσανekukleusan). First aorist (prophetic) active indicative of κυκλευωkukleuō to encircle, late verb (Strabo) from κυκλοςkuklos (circle), in N.T. only here and margin in John 10:24 (for εκυκλωσανekuklōsan from κυκλοωkukloō).

The camp of the saints (την παρεμβολην των αγιωνtēn parembolēn tōn hagiōn). ΠαρεμβοληParembolē (παρα εν βαλλωparaτην πολιν την ηγαπημενηνenαγαπαωballō) is common late word for military camp, in lxx for the Israelites in the desert (Exod 29:14, etc.), in N.T. for Roman barracks (Acts 21:34, Acts 21:37) and for an army in line of battle (Hebrews 11:34; Revelation 20:9).

The beloved city (και κατεβη πυρ εκ του ουρανουtēn polin tēn ēgapēmenēn). Perfect passive participle of καταβαινωagapaō “the city the beloved.” See Psalm 78:68; Psalm 87:2 for Jerusalem so described. So Charles takes it here, but Swete holds it to be “the Church the New Zion” that is meant.

And fire came down out of heaven (κατεπαγεν αυτουςkai katebē pur ek tou ouranou). Second aorist (prophetic) active indicative of κατεστιωkatabainō Cf. Genesis 19:24; Genesis 39:6; Ezekiel 38:22; 2 Kings 1:10, 2 Kings 1:12; Luke 9:54 (about John).

Devoured them (katephagen autous). Second aorist (prophetic) active of katesthiō to eat up (down). Vivid climax to this last great battle with Satan.


Verse 10

Was cast (εβλητηeblēthē). First aorist (prophetic, affective) passive indicative of βαλλωballō (Revelation 20:3).

Into the lake of fire and brimstone (εις την λιμνην του πυρος και τειουeis tēn limnēn tou puros kai theiou). As in Revelation 19:20 with the two beasts, as he adds, “where are also the beast and the false prophet” (οπου και το τηριον και ο πσευδοπροπητηςhopou kai to thērion kai ho pseudoprophētēs).

They shall be tormented (βασανιστησονταιbasanisthēsontai). Return to the prophetic future of Revelation 20:7, Revelation 20:8. For βασανιζωbasanizō see Revelation 9:5; Revelation 14:10. For “day and night” (ημερας και νυκτοςhēmeras kai nuktos) see Revelation 4:8; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:11. For “for ever and ever” (εις τους αιωνας τον αιωνωνeis tous aiōnas ton aiōnōn) see Revelation 1:6, Revelation 1:18; Revelation 4:9, Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 10:6; Revelation 11:15, etc. The devil was cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:9), then imprisoned (Revelation 20:2.), now he received his final doom.


Verse 11

A great white throne (τρονον μεγαν λευκονthronon megan leukon). Here μεγανmegan (great) is added to the throne pictures in Revelation 4:4; Revelation 20:4. The scene is prepared for the last judgment often mentioned in the N.T. (Matt 25:31-46; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). “The absolute purity of this Supreme Court is symbolized by the colour of the Throne” (Swete) as in Daniel 7:9; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 97:2. The name of God is not mentioned, but the Almighty Father sits upon the throne (Revelation 4:2., Revelation 4:9; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:7, Revelation 5:13; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:15; Revelation 19:4; Revelation 21:5), and the Son sits there with him (Hebrews 1:3) and works with the Father (John 5:19-21; John 10:30; Matthew 25:31.; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1).

From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away (ου απο προσωπου επυγεν η γε και ο ουρανοςhou apo prosōpou ephugen hē ge kai ho ouranos). Second aorist (prophetic) active of πευγωpheugō See Revelation 16:20. The non-eternity of matter is a common teaching in the O.T. (Psalm 97:5; Psalm 102:27; Isaiah 51:6) as in the N.T. (Mark 13:31; 2 Peter 3:10).

Was found (ευρετηheurethē). First aorist passive indicative of ευρισκωheuriskō All is now spiritual. Even scientists today are speaking of the non-eternity of the universe.


Verse 12

The dead, the great and the small (τους νεκρους τους μεγαλους και τους μικρουςtous nekrous tous megalous kai tous mikrous). The general resurrection of Revelation 20:13 is pictured by anticipation as already over. No living are mentioned after the battle of Revelation 20:7-10, though some will be living when Jesus comes to judge the quick and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.). All classes and conditions (Revelation 11:18; Revelation 13:16; Revelation 19:5, Revelation 19:18) John saw “standing before the throne” (εστωτας ενωπιον του τρονουhestōtas enōpion tou thronou).

Books were opened (βιβλια ηνοιχτησανbiblia ēnoichthēsan). First aorist passive of ανοιγωanoigō Like Daniel 7:10. The record of each human being has been kept in God‘s books.

Were judged (εκριτησανekrithēsan). First aorist passive indicative of κρινωkrinō The sentence upon each rests upon written evidence.

Another book which is the book of life (αλλο βιβλιον ο εστιν της ζωηςallo biblion ho estin tēs zōēs). This book has already been mentioned (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). “It is the roll of living citizens of Jerusalem” (Swete), “the church of the first born enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23). The books are “the vouchers for the book of life” (Alford). We are saved by grace, but character at last (according to their works) is the test as the fruit of the tree (Matthew 7:16, Matthew 7:20; Matthew 10:32.; 25:31-46; John 15:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:10; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).


Verse 13

Gave up (εδωκενedōken). Just “gave” (first aorist active indicative of διδωμιdidōmi), but for the sea to give is to give up (effective aorist). Sea as well as land delivers its dead (all kinds of dead, good and bad). Swete notes that accidental deaths will not prevent any from appearing. Milligan is sure that the sea here means “the sea of the troubled and sinful world.”

Death and Hades (ο τανατος και ο αιδηςho thanatos kai ho hāidēs). “An inseparable pair” (Swete) as in Revelation 1:18; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 20:14. So in Matthew 16:18 “the gates of Hades” means the power of death. Etymologically Hades is the unseen world where all who die are as opposed to this visible world, but in actual use Hades is sometimes treated as the abode of the unrighteous (Luke 16:23). Charles thinks that this is true here, though there is nothing to show it apart from the personification of death and Hades and the casting of both into the lake of fire in Revelation 20:14. Here again “each man” (εκαστοςhekastos) receives judgment according to his deeds (Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23).


Verse 14

Were cast (εβλητησανeblēthēsan). As the devil (Revelation 20:10) followed the two beasts (Revelation 19:20) into the same dread lake of fire. Death is personified and is disposed of, “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) and Paul sings the paean of victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54., from Hosea 13:14). Hades has no more terrors, for the saints are in heaven. There is no more fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), for death is no more (Revelation 21:4). The second death (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 21:8) is here identified as in Revelation 21:8 with the lake of fire.


Verse 15

If any was not found written in the book of life(ει τις ουχ ευρετη εν τηι βιβλωι της ζωηςei tis ouch heurethē en tēi biblōi tēs zōēs). Condition of first class with ειei and the first aorist passive indicative of ευρισκωheuriskō In this short sentence the doom is told of all who are out of Christ, for they too follow the devil and the two beasts into the lake of fire (the counterpart of the Gehenna of fire, Matthew 5:22). There is no room here for soul sleeping, for an intermediate state, for a second chance, or for annihilation of the wicked. In Daniel 12:2 there is a resurrection to death as well as to life and so in John 5:29; Acts 24:15.

 


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-20.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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