Key Verse: “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
We come at last to the final chapters of God’s story, yet it is not truly the end. It is the beginning of a glorious future for the whole creation, and in particular the long-suffering people of God.
In Chapter 20, an angel comes down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand: “He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years.”
It is an undramatic end to the ultimate enemy who had inspired the rebellion against God in the heavens, and then seduced humans to join the rebellion on earth. There is no epic struggle here. God has always been in control, and now the time has come. The angel merely seizes the devil and binds him for a thousand years. This vision follows the vision of Chapter 19 where the beast and false prophet are thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
The big question in this chapter is the meaning of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:4) along with the thousand-year binding of Satan so that he has no influence on earthly affairs. As we have noted, Revelation is not chronological but theological and thematic. What does this thousand year, or millennial, period represent? Since most numbers in Revelation are symbolic, we assume this is the case here.
There are three main views but a plausible interpretation, consistent with the rest of scripture, is to see the millennium as a symbolic reference to the time of the Church between Jesus’ first and second coming at the end of history. In other words, our present time.
We remember that the Gospels speak of Satan being defeated by Christ’s death on the cross. The Church’s mission since Pentecost has been to declare the victory of Christ to the nations. When the Gospel is proclaimed, people from every nation have their eyes opened and respond in faith. In this sense, Satan is bound. He can’t stop the saving power of the Good News. But he can deceive and torment. When John says that Satan is released for a short time at the end of the thousand years to once again deceive the nations, he seems be referring to a time of intense spiritual warfare against God’s people, leading up to Christ’s second coming at the end of history.
But this final blaze of spiritual warfare quickly burns out: “Then the devil, who had deceived them (the nations) was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever’’ (Revelation 20:10). Following this is the great white throne judgment, from which no one can run or hide. The living and dead all stand before God to be judged according to their deeds.
Now comes the great moment toward which the whole story of the Bible has been moving—the reuniting of heaven and earth. Chapter 21 describes the descent of heaven to be reunited with earth. John sees “a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.” God’s home, like a new Jerusalem, is now among His people, and they are loved by Him as a groom loves a bride.
“I heard a shout from the throne saying ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:3-6).
A lengthy description of the idealized City of Jerusalem follows, revealing it to be a perfect cube, made of precious stones and streets paved with pure gold. There is no Temple in this Jerusalem because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” It is illuminated by the glory of God and believers from all nations walk in its light. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter.
Chapter 22 begins with a striking image of a river “with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” In echoes of Eden, a tree of life grows on each side of the river. The curse of Eden is gone. Everlasting life has returned. There is no night or darkness because the Lord God shines on His servants.
Though these images are symbolic, imaginative, and achingly wonderful, they nevertheless point to reality: “Then the angel said to me, ‘Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true.”
Having delivered to us the visions he has seen, John now falls down to worship. An angel tells him to not be silent but let the world know that the time is near! The Lord is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Blessed are those who trust in the Lamb who was slain; they will eat from the tree of life.
It all ends with an earnest invitation to you and me—Come! “Let anyone who is thirsty come! Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life!” (Revelation 22:17).
“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”
TAKE-AWAY: There is a reason why the Bible is annually the best-selling book in the world, by far. It is indeed the greatest story ever told. There is nothing like it. It alone contains the words of life. We read it and then discover that it reads us. It describes life as we know it. It speaks to our minds and hearts in a self-authenticating way. We resonate with its great themes of creation, fall, redemption and new creation. Above all, it points us to Jesus, who is God with us as our Savior and Lord. Amen! Amen! Amen!
Prayer: Lord, we are overwhelmed by your word. It gives us life. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. May we continue to experience the joys of those who delight in the Law of the Lord, and meditate upon it day and night. Amen!