Before we begin, let us pray…
Lord God, help us turn our hearts to you and hear what you will speak, for you speak peace to your people through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
Let us now go to the part of our sermon series regarding the Great Cosmic Battle and it is about the defeat of Satan. We heard from weeks ago during our study of the last part of Revelation chapter 19 that the beast the false prophets finally were casted down into hell. But how about Satan? The end of chapter 20 seeks to answer this.
The Great Cosmic Battle is about the war between God, his Lamb, and his church versus Satan, his cohorts and those who follow them. It happens during the period of the millennium and as emphasized several times already the symbolism of the whole one thousand years refers to the period of the first and second coming of Christ. God’s enemies seek to destroy God’s people here on earth yet God seals them and bring them to life. In the end, God consummates his wrath over those who oppose him and bring them into his judgment.
Revelation 20 deals with a cycle of event that occurred during the first and second coming of Christ but with close up lens focused on Satan. First, he was bounded at the beginning of the millennium in order to allow the preaching of the gospel reach every elect believer here on earth. Second, he was released at the end of the millennium and he launched a last decisive battle against the church. Third, he was defeated finally by God himself and thrown in hell where he will suffer eternal torment.
All these happened during the millennium and we can read this last event from verses from 7 to 10.
The Bounding of Satan
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Verses 7-10)
What happens to Satan? Well, John sees Satan bounded at the beginning of the millennium. So what does it symbolize?
Satan seeks to destroy God’s people when he failed to woman and her child. From Revelation 12 where we read the historical symbolic characters, John narrates, “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea (verses 13-17).” Satan knowing full well that his fate has been sealed by the triumphed of the Lamb, he decided to bring his wrath against those who follow the Lamb. And as we have read further in the succeeding chapter, we know that Satan uses his beast, false prophets, and the great prostitute in order to bring his torment against the church. This occurs while he was bounded but in the end, he will be allowed to battle against the church directly but only for a short period of time then the end will come.
The binding of Satan assumes a period of time where he can freely roam around earth and wreck havoc to every people of earth. I think this period of time allowed the wholesale deception of nations recorded in the Old Testament as every city of man who opposes God. But as recorded in the Gospel narratives beginning at the public preaching of Christ, Satan has fallen and this lead to the wholesale coming of the nations to God as recorded in the New Testament as church moves out from Jerusalem to the rest of the world.
The reality of Satan’s being bounded is symbolized by his fall from heaven. Luke records, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).” The era of unhindered preaching of the gospel has begun and now the mission to the nations is a reality. And yet even with the prosperous preaching of the gospel, Satan continue to bring destruction here on earth. As John recorded in Revelation 9 Satan is the fallen star who torments people as Apollyon, “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft….They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon (verses 1-2;11).”
And yet even though Satan brings his destructive ways towards God’s people. John reminds us that God continues to protect his church against any attack and only those who are not sealed by the Holy Spirit are affected by the judgments of God. John clarifies on verse 4b, “…but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” This means that Satan is like a dog on a leash. He used to bring total destruction to anyone he pleases but now with the preaching of the gospel, he is bounded and unable to bring the same intensity of havoc like he used to.
Jesus defends his heavenly ministry against the religious group during his time. He was accused of blasphemy and wielding demonic power. At this point, he reveals to them the true nature of his ministry and the effect it has on his enemies. He is the arguing the absurd. Jesus do not party with the enemy because he defeated the enemy! Mark narrates, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house (Mark 3:22-27).” The same event is reflected in Revelation 20 where John wrote, “…and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while (verse 3).” This means the preaching of Gospel will continue to remain undeterred. Like what Jesus promised, “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18c).”
We are often get discouraged when we realize the gospel ministry we are passionate about seems to attain less impact or even influence to our family, relatives, and friends. We all live in world where we are surrounded by people everyday and sometimes wonder if we are really called to become the salt and light of earth. At some point, we asked are we really making a difference in the lives of other people?
The work of evangelism is the ministry of Christ by his Spirit. Regeneration and conversion to faith and repentance is the gracious act of God toward his elect. And yet God has appointed the ordinary preaching and teaching of Gospel as the primary means of his grace. Faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word, publicly every Lord’s Day and even privately during family worship, brings God’s people to God’s kingdom. We are all called to “…destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”, and “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).” This belongs to the general office of believers. At the same time, office-bearers are called to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).“, and “…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly (1 Peter 5:2ab);
These are overwhelming tasks. We are discouraged by the setbacks of our own sins. Sometimes we get sickness and we often succumb to. We get overwhelmed by these and find ourselves at point of thinking we should quit. This is why we need to hear God’s Word and believe in the promised of God. We learned today that the preaching of Gospel will remain unhindered until Christ’s second coming because God bounded Satan and restrain him from stopping the work of God moving forward. It does not mean we will not experience any frustrations or setbacks. Rather, we can be rest assurance that our work is not in vain. Paul reminds, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)”. So in the midst of any discouragement, let us comfort one another with these words.
ZCRC(Imus), Satan has been defeated. The preaching of the Gospel will reach God’s people and rescue them from their sin and misery. This will continue until the return of Christ and we are called to remain steadfast and encourage each other to continue to minister to one another until the end. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.