Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.Ch. 20:1-10.] The victory over Satan. The next enemy now remaining is the Arch-fiend himself, who had given his might and his throne and great power (ch. 13:2) to the beast: whose instruments the other enemies were. The blow given to him by their overthrow is followed by his binding and incarceration for 1000 years (vv. 1-3): during which period the Saints live and reign with Christ, and judge the world, and the first resurrection takes place (vv. 4-6). But his malice and his power are not yet at an end. One final effort is permitted him at the end of that time (ver. 7), and he once more succeeds in deceiving the nations (ver. 8), who come up against the camp of the saints, and are destroyed by fire from heaven (ver. 9). He is then cast into the lake of fire with the beast and false prophet, there to be tormented for ever (ver. 10).
1-3.] The binding of the dragon. And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven (not Christ himself, as , , Calov., Vitr., Hengstb., al.: nor the Holy Spirit, as Joachim, Cocceius (al.?): but a veritable angel, as always before in this book) having the key of the abyss (of hell, the abode of the devil and his angels: see ch. 9:1. For this abyss apparently is distinct from the lake of fire, a further and more dreadful place of punishment: see on ver. 10.
This key had been for the purposes of God’s judgments given to Satan (= Abaddon, Apollyon), and by him the locusts were let forth, ch. 9:1-11. Now it is entrusted to other hands, and for another purpose), and a great chain in (so in English: Gr., resting on, hanging upon, as a chain naturally would be: see reff.) his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon (already well known from ch. 12:3 ff., 9; 13:2, 4; 16:13), the ancient serpent (for the expression and the construction, see reff.), who is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut and sealed over him (shut the door or cover at the top, and sealed it down. Notice, that the same absolute use of σφραγίζω in the active is found in ref. John, and apparently there only: see Palm and Rost, sub voce), that he might deceive the nations no more (there does not appear to be the least ground for Düsterd.’s idea, that the reading πλανᾷ was adopted in order to suit the views of the later Fathers who regarded the millennium as present), until the thousand years shall be (shall have been. futurus exactus) accomplished: after that he must (the δεῖ of prophecy; must, according to the necessity of God’s purposes) be loosed for a little time (see below, ver. 7).
4-6.] The Millennial reign. And I saw thrones (combine the two passages in the reff.), and they sat upon them (who? the Apostles, as in ref. Matt.: the Saints, as in 1Corinthians 6:2, 1Corinthians 6:3,—οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν; … οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν; Notice well, that there is nothing to hinder this in the souls of the saints not being seen till the next clause: for there is no mark of temporal sequence connecting the two verses: nay, such an idea is precluded by the specification at the end of ver. 4, that those very souls of the saints are they who reigned with Christ, and were His assessors in reigning and judging, during this time), and judgment (κρῖμα, the act and decision of judgment) was given to them (so in ref. Daniel (Theod.), ἕως οὗ ἦλθεν ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμερῶν, καὶ τὸ κρῖμα ἔδωκεν ἁγίοις ὑψίστου. That is, they were constituted judges). And I saw the souls of them who had been beheaded (the word πελεκίζω, to smite with the axe, is found in Polybius (i. 7. 12, xi. 30. 2), Strabo, Plutarch, and Diodorus Siculus, in the sense of beheading) on account of the testimony of Jesus and on account of the word of God (ref.), and (of those) the which did not worship (during life) the beast nor yet his image, and did not receive the mark (mentioned ch. 13:16) on their forehead and upon their hand: and they lived (i. e. “lived again;” ἔζησαν = ἀνέζησαν, as in reff.: and, as the act is presently described as the first resurrection, with their bodies, perfect and complete) and reigned with Christ (took part in His Kingdom; see ch. 1:6; 2Timothy 2:12: also 1Corinthians 4:8 and note) a thousand years (it would certainly appear that this reigning includes the office of judgment. Many interpreters suppose that these saints are the judged: so recently Düsterd.: but there is nothing in the context, nor in other parts of Scripture, to favour this idea. Nay, it is expressly negatived by our Lord’s saying in John 5:24, ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται, ἀλλὰ μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν). The rest of the dead lived not (again, as above) until the thousand years be completed. This (αὕτη is not the subject, as De Wette, but the predicate, as in all such cases: the reduction of the proposition to the logical form requiring its inversion) is the first resurrection (remarks on the interpretation of this passage will be found in the Prolegomena, § v. par. 33. It will have been long ago anticipated by the readers of this Commentary, that I cannot consent to distort words from their plain sense and chronological place in the prophecy, on account of any considerations of difficulty, or any risk of abuses which the doctrine of the millennium may bring with it. Those who lived next to the Apostles, and the whole Church for 300 years, understood them in the plain literal sense: and it is a strange sight in these days to see expositors who are among the first in reverence of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of consensus which primitive antiquity presents. As regards the text itself, no legitimate treatment of it will extort what is known as the spiritual interpretation now in fashion. If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain ψυχαὶ ἔζησαν at the first, and the rest of the νεκροὶ ἔζησαν only at the end of a specified period after that first,—if in such a passage the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave;—then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to any thing. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which I suppose none will be hardy enough to maintain: but if the second is literal, then so is the first, which in common with the whole primitive Church and many of the best modern expositors, I do maintain, and receive as an article of faith and hope). Blessed (see ch. 14:13, 19:9) and holy is he that hath part in (ref., the expression is peculiar to St. John) the first resurrection: over such persons the second death (see reff.: and bear in mind what is said of our Lord Himself, Romans 6:9) hath not power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they [shall] reign with Him (Christ) a (or, the) thousand years.
7-10.] Loosing of Satan at the end of the millennium: gathering together and destruction of the nations: final condemnation of Satan.
And when the thousand years are completed, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison (see ver. 3. The prophetic future is here used: but in ver. 9 the historic form with aorists is resumed) and shall go forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth (there will be nations on earth besides the saints reigning with Christ, who during the binding of Satan have been quiet and willing subjects of the Kingdom, but who on his being let loose are again subjected to his temptations, which stir them into rebellion against God), Gog and Magog (compare Eze_38 and 39 throughout. This which is here prophesied is the great final fulfilment of those chapters. And the names Gog and Magog, taken from there, had been used in the rabbinical books to signify the nations which should in the latter days come up to Jerusalem against the Messiah. So the Jerus. Targum on Numbers 11:27, in Wetst., “In fine extremitatis dierum Gog et Magog et exercitus eorum adscendent Hierosolyma et per manus regis Messiæ ipsi cadent et vii. annos dierum ardebunt filii Israel ex armis eorum:” and Avoda sara, 1: “quando videbunt bellum Gog et Magog, dicet ad eos Messias: ad quid huc venistis? Respondebunt, Adversus Dominum et adversus Christum ejus.” This name Magog occurs Genesis 10:2, as that of a son of Japhet, in company with brethren whose names mostly belong to northern and north-eastern nations: Gomer (Kimmerians), Madai (Medians), Meshech (Muscovites), &c. With these however are joined in Ezekiel 38:5, Persians, Ethiopians, Libyans. Josephus renders the word Σκύθαι (Antt. i. 6. 3), Μαγώγης δὲ τοὺς ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ Μαγώγας ὀνομασθέντας ᾤκισε, Σκύθας δὲ ὑπʼ αὐτῶν (τ. Ἑλλήνων) προσαγορευομένους, and so Jerome: Suidas, “Persians (Μαγώγ, ὁ Πέρσης).” It seems to be a general name for the northern nations, and Gog, if at least we may follow the analogy of Ezekiel 38:2, is their prince), to gather them together to the (well-known) war: of whom the number (of them) is as the sand of the sea. And they went up (the historical aor. is here resumed) upon the breadth of the earth (i. e. entirely overspread it; see ref.) and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city (by these two is probably meant one and the same thing, the καί being epexegetical; or at all events the camp must be conceived as surrounding and defending the city. The πόλις ἡ ἠγαπημένη is Jerusalem (reff.): not the new Jerusalem, but the earthly city of that name, which is destined yet to play so glorious a part in the latter days). And there came down fire out of heaven (so in reff. Ezek.), and devoured them: and the devil that deceiveth them (the pres. part. merely designates: the devil their deceiver) was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where also are the beast and the false prophet (ch. 19:20). And they shall be tormented by day and by night to the ages of the ages.
11-15.] The general judgment. And I saw a great white throne (great, in distinction from the thrones before mentioned, ver. 4: white, as seen in purest light, and symbolizing the most blameless justice), and Him that sitteth on it (viz. God: the Father: see ch. 4:3, 21:5. It is necessary to keep to the well-known formula of the book in interpreting τὸν καθήμενον ἐπʼ αὐτοῦ, even though some expressions and sayings seem better to belong to the Son. Be it also remembered that it is the Father who giveth all judgment to the Son: and though He Himself judgeth no man, yet He is ever described as present in the judgment, and mankind as judged before Him. We need not find in this view any difficulty, or discrepancy with such passages as Matthew 25:31, seeing that our Lord Himself says in ch. 3:21, ἐγὼ.… ἐκάθισα μετὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ αὐτοῦ. Nor need we be surprised at the sayings of our Lord, such as that in ch. 21:6 b, being uttered by Him that sitteth on the throne. That throne is now the throne of God and of the Lamb, ch. 22:1. Cf. also ch. 21:22), from whose face the earth and the heaven fled, and place was not found for them (these words again seem to indicate the presence of One who has not hitherto appeared: whereas Christ in glory has been long present on earth. This fleeing away of heaven and earth is elsewhere described as their consumption by fire, 2Peter 3:10-12. Both descriptions indicate the passing away of their present corruptible state and change to a state glorious and incorruptible). And I saw the dead (viz. the λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν of ver. 5: those who rose as described below, ver. 13), the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened (see ref. Dan.), and another book was opened, which is (the book) of life (Düsterd. remarks that the order of proceedings indicated seems to be that the contents of the books in which were written the works of men indicated whether they were to be found in the book of life. But this could hardly be: for in that case, what need for the book of life at all? Rather should we say that those books and the book of life bore independent witness to the fact of men being or not being among the saved: the one by inference from the works recorded: the other by inscription or non-inscription of the name in the list. So the ‘books’ would be as it were the vouchers for the book of life): and the dead were judged out of the things written in the books according to their works (reff.: and 2Corinthians 5:10). And the sea gave forth the dead that were in her (the citation in Wetst. from Achilles Tatius, v. p. 313 b, λέγουσι δὲ τὰς ἐν ὕδασι ψυχὰς ἀνῃρημένας μηδὲ εἰς ᾅδου καταβαίνειν ὅλως, ἀλλʼ αὐτοῦ περὶ τὸ ὕδωρ ἔχειν τὴν πλάνην, is no illustration of this passage, which simply imports that the dead contained in the sea shall rise), and Death and Hades (see ch. 1:18, 6:8) gave forth the dead which were in them (i. e. all the dead, buried and unburied, rose again), and they were judged each according to their (his) works. And Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire (Death and Hades are regarded as two dæmons, enemies of God. So in 1Corinthians 15:26, ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος: and in Isaiah 25:8, Heb. and E. V., not LXX, “He will swallow up death in victory,” cf. 1Corinthians 15:54. Hades, as in ch. 6:8, is Death’s follower and the receiver of his prey. The punishment of sin is inflicted on both, because both are the offspring of and bound up with sin). This is the second death, the lake of fire (thus then our Lord’s saying, ch. 2:11, and that of the Apostle in our ver. 6, are explained. As there is a second and higher life, so there is also a second and deeper death. And as after that life there is no more death (ch. 21:4), so after that death there is no more life, ver. 10; Matthew 25:41). And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire (there was no intermediate state).