Revelation 20:1
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
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(1) And I saw an angel come down . . .—Rather, And I saw an angel descending out of the heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain on (not merely in his hand, but hanging from it as it would do when on) his hand. It is needless to settle who is represented by this angel. It is enough that in the vision he manifests by the key and the chain which he carries that there is power in Him, who has the keys of death and of Hades (Revelation 1:18), to bind, as He has death-wounded, him that had the power of death. The bottomless pit is the abyss, as we have had elsewhere (Revelation 9:1; Revelation 11:7; and Revelation 17:8. Comp. Luke 8:31); it is figuratively the abode of the devil and his associate angels (Matthew 25:41).

Revelation 20:1-3. And I saw an angel — An especial minister of Providence; come down from heaven — With a commission from God; having the key of the bottomless pit — Invested with power to open or to shut it; see on Revelation 9:1; and a great chain in his hand — Emblematical of his power to perform the work here assigned him. And he laid hold on the dragon — Who, after the destruction of the beast and of the false prophet, (to whom he had delegated his power,) still remained; that old serpent — That ancient enemy of the human race, who, in the form of a subtle serpent, deceived the first parents of mankind, and brought sin and death into the world, with an incalculable train of evils attendant on them; who is the Devil — The malicious and false accuser of God’s saints, as the word διαβολος, so rendered, signifies; and Satan — The grand adversary both of God and man; and bound him a thousand years — That is, at least one thousand literal years; during which the light of the gospel shall be diffused through all the world, and the reign of truth and righteousness be established universally among men. “I think,” says Doddridge, “we must despair of being able to interpret any passage of Scripture upon the plainest principle of reason, if this do not signify that there shall be such a period as this, in which Satan shall be remarkably restrained, and the Christian interest shall prevail. But whether the one thousand years are here to be taken literally, as is most probable; or whether here [as elsewhere in this book] each day is put for a year, and consequently the whole period be three hundred and sixty thousand years, I will not pretend to determine. This thought has been very lately started by an ingenious and worthy person, who, I doubt not, hath intended the service of Christianity; though I am very apprehensive he has failed in some of the mediums by which he has endeavoured to prove this point.” And cast him into the bottomless pit — His infernal prison; afterward he is cast into the lake of fire; and shut him up therein, and set a seal upon him — These are strong figures, to show the certain, strict, and severe restraint which he shall be laid under; that he might deceive the nations no more — During this whole period. One benefit only is here expressed as resulting from the confinement of Satan; but how many and great blessings are implied! For the grand enemy and opposer of truth and righteousness being removed, the kingdom of God holds on its uninterrupted course among the nations; and the great mystery of God, so long foretold, is at length fulfilled — Namely, when the beast and false prophet are destroyed, and Satan bound. This fulfilment approaches nearer and nearer, and contains things of the utmost importance, the knowledge of which becomes every day more distinct and easy. In the mean time, it is highly necessary to guard against the present rage and subtlety of the devil; remembering that the events which are to precede the binding of him, and the commencing of these one thousand years, are awful, and shortly to be expected, one after another, namely, the calamities implied in the vintage, (Revelation 14:18,) the pouring out of the last three vials, the judgment of Babylon, the last raging of the beast and false prophet, and their destruction. How great things are these! and how short the time! What is needful for us? Wisdom, patience, faithfulness, watchfulness. Surely this is not a time for us to settle upon our lees. This, if it be rightly understood, will not be an acceptable message to the wise, the mighty, the honourable of this world. Yet that which is to be done shall be done: there is no counsel against the Lord. After that he must be loosed — So does the mysterious wisdom of God permit; for a little season — For a small time, comparatively: though, upon the whole, it cannot be very short, because the things that are to be transacted therein (see Revelation 20:8-9) must take up a considerable space.

20:1-3 Here is a vision, showing by a figure the restraints laid on Satan himself. Christ, with Almighty power, will keep the devil from deceiving mankind as he has hitherto done. He never wants power and instruments to break the power of Satan. Christ shuts by his power, and seals by his authority. The church shall have a time of peace and prosperity, but all her trials are not yet over.And I saw an angel come down from heaven - Compare the notes on Revelation 10:1. He does not say whether this angel had appeared to him before, but the impression is rather that it was a different one. The whole character of the composition of the book leads us to suppose that different angels were employed to make these communications to John, and that, in fact, in the progress of things disclosed in the book, he had contact with a considerable number of the heavenly inhabitants. The scene that is recorded here occurred after the destruction of the beast and the false prophet Revelation 19:18-21, and therefore, according to the principles expressed in the explanation of the previous chapters, what is intended to be described here will take place after the final destruction of the papal and Muhammedan powers.

Having the key of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 1:18; Revelation 9:1. The fact that he has the key of that underworld is designed to denote here, that he can fasten it on Satan so that it shall become his prison.

And a great chain in his hand - With which to bind the dragon, Revelation 20:2. It is called great because of the strength of him that was to be bound. The chain only appears to have been in his hand. Perhaps the key was suspended to his side.


Re 20:1-15. Satan Bound, and the First-Risen Saints Reign with Christ, a Thousand Years; Satan Loosed, Gathers the Nations, Gog and Magog, Round the Camp of the Saints, and Is Finally Consigned to the Lake of Fire; the General Resurrection and Last Judgment.

1. The destruction of his representatives, the beast and the false prophet, to whom he had given his power, throne, and authority, is followed by the binding of Satan himself for a thousand years.

the key of the bottomless pit—now transferred from Satan's hands, who had heretofore been permitted by God to use it in letting loose plagues on the earth; he is now to be made to feel himself the torment which he had inflicted on men, but his full torment is not until he is cast into "the lake of fire" (Re 20:10).Revelation 20:1-3 Satan bound for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6 The first resurrection.

Revelation 20:7-9 Satan again let loose gathereth Gog and Magog to

battle, who are devoured with fire.

Revelation 20:10 The devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

Revelation 20:11-15 The general resurrection, and last judgment.

Chapter Introduction

We are now come to the darkest part of the whole revelation. What is meant by the thousand years, and the first and second resurrection, and by Gog and Magog, Revelation 20:1-15, or the new heavens and new earth, and the Jerusalem coming down from heaven, discoursed on, Revelation 21:1-22:21, is very hard to say, and possibly much more cannot with any probability be conjectured as to them than hath been already said. I shall only tell my reader that, leaving him to judge what is most probable, and leaving it to he Divine Providence to give us a certain and infallible exposition of what is contained in these last three chapters.

The description of this angel can agree to none but Christ, or one that exerciseth a power by delegation from him: for, Revelation 1:18, it is he who hath the power of hell and death; and it is he who alone is stronger than the devil, which must be supposed to him that binds him, or we must think the devil much tamer than he is.

And I saw an angel come down from heaven,.... All Christ's enemies, and Satan's instruments being removed, the devil is left alone, and only stands in the way of Christ's kingdom; and what will be done to him, and how he will be in the issue disposed of, this vision gives an account: by the "angel" John saw, is not to be understood Constantine the great; for though he is the man child that was taken up to God, and his throne, being advanced to the empire, yet he cannot, with that propriety, be said to come down from heaven; and though he vanquished the Heathen emperors, in which the dragon presided, and cast Paganism out of the empire, by which the devil ruled in it, yet the binding of Satan is another kind of work, and seems too great for him; and besides, did not take place in his time, as will be seen hereafter: nor is an apostle, or a minister of the Gospel intended; such are indeed called angels in this book, and may be said to come down from heaven, because they have their commission from thence; and particularly the apostles had the keys of the kingdom of heaven, but not the key of the bottomless pit; and a chain and system of Gospel truths, which they made good use of for the establishing of Christ's kingdom, and weakening of Satan's, but not such a chain as is here meant; and they had the power of binding and loosing, or of declaring things lawful or unlawful, but not of binding and loosing of Satan; nor was he bound in the apostolic age: nor is one of the ministering spirits, or a deputation of angels designed; for though Christ will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, and will make use of them, both to gather together his elect, and to cast the wicked into the lake of fire, yet not to bind Satan; but the Lord Jesus Christ himself is this angel, who is the angel of God's presence, and of the covenant; and who is in this book called an angel, Revelation 7:2 to whom all the characters here well agree, and to whom the work of binding Satan most properly belongs; for who so fit to do it, or so capable of it, as the seed of the woman, that has bruised serpent's head, or as the Son of God, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, yea, to destroy him himself; and who dispossessed multitudes of devils from the bodies of men, and is the strong man armed that dislodges Satan from the souls of men, and is the same with Michael, who drove him from heaven, and cast him out from thence before, Revelation 12:7. And his coming down from heaven is not to be understood of his incarnation, or of his coming from thence by the assumption of human nature; for Satan was not bound by him then, as will be seen hereafter; but of his second coming, which will be from heaven, where he now is, and will be local, visible, and personal: of no other coming of his does this book speak, as seen by John, or as future; nor will the order of this vision, after the ruin of the beast and false prophet, admit of any other.

Having the key of the bottomless pit: the abyss or deep, the same out of which the beast ascended, Revelation 11:7. And the key of this becomes no hand so well as his who has the keys of hell and death, Revelation 1:18 who has all power in heaven and in earth, and has the power of hell, of opening and shutting it at his pleasure, which is signified by this phase; see Revelation 9:1. The Ethiopic version reads, "the key of the sun", where some have thought hell to be; and yet the same version renders the word, the deep, in Revelation 20:3.

And a great chain in his hand; the key in one hand, and the chain in another; by which last is meant, not any material chain, with which spirits cannot be bound, nor indeed sometimes bodies possessed by evil spirits, Mark 5:3 but the almighty power of Christ, which he will now display in binding Satan faster and closer than ever.

And {1} I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key {2} of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

(1) Now follows the third part of the prophetic history, which is of the victory by which Christ overcame the dragon, as I noted in Re 7:1. This part must necessarily be joined with the end of the twelfth chapter and be applied to the correct understanding of it. This chapter has two parts, one of the dragon overcome, to Re 20:2-10: the other of the resurrection and last judgment to Re 20:11-15. The story of the dragon is twofold: First of the first victory, after which he was bound by Christ, to the sixth verse Re 20:1-6. The second is of the last victory, by which he has thrown down into everlasting punishment, there to the fifteenth verse Re 20:7-15. This first history happened in the first time of the Christian Church, when the dragon thrown down from heaven by Christ, went about to molest the new birth of the Church in the earth, Re 12:17,18:1. For which cause I gave warning, that this story of the dragon must be joined to that passage.

(2) That is, of hell, where God threw the angels who had sinned, and bound them in chains of darkness to be kept till damnation, 2Pe 2:4

Revelation 20:1-3. An angel, descending from heaven, binds Satan with a great chain, and casts him into the abyss for one thousand years.

ἄγγελον. The comparison of Revelation 1:18 cannot prove that the angel[4144] is Christ.[4145]

ΤῊΝ ΚΛΕῚΝ ΤῊς ἈΒΎΣΣΟΥ. The key of the abyss—which, according to the analogy of the in other respects not entirely conformable presentation, Revelation 1:18, is to be regarded as being in the hands of Christ—was “given,” Revelation 9:1, under particular circumstances, for a definite purpose to another; in this passage the angel, who likewise needed the key for a definite purpose (Revelation 20:2 sq.), brought it from heaven, where he, therefore, had received it when he was sent. Ew. ii. is accordingly incorrect in identifying the angel in this passage with the one who is represented as being active in Revelation 9:1-11. ἍΛΥΣΙΝ. Cf. Mark 5:3 sq.[4146]

ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ. Cf. Revelation 5:1. “In” the hand,[4147] the chain could not be held because of its great weight; it lies “on” the hand, and hangs down on both sides.

ἘΚΡΆΤΗΣΕΝ. Vivid representation of the event. Cf. Revelation 19:20.

Ὁ ὌΦΙς, Κ.Τ.Λ. The nominative of apposition, without construction, is like Revelation 1:5. On the designation, cf. Revelation 12:9; the complete harmony in this passage shows that now that original enemy was bound, who, after he had been cast from heaven to earth, became the proper originator of every thing antichristian in the world.[See Note LXXXVI., p. 472.] ΧΊΛΙΑ ἜΤΗ. The accus.[4148] designates the length of the time during which Satan is to be bound. Cf. in other respects on Revelation 20:10.

ΕἸς ΤῊΝ ἌΒΥΣΣΟΝ. Cf. Revelation 20:1; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8. The abyss of hell is the place where Satan properly belongs, and whence he himself, like the demoniacal powers, has proceeded in order to work upon earth. But since for a thousand years he will be confined against his will to one place,[4149] so long is his agency on earth interrupted (ἳνα μὴ πλαν., κ.τ.λ.).

καὶ ἔκλεισεν καὶ ἐσφράγισεν ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ. With ἔκλεισεν the object τὴν ἄβυσσον is understood; but just because this is not expressly added, the limitation ἐπάνω αὐτοὺ can the more readily qualify the ἐσφράγισεν: “upon him,” i.e., Satan, who has been cast into the bottomless pit, the angel “set a seal,” in order to give the greater assurance of the secure guarding of the one imprisoned.[4150]

ἴνα μὴ πλανήσῃ ἔτι τὺ ἔθνη. As he had previously done,[4151] as long as unbound, he could exercise his wrath on earth.[4152] The subj. aor., with a future meaning,[4153] presupposes that during the one thousand years, and, therefore, after the act of judgment, Revelation 19:21, there would still be nations who also, at the end of the one thousand years, would be actually led astray.[4154] This seeming difficulty would be avoided by the reading πλανᾷ, which depends upon the view customary in the Church fathers, but absolutely in violation of the context, that the worldly period of one thousand years began with the birth or death of Christ, and, therefore, is the present.[4155]

μετὰ ταῦτα; viz., τὰ χίλια ἔτη. The definite numerical specification immediately precedes, and to it corresponds also the temporal statement: μικρὸν χρόνον.

δεῖ. Cf. Revelation 1:1, Revelation 4:1.

[4144] Beng., De Wette, etc.

[4145] Against Hengstenb., Alcas., Calov., Vitr. Cf. also Coccej., who again understands the Holy Ghost.

[4146] Etym., M.: ἅλυσις, ἡ ἔκ χαλκοῦ ἢ σιδήρου ἣ ἀργυρίουυ ἣ χρυσοῦ πεπληγμένη σειρά [ἅλυσις is a chain forged either from brass, or iron, or silver, or gold].

[4147] Ew. ii. א reads even ἐν τ. χ.

[4148] Cf. Revelation 9:5.

[4149] Cf. Revelation 20:7 : φυλακή.

[4150] Cf. Matthew 27:66.

[4151] Cf. Revelation 13:14, Revelation 16:13.

[4152] Revelation 12:12.

[4153] Cf. Winer, p. 472.

[4154] Cf. Revelation 20:8 sq.

[4155] See on Revelation 20:10.


LXXXVII. Revelation 20:4. κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς

Gebhardt suggests, that, by αὐτοῖς, either no definite persons are intended, so that it was simply intended to express the idea, “here was a judgment;” or, as he thinks more probable, believers alive at the coming of Christ.


LXXXVIII. Revelation 20:4. τὰς ψυχὰς τὼν πεπελισμένων, κ.τ.λ.

Gebhardt: “The seer had, in his eye, two classes of the dead: first, those who have, for the gospel, surrendered their lives,—the witnesses of Jesus in a special sense (Revelation 17:6); not only those whose souls (Revelation 6:9) are under the altar, but those also who come after (Revelation 6:11; cf. Revelation 13:7The dragon is flung by an angel, not by God or messiah, into the pit of the abyss which formed his original haunt (cf. on Revelation 9:1), and there locked up, like an Arabian jin, so as to leave the earth undisturbed for the millenium. The prophet thus welds together two traditions which were originally independent. The former echoes Egyptian (E. B. D. 4, “thine enemy the serpent hath been given over to the fire, the serpent-fiend hath fallen down headlong; his arms have been bound in chains … the children of impotent revolt shall never more rise up”) and especially Parsee eschatology (Hübschmann, 227 f.) which held that one sign of the latter days was the release of the dragon Dahâka—once bound fast at mount Demavend—to corrupt the earth and eventually to be destroyed prior to the advent of the messiah and the resurrection of the dead. The Iranian view was that Fredun could not kill the serpent, whose slaughter was reserved for for Sâme (Bund. xxix. 9). But John abstains from giving any reason for the devil’s reappearance. He simply accepts the tradition and falls back (Revelation 20:3) piously upon the δεῖ of a mysterious providence. Some enigmatic hints in a late post-exilic apocalypse (Isaiah 24:21-22, the hosts on high and the kings on earth to be shut up in the prison of the pit but—after many days—to be visited, i.e., released), upon which John has already drawn, had been developed by subsequent speculation (cf. the fettering of Azazel, En. 10:4 f., 54:5 f.) into the dogma of a divine restraint placed for a time upon the evil spirit(s); see S. C. 91 f., Charles’ Eschatology, 200 f.—ἔθνη. Strictly speaking, the previous tradition (Revelation 19:18; Revelation 19:21) left no inhabitants on earth at all. Such discrepancies were inevitable in the dovetailing of disparate conceptions, but the solution of the incongruity here probably lies in the interpretation of ἔθνη as outlying nations on the fringe of the empire (8) who had not shared in the campaign of Nero-antichrist and consequently had survived the doom of the latter and his allies (cf. Revelation 18:9).

The Binding of Satan. The First Resurrection. Chap. 20 Revelation 20:1-61. the bottomless pit] See on Revelation 9:1.

in his hand] Lit. on his hand—hung over it.

Revelation 20:1. Αγγελον, an angel) Cluver interprets it of a created angel, T. iii. Dil. p. 321. Primasius, in the summary of his fifth book, and Ticonius, in his 17th homily, Andreas of Cæsareia, in his 20th discourse, connect the 19th and 20th chapters most intimately. John Frid. Schmid acknowledges that the destruction of antichrist (in what sense he understands antichrist does not belong to the present subject) is prior to the millennium, and that he who denies this incurs the punishment predicted, ch. Revelation 22:18-19. See Chronol. Anleitung, Part II. p. 316.

Verse 1. - And I saw an angel come down from heaven; coming down out of heaven. The usual mode of introducing a new vision (cf. Revelation 4:1, etc.). On account of Revelation 1:18, some have considered this angel to be Christ himself; but this is incorrect. As in Revelation 12:7-9, an angel is the immediate agent in this expulsion of Satan (vide infra). Having the key of the bottomless pit; the abyss; as in Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8. In all these places the word signifies the present abode of Satan and his angels, whence they direct their operations in hostility to God, not the place of their final punishment (see ver. 10). In Luke 8:31 the word has exactly the same meaning; while in the only remaining place where it is used in the New Testament, viz. Romans 10:7, it stands for the place of abode of the souls of the dead. Having the key of the abyss therefore informs us that power is given to this angel over Satan during the time of this world's existence. And a great chain in his hand; literally, upon his hand, as if lying on it and hanging from it; the chain evidently symbolizing the power of the angel over the inhabitants of the abyss, and the purpose with which he now comes, viz. to restrain the power of Satan. Revelation 20:1Of the bottomless pit

See on Revelation 9:1. This is to be distinguished from the lake of fire. Compare Revelation 20:10.

Chain (ἅλυσιν)

See on Mark 5:4. Only here in John's writings.

In his hand (ἐπί)

Lit., upon: resting on or hanging upon.

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