Revelation 20:3
And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBIBonarCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerNewellParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(3) And cast him into the bottomless pit . . .—Rather, and cast him into the abyss (same word as in Revelation 20:1), and locked and sealed (the door or mouth) above him, that he may not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years shall have been finished; after these things he must be loosed for a little time. The sealing reminds us of the sealing employed when the wicked one had power through man’s agency to imprison God’s messengers. (Comp. Daniel 6:17, and Matthew 27:66.) Of the exact moment when this binding and imprisoning took place it is not needful to inquire too curiously. That which in the vision is described as the work of ä moment may in the fact and fulfilment be a very gradual work; or rather, the full manifestation of its accomplishment may be only gradually made clear. To fix it therefore, to any incident (for example, as Hengstenberg is disposed to do to the coronation of Charlemagne), is to fall into the “vicious realism” against which he rightly protests. The same applies to the duration of the imprisonment; it is not to be understood literally any more than the other numbers in the book; it symbolises a lengthened period. This period is followed by the loosing again of the devil for a short time. (See Note on Revelation 20:7.)

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 cast him into the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 9:1. A state of peace and prosperity would exist as if Satan, the great disturber, were confined in the nether world as a prisoner.

And shut him up - Closed the massive doors of the dark prison-house upon him. Compare the notes on Job 10:21-22.

And set a seal upon him - Or, rather, "upon it" - ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ epanō autou. The seal was placed upon the "door" or "gate" of the prison, not because this would fasten the gate or door of itself, and make it secure, for this was secured by the key, but because it prevented intrusion, or any secret opening of it without its being known. See the Daniel 6:17 note, and Matthew 27:66 note. The idea here is, that every precaution was taken for absolute security.

That he should deceive the nations no more - That is, during the thousand years. Compare the notes on Revelation 12:9.

Till the thousand years should be fulfilled - That is, during that period there will be a state of things upon the earth as if Satan should be withdrawn from the world, and confined in the great prison where he is ultimately to dwell forever.

And after that he must be loosed a little season - See Revelation 20:7-8. That is, a state of things will then exist, for a brief period, as if he were again released from his prison-house, and suffered to go abroad upon the earth. The phrase "a little season" - μικρὸν χρόνον mikron chronon, "little time" - denotes properly that this would be brief as compared with the thousand years. No intimation is given as to the exact time, and it is impossible to conjecture how long it will be. All the circumstances stated, however, here and in Revelation 20:7-10, would lead us to suppose that what is referred to will be like the sudden outbreak of a rebellion in a time of general peace, but which will soon be quelled.

Section a. - Condition of the world in the period referred to in Revelation 20:1-3

It may be proper, in order to a correct understanding of this chapter, to present a brief summary under the different parts (see the Analysis of the chapter) of what, according to the interpretation proposed, may be expected to be the condition of things in the time referred to.

On the portion now before us Revelation 20:1-3, according to the interpretation proposed, the following suggestions may be made:

(1) This will be subsequent to the downfall of the papacy and the termination of the Muhammedan power in the world. Of course, then, this lies in the future - how far in the future it is impossible to determine. The interpretation of the various portions of this book, and the book of Daniel, have, however, led to the conclusion that the termination of those powers cannot now be remote. If so, we are on the eve of important events in the world's history. The affairs of the world look as if things were tending to a fulfillment of the prophecies so understood.

(2) it will be a condition of the world "as if" Satan were bound; that is, where his influences will be suspended, and the principles of virtue and religion will prevail. According to the interpretation of the previous chapters, it will be a state in which all that has existed, and that now exists, in the papacy to corrupt mankind, to maintain error, and to prevent the prevalence of free and liberal principles, will cease; in which all that there now is in the Muhammedan system to fetter and enslave mankind - now controlling more than one hundred and twenty million of the race - shall have come to an end; and in which, in a great measure, all that occurs under the direct influence of Satan in causing or perpetuating slavery, war, intemperance, lust, avarice, disorder, scepticism, atheism, will be checked arid stayed. It is proper to say, however, that this passage does not require us to suppose that there will be a "total cessation" of Satanic influence in the earth during that period. Satan will, indeed, be bound and restrained as to his former influence and power. But there will be no change in the character of man as he comes into the world. There will still be corrupt passions in the human heart. Though greatly restrained, and though there will be a general prevalence of righteousness on the earth, yet we are to remember that the race is fallen, and that even then, if restraint should be taken away, man would act out his fallen nature. This fact, if remembered, will make it appear less strange that, after this period of prevalent righteousness, Satan should be represented as loosed again, and as able once more for a time to deceive the nations.

(3) it will be a period of long duration. On the supposition that it is to be literally a period of one thousand years, this is in itself long, and will give, especially under the circumstances, opportunity for a vast progress in human affairs. To form some idea of the length of the period, we need only place ourselves in imagination "back" for a thousand years - say in the middle of the ninth century - and look at the condition of the world then, and think of the vast changes in human affairs that have occurred during that period. It is to be remembered, also, that if the millennial period were soon to commence, it would find the world in a far different state in reference to future progress from what it was in the ninth century, and that it would "start off," so to speak, with all the advantages in the arts and sciences which have been accumulated in all the past periods of the world.

Even if there were no special divine interposition, it might be presumed that the race, in such circumstances, would make great and surprising advances in the long period of a thousand years. And here a very striking remark of Mr. Hugh Miller may be introduced as illustrating the subject. "It has been remarked by some student of the Apocalypse," says he, "that the course of predicted events at first moves slowly, as one after one, six of seven seals are opened; that, on the opening of the seventh seal, the progress is so considerably quickened that the seventh period proves as fertile in events - represented by the sounding of the seven trumpets - as the foregoing six taken together; and that on the seventh trumpet, so great is the further acceleration, that there is an amount of incident condensed in this seventh part of the seventh period equal, as in the former case, to that of all the previous six parts in one. There are three cycles, it has been said, in the scheme - cycle within cycle - the second comprised within a seventh portion of the first, and the third within a seventh portion of the second. Be this as it may, we may, at least, see something that exceedingly resembles it in that actual economy of change and revolution manifested in English history for the last two centuries. "It would seem as if eyelets, in their downward course, had come under the influence of that law of gravitation through which falling bodies increase in speed, as they descend, according to the squares of the distance" (First Impressions of England and its People, pp. 7, 8.). If to this we add the supposition, which we have seen (see the notes on Revelation 20:2) to be by no means improbable, that it is intended, in the description of the millennium in this chapter, that the world will continue under a reign of peace and righteousness for the long period of three hundred and sixty thousand years, it is impossible to anticipate what progress will be made during that period, or to enumerate the numbers that will be saved. On this subject, see some very interesting remarks in the "Old Red Sandstone," by Hugh Miller, pp. 248-250, 258, 259. Compare Prof. Hitchcock's "Religion and Geology," pp. 370-409.

(4) What, then, will be the state of things during that long period of a thousand years?


3. shut him—A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas omit "him."

set a seal upon him—Greek, "over him," that is, sealed up the door of the abyss over his head. A surer seal to keep him from getting out than his seal over Jesus in the tomb of Joseph, which was burst on the resurrection morn. Satan's binding at' this juncture is not arbitrary, but is the necessary consequence of the events (Re 19:20); just as Satan's being cast out of heaven, where he had previously been the accuser of the brethren, was the legitimate judgment which passed on him through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Re 12:7-10). Satan imagined that he had overcome Christ on Golgotha, and that his power was secure for ever, but the Lord in death overcame him, and by His ascension as our righteous Advocate cast out Satan, the accuser from heaven. Time was given on earth to make the beast and harlot powerful, and then to concentrate all his power in Antichrist. The Antichristian kingdom, his last effort, being utterly destroyed by Christ's mere appearing, his power on earth is at an end. He had thought to destroy God's people on earth by Antichristian persecutions (just as he had thought previously to destroy Christ); but the Church is not destroyed from the earth but is raised to rule over it, and Satan himself is shut up for a thousand years in the "abyss" (Greek for "bottomless pit"), the preparatory prison to the "lake of fire," his final doom. As before he ceased by Christ's ascension to be an accuser in heaven, so during the millennium he ceases to be the seducer and the persecutor on earth. As long as the devil rules in the darkness of the world, we live in an atmosphere impregnated with deadly elements. A mighty purification of the air will be effected by Christ's coming. Though sin will not be absolutely abolished—for men will still be in the flesh (Isa 65:20)—sin will no longer be a universal power, for the flesh is not any longer seduced by Satan. He will not be, as now, "the god and prince of the world"—nor will the world "lie in the wicked one"—the flesh will become ever more isolated and be overcome. Christ will reign with His transfigured saints over men in the flesh [Auberlen]. This will be the manifestation of "the world to come," which has been already set up invisibly in the saints, amidst "this world" (2Co 4:4; Heb 2:5; 5:5). The Jewish Rabbis thought, as the world was created in six days and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenary periods, followed by a sabbatical millennium. Out of seven years every seventh is the year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world the seventh millenary shall be the millenary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, A.D. 200, states that the world is to endure six thousand years; two thousand before the law, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under Messiah. Compare Note, see on [2738]Heb 4:9 and Heb 4:9, Margin; see on [2739]Re 14:13. Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Cyprian, among the earliest Fathers, all held the doctrine of a millennial kingdom on earth; not till millennial views degenerated into gross carnalism was this doctrine abandoned.

that he should deceive—so A. But B reads, "that he deceive" (Greek, "plana," for "planeesee").

and—so Coptic and Andreas. But A, B, and Vulgate omit "and."

And cast him into the bottomless pit; that is, into hell, his proper place: he shall no longer, or at least not till these thousand years be expired, exercise his power, as prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2, or compassing the earth, and walking up and down in it, as Job 1:7.

And shut him up, and set a seal upon him; he shall be restrained as much as one shut up in prison, whose doors are sealed up.

That he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; that till this time of God’s counsel for the quiet of his church be run out, he shall not deceive people by his old arts.

And after that he must be loosed a little season; and after that he shall have a liberty again {as Revelation 20:7} for a little time.

And cast him into the bottomless pit,.... Or deep, into which the devils desired they might not be sent, and which they dreaded as a torment, it may be, because a place of confinement, Luke 8:31 for this is called a prison, Revelation 20:7 and is distinguished from the lake of fire, into which the devil is afterwards cast, Revelation 20:10.

And shut him up; that so he might not rove about in the air, nor go to and fro in the earth, nor walk about like a roaring lion, seeking to affright, disturb, or devour:

and set a seal upon him; or upon the door of the pit, for further security, as was upon the stone at the mouth of the lion's den, Daniel 6:17 and of Christ's sepulchre, Matthew 27:66. The Jews (u) make mention of a stone they call "Shetijah", with which the Lord of the world "sealed the mouth of the great deep", or bottomless pit, at the beginning; but here not that, but Satan in it, is sealed. The Alexandrian copy reads, "and sealed him firmly", so that it was impossible for him to break out: the end of this apprehension, binding, imprisonment, and security of Satan is,

that he should deceive the nations no more; that is, by drawing them into idolatry, false worship, and false doctrine; and by exciting them to make war against the saints, or to persecute them, as appears from Revelation 20:8 as he had done before; and it is notorious enough that he has deceived them both these ways; he deceived the Pagan nations not only before, but since the coming of Christ, to worship the Heathen deities; and the Papists, who are called Gentiles, or nations, Revelation 11:2 to fall down to idols of gold, silver, stone, and wood; and the nation of the Jews to entertain a false and deluded notion of the Messiah; and all of them, in their turns, to persecute the people of God, as the Jews at the death of Stephen, and afterwards; the Pagan emperors for the first three hundred years after Christ; the Papists from the rise of the beast, who had power given him to make war with the saints, and overcome them; but now he will be under such restraint, and in such close confinement, that he will not be able to move the wicked nations to anything of this kind, as he will when he is loosed at the end of the thousand years; nor will he be able so much as to tempt any of the saints, during this term of time, nor give them the least molestation or uneasiness.

Till the thousand years shall be fulfilled; or ended, the whole space of them run out:

and after that he must be loosed a little season; a small space of time, in comparison of the thousand years; how long it will be exactly, cannot be said; and this "must" be, not because he cannot be held any longer, or through any weakness in Christ; but because of the decree of God, who has so appointed it, for the glorifying of himself, in the salvation of his people, and in the final destruction of the devil, and the Gog and Magog army.

(u) Targum Jon. in Exodus 28.30.

And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations {4} no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed {5} a little season.

(4) Namely, with that public and violent deceit which he attempted before in chapter 12 and which after a thousand years (alas for woe!) he most mightily achieved in the Christian world.

(5) Which being once expired, the second battle and victory shall be; Re 20:7,8.

3. and shut him up … upon him] Read, and shut and sealed [it] over him: the opening of Revelation 9:2 is undone.

he must be loosed] Revelation 5:7.

Revelation 20:3. Ἔκλεισε) Erasmus adds αὐτὸν,[215] against the MSS. and the text of Andreas himself. In general, κλείειν, to shut, may be used, not only, for instance, of a prison, but also of a captive: but here Apringius rightly construes, shut upon him, so that both ἔκλεισεν and ἐσφράγισεν cohere with ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, as, Genesis 7:16, it is said, ἔκλεισεν ἔξωθεν αὐτοῦ· and altogether יסגר על איש, Job 12:14.—ἵνα μὴ, that not) One benefit only is here expressed, but that of itself is by far the greatest, and has many great blessings joined with it. For when the chief enemy is removed, the kingdom of God gains vigour without impediment among the nations, and the great mystery of God, announced by the prophets, is finished. Revelation 10:7.

[215] ABh Vulg. oppose αὐτόν. Rec. Text has it without authority.—E.

Winckler, in his Disquisitions, p. 193, etc., refutes modern Chiliasm, as an error, and that a fundamental one, by arguments drawn from the article on creation, on redemption, and on sanctificiation; and he also censures me as a defender of that error. And yet not even one of your arguments, most courteous Winckler, affects my comment: but you have gratified me. For nothing can more plainly and efficaciously demonstrate the soundness of my opinion respecting the millennium, than a comparison of my treatise with yours. Look, I pray you, to Erkl. Offenb. p. 950, etc. I altogether differ from the things which you attribute to the Chiliasts; nay, that exegesis of mine, equally with your Disquisition, lays down the natural state of the world,—wayfaring men needing remission of sins and believing, the use of the law and the Gospel, death not yet swallowed up, etc. And do you, reader, admonished by this circumstance also, remember that the other side ought always to be heard. So far about Winckler: we return to the subject.

Whilst Satan is loosed from his imprisonment of a thousand years, and the earth is harassed by the last and lowest dregs [of its inhabitants], the martyrs live and reign, not on the earth, but with Christ: then the coming of Christ in glory at length takes place at the last day: then, next, there is the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem. Those events, which pseudo-chiliasm confounds, a true interpretation in conformity with the text distinguishes. In such a manner, I had far rather be regarded as a maintainer of the thousand years, which prophecy publishes so decidedly, than take part with the indiscriminate antichiliasts, who, under this very name of theirs, assail even the plain letter of prophecy, and trample upon truth and error alike. The mystery of God is in progress: Revelation 10:7. That is then finished, when the beast is destroyed, and Satan is bound. That consummation approaches nearer and nearer. It also comprises events by far the most important, and most closely connected with the glory of God. The knowledge of these events from day to day emerges into greater clearness, distinctness, and readiness of discernment. And meanwhile it is highly necessary to meet and oppose the extreme rage of the devil. But to speak against God, whose mystery it is, as many do; to weaken the oath of the angel, who confirms the mystery; ignorantly (Judges 1:10) to assail interpreters, who handle the subject in a befitting manner; and by thus assailing them, to hunt after favour among those of like character with themselves,—will not this at length be σκληρὸν, hard to the person himself [Acts 9:5]? On the other hand, care must be taken, not to attribute to the millennium things which are reserved for eternity itself. Nor is it sufficient to assert, that it is still future; but its true character ought also to be soberly weighed. But these things are not to be imparted to the many by a lengthy treatise; spiritual maturity must be waited for.—μετὰ, after) An elegant Asyndeton,[216] in the case of an antithesis, as in the beginning of Revelation 20:5.—μικρὸν χρόνον, a little chronus [period]) This, as is collected from certain marks, is equal to the half καιροῦ, of a time. [Nor does it begin later than the millennarian rule of those, who shall be partakers of the first resurrection. We must adhere closely to the order of the prophecy. The greatest affairs of the last times are briefly described: but it is not on that account befitting that they should be passed over with a light bound.—V. g.]

[216] Rec. Text, without authority, puts καὶ before μετά. ABh Vulg. oppose it.—E.

Revelation 20:3Sealed

See on John 3:33.

Must (δεῖ)

According to God's purpose. See on Matthew 16:21; see on Luke 2:49; see on Luke 24:26.

Revelation 20:3 Interlinear
Revelation 20:3 Parallel Texts

Revelation 20:3 NIV
Revelation 20:3 NLT
Revelation 20:3 ESV
Revelation 20:3 NASB
Revelation 20:3 KJV

Revelation 20:3 Bible Apps
Revelation 20:3 Parallel
Revelation 20:3 Biblia Paralela
Revelation 20:3 Chinese Bible
Revelation 20:3 French Bible
Revelation 20:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

Revelation 20:2
Top of Page
Top of Page