“2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and BOUND him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2).
Satan was “BOUND” in the bottomless pit, and was prevented from hindering the spread of the gospel during the transition period from the Old to the New Covenants in the first century AD. He was barred from deceiving the nations and leading them to war against the Christians while the Church was beginning to grow in the first century. He operated like a “mob boss” in a prison.
At the end of his temporary sentence, he was released and proceeded to deceive the nations to go to war. This would have included the “war” against the saints in the Neronic persecutions. His deception also involved the Jewish-Roman war in which the wrath of God was poured out on Israel. It ended in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
The binding was no more an absolute disabling of Satan than are the “bonds” applied to rebellious angels when they originally fell (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Rather, it is a metaphor for the redemptive constraint of his worldwide influence which existed prior to Christ’s coming. Parallel biblical expressions include Satan’s “casting out” (John 12:31-32), his “disarming” (Col. 2:14-15), and his being rendered “powerless” (Heb. 2:14-15; cp. 1 John 3:8).
In the same sense, apostle Paul was BOUND by the Roman authorities and kept in chains for years. In spite of this he was able to move around and minister in certain ways. Paul was able to spread the gospel to the Churches; write some of his canonical epistles; and to minister to those around him. His ministry as an apostle was very effective even though he was “BOUND” or imprisoned at times.
“27But after two years Porcius Festiis succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul BOUND.” (Acts 24:27).
“20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am BOUND WITH THIS CHAIN.” (Acts 28:20).
BOUND is the Greek word “deo”- [Strong’s #1210 = to be bound or be in bonds]. The word “BOUNDARIES” (aka: “bounds”) in Acts 17:26 is Greek – “horothesia” — [Strong’s #3734 = fixing a limit or restricted boundary-line]
“26And He has made from one blood (Adam) every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and THE BOUNDARIES of their dwellings, 27so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27).
There was a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years so that she could not raise herself up. When Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and healed her. This was on the Sabbath and the ruler of the synagogue criticized Him for healing on that day. The Lord said:
“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has BOUND – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (Luke 13:10-16).
Now, these examples (Paul and the woman) show that being BOUND does not mean that the person cannot move around and function at all. Instead, they are able to function, even though with some restrictions or boundaries.
Likewise, Satan was BOUND so that he was restricted from deceiving the nations during the transition period. Satan was loosed from that restriction for a little while in c. AD 63. He proceeded to go “about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:14), and intensified the persecution upon Christians, even up to the point of involving Nero declaring Christianity an “enemy of the State/Empire” and commenced into the Great Tribulation against the church in the Neronic persecution between AD 64–66. All this while Satan was continuing to cause discord and deceive the non-believing Jews, including the Jewish Zealots, to fight against each other and against the Romans which culminated in the great Roman/Jewish war between AD 66–70 (Rev. 20:7-9).
The result was that in AD 66–70 God poured out His wrath on the city of Jerusalem and the temple, destroying them completely by fire. This concluded in AD 70. The Old Heaven and Old Earth cosmological order and the Old Covenant Jewish religious system and animal blood sacrifice system was removed, or passed away, with the temple completely gone and “not one stone being left upon another.” The New Covenant eternal spiritual Kingdom, consummated in the shed blood of Christ on the cross (aka: new heaven and new earth cosmological order), was then fully established going forward in human history forevermore.
The Timing, Purpose and Meaning of the “Binding of Satan:”
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Matt. 12:28-29)
We see here Christ first giving us a glimpse into the “binding” which was currently taking place during His ministry. Christ proclaimed that what He was doing was by the Spirit of God, therefore, the Kingdom of God was upon them, and thus, the strong man’s house was being plundered through His ministry. However, the time had not yet come for this “strong man” to be completely plundered, but it would come soon (cf. (Read) Romans 16:20). And so it is that we come to Revelation 20, the great passage of the thousand year period and the binding of Satan.
I, and others, do not see Revelation as a chronological depiction from start to finish, nor a simple vision from John in which he simply records information as he sees it. I believe that John used known literary devices and apocalyptic genre to formulate the vision that was given to him, so that his readers and first century audience could understand, and so that the letters and prophecies he gave could not be deciphered or easily understood by the Roman soldiers, should any of them have captured a messenger traveling throughout the churches of Asia Minor, and the rest of the Roman Empire. During the time of the final years leading up to AD 66 and the Jewish War with the Roman armies, Christian persecution by the Romans was rampant. Nero had blamed the Christians for setting fire to Rome, and Christians were taken by the thousands and killed. If any of them had been caught with a document that may be misinterpreted as explaining the soon defeat of the Roman Emperor and his Roman cohorts, they would have been killed or taken prisoner immediately.
It’s within this context that I believe that the book of Revelation was written and delivered to the saints throughout Asia (as Revelation itself states in Rev. 1:4, 2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14). The book of Revelation is a book written in code, in a genre that many of the Christians, especially the Jewish ones, would have readily understood and applied to their own immediate context and future. Also, recall in Rev. 1:19 where it clearly states that some of the book is already past, some of it present, and the remaining is about to happen.
In Revelation 20, verses 1-3 John describes the coming down from heaven of a mighty angel who lays hold upon the Devil, and binds him and casts him into the bottomless pit, “till the thousand years should be fulfilled,” after which “he must be loosed a little season”; and verse 7 says: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison.” When reading this passage concerning the “binding of Satan” we must regard this act as either a complete or a partial depriving of Satan of his power.
I believe the scriptures evidence that this “binding” period was only a partial deprivation of Satan and his powers. The reason that this binding was not a complete deprivation of Satan’s powers is that after the period of the “thousand years” Satan is THEN subjected to his final judgment after he deceived the nations for the period of a “little while.” During the time of a “little while” (cf. Revelation 20:3), Satan is given complete control to be able to “deceive the nations.” Prior to this time the purpose of being bound was to prevent him from “deceiving the nations.”
The fact that Rome actually limited Jewish persecution against the Christians prior to AD 64 tells us that Satan was indeed limited in his power. Satan and his subjects did not have power to deceive the nations, nor to stop the Gospel from spreading throughout Syria, Judea, and to the ends of the known world. As reported by Paul in his own letters, and also Luke’s record about Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts, Paul’s Roman citizenship protected him from Jewish persecution (cf. Acts 23-28). In the last verse in the book of Acts ((Read) Acts 28:31) Luke records for us that Paul was able to preach the Gospel to the whole world with boldness and without hindrance up until the end of his recorded ministry.
The binding of Satan was therefore something less than a complete taking-away of his power during the forty year period because Paul, during his own ministry, said that he still fought against principalities and powers, and he said that Satan would “soon be crushed under your feet” (cf. Romans 16:20) during that time. If being bound completely prohibited Satan from any action, there would have been nothing for Paul and the Apostles to have fought against during this time, however, the power of the great Prince (Christ Himself) gave them strength through the Holy Spirit to overcome so that no evil would defeat or overpower them. Thus, just as a handcuffed prisoner can still cause havoc and kick the window from inside the police car, or spit on officers, or cuss and scream, his ultimate authority and power is negated by the restraints holding him back, and by the overarching legal authority of the officers who are arresting him.
The strong man depicted in Scripture is clearly Satan, and among other things, he was clearly at work through the Jewish adversarial authorities who chased, persecuted and tortured the Apostles and first century Christians (cf. (Read) Acts 17:5, 13; 1 Thess. 2:14-15; Rev. 2:9, 3:9); no commentator I am familiar with disagrees with this. The one who is strong enough to bind Satan is none other than Christ himself. But Satan is not so bound as to have no effect at all as I have previously stated. It is the limitation of his power and authority; it is a usurping of his former role as a dominant figure and accuser throughout the kingdoms of this world over which he had previous control (Matt. 4:8-9); it was the lessening of his influence and activities which could not be overcome since the “stronger” man had all the power.
The binding period therefore was not a complete wiping out of Satan’s powers; it was however a complete prohibition of his powers through the ministry of Yeshua the Christ, and through the power that was given to the Apostles over Satan and his works. This was necessary in order for the Gospel to be spread to the entire known world. Christ commanded them to take the message of the Gospel everywhere, and if Satan had been allowed to deceive the nations, and also to wreak havoc on the Christians (prohibiting them from spreading the Gospel message), this feat would not have been accomplished.
A passage in Hebrews will help us at this point:
“For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through (His own) death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the Devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (cf. Heb. 2:14-15)
This passage clearly refers to the same truth as that declared by Christ in Matthew 12:29; for the one whose power was destroyed by Christ is expressly said to be “the Devil,” and those who are delivered from his power, “the children,” are “the goods” of which Christ, by His death, has stripped him of his former powers. It is evident too, that “destroy him” does not mean the complete deprivation of his power or his existence, nor his judgment in a single moment.
The above statement is in full agreement with the words of Christ to the seventy when they returned to Him with joy saying:
“Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through your Name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:17-19)
Here was the binding of Satan, in that his power was greatly restricted through the Apostles‘ works during the next 34-36 years. In John’s vision of the Revelation, the binding of Satan was done by the instrumentality of an angel from heaven; and by the passage in Hebrews we learn that the effective cause of the breaking of his power was the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Christ. It is pertinent therefore to recall that on the morning of His resurrection, “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door” (Matt. 28:2). There is a suggestive correspondence between the action of opening the door of the tomb of the Lord Yeshua, rolling away the great stone by means of which His body had been sealed therein, and the action of shutting Satan up in the abyss and setting a seal upon him. It suggests that both actions were performed by the same mighty angel and at the same time.
The same suggestive correspondence also applies with the giving of the keys to the disciples to “bind and lose” whatever they chose. It is no coincidence that Satan was bound by keys, and that the disciples were allowed to bind and loose with the keys given to them by Christ (Matt. 16:19, 18:18). That Satan’s power is greatly limited during the ministry of the disciples, but not wholly destroyed until the end, is certainly the fact. Consider what Christ said as He approached His death on the cross, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31, 16:11). But He did not cast him out in every sense at that time; for He said, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he has no claim on me” (John 14:30). Here are the conceptions of the limiting of Satan, or the casting out of Satan, which should guide us in interpreting Revelation 20.
If we have reasoned correctly up to this point, then it is easy to say what “the thousand years” spoken of in Revelation 20 signifies. It is quite surely the time from the binding of Satan (the beginning of Christ’s ministry) and through the period of time in which Paul and the Apostles preached and had authority over Satan keeping him bound, and up until the time that the “deceiver” was allowed to go out for “a little while” (i.e. AD 63-70) to deceive the nations, and to bring about the destruction upon the Jewish nation and Jerusalem, and the Herodian Temple by the Roman armies.
In AD 70 Satan was finally judged by Christ and sentenced to the Lake of Fire in the unseen realm forever. He is a defeated enemy of God.
“10The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev. 20:10).
A little thought about, never mind ever talked about subject, is that even though Satan is tormented day and night forever and ever in the under realm Lake of Fire, he is still able to function in some restricted manner in the darkness of the unseen realm. After AD 70 he is never again able to enter into the heavenly realm, nor able to accuse the brethren again before God, and he has no power against Christ or against born-again Christians who are in the Body of Christ by faith.
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 8 Rev. Chapter 20 (sub study on Millennium)”]