Crushing the Serpent’s Head
Vision 14—Revelation 20:1-10
Subject: The abyssing of Satan, the Millennial Reign, mankind’s final test, and Satan’s destruction
Time of fulfillment: From the end of the great tribulation to the destruction of Satan
1. How has the fulfillment of the first Bible prophecy proceeded?
DO YOU recall the first Bible prophecy? It was uttered by Jehovah God when he said to the Serpent: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Now the fulfillment of that prophecy comes to its climax! We have traced the history of Satan’s warring against Jehovah’s heavenly womanlike organization. (Revelation 12:1, 9) The Serpent’s earthly seed, with its religion, politics, and big business, has heaped cruel persecution on the woman’s seed, Jesus Christ and his 144,000 anointed followers, here on earth. (John 8:37, 44; Galatians 3:16, 29) Satan inflicted an agonizing death on Jesus. But this proved to be like a heel wound, for God resurrected his faithful Son on the third day.—Acts 10:38-40.
2. How is the Serpent bruised, and what happens to the Serpent’s earthly seed?
2 What about the Serpent and his seed? About 56 C.E. the apostle Paul wrote a long letter to the Christians in Rome. In concluding it, he encouraged them by saying: “For his part, the God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:20) This is more than a superficial bruising. Satan is to be crushed! Paul here used a Greek word, syn·triʹbo, that means to bruise into a jellylike state, to trample down, to destroy utterly by crushing. As for the human seed of the Serpent, this is due for a real plaguing in the Lord’s day, climaxing at the great tribulation in the complete crushing of Babylon the Great and the political systems of the world, together with their financial and military henchmen. (Revelation, chapters 18 and 19) Thus Jehovah brings to a climax the enmity between the two seeds. The Seed of God’s woman triumphs over the earthly seed of the Serpent, and that seed is no more!
3. What does John tell us is going to happen to Satan?
3 What, then, is in store for Satan himself and his demons? John tells us: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not mislead the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After these things he must be let loose for a little while.”—Revelation 20:1-3.
4. Who is the angel with the key of the abyss, and how do we know?
4 Who is this angel? He must have tremendous power to be able to dispose of Jehovah’s archenemy. He has “the key of the abyss and a great chain.” Does this not remind us of an earlier vision? Why, yes, the king over the locusts is called “the angel of the abyss”! (Revelation 9:11) So here we again observe Jehovah’s Chief Vindicator, the glorified Jesus Christ, in action. This archangel that cast Satan out of heaven, that judged Babylon the Great, and that disposed of “the kings of the earth and their armies” at Armageddon would surely not step aside to let a lesser angel deliver the masterstroke in abyssing Satan!—Revelation 12:7-9; 18:1, 2; 19:11-21.
5. How does the angel of the abyss deal with Satan the Devil, and why?
5 When the great fiery-colored dragon was hurled down from heaven, he was spoken of as “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:3, 9) Now, at the point of being seized and abyssed, he is described again in full as “the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” This infamous devourer, deceiver, slanderer, and opposer is chained and hurled “into the abyss,” which is closed and sealed off tightly, “that he might not mislead the nations anymore.” This abyssing of Satan is for a thousand years, during which time his influence on mankind will be no more than that of a prisoner in a deep dungeon. The angel of the abyss removes Satan completely from any contact with the Kingdom of righteousness. What a relief for mankind!
6. (a) What evidence is there that the demons also go into the abyss? (b) What can now begin, and why?
6 What happens to the demons? They too have been “reserved for judgment.” (2 Peter 2:4) Satan is called “Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.” (Luke 11:15, 18; Matthew 10:25) In view of their longtime collaboration with Satan, should not the same judgment be meted out to them? The abyss has long been an object of fear to those demons; on one occasion when Jesus confronted them, they “kept entreating him not to order them to go away into the abyss.” (Luke 8:31) But when Satan is abyssed, his angels will surely be hurled into the abyss with him. (Compare Isaiah 24:21, 22.) After the abyssing of Satan and his demons, the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ can begin.
7. (a) In what state will Satan and his demons be while in the abyss, and how do we know? (b) Are Hades and the abyss the same? (See footnote.)
7 Will Satan and his demons be active while in the abyss? Well, remember the scarlet-colored, seven-headed wild beast that “was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss.” (Revelation 17:8) While in the abyss, it ‘was not.’ It was nonfunctioning, immobilized, to all intents and purposes dead. Likewise, speaking of Jesus, the apostle Paul said: “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.” (Romans 10:7) While in that abyss, Jesus was dead.* It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Satan and his demons will be in a state of deathlike inactivity for the thousand years of their abyssing. What good tidings for lovers of righteousness!
Judges for a Thousand Years
8, 9. What does John now tell us about those sitting on thrones, and who are such ones?
8 After the thousand years, Satan is released from the abyss for a short while. Why? Before giving the answer, John brings our attention back to the beginning of that time period. We read: “And I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them.” (Revelation 20:4a) Who are these ones sitting on thrones and ruling in the heavens with the glorified Jesus?
9 They are “the holy ones” that Daniel described as ruling in the Kingdom with the One “like a son of man.” (Daniel 7:13, 14, 18) They are the same as the 24 elders who sit on heavenly thrones in the very presence of Jehovah. (Revelation 4:4) They include the 12 apostles, to whom Jesus gave the promise: “In the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down upon his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also yourselves sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) They also include Paul, as well as the Corinthian Christians who remained faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:8; 6:2, 3) They would include, too, members of the congregation of Laodicea who conquered.—Revelation 3:21.
10. (a) How does John now describe the 144,000 kings? (b) From what John earlier told us, whom do the 144,000 kings include?
10 Thrones—144,000 of them—are prepared for these anointed conquerors who are “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1, 4) “Yes,” continues John, “I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand.” (Revelation 20:4b) Among those kings, then, are the anointed Christian martyrs who earlier, at the opening of the fifth seal, asked Jehovah how much longer he would wait to avenge their blood. At that time, they were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer. But now they have been avenged through the devastating of Babylon the Great, the destruction of the nations by the King of kings and Lord of lords, and the abyssing of Satan.—Revelation 6:9-11; 17:16; 19:15, 16.
11. (a) How are we to understand the expression “executed with the ax”? (b) Why may it be said that all the 144,000 died a sacrificial death?
11 Were all these 144,000 royal judges physically “executed with the ax”? Likely, relatively few of them were in a literal sense. This expression, though, doubtless is intended to embrace all those anointed Christians who endure martyrdom in one way or another.* (Matthew 10:22, 28) Certainly, Satan would like to have executed all of them with the ax, but, in fact, not all of Jesus’ anointed brothers die as martyrs. Many of them die of disease or old age. Such ones, however, also belong to the group that John now sees. The death of all of them is, in a sense, sacrificial. (Romans 6:3-5) Additionally, none of them were part of the world. Hence, all of them have been hated by the world and, in effect, become dead in its eyes. (John 15:19; 1 Corinthians 4:13) None of them worshipped the wild beast or its image, and when they died, none of them carried the mark of the beast. All of them died as conquerors.—1 John 5:4; Revelation 2:7; 3:12; 12:11.
12. What does John report about the 144,000 kings, and when does their coming to life occur?
12 Now these conquerors live again! John reports: “And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4c) Does this mean that these judges are not resurrected until after the destruction of the nations and the abyssing of Satan and his demons? No. Most of them are already very much alive, since they rode with Jesus against the nations at Armageddon. (Revelation 2:26, 27; 19:14) Indeed, Paul indicated that their resurrection commences soon after the beginning of Jesus’ presence in 1914 and that some are resurrected before others. (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) Therefore, their coming to life occurs over a period of time as they individually receive the gift of immortal life in the heavens.—2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:11-14.
13. (a) How should we view the thousand years during which the 144,000 rule, and why? (b) How did Papias of Hierapolis view the thousand years? (See footnote.)
13 Their reigning and judging will be for a thousand years. Is this a literal thousand years, or should we view it symbolically as being an undefined, long period of time? “Thousands” may mean a large, indefinite number, as at 1 Samuel 21:11. But here the “thousand” is literal, since it appears three times in Revelation 20:5-7 as “the thousand years.” Paul called this time of judgment “a day” when he stated: “He [God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” (Acts 17:31) Since Peter tells us that one day with Jehovah is as a thousand years, it is appropriate that this Day of Judgment be a literal thousand years.*—2 Peter 3:8.
The Rest of the Dead
14. (a) What statement does John insert about “the rest of the dead”? (b) How do expressions made by the apostle Paul throw light on the term “come to life”?
14 Whom, though, will these kings judge if, as the apostle John here inserts, “(the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended)”? (Revelation 20:5a) Again, the expression “come to life” has to be understood according to context. This expression can have varying meanings in varying circumstances. For example, Paul said of his anointed fellow Christians: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) Yes, spirit-anointed Christians were “made alive,” even in the first century, being declared righteous on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.—Romans 3:23, 24.
15. (a) The pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah enjoyed what standing with God? (b) How do the other sheep “come to life,” and when will they possess the earth in the fullest sense?
15 Similarly, pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah were declared righteous as to friendship with God; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were spoken of as “living” even though they were physically dead. (Matthew 22:31, 32; James 2:21, 23) However, they and all others who are resurrected, as well as the great crowd of faithful other sheep who survive Armageddon and any children that may be born to these in the new world, must yet be raised to human perfection. This will be accomplished by Christ and his associate kings and priests during the thousand-year Judgment Day, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. By the end of that Day, “the rest of the dead” will have “come to life” in the sense that they will be perfect humans. As we shall see, they must then pass a final test, but they will face that test as perfected humans. When they pass the test, God will declare them worthy of living forever, righteous in the fullest sense. They will experience the complete fulfillment of the promise: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) What a delightful future is in store for obedient mankind!
The First Resurrection
16. How does John describe the resurrection experienced by those who rule as kings with Christ, and why?
16 Returning now to those who “came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ,” John writes: “This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5b) How is it first? It is “the first resurrection” as to time, for the ones who experience it are a “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4) It is also first in importance, since those who share in it become corulers with Jesus in his heavenly Kingdom and judge the rest of mankind. Finally, it is first in quality. Apart from Jesus Christ himself, those raised in the first resurrection are the only creatures spoken of in the Bible as receiving immortality.—1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Timothy 6:16.
17. (a) How does John describe the blessed prospect for the anointed Christians? (b) What is “the second death,” and why does it have “no authority” over the 144,000 conquerors?
17 What a blessed prospect for these anointed ones! As John declares: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority.” (Revelation 20:6a) As Jesus promised the Christians in Smyrna, these conquerors that share in “the first resurrection” will be in no danger of harm by “the second death,” which means annihilation, destruction without hope of a resurrection. (Revelation 2:11; 20:14) The second death has “no authority” over such conquerors, for they will have put on incorruption and immortality.—1 Corinthians 15:53.
18. What does John now say of earth’s new rulers, and what will they accomplish?
18 How different from earth’s kings during Satan’s tenure of authority! These have ruled at most for a mere 50 or 60 years, and the great majority for just a few years. Many of them have oppressed mankind. In any case, how could the nations benefit permanently under ever-changing rulers with ever-changing policies? In contrast, John says of earth’s new rulers: “But they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6b) With Jesus, they will form the sole government for a thousand years. Their priestly service, in applying the merit of Jesus’ perfect human sacrifice, will lift obedient humans to spiritual, moral, and physical perfection. Their kingly service will result in building a global human society that reflects Jehovah’s righteousness and holiness. As judges for a thousand years, they, with Jesus, will lovingly guide responsive humans toward the goal of everlasting life.—John 3:16.
The Final Test
19. What will be earth’s state and mankind’s state by the end of the Thousand Year Reign, and what does Jesus now do?
19 By the end of the Thousand Year Reign, all earth will have come to resemble the original Eden. It will be a veritable paradise. Perfect mankind will no longer need a high priest to intercede for it before God, since all traces of Adamic sin will have been removed and the last enemy, death, brought to nothing. Christ’s Kingdom will have achieved God’s purpose to create one world with one government. At this point, Jesus “hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.”—1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Romans 15:12.
20. What does John tell us will happen when it is time for the final test?
20 It is now time for a final test. Will that perfected world of mankind, in contrast with the first humans in Eden, stand firm in its integrity? John tells us what happens: “Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison, and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea. And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.”—Revelation 20:7-9a.
21. For his last effort, how does Satan proceed, and why should we not be surprised that some will follow Satan even after the Thousand Year Reign?
21 How will Satan’s last effort fare? He deceives “those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog,” and leads them to “the war.” Who could possibly side with Satan after a thousand years of joyful, upbuilding theocratic rule? Well, do not forget that Satan was able to mislead the perfect Adam and Eve while they were enjoying life in the Paradise of Eden. And he was able to lead astray heavenly angels who had seen the bad results of the original rebellion. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) So we should not be surprised that some perfect humans will be enticed to follow Satan even after a delightful thousand years of rule by God’s Kingdom.
22. (a) What is indicated by the expression “those nations in the four corners of the earth”? (b) Why are the rebels called “Gog and Magog”?
22 The Bible calls these rebels “nations in the four corners of the earth.” This does not mean that mankind will have been divided once again into mutually exclusive national entities. It merely indicates that these will separate themselves from Jehovah’s righteous, loyal ones and manifest the same bad spirit that the nations show today. They will “think up an injurious scheme,” as did the Gog of Magog in Ezekiel’s prophecy, with a goal of destroying theocratic government on earth. (Ezekiel 38:3, 10-12) Hence, they are called “Gog and Magog.”
23. What is indicated by the fact that the number of the rebels is “as the sand of the sea”?
23 The number of those who join Satan in his revolt will be “as the sand of the sea.” How many is that? There is no foreordained number. (Compare Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12.) The final total number of rebels will depend on how each individual reacts to Satan’s deceptive wiles. Doubtless, though, there will be a considerable number, since they will feel strong enough to overcome “the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.”
24. (a) What is “the beloved city,” and how can it be encircled? (b) What is represented by “the camp of the holy ones”?
24 “The beloved city” must be the city that is spoken of by the glorified Jesus Christ to his followers at Revelation 3:12 and that he calls “the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God.” Since this is a heavenly organization, how could those earthly forces ‘encircle’ it? In that they encircle “the camp of the holy ones.” A camp is outside a city; therefore, “the camp of the holy ones” must represent those on earth outside the heavenly location of New Jerusalem who loyally support Jehovah’s governmental arrangement. When the rebels under Satan attack those faithful ones, the Lord Jesus regards it as an assault on him. (Matthew 25:40, 45) “Those nations” will try to wipe out all that the heavenly New Jerusalem has accomplished in making earth a paradise. So in attacking “the camp of the holy ones,” they are also attacking “the beloved city.”
The Lake of Fire and Sulfur
25. How does John describe the outcome of the rebels’ attack on “the camp of the holy ones,” and what will this mean for Satan?
25 Will this final effort by Satan succeed? Certainly not—no more than the attack that Gog of Magog is due to make on spiritual Israel in our day will succeed! (Ezekiel 38:18-23) John vividly describes the outcome: “But fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet already were.” (Revelation 20:9b-10a) Rather than being merely abyssed, this time Satan, the original serpent, will actually be crushed out of existence, pulverized, completely annihilated as if by fire.
26. Why cannot “the lake of fire and sulphur” be a literal place of torment?
26 We have already noted that “the lake of fire and sulphur” could not be a literal place of torment. (Revelation 19:20) If Satan were to suffer excruciating torture there for all eternity, Jehovah would have to preserve him alive. Yet, life is a gift, not a punishment. Death is the punishment for sin, and according to the Bible, dead creatures feel no pain. (Romans 6:23; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) Moreover, we read later that death itself, along with Hades, is cast into this same lake of fire and sulfur. Surely, death and Hades cannot suffer pain!—Revelation 20:14.
27. How does what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah help us understand the term the lake of fire and sulfur?
27 All of this reinforces the view that the lake of fire and sulfur is symbolic. Further, the mention of fire and sulfur calls to mind the fate of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by God because of their gross wickedness. When their time came, “Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah.” (Genesis 19:24) What befell the two cities is called “the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” (Jude 7) Yet, those two cities did not suffer everlasting torment. Rather, they were blotted out, obliterated for all time, along with their depraved inhabitants. Those cities do not exist today, and no one can say for sure where they were located.
28. What is the lake of fire and sulfur, and how is it unlike death, Hades, and the abyss?
28 In harmony with this, the Bible itself explains the meaning of the lake of fire and sulfur: “This means the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14) It is clearly the same as the Gehenna that Jesus spoke of, a place where the wicked remain destroyed, not tortured forever. (Matthew 10:28) It is complete, utter destruction without hope of a resurrection. Thus, while there are keys for death, Hades, and the abyss, there is no mention of a key for opening the lake of fire and sulfur. (Revelation 1:18; 20:1) It will never release its captives.—Compare Mark 9:43-47.
Tormented Day and Night Forever
29, 30. What does John say about the Devil as well as the wild beast and the false prophet, and how is this to be understood?
29 Referring to the Devil as well as the wild beast and the false prophet, John now tells us: “And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10b) What could this mean? As mentioned already, it is not logical to say that symbols, such as the wild beast and the false prophet, as well as death and Hades, could suffer torture in a literal way. Hence, we have no reason to believe that Satan will be suffering for all eternity. He is to be annihilated.
30 The Greek word used here for “torment,” ba·sa·niʹzo, means primarily “to test (metals) by the touchstone.” “To question by applying torture” is a second meaning. (The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) In the context, the use of this Greek word indicates that what happens to Satan will serve, for all eternity, as a touchstone on the issue of the rightness and righteousness of Jehovah’s rule. That issue of sovereign rulership will have been settled once and for all time. Never again will a challenge to Jehovah’s sovereignty need to be tested over an extended period of time in order to be proved wrong.—Compare Psalm 92:1, 15.
31. How do two Greek words related to the one meaning “torment” help us to understand the punishment that Satan the Devil undergoes?
31 Additionally, the related word ba·sa·ni·stesʹ, “tormentor,” is used in the Bible to mean “jailer.” (Matthew 18:34, Kingdom Interlinear) In harmony with this, Satan will be imprisoned in the lake of fire forever; he will never be released. Finally, in the Greek Septuagint, which was well known to John, the related word baʹsa·nos is used to refer to humiliation that leads to death. (Ezekiel 32:24, 30) This helps us to see that the punishment that Satan undergoes is a humiliating, everlasting death in the lake of fire and sulfur. His works die with him.—1 John 3:8.
32. What punishment will the demons undergo, and how do we know?
32 Again, the demons are not mentioned in this verse. Will they be released with Satan at the end of the thousand years and then undergo the punishment of everlasting death along with him? The evidence answers yes. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said that the goats would go off “into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) The expression “everlasting fire” must refer to the lake of fire and sulfur where Satan is to be hurled. The Devil’s angels were cast out of heaven with him. Evidently, they went into the abyss with him at the beginning of the Thousand Year Reign. Consistently, then, they will also be destroyed with him in the lake of fire and sulfur.—Matthew 8:29.
33. What final detail of Genesis 3:15 will then be fulfilled, and to what matter does Jehovah’s spirit now draw John’s attention?
33 In this way, the final detail of the prophecy recorded at Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled. When Satan is hurled into the lake of fire, he will become as dead as a snake the head of which has been ground under an iron heel. He and his demons will be gone forever. There is no further mention of them in the book of Revelation. Now, having prophetically disposed of these, Jehovah’s spirit draws attention to a matter of pressing interest to those who cherish an earthly hope: What will result to humankind from the heavenly reign of the “King of kings” and “those called and chosen and faithful with him”? (Revelation 17:14) To answer, John brings us back once again to the beginning of the Thousand Year Reign.
Other scriptures say that Jesus was in Hades while he was dead. (Acts 2:31) We should not conclude, however, that Hades and the abyss are always the same. While the wild beast and Satan go into the abyss, only humans are said to go to Hades, where they are asleep in death until their resurrection.—Job 14:13; Revelation 20:13.
The ax (Greek, peʹle·kus) was seemingly the traditional instrument of execution in Rome, although by John’s day the sword was more generally used. (Acts 12:2) Therefore, the Greek word here used, pe·pe·le·kis·meʹnon (“executed with the ax”), simply means “executed.”
Interestingly, Papias of Hierapolis, who is understood to have received some of his Bible knowledge from pupils of John, the writer of Revelation, is reported by fourth-century historian Eusebius to have believed in a literal Thousand Year Reign of Christ (although Eusebius strongly disagreed with him).—The History of the Church, Eusebius, III, 39.
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The Dead Sea. Possible location of Sodom and Gomorrah
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“I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel”