Getting a Permanent Hold on Life
In this series of articles on the Bible book of Revelation, we have come to Re chapter 20, verses 7 to 10. The preceding six Re 20 verses 1-6 deal briefly with the thousand-year reign of Christ, during which the earth will be ruled by his kingdom without interference from Satanic influence. This rule of the promised Seed to bless all families of the earth has the purpose of eventually bringing real life—in the full, in its perfection—to mankind. Re 20 Verses 7 to 10, discussed in this article, show a marvelous universal purpose that God has in connection with those on earth at that time.
CAN you feel comfortable and secure in your home if it is heavily mortgaged, even though you have steady employment or a good income? Hardly. You realize that sickness, accident or financial reverses can take away everything you have almost overnight. The same is true of life, which is “like a shadow.” But say, now, that you were perfect in physical organism, living in a world where there was no war, no crime, where you possessed your own home and had it landscaped and beautified to delight your heart; also, where you had work to do that challenged your abilities and would keep your mind occupied in joyful activity.
“Fine,” you say, “if that were possible.” Well, it is possible, for it is the very purpose that God has toward this earth, to have it peopled with obedient humankind living in perfection, able to employ all their talents and abilities, as he arranged for them at the beginning. Again, you may say, “Yes, but I observe the word ‘obedient,’ obedient mankind. How would I be sure that I would always be obedient? It would be a sword hanging uncomfortably over my head—the fear that I might do as Adam and Eve did, and lose life.”
God realizes this and, in his love for those who love him, has kindly purposed something beyond our capacity to accomplish, but which he will do as he describes it for us in the seventh to tenth verses 7-10 of Revelation, chapter 20.
We look in at the point where the thousand-year reign of the Son of God has just ended. The special purpose of this reign, namely, that of bringing mankind back to the perfection originally given and of bringing about the necessary environment for perfect persons, a paradise earth, has been accomplished. During the thousand years, as the apostle Paul explains, all enemies of God and man, even death, as the last enemy, will be brought to nothing. By that time all traces of sin from Adam will have been removed from every person living on earth by reason of obedience during Christ’s reign. This will mean the removal of all traces of death inherited from Adam, for the sting producing death is sin and the wages sin pays is death.—1 Cor. 15:26, 56; Rom. 6:23; 1 John 3:8.
“Next, the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power.” (1 Cor. 15:24) while it is true that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God as his appointed king, yet here he hands over the kingdom to Jehovah, his God and Father. The context shows us that he hands over his kingship with regard to the special thousand-year reign toward the earth. He has completed his job and has turned the finished work over to his Father for final inspection and approval. Out of all the universe, the earth has, in relation to God’s sovereignty, been the only place that has been “out of orbit,” figuratively speaking. Now, with everything brought back into line with God’s will, it is again in its proper orbit.—Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 11:15.
FINAL QUESTION YET TO BE ANSWERED
However, there is yet one more question demanding a final answer, Can wickedness again arise to throw the earth or any part of the universe into a wild, disobedient orbit, to the detriment or disturbance of all creatures in it, as was the case during the first six thousand years of human history? That uncomfortable question still exists, because perfection does not make one unable to sin or to disobey. The issue of God’s universal sovereignty, therefore, still has one feature yet to be settled before God is satisfied and before complete and everlasting life can be granted to those living on earth.
For this reason it was not meant for Satan and his demons to remain forever in the abyss into which they were hurled just before Christ’s thousand-year reign began. By the Messianic kingdom, God has had Satan held only in reserve, pending his everlasting destruction. This is not done as a mercy to Satan, but God has a purpose, namely, to settle the controversial issue of universal sovereignty forever, so that it may never rise again and create disturbance for those who want to serve God and who love his sovereignty.
God tells us through his angelic servant, “Now as soon as the thousand years have ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison.” (Rev. 20:7) Satan is the one who brought up the issue of the rightfulness and righteousness of God’s sovereignty, and who caused Adam and Eve to bring death upon the human race by inducing them to rebel against God’s sovereignty. The angel of the abyss, the one previously given the “key of the pit of the abyss” (Rev. 9:1, 2), is the one now commanded by Jehovah to break the seal of the abyss and to let Satan and his demons out, unchaining them, turning them loose at the earth. Who is this angel? Obviously the same angel that hurled them into the abyss, the Seed of God’s “woman,” the Lord Jesus Christ, for God subjects all things under him.—1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:8.
GOD BECOMES “ALL THINGS TO EVERYONE”
The apostle Paul goes on to tell us that, when Jesus comes to the end of his thousand-year reign, Jesus, in turn, subjects himself to the One who subjected all things to him. Why? “That God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:28) Up to this point Christ has ruled in the name of his Father, and the ransom sacrifice has been made available and has been taken hold of by those on earth, but by this time the ransom benefits have been completely applied. Christ as High Priest steps aside, as it were, in order that perfected humankind might stand before God on their own merit without Christ as a sacrificing high priest to minister for them and come to their rescue when they make mistakes. Now they are humanly perfect, fully in control of all their faculties, and anything they next do is because of their own will and is not a mistake due to imperfection. Since ‘God is the One who declares righteous,’ God reserves to himself the authority to give everlasting life—a permanent right to life in his universe.—Rom. 8:33.
These perfected humans, therefore, must prove their unbreakable attachment to his sovereignty. There are many people who would appreciate and enjoy God’s sovereignty as long as it meant good things for themselves. They would be obedient to the laws, for they would see that it meant to them all the desires of the heart. But it is different when God’s sovereignty is challenged and there is an issue powerfully drawn, where one might feel that he has an opportunity to become absolutely independent and do exactly as he pleases. If, moreover, he has to put himself out, endangering his own selfish interests to uphold God’s sovereignty, then he may act differently, for perfection in organism does not mean that a perfect creature cannot be tempted to commit sin. All on earth at that time must be tested finally as to whether their love for God’s sovereignty is unchangeable. They must desire it above everything. They must want God’s sovereignty and must be willing to fight for it and, if necessary, give up their lives for it.
How this test comes about Revelation proceeds to show: “And he [Satan, accompanied by his demons] 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.” (Rev. 20:8) By the end of the thousand years the earth will be populated to its “four corners,” in its four quarters, as a result of the resurrection of all the dead from earthly and watery graves during Christ’s millennial reign. This population may have been contributed to by those of the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors who marry or are already married and who for some time after the end of this wicked system raise families, as Noah’s children did after the global flood. We do not know now how many in toto will inhabit the earth, although during the thousand years censuses may be taken. The number of those who fight against God’s sovereignty when Satan is released and who follow him and his demons is not revealed to us. It will be a considerable number, although indefinite as the sand grains along the seashore.—Compare Genesis 22:17.
“GOG AND MAGOG”
In the Revelation a reminder is made of “Gog of the land of Magog” foretold in Ezekiel 38:1 to 39:16. Ezekiel’s prophecy describes Satan in his debased realm now since being hurled out of heaven and down to the earth about the World War I year of 1918. Revelation 20:8 makes a comparison here, because, in Ezekiel’s prophecy, Gog of the land of Magog had, a thousand years previously, made his attack upon Jehovah God’s spiritually prosperous people after their restoration in 1919 C.E. This attack at that time brought on Jehovah God’s wrath and resulted in the destruction of Satan’s visible earthly organization. But now at the end of the thousand years these misled humans make their attack after an Edenic paradise has been restored to all the earth by God’s kingdom, after all living mankind have been uplifted to the human perfection and godlikeness that Adam and Eve had in the garden of Eden. These rebellious people who follow Satan have the same spirit as Gog had back at that time. Therefore, they are described by the terms Gog and Magog, just as people today might call a violent crowd a “Hitler-like mob,” or an immoral neighborhood a “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Revelation speaks of them as “nations in the four corners of the earth.” By their being spoken of as nations we can understand what is meant, for today nationalism is an issue. More and more of the nations want their independent sovereignty. The “nations in the four corners of the earth” at that time would be those who have rebelled and set themselves up independently as nations far away from Jehovah God and his central organization.
What action do these “nations” take? “And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.” (Rev. 20:9) These rebellious people, like the former Gog of Magog, have separated themselves from God’s people and therefore are described as being in a distant location. They hate the beloved city; of course, they also hate those on earth who serve that beloved city, but the beloved city here refers to Zion or Jerusalem, the heavenly city composed of those “holy ones” who had part in the first resurrection and who have by this time reigned with Christ for the thousand years. (Ps. 87:2, 3; Isa. 49:14-16) It is a revolt against Jehovah’s sovereignty, which especially goes into force when Christ hands the Kingdom over to the Father. They do not want this sovereignty. Now that the Devil has handed them a supposed opportunity to come out from under God’s sovereignty, they take advantage of it. So the revolt, although directly against the righteous ones on earth, is actually against God’s capital government. The issue is the same as the one raised in Eden, the old universal issue. It is over this issue that the rebellious ones are prompted to attack the beloved city.
A SOUL-SEARCHING TEST
Of course, these “nations” cannot touch the heavenly Zion; therefore, they bring great danger to the ones on earth who stand firm for the rule of the beloved city and Jehovah’s sovereignty—who retain allegiance to Jehovah’s sovereignty. But these faithful ones will not be harmed in the least, though it may look very menacing and will certainly provide a thorough, soul-searching test. God protects his faithful ones, for fire will come out of heaven and devour the enemies. (Rev. 20:9) They do not go into Sheol or Hades but are burned up, annihilated forever.
Satan the Devil and his demons quickly follow with a plunge into the lake of fire and sulphur themselves. This, of course, will be at the hands of the royal Seed of God’s woman, the King Jesus Christ. Although he has handed the Kingdom over to the Father, it has been for the purpose of this test and he is still Chief Executive Officer of Jehovah God and is his Executioner. The symbolic “wild beast” and “false prophet,” representing Satan’s political system, have been in the lake of fire already now for a thousand years and have never reappeared. The Devil joins them there finally for his everlasting destruction. The Serpent’s head is finally completely and everlastingly crushed by the Seed of God’s woman, Jesus Christ. (Gen. 3:15) The triumphant King has used the keys of death, of Hades (Sheol) and of the abyss, but he has no key for this “lake of fire and sulphur.” He never lets the symbolic wild beast and false prophet and Satan the Devil and his demons out of the fiery, sulphurous lake. That is why it is said that there “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”—Rev. 20:10.
ISSUE NEVER TO RISE AGAIN
In the original Greek the word translated “will be tormented” is the future tense of the Greek word basanízō. It means primarily “to rub on the touchstone, to put to the test, then, to examine by torturing (básanos), touchstone, torment.”—The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Volume IV, page 141, by W. E. Vine, published by Oliphants Ltd., London, England.
You can see from this that, in the settlement of the issue of God’s sovereignty, which had been challenged seven thousand years previously, the judicial judgment of the Most High God Jehovah will stand as an eternal precedent. If ever the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty should rise again on the part of any individual, spiritual or physical, in any part of the universe, this case or court precedent could be referred to as the touchstone concerning who rightfully holds the universal sovereignty. This is because the case involving Satan has gone to the very bottom of things as proof that there is no question unanswered with regard to God’s sovereignty. It has been completely and thoroughly settled. Therefore, anyone who would make any statement out of harmony with God’s sovereignty would be judged on the basis of this precedent and immediately destroyed in the “lake of fire and sulphur.” So God has not wasted time in allowing wickedness to come to a head during 6,000 years of human history. The touchstone (básanos) on universal sovereignty, being for eternal use, will forever torment or heap disgrace on the name of Satan the Devil.
This could be illustrated. Say, for example, that a good man in a community has a family loyal to him. There is a wicked hater of him in the neighborhood who slanders him and lies about him, bringing his name or reputation into question in the minds of the townspeople. An investigation is made, the facts are assembled, and in the ensuing court case the one bringing the lying charges is fully shown up to be a slanderer and a thoroughly wicked person. From that time on that wicked man’s name, when mentioned in the community, would be like a stench in the nostrils of the people. They would say, “Oh, that liar and slanderer,” when his name was mentioned. Such a record and repeated mention of what he was exposed to be would be a torment or distress to his name and, if he had a family, this would result in torment for them to bear that name. So, should the issue of God’s sovereignty come up in any place, it would only be a reminder of Satan’s rebellion, which is a stench in the nostrils of all those who love God’s sovereignty. Such a challenger of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty would be put to death.
EVERLASTING LIFE ASSURED
On the part of any of those who stand faithful during the final test there will be no fear that they will ever become such wicked challengers of God’s sovereignty. The test administered by Jehovah himself will be complete, thorough, guaranteeing the everlasting obedience of those who pass it successfully. He issues the judicial decisions approving or justifying them, declaring them righteous, with a right to a permanent place on earth. Under his everlasting sovereignty they can be assured that he knows that their faithfulness is such and their integrity is such that they will never turn from him. They look forward to life a million years, yes, a thousand million years in the future with full certainty that the loving God Jehovah will protect and sustain their lives for all eternity. He will provide them with progressively marvelous things from his inexhaustible storehouse of riches through the continued administration of his beloved Son and Chief Agent, Jesus Christ.—Rom. 11:33-36; Phil. 4:19; 2:9-11.