Questions From Readers
Should we conclude from Revelation 20:8 that there will be a vast number of people misled by Satan at the final test?
Revelation 20:8 describes the final assault by Satan on the people living on earth at the end of the thousand-year rule of the Messianic Kingdom. Speaking of Satan, the verse says: “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.”
In spite of advances in scientific methods and instrumentation, “the sand of the sea” remains an unknown quantity or number. Thus, it can be said that the expression represents an unknown, undetermined number. But does it imply an immense, overwhelming, even astronomical number, or is it simply one that is unknown yet substantial, or considerable?
In the Bible, the expression “as the sand of the sea” is used in a number of ways. For example, at Genesis 41:49, we read: “Joseph continued piling up grain in very great quantity, like the sand of the sea, until finally they gave up counting it, because it was without number.” Here the emphasis is on its being uncountable. Likewise, Jehovah stated: “Just as the army of the heavens cannot be counted, neither the sand of the sea be measured, so I shall multiply the seed of David my servant.” As surely as the stars in heaven and the sand of the sea are uncountable, just as surely Jehovah is to fulfill his promise to David.—Jeremiah 33:22.
Often the expression “the sand of the sea” refers to something of a substantial and impressive quantity or size. The Israelites at Gilgal were greatly agitated by the Philistine army gathered at Michmash, which was “like the grains of sand that are upon the seashore for multitude.” (1 Samuel 13:5, 6; Judges 7:12) And “God continued giving Solomon wisdom and understanding in very great measure and a broadness of heart, like the sand that is upon the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29) Though what was spoken of in each case was substantial, it was still finite.
“The sand of the sea” can also stand for an unknown number, without suggesting its being immense. Jehovah told Abraham: “I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:17) In repeating this promise to Abraham’s grandson Jacob, Jehovah used the expression “the dust particles of the earth,” which Jacob restated as “the grains of sand of the sea.” (Genesis 28:14; 32:12) As matters turned out, aside from Jesus Christ, Abraham’s “seed” numbers 144,000, which Jesus called the “little flock.”—Luke 12:32; Galatians 3:16, 29; Revelation 7:4; 14:1, 3.
What do we learn from these examples? That the expression “as the sand of the sea” does not always mean an infinite, astronomical number; nor is it always used to describe something immense or overwhelming in size. Often it represents a number unknown but sizable. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that the rebellious crowd supporting Satan in his final assault on God’s people will be, not vast, or immense, but substantial and large enough to pose a threat. The number, however, remains unknown for now.