“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 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” (Rev. 20:1-3).
A great angel then descends from Heaven in order to bind the devil. Earlier in the book (Rev. 9:1-3), a star fell to earth, and he was given the key to this Abyss. Because he used the key to open the Pit in order to unleash mayhem on the earth, and given the fact that he is described as falling to earth (as opposed to descending), the assumption should be that the earlier star was a wicked and rebellious. In contrast, this angel descends in order to lock up the Abyss, and the devil in it. He is not identified here, but given that Michael was the one that successfully fought the devil (Rev. 12:7-8), it may be that we are seeing Michael again here. If Michael threw Satan out of Heaven, it may be that he is the one who also locked him up in the earth.
We can see that we are not talking about a literal physical description from the fact that the devil, a spiritual being, is described as being bound with a chain. This binding is described in particular terms. In other words, the devil is no longer able to deceive the nations in the same way that he had been able to before. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that empires and nations were backed by their gods (e.g. Dan. 10:13, 20; Eze. 28:11,14). When nation went to war with nation, their gods were thought to be at war with each other (1 Kings 20:28). The beast, the Roman Empire, was backed in this way by Satan. The devil was the spiritual being that gave the beast its great power. So when he was bound, this meant that he would not be able to prevent the successful evangelization of the Empire, which in fact he was unable to prevent. This was God’s plan all along. The Lord Jesus was going to bind the strong man (Mark 3:27), and then take all his stuff. This is one of the reasons for thinking that, now that we have come to the twentieth chapter of Revelation, we are looking past the destruction of Jerusalem for the first time. We are promised that when Satan is bound in this way, he will not be able to manipulate the nations the way he was able to before. I do not take this as the vaporization of Satan, but rather as a radical restriction of Satan. Looking at the nations of men, he no longer has the run of the place. Rather, preachers of the gospel have the run of the place, and he can do nothing to stop them.
Our ancient foe is clearly identified for us. He is called the devil here, along with Satan. He is also described in this passage as a dragon, or ancient serpent, which pairs him with the entity which tempted our first parents in the Garden. God had promised the serpent of Genesis that the seed of the woman would trample him underfoot, and this promise comes to fruition when the Roman Christians are told they would crush Satan beneath their feet (Rom. 16:20). And John the apostle tells us that the devil was a murderer from the beginning, the one who inspired Cain (1 John 3:8, 12).
Someone has joked that the millennium is a thousand years of peace that Christians like to fight about. It is striking that the major eschatological positions (amillennial, premillennial, and postmillennial) all take their names from a term that shows up in this chapter only, a difficult chapter in a notoriously difficult book. That being the case, we will try to walk through the remainder of this book with some humility, while at the same time trying to be clear about what we believe the book to be talking about.
I take the one thousand years of Satan’s binding to be a symbolic representation of the Church age, from the time of Pentecost to the Second Coming. The one thousand years represents the fullness and completeness of Christ’s reign, not a literal one thousand times around the sun. More about this should become evident as we proceed.