Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Question or Topic
We read in Revelation 20:2,7 that "the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan" is bound for a thousand years and then loosed. There are at least two opinions on how these words should be interpreted. How would you recommend dealing with the lack of agreement?
We would normally avoid this subject. It is one that is very controversial. Whenever brethren attempt to discuss this issue, it often leads to confusion and strife, rather than edification. It is worth our consideration however, that this a subject over which brethren have earnestly contended for years, without making the interpretation a matter of fellowship.
We have consented to respond to this question in the hope that there may be some benefit in a review. This issue may demonstrate how we can weather disagreement on other matters, without further division.
There are two main opinions on this subject. The traditional opinion was introduced by the pioneers, including John Thomas and Robert Roberts. Their opinion was that these verses refer to the binding of "sin in the flesh" during the 1000 year reign of Christ, and that afterward, there will be a rebellion. This view is widely accepted and is the easier of the two concepts to support, at least on the surface.
The other opinion is that there are two one thousand year periods in the chapter, and that the dragon is bound and then loosed to deceive the nations, including God and Magog, prior to the 1000 year reign of Christ. An effective defense of this opposing view requires more in-depth study.
We hope that in this very brief description of the two opinions, we have represented each approach fairly. It is not our intention to exhibit partiality for either opinion in this article.
Does an Opinion Matter?
We might wonder if it really matters which belief we hold. We suspect that support for either belief would still allow the potential for the grace of God, that is if our opinions are honest and our attitude in dealing with our brethren is acceptable.
We must admit questioning our own attitude on this issue, having said on occasion that we could successfully contend for either opinion. We admit to having enjoyed playing the proverbial "devil's advocate" on occasion, but now recognize that this is not commendable behavior.
Is Anyone Correct?
It might also be asked whether or not either view is completely correct. In too many of these matters of controversy and human pride, the final analysis will ultimately demonstrate that the Lord alone will be exalted. It is our present opinion that we all need to do a little more studying before we become too confident about our own position on this subject.
This challenge is not for everyone. Many are more than satisfied to leave this issue as one that will be settled by the Lord. This is probably the most commendable approach.
But, for those who have the time and the interest in pursuing such matters, this subject is one that may provide stimulation and edification. Remember – "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy" (Revelation 1:3).
The challenge for those who are so inclined is to find a solution to this issue that does not leave us all just a little bit wanting. Is there an answer out there that really addresses the problems areas in either of the current views? Conversely, would we be willing to give fair consideration to a scriptural presentation on this question that differs from our current opinion?
Questions to be Answered
The following are examples of questions that ought to be completely addressed before either position can truly rest its case:
When exactly, was "Satan" bound for a 1000 years, if it does not refer to the Kingdom?Does "the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan" refer exclusively to "sin in the flesh"?Did Christ bind "Satan" in himself as a type of the binding of sin in his kingdom?What or where is the "bottomless pit"? How does this definition fit your current opinion?Christ must reign until all enemies are under his feet and then deliver the Kingdom up to his Father. In my current belief, is there a transition problem at the end of the 1000 years?Do the signs and symbols in the book of Revelation have different interpretations in different chapters? (example: What or whom was "that old serpent" in Revelation 12?)What and when is the lake of fire? (Why is it referred to as the "second death"?) How long does it last?When will the "devil" be cast into the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet?What does the term "tormented day and night forever and ever" mean? (Revelation 20:10)How many times are the nations deceived and gathered to battle? (see Revelation 16:14)When and why will the saints be in camp? (are there other scriptures in this regard?)Why are Gog and Magog still a factor at the end of the 1000 year reign?
There are probably other questions that could be asked. The above list should be enough to illustrate the point. Can any of us answer all of these questions independently, and then have each of those answers consistently support our own current opinion on the binding of Satan? Are we confident that we have all of the pieces of the puzzle in place? Would we stake our life on our conclusion?
Fortunately, our salvation does not need to be dependent on our ability to solve all of these difficult questions. Experience has demonstrated that we can live together in peace with varying opinions on matters that are not first principle issues.
Whenever we are inclined to feel good about our own abilities to discern the meat of the word, we do well to remember that there are a lot of other fine brethren, who are also skilled in Bible study. Their conclusions are not always the same as ours. Therefore, when we become involved in discussions on non-essential matters such as this, "let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).