Rev 20

From: Juan Stam B (
Date: Thu May 08 1997 - 15:54:49 EDT

A few comments on Jim West's question (in B-Greek) about why the dragon
(Satan) is released after the thousand years:

(1) I think there are reasons of "dramatic logic" for this account: it is
important to relate Rev 20 to the rest of the "drama of the dragon" in
chaps 12-19. The dragon appears in chap 12 and suffers four infuriating
defeats. Then he organizes his "team" in chap 13 (beast, false prophet).
Chap 17 adds a new ally, the whore. Then these "dramatis personae" are
removed in reverse order to their entrance. The whore, last to enter, is
first to leave the stage, within the same chapter (17.26). The two allies
of chap 13 (beast, false prophet) are captured in 19.20 and thrown into
the lake of fire. But surprisingly, ุrather than immediately throwi
ng the dragon into the lake of fire with them, God consigns it to a very
prolonged "preventive imprisonment". But when finally released, the
dragon has not learned anything or changed one iota, nor have multitudes
of people who are still eager and willing to follow him to war against God
and God's people (20.tss

(2) The release and frustrated "coup d''etat" of the dragon also indicate
that the Seer is not talking about eternity (heaven, new creation) but
something he conceives of as intra-historical and terrestial (only
afterwards does the old universe flee away 20.11). Other sources (below)
also affirm some such penultimate, limited Reign of the Messiah on earth,
within history, before the final fulfilment of God's eternal Reign (New
Creation). So Christ will ultimately reign as Lord of our present history
and of the world (old creation).

The account also shows the mercy of God and the obdurate stubborness of
sin: God is willing to give his enemy every last chance, but the dragon
will never change his ways nor will multitudes of his followers.

(2) Ezq 38-39, alluded to in Rev 20.8s, is an OT antecedent for this
passage: Israel's Restoration is there treated in quasi-eschatalogical
terms as if the divine Reign had arrived. After the eschatalogical
blessings of Ezq 37, there is peace, stability, social order (no need for
walls, locks and bolts etc 38.8,11,14: functionally parallel to millenium
in Apoc 20). But Gog/Magog come raging in, diabolically hostile to
everything good and just, incorrigible enemies of God, God's Reign and
God's people. But, just as in Apoc 20, the forces of Gog are
supernaturally abolished (38.4; earthquake 38.19ss; plague, hailstone and
sulphur 38.22; 39.6 etc; cf Sodoma and Gomorrah).

(3) Strack-Billerbeck (3:824-840) give very extesive Jewish parallels to
this idea of a preliminary reign of the Messiah prior to God's eternal
Kingdom, sometimes described as 40 years or 400 or 4000 or 7000 etc. The
idea is not new in Rev 20. John of Patmos seems to have adapted these
ingredients into his "Drama of the Dragon", binding the dragon (as in Ezq
38.4 and elsewhere) to allow a full but not final rule of Christ on earth
within time, then release of the dragon and the final diabolic assault,
and finally the definitive destructive of the forces of evil.

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