Revelation 20 Study Notes


20:1-3 On the angel . . . holding the key to the abyss, see note at 9:1. The great chain is used to bind the dragon (Satan) in the abyss. Some hold that the wording a thousand years (vv. 2,3,4,5,6,7) is figurative for a long period of time. Others think it speaks of a literal period of a thousand years. Others think John saw a vision of a thousand years, but it is impossible to know how the apocalyptic image here will be fulfilled. In regard to Satan not being able to deceive the nations (see note at 12:7-10) until the thousand years were completed, a traditional view has been that Satan is limited (i.e., chained) during the new covenant era, though the apparent upsurge in demonic influence and spiritual warfare in modern times has seriously weakened this view. On Satan being released, see note at vv. 7-10.


Greek pronunciation [poy MIGH noh]
CSB translation rule
Uses in Revelation 4
Uses in the NT 11
Focus passage Revelation 19:15

Poimaino (to shepherd) means to tend or nurture sheep (Lk 17:7), and the related noun poimÄ“n was the common term for shepherd. However, since kings were often pictured as shepherds, poimaino was typically used in the more metaphorical sense of to rule or govern, typically with positive results but occasionally with negative ones (Rv 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). These last three references contain an allusion to Ps 2:9, which indicates that the Lord’s anointed will rule or govern (poimaino in the Greek OT) the nations “with a rod of iron.” In the NT, poimaino typically retains the literal image of a shepherd tending sheep, while applying this metaphorically to those who take care of the Father’s “flock” (Mt 2:6; Jn 21:16; Ac 20:28; 1Pt 5:2; Rv 7:17). The use of poimaino in Rv 7:17 involves a mixed metaphor, in that “the Lamb” is going to “shepherd” the redeemed.

20:4-6 Those who sit on the thrones and have authority to judge are God’s people (Dn 7:18,27; 1Co 6:2). The resurrection of martyrs before Christ’s earthly reign is called the first resurrection. Since “first resurrection” implies a second resurrection will follow, some interpreters take the first resurrection to be spiritual only (e.g., being “born again”) in order to maintain the concept of a general bodily resurrection at the end of time. The fifth beatitude (blessed) of the book recognizes the holiness of those in the first resurrection. On the second death, see v. 14 and note at vv. 11-15. Premillennialists follow the natural order of this passage, taking the thousand years as occurring after the second coming of Christ. Others believe it is a “flashback” (recapitulation) of the time before the second advent, viewing it from a different perspective. Among those who take the recapitulation approach, Amillennialists believe the reign of Christ is being accomplished spiritually even now through the church. This view takes the thousand years figuratively, stretching over the entire church era. Postmillennialists believe the preaching of the gospel will at some future date bring about virtual worldwide conversion and a golden era of biblical values lasting a thousand years (a time taken literally by some, figuratively by others).

20:7-10 Satan’s release from the abyss (v. 3) is related to the well-known Gog and Magog prophecy in Ezk 38-39. This incident will serve as final proof that, even after an extended, unrivaled reign of Christ (Rv 20:4-6), mankind (those born during the thousand years) will still follow the devil. When the rebellion surrounding the beloved city (probably Jerusalem, “renovated” for Christ’s reign of a thousand years) is put down by fire from heaven, as in Ezk 39:6, the devil is thrown into the lake of fire, to join the beast and the false prophet (see note at 19:20) for eternity.

20:11-15 The phrase great white throne emphasizes God’s purity and holiness in judging and his sovereign right to both rule and judge the earth. The phrases earth and heaven fled and no place was found for them apparently refer to “the first heaven and the first earth” giving way at the final judgment to “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). The dead . . . standing before the throne come to life in the “second resurrection” (implied in v. 5). There are two sets of books at this judgment. The names of all believers are in the book of life. The names of the “earth dwellers” are not in the book of life (13:8; 17:8). They are judged according to their works, which are recorded in the other books. No one can ever be saved by works, because that would leave room for human boasting (Eph 2:8-9). The eternal dwelling place of all unbelievers is the lake of fire. As part of the present creation, Death and Hades (see note at 1:18) are also thrown into the lake of fire.