That’s quite a headline! Satan’s Defeat! Hallelujah! Amen! We can all rejoice and be glad. But there are some challenging parts to today’s reading we should not overlook. First of all, Satan is set free from his 1000 year captivity (or however long this represents). There was no prison reform for Satan. In fact, if I were to guess, he came out stronger, angrier, and craftier than ever.
After all of that, we have these words of comfort. “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Such a fate, it couldn’t have happened to a “nicer” bunch! Forever banished. It makes you wonder why there was the 1000-year imprisonment in the first place. Again, time and space is not literal. God had his reasons.
One thousand years is a long time. Many people get stuck wondering when does the 1000 years start? All the references we have encountered in Revelation thus far have been symbolic to represent God’s dominion and victory of sin and death. Why would the reference to 1000 years be any different?
One thousand years in Latin is millennium. This in the only place in the Bible where this is mentioned. Think of it, the number 10 represents “completeness” and when multiplied by itself three times (3 being the divine number) we get 1000, or “completely divine.” Because people want answers and try to break the code to when Jesus is going to return, I discovered there are several schools of thought among Christians of how we view this reference to the millennium.
Jesus comes forth today not as the Lamb, as he has been portrayed up to now, but as a warrior. But not a warrior in the sense of the word as we would imagine. What images come to your mind when you think of a warrior going to battle? Jesus is not covered in armor. There are not tanks or weapons, fighter jets, or any such military might standing by. Jesus is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, with crowns adorning his head. His only “weapon” was the sword coming from his mouth.
He is clearly identified to us in terms we associate with Jesus. “Faithful and True,” the “Word of God,” “King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” We are bombarded with visions, each beginning with John’s words, “I saw.” By now, we know John isn’t describing real events or occurrences but helping us understand using symbols of real occurrences. The victory is sure, but we don’t necessarily need to be expecting a white horse and rider!
Our text today stands in stark contrast to the doom and gloom of our last reading about the fall of Babylon. It’s not the first time we’ve had an abrupt scene change, so to speak, as we’ve been reading through Revelation. Part of this book’s beauty is it’s unpredictability. What we do see as a constant theme is God’s unfailing love and patience with his fallen world. He wants the banquet table to be full.
We see a passage that ties together several main points from the New Testament. Included are praise, celebration, equality, blessedness, rejoicing, righteousness, and purity of the bride. It doesn’t matter how unworthy we may sometimes feel. “Praise our God, all his servants, all who fear him, from the least to the greatest.”
“Babylon is fallen,” the angel proclaims. For John’s contemporaries, they would see this referring to Rome. This vision would surely give them hope. At the time John writes this, Rome is alive and well, carrying out atrocities on God’s people. What was the motivation? Power. The sensuality of wealth. Dominion over all.
Rome did fall. Does this mean the message of Revelation is not for us? On the contrary. The book of Revelation concerns the character and timeliness of God’s judgment not only of persons who are “of the world,” but also nations and authority figures, companies, groups, etc., all who have chosen evil over grace.