20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 18 - The Post-Millennial Rebellion
The final revolt at the close of the millennial reign of Christ on earth will be the concluding test for the world, and will bring to a close the satanic enslavement of mankind since the tragedy of Eden.
The verses which relate to this revolt are found in (Rev. 20:7-10), and they show that the millennium will terminate with the release of Satan for a brief period. No sooner is he released than he resumes his iniquitous activities, the human response proving that even after an extended period of peace and universal blessing, there is still latent in the human heart in innate evil which is ready to revolt against earth's rightful King. Dr. Rene Pache in THE RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST has a chapter entitled The Shadows of the Millennium in which he states that "the millennium will have a disconcerting denouement." Such a thought staggers the imagination and demands our closest study. There are three important matters that rise out of this final revolt.
(1) The literal approach to this revolt.
Dr. Campbell Morgan suggests in GOD'S METHODS WITH MAN that to "understand the events which succeed the thousand years, nothing more is needed than an intelligent reading of plain and simple statements in the book of Revelation." This, of course, is not the approach of every reader.
The a-millennialist in his allegorical approach looks upon Satan's binding (Rev. 20:1-3) as synonymous with (Matt. 12:26-29), i.e. the triumphant work of the cross. One such thinker puts it, "Here Satan is destroyed by the victory of Calvary, but this does not mean that Satan exists no more, or even that he is active no more. He is 'destroyed' in that his power to hurt those whom Christ would save is taken away. To 'destroy', we would point out, is an even stronger term than 'to bind'." So Satan's binding will not be in a future time, he is bound already! To quote another, "Unto that day he is bound, relatively speaking."
Again, according to the a-millennial system of reckoning, the "thousand years" is an extended period between the first and second advents of Christ, a number denoting divine accomplishment, security and heavenly benediction. Indeed B. B. Warfield in his BIBLICAL DOCTRINES states categorically that "The millennium of the Apocalypse is the blessedness of the saints who have gone away from the body to be at home with the Lord."
The inconsistency of this method of interpretation is seen in that it will accept the literalness of the angels, the pit and Satan, while denying this to the time element.
It is not to be wondered at therefore, that this method of spiritualising is extended to the revolt alluded to in (Rev. 20:7-9). From Augustine to the present time this "little season" signifies the present age. The following extract will show how incongruous this view is when "that time during which Satan had not the power to stop the spreading of the gospel will come to its end. Then he shall 'be loosed for a little season' (Rev. 20:3), namely insomuch as he then will not be hindered by God from inciting to hostile activity the enemies of 'the camp of the saints' the beloved city, that is the enemies of the true 'church of the living God' (Heb. 12:22, 23). This assault against the camp of the saints is made by the enemies of Christ, from Antichrist, who is sitting in the temple of God, that is, within the Christian church, down to Bolshevists."
It is much easier to accept the literal interpretation of this apocalyptic picture. The fettering of Satan does not take place until after the second return of Christ, (Rev. 19:11-21), and this subjugation will continue for a thousand years. The "little season" during which this arch-enemy of mankind will be freed, will be "prior to the union of the theocratic kingdom with the eternal kingdom," (Prof. Pentecost). Dr. Tatford is surely right when he comments in PROPHECY'S LAST WORD, "Any unprejudiced reader must be forced to the conclusion that the events described still lie in the future and that earth's day of freedom from its subtle foe has not yet dawned."
(2) The lessons arising out of this revolt.
We might well wonder why man's arch-enemy should be set at liberty after a long and glorious millennium of righteousness. Why should he be given another opportunity to cause ruin and disaster ? It would seem that his release will be indispensable. The narrative reads, "he must be loosed a little season" (v.3).
Dr. Joseph Seiss in The Apocalypse avers that "some interest of righteousness and moral government renders it proper that he should be allowed this last freedom."
Let us look at the purpose behind this release and the lessons to be learned from it.
First, it proves that Satan is still Satan.
A thousand years in prison will work no change in the devil, he will appear from his dungeon with this intrinsic hatred of God, to deceive the nations of the earth once more and to foster this final rebellion against the authority of God.
Secondly, it will show that man remains incurably sinful even under the most favourable conditions.
What the prophet Jeremiah said about man's nature will be ratified for ever: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (17:9).
Prof. Walvoord in his book on Revelation quotes Benjamin F. Atkinson as suggesting that "... infants born during the millennium will live to its conclusion and will not be required to make a choice between the devil and Christ until the end." Outwardly there will be conformity to the reign of Christ during the millennium, but for many inward reality will be missing. It will be demonstrated beyond question that man, irrespective of his advantages and circumstances, apart from saving grace and the new life of Christ, remains hostile to God.
This silences the argument that man can perfect himself by a process of evolution. Dr. Joad once held this view, but later changed his mind and confessed that "what the religious have always taught is true, and that evil is endemic in the heart of man."
Thirdly, this release of Satan reveals that the millennium will be necessary to provide a final test for fallen humanity.
Walter Scott in EXPOSITION OF THE REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST comments "Man has been tried and tested under every possible condition, in every possible way - under goodness, government, law, grace, and now under glory." Even when tested under the glorious reign of Christ, man proves a failure. In every dispensation man proved to be a failure, and this test at the close of the millennium will but prove this point.
(3) The last act of Satanic rebellion.
This revolt will be short-lived, and it will be the end of the road for the devil and the godless nations. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, to join the beast and the false prophet who will precede him by a thousand years. Says Dr. Tatford, "No remission is visualised, no relief is intimated. Human minds fail to grasp the immensity of the expression but the awful tragedy of Lucifer's fall can only emphasise the grace meted out to the human sinner."
Then will follow the great white throne judgment and the ushering in of the eternal state, the unsullied age of glory, when, to quote Pember, "righteousness will not merely reign, as in the millennium, but will dwell in the renewed heavens and earth." In this respect the thousand year reign of Christ will be initial in nature. Though the millennium will be finalised by this rebellion, Christ's reign will not cease; rather it will extend and link up with the eternal kingdom of our blessed Lord and Saviour. George E. Ladd says in THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, "We can only say that it is our conviction that the Scriptures teach that before the final consummation of God's redemptive purpose, the earth is to experience an extended period of our Lord's glorious rule.
The church age is the period of Christ's concealed glory; the age to come will be the age of the Father's sovereignty when Christ delivers His rule to the Father and becomes Himself subject to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28) that God may be all in all. The millennium will be the period of the manifestation of Christ's glory."
So concludes the final rebellion that this planet will ever witness, the final sin, the final destruction. It will indeed be the end of the road for the devil and his deluded.