If you were ever to take on a job as a youth worker, it’ll not take long before you develop your very own super power. I’m sure you can picture the scene: the youth facilities are open and people are milling around. Some folks are throwing some shapes on the Just Dance game, whilst others are playing the sort of table tennis where the ball rarely makes contact with the table. Everything has a nice atmosphere about it. Time to relax? No; because it can happen at any moment. You’ll be having a cool chat or about to score on FIFA, when suddenly you get a feeling that all is not as it should be. Like a sixth sense you’ll know something is afoot. You don’t know how you know, but you have to stop and go and investigate.
Then sure enough, after checking those rooms that are out of bounds, you find them. They’re playing on the drummer’s precious drum kit, eating stuff with mayonnaise that you can’t believe is making such a mess and what’s that smell? Has somebody lit up? You're glad you’ve found them before someone else! This is the not so fun part of being a youth worker: being the responsible one! With great skills of persuasion, you manage to get the group back to where they can hang out. Yet that sixth sense is still nagging you, “You know what’ll happen when your back is turned!”
This is the kind of situation God is dealing with in the part we just read. We see Satan bound, thrown into a bottomless pit and prevented from direct contact. After he’s released for a short time we find out what he’s been prevented from doing. What does the devil immediately go and do? The very thing he’s been kept from doing! He deceives the nations to gather for attack; so that they march as one to surround God’s people, attempting to destroy every last one (v 8-9). We’ve already read about this moment in Revelation 12:7-17, where the woman representing Israel (and the community of God’s people) gives birth to Jesus. Clearly the devil’s intent from the moment Jesus is taken up into heaven is to completely annihilate those who follow the Lord. Therefore the devil is bound, stopped from attempting to do this through the means of mass deception.
Something else began after Jesus died, rose to life and was taken into heaven. The followers of Jesus who have died, share in what is referred to as “the first resurrection” (v5). As we speak, those killed for their witness of Jesus and all His followers who have died and “not worshipped the beast” (v4) are enjoying time with the Lord in heaven! They are particularly blessed! What about those who haven’t followed Jesus? They remain in a sleep-like state until the Lord returns in judgment, “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (v5).
So the thousand years covers the period of time between Jesus’ return to heaven and His second coming. But hasn’t it been more than a thousand years since Jesus ascended into heaven? We have to remember what we’ve learned about Revelation. Firstly, these visions were given to be read out to the early church. We can unlock Revelation’s secrets by first understanding how it informed the early church. Secondly we’ve seen how numbers in Revelation are given a Biblical meaning, rather than for the statistical purposes of counting or measuring. We discovered that the number seven is given to represent the number of completeness with the seven lampstands meaning the whole of the church. Revelation also has meaning for us all! God didn’t show John the four corners of the earth to make him think the earth was flat, but to relay the meaning of something that would impact the whole earth. The thousand years communicates to the early church a long period of time, where the timelessness of heaven and the chronology of earth are synced to meet at the return of the Lamb.
The picture language of Revelation makes it possible for us to visualise abstract concepts, yet it doesn’t make these things any less real. There is a real heaven, where God’s people are sharing in His Kingdom, reigning with Him right now. There is also a real authority given to us now to release this Kingdom on the earth here and now. There is a real devil at work, who is bound in his abilities and a time will come where this restriction is removed. The devil wants a battle of Armageddon, but we’re told clearly that he will be totally destroyed! This world we live in has more than just a physical realm. The evil that humankind invited onto the earth will one day be defeated and removed forever.
This is an excerpt from Paul Martin's latest book which simply explains the book of Revelation in 49 devotions. To buy the book click the photo below to view it for purchase on Amazon.
Table tennis photo by Conor Samuel - Unsplash