[written and published May ’16]; Summary: this world will only experience real change when Satan is bound by the power of God in the bottomless pit during the future millennium (the last bible dispensation). As long as the devil is free, the failure of man in his responsibilities before God will continue. The two dispensations, the Jewish one of time past and the current Christian dispensation, take place when Satan is at liberty. Because of this, both will fail and come to ruin. Read this article in order to fully comprehend this biblical reality.
Few Christians realize the importance or necessity of Satan being bound in chains for a thousand years at the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 20:1-3). This will occur by divine power after Jesus Christ returns to the earth from heaven at the end of the future seven year tribulation. At that time He will destroy all the instruments of evil that Satan has raised up in his effort to keep control of the earth as the god of this world – the two beasts of Rev. 13 and all the armies that follow them (Rev. 19:11-21). This is known as God’s warring judgment; Christ’s garments will be dipped in the blood of His enemies (Isa. 63:3; Ps. 68:21-23).
One can easily become confused as to the sequence of the prophetic events at the end of this age and the beginning of the next – the events of the tribulation represent a transition period ending the present dispensation and beginning the next. Later in this article I want to explain the differences between these two dispensations as they relate to the binding of Satan. The two dispensations have distinguishing characteristics (contrasts really) that are associated with whether or not the devil is bound, as a fact of Scripture.
The judgments coming from God’s throne in heaven during the tribulation period before Christ returns are preparatory judgments – they prepare the world for the coming physical kingdom of God. They are seen in the book of Revelation as seals (Rev. 6), trumpets (Rev. 8), and bowls of wrath (Rev. 15; 16) from on high. Yet, sadly, despite all this, men on the earth will not repent (Rev. 9:21; 16:11). Then when Christ returns we have the warring judgments and the physical destruction of all Satan’s direct instruments of evil; Satan is then bound in chains. After this we have the judgment of the quick (living) on earth – this is Christ’s judgement of what remains of Israel excluding the Jewish remnant (Rev. 7:1-8), and the judgment of the remaining Gentile nations (Matt. 25:31-46; the sheep and goats). For a thousand years Jesus will rule with a rod of iron and put all enemies under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-25). He will reign by judgments in righteousness, bringing in peace (Ps. 96:10-13, 97:1-2, 98:2-3, 9, 99:1-4). At the end of the thousand years Satan will be loosed from his bonds and pit, and will deceive certain ones on the earth. They will be destroyed by fire from God out of heaven. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, where the Roman beast and antichrist are already (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). Then all the dead will be raised to be judged by Christ at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). All the raised dead are cast into the lake of fire. Then comes the new heavens and earth, and the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-8).
When the future tribulation starts, the order of the judgment of the world by God will be this: preparatory providential judgments from the throne in heaven during the tribulation period; direct warring judgments on the wicked and evil at the physical return of Christ to the earth; the last Caesar and the antichrist cast into the lake of fire, while Satan himself is bound in chains and cast into the bottomless pit; sessional judgment of the living, both Jews and Gentiles; after the millennial reign of the Son of Man, there is the judgment of the dead at the great white throne. This is all yet future. It describes how God will judge the world. It is a good thing the believer is not of the world (John 17:14-16). The true church will not be with or in the world when the world is judged by God.
After Jesus Christ returns (Rev. 1:7) and destroys all the armies of the two beasts, they are cast into the lake of fire. Satan is then bound:
Revelation 20:1-3 (NKJV)
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.”
During the present dispensation Satan is not bound. He is free to roam about, seeking whom he may deceive and devour. At this time the devil is the god of this world. All unbelievers are sons of disobedience and part of the world, and so, serve Satan, the god of this world (Eph. 2:1-3). In the greatest sense Satan runs this world during this present dispensation – the true evidence of this is how evil, wickedness, immorality, and apostasy continue to ripen in the world in spite of the great advances in modern society. It is true that in title, Jesus has been given all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18) – this was not based on His divinity, but on His being the raised and glorified Man. However, it should be obvious that during this present dispensation Jesus is not using His power to reign. He is sitting at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3; 10:12; Col. 3:1). He is crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9). But He is not at this time making His enemies His footstool (Heb. 10:13), nor do we yet see all things put under Him (Heb. 2:8). Jesus has all authority in title to do so, but it is not yet the right time for Him to exercise it. During this dispensation Jesus is hidden from the world, hidden at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-3). He is not sitting on His own throne as He will in the next dispensation (Matt. 25:31), but sits only at the right hand of His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21). Satan continues as the god of this world. The devil continues to hold the throne of this world (Rev. 2:13). And the world continues to ripen to its evil end. These are the things characteristic of the present Christian dispensation.
It isn’t just that the world is under Satan’s sway – this has been true at least from the flood when idolatry started (Rom. 1:18-23). I feel there is a case to be made biblically that the devil has been the god of this world from the time of Judah’s captivity in Babylon and God’s presence and glory left the temple and earth. However, some would teach that he only became the god of this world when he incited the world to crucify and kill the true King of kings. It is not until the gospels that we find him described as the prince of this world (John 14:30). Regardless, Satan has had profound influence in this world for a long time. He is also in the heavens. He is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) and controls principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavens (Eph. 6:12). True Christians wrestle against these unseen powers under Satan’s control. This ongoing struggle is definitive of this present dispensation.
One of the purposes for Satan’s presence in the heavens is so that he may be the accuser of the Christian (Rev. 12:10) – it is the reason believers suffer persecution in this world. Since the world belongs to him already, his main purpose in the heavens, from the time of Pentecost to today, is not the corruption of the world, but to corrupt and ruin Christendom. The testimony of Scripture is that Satan has already been successful in accomplishing this goal. Soon after the Son of Man planted His wheat, while men slept the devil came in and planted tares to spoil the crop (Matt. 13:24-30; 13:36-43). This crop remains this way to the end of the age, which is basically the end of the dispensation. The crop is unmistakably Christendom in the world, and according to God’s testimony it is a spoiled and ruined crop in the field where the damage has already been done and nothing about it will change; the crop simply exists as it is until the end of the age.
While men slept at the beginning of the present dispensation, Satan accomplished his own work by planting tares among the wheat. He also leavened all of Christendom with a false humanistic doctrine resulting in the Judaizing and Arminianizing of the Christian faith (Matt. 13:33). Satan engineered Christendom to grow up from humble beginnings into a great worldly power, in which the birds who do the devil’s work came into and easily found a place to nest (Matt. 13:3-32; Acts 20:29-30; I John 2:18-19; II Pet. 2:1; Jude 4). Christendom became a great house filled with vessels of honor and dishonor, with only the Lord knowing those who are His (II Tim. 2:19-20). It became a form of godliness, but denying its power (II Tim. 3:1-5). It developed itching ears and would no longer endure sound Christian doctrine, but gathered teachers to itself who would and could teach according to its own worldly lusts (II Tim. 4:3-4). I cannot but believe that it is Satan who influences many men in Christendom to build with wood, hay, and stubble (I Cor. 3 – those building on the foundation are the ministerial leaders of Christendom. The foundation Paul laid as the apostle of the Gentiles was that of Christendom, the house of God on the earth. Every minister after him has added his own work to that foundation, and that ministerial work will be judged by God. In the passage, Christendom is referenced as God’s field, God’s building, God’s temple – I Cor. 3:1-23). Christendom is corrupt and ruined. The Christian dispensation failed in its responsibility at its beginning in the hands of men. The dispensation only carries on by the mercy and faithfulness of God – the longsuffering of God means salvation for some (II Pet. 3:9, 15).
There are three primary works of God in sovereign grace involving the wheat during the Christian dispensation. Before the Son of Man went away He planted the wheat. For the duration of the age God preserves the wheat unharmed in the world. Before the end of the present dispensation God will remove His wheat from the world (Matt. 13:30). This last-mentioned work is the rapture (I Thess. 4:13-18). The church will be glorified, conformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29), and taken to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). The entire body of Christ will now have a perpetual residence in the heavens corresponding to her heavenly calling and citizenship (Heb. 3:1; Phil. 3:20). In Christ Jesus all believers will sit together in heavenly places and be eternally blessed there with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 2:6; 1:3).
God’s sovereign work in grace will never fail – the wheat was planted by Him, it is preserved by Him, and He will remove it to His house in the heavens. God’s work will last eternally (Eph. 2:10). When the saints are glorified and taken to the heavens, there will be another important event that takes place concerning Satan before his being bound in chains. Because the church has entered the heavens, shortly after, Satan will be cast out.
Revelation 12:7-9 (NKJV)
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Because the glorified saints are now in the heavens, no place was found in heaven any longer for the great dragon and his angles. It is a simple cause and effect. The proper place for the church will be in the heavens, and when this physically takes place, there can no longer be any place for the devil and his angels there. When they are defeated, they are cast down to the earth. The devil comes down with great wrath for he knows his time is short (about 3 ½ years – Rev. 12:12). This is the amount of time Satan has left before he will be bound in chains. And what is the result? He brings about on the earth in this short time the most terrible time of trouble the world has ever seen, especially for the nation of Israel (Dan. 12:1; Jer. 30:7). He uses his two great agents of evil, the two beasts of Revelation thirteen (Rev. 13), to bring forth blaspheme, apostasy, and idolatry in Israel and the world.
Allow me to pause here and restate the original question: What meaning will it have in the next dispensation when Satan is bound in chains and placed into the bottomless pit?
So much may be learned by comparing and contrasting the three dispensations – the Jewish dispensation, the Christian dispensation, and the millennium. Much knowledge can be gained from understanding biblical principles involved. Here we may ask the question of the effect of Satan being free or bound associated with the different dispensations. Satan was free in the Jewish dispensation – this dispensation failed because the father of the Jews, thought to be Abraham or God, was really the devil (John 8:33-47). Israel never walked in the footsteps of Abraham, nor showed his faith (Rom. 4; 9:30-33; 10:1-13; Gal. 3:6-14; Matt. 8:10-12). When it passed from the Jewish dispensation to the Christian dispensation, Satan was still free. We have already discussed how his goal was to corrupt and ruin the testimony of the glory of Christ which was to burn bright in Christendom. The testimony of Scripture is that men have failed in their responsibilities in the professing church world and the devil has accomplished his work – much like the Jews in their dispensation. The first two dispensations failed because the devil was free to work. But what can Satan do if he is kept in chains and in the bottomless pit during the millennium? If the devil is bound and the glorified Son of Man is carrying all the responsibility in obedience to God in the next dispensation, what will the result be on the earth?
Here is the principle – as long as Satan is free, man will always fail in his responsibilities to God. This is a big part of the reason why the first two dispensations failed. It is the reason why Satan will be bound during the millennium. It will be divine power which will put him in chains and inhibit him from having any influence. The devil cannot be free when the glorified Man, Jesus Christ, rules the earth from His throne of glory, and reigns in righteousness and justice. Then and only then will the world learn righteousness – when Satan is bound and God’s judgments are in the earth (Isa. 26:9-10). The millennium is the last dispensation, and is describe in Ephesians 1:10 – that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth – in Him.
But this reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth is future (Col. 1:20), because Satan is not yet bound. Even Christianity itself, during the present dispensation, has been corrupted in the most awful way, because Satan is not bound; the most corrupt thing in the entire universe is corrupted and ruined Christendom – the place where God intended a true testimony to His righteousness to be found.
The apostle says in Colossians, “By Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven”; again, as it is in Ephesians, “to gather together in one all things in Christ”; but he does not say He has done this yet. There is a difference between what remains to be reconciled and what has already been reconciled to God. What has been reconciled to God is the believer/church (Col. 1:21-22). The church will have been taken to the heavens before the beginning of the future tribulation. She has her part in heavenly things and will be completely removed from the scene of events on the earth. In the rapture event, by resurrection or change (glorification) all true Christians will be conformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29; I Cor. 15:51-53), the entire church being caught up to meet the Lord in the air (I Thess. 4:13-18). (24) Jesus will come for His bride, the church, and take her to His Father’s house (John 14:1-3) – so will we ever be with the Lord, and this, physically in His and His Father’s presence.
(24) [The rapture will include both Old and New Testament saints glorified together. Here I am only emphasizing the true church as the body of Christ during the Christian dispensation. But certainly, the rapture will include as part of the first resurrection all the saints of God from the Jewish dispensation, and also those who preceded Israel as a nation. When we have the marriage of the Lamb in heaven, His wife, the true church, is arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright (Rev. 19:7-8). But there are also guests invited to this celebration (Rev. 19:9). I believe these to be all the Old Testament saints who are not part of the body of Christ, yet glorified and present in heaven. In the next scene, we see heaven opened up and Jesus Christ returning to the earth in judgment as King of kings, Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11-21). I take it that the armies of heaven in this passage are all the glorified saints in heaven]
What does it mean when Satan will be bound in the next and last dispensation? It gives us to understand a definitive difference in character between the present Christian dispensation and the millennium to come. When Satan is free as he is in this dispensation, or as he was in the Jewish dispensation, the particular groups responsible for obedience to God in the world will fail in those responsibilities – Israel and Christendom respectively. However, in the future millennium Satan will be bound, and Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, the second Adam, will make good and rectify all the misery and suffering brought into the world by the disobedience of the first man. The millennium will be the last rule of man on the earth, and the glorified Son of Man will reign in perfect obedience to God.
There is one final scene we must consider in order to note the moral implications it teaches – it is a further proof of the main point of this article.
Revelation 20:7-9 (NKJV)
7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
At the end of the future millennium, Satan is let loose from the pit and reappears on the earth to the sorrow and ruin of the Gentiles who were not born of God. This will be the very last time the devil will have this type of freedom. However, these events that take place on the earth at the end of the thousand years, events which Satan alone is the source of, again serve to prove our point – as long as the devil is still free to roam, and as long as man is still in his fallen state in the first Adam, men will be corrupted in their responsibility. The glory of Christ’s millennial kingdom does not continue when men in their natural state are exposed to the adversary. The glory and blessings of God filling the entire earth is insufficient to convert man in the flesh (Rom. 8:8). The millennial nations, “the number of whom are as the sand of the sea,” fall as prey to Satan. Even at this time when every eye will see, the combination of the devil’s wiles and man’s fallen state in Adam proves ruinous (this has to be an eye-opening realization).
During both the Jewish and Christian dispensations, Satan was at liberty to roam the earth. Actually, more than this – he had access to the heavens and the throne of God. He is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the god of this world and age (II Cor. 4:4). As long as he is at liberty, whether in the heavens or on the earth, the corporate groups representing God at those times will fail. Satan’s eternal judgment will be in the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10).
In the Jewish dispensation, the law had no ability or power to give life or righteousness to the Jews under it (Gal. 3:21). In the Christian dispensation, the gospel does bring life and righteousness to the believer. Christians have a new divine nature as born of God (II Pet. 1:3-4, John 1:12-13). Their redemption is both justification from their sins and deliverance from the dominion of sin (Rom. 3:24-26, 4:23-25, 6:6-7, 14). But during the entire time of the Christian dispensation, which is the entire time in which any Christian walks on this earth, Jesus is not physically present, and Satan, the adversary, is roaming around free. Christians are redeemed in spirit and soul, but the new nature from God has not reached to the body as yet. Our redemption is not yet complete. We eagerly wait with perseverance for the redemption of the body, having received the Spirit as a guarantee (Rom. 8: 23-25). What this means is that every Christian still faces three formidable enemies – the devil, the world, and the flesh.
There are two different types of responsibility (duty) – individual and corporate. The individual believer has the means to utilize God’s grace working in him to overcome Satan, the world, and the flesh (Phil. 2:12-13, II Cor. 12:9). Any Christian can have an individual walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work (Col. 1:10). The truths of any believer’s redemption are not limited to just forgiveness of sins and justification. God wants the Christian to grow in the knowledge of the deliverance his redemption in Christ has given him in title, and that the Spirit dwelling in him is the power of that new life (Rom. 8:2). By this, the true Christian has deliverance from the dominion of sin residing in his flesh (Rom. 6:1-14, 7:5, 17-18). God has also delivered the believer from the power of his other two enemies (Gal. 1:4, Col. 1:13).
While here on this earth and walking in this world, we are instructed to take up the whole armor of God in order to quench every fiery dart from the wicked one (Eph. 6:10-17). We are taught that the believer’s struggle is against things unseen – against principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness of this age/world, spiritual wickedness in the heavens. By the armor we are able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. But it is God’s armor, not ours. It is God’s grace and Spirit working in us, not our own power or strength (II Cor. 12:9-10, Phil. 2:13, II Cor. 4:6-7). We know there can never be perfection for the Christian while still in these bodies of flesh and blood, but this shouldn’t stop us from looking at Jesus with the eye of faith, and being transformed into His image from glory to glory by the Spirit (II Cor. 3:17-18). The believer has died with Christ – this means true deliverance from sin (Rom. 6:6-7) and the world (Col. 2:20). And Jesus destroyed our enemy who had the power of death, in order that Christians may be delivered from its bondage of fear (Heb. 2:14-15). With prayerful knowledge of the entire scope of our redemption, the individual Christian can walk worthy of the Lord, following Christ and walking in the obedience to God’s will that He showed (I John 2:6). Yes, in the world we will have tribulation, and during the Christian dispensation the believer’s portion will always be to suffer with Christ. But Jesus said, “…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In our individual responsibility, as Christians, we are without excuse.
In our individual responsibility, as Christians, we are without excuse. While perfection isn’t possible, the individual believer has available to himself all he needs to grow as a Christian and live a life pleasing to God. Jesus said His grace was sufficient. Take up the cross and follow Christ – the only true sign one is His disciple, and the only path to glory. This requires a serious commitment, both to the word of God and walking according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4-5, 14). It certainly is possible, and God expects it of all of His children.
But when it comes to the corporate responsibility of Christendom, the dynamics are entirely different. Scripture is clear in this point – as long as Satan is free in the world, the corporate group given responsibility to care for God’s testimony in the dispensation will fail and come to ruin – this was true of Israel, and is true of Christendom.