The Binding of Satan
April 21st, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE BINDING OF SATAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Revelation 20:1-3, 7
4-21-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 10:50 o’clock morning message entitled The Binding of Satan. In our preaching through the Bible these many, many years, we have come to the Revelation. In our preaching through that Apocalypse, we have come to chapter 20. And if you will turn in your Bible to Revelation chapter 20, you can easily follow the message of this morning’s hour. Revelation chapter 20 and this is the reading of the text:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Then the rest of the chapter, verses 11 to 15, describe the great white throne judgment of the wicked dead. The chapter so full of meaning, the chapter is divided into four great sections. The first section, verses 1 through 3, describe the binding upon Satan. Verses 4 through 6 describe the millennium. Verses 7 through 10 describe the loosing of Satan and his final perdition in hellfire. And verses 11 through 15 describe the great white throne judgment of the resurrected and wicked dead.
As I prepare these sermons, next Sunday morning I shall speak on the first and the second resurrection, the next Sunday morning I shall speak on the blessed millennium, and then the fourth Sunday morning I shall speak on the great white throne judgment. Today, I speak on the first part of the chapter, which is the binding of Satan, and then the verses from 7 to 10, which describe his loosing and his everlasting and final and ultimate damnation.
The nineteenth chapter of the Revelation closed with the battle of Armageddon, at which battle the Lord God intervenes openly, publicly, in human history in the coming of Christ. And in that war, in that battle in which the beast and the false prophet are leading the kings and the armies of the earth, there is ultimate destruction, indescribable bloodshed, and the armies are destroyed, and the kings are destroyed, and the beast and the false prophet are cast into the hell of fire and brimstone. That’s the indescribable destruction at Armageddon.
But beyond that beast and that false prophet and beyond those kings and nations and armies of the earth, there is a sinister and cunning personality who has led them into the winepress of wrath and judgment of Almighty God. It is due to his luring and his cunning and his deception that these have been brought to that ultimate and final rejection of God and their open warfare against heaven. What about that sinister personality? What about that unusual and gifted and cunning and subtle deceiver? What about him? These others have been judged, they have been slain, they have been cast into perdition. Does he escape? The answer is found in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation. God has singled him out. God has marked him out for a special and unusual judgment and damnation. This is the binding of Satan, the enemy of the people of God and the Lord Himself:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on that dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, and bound him, And cast him into the abyss, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more for a thousand years.
The angel comes down with the key of the abyss. That’s the Greek word, abyssos, the abyss: we took the word bodily into our English language, just chopped off the Greek ending: the abyss, the bottomless pit. The angel came down with a key to lock him up. In the ninth chapter of the Revelation, a fallen angel appeared with the key to open the abyss, and out of it came the terrible locust plague that wasted this earth [Revelation 9:1-3]. This angel comes down from heaven with a key to lock him up, and he has in his hand a great chain [Revelation 20:1-3].
Now, that chain is not like a blacksmith’s chain. That chain is of the Lord’s making. In the sixth verse of the Book of Jude, "The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, God hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Whatever kind of a chain it is that God wields, by which He holds these evil, and black, and foul demons in the abyss, it’s that kind of a chain that the Lord comes to lay upon Satan. All of these things that are caused in this world are done in the machination, and in the cunning, and in the genius evil of this diabolical and fallen archangel.
The same kind of a thing as we deal with now in this present world; you can tap the octopus tentacle in Cuba, you can tap it there, or you can tap it over here in Laos, or you can tap it yonder in other areas and portions of the earth, but the octopus is found in the great central government of subversion, in the Kremlin in Moscow. And as long as we tap it, touching these tentacles in these far places, we’re not dealing with the great and ultimate subversion that plunges this world into foreboding and dread and disaster. Same thing here. Identical! God finally and ultimately comes to deal personally with this great enemy in whose cunning lies all of the tears, and heartache, and death, and destruction, and waste in this earth.
Now he’s described here by four names, the same identical names, in the same order that we have in the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Revelation when it describes the war waged by Satan in heaven: same name, in the same order. The first two describe his personality, and the second two are his personal names. He’s got two of them, like most of us will have two names. He has two names. The first two here describe his character, his personality: "And he laid hold on the dragon" [Revelation 20:2]. That refers to his bestial leadership of the beast governments of the world, the dragon.
Then he’s called "that old serpent," ho ophis ho archaios, and we’re taken that archaios, old, the archaic, refers to things ancient. "The dragon and that ancient serpent": that refers to his appearance in the beginning, in the garden of Eden, when he insinuated himself into the devotion of our first parents and deflected them away from God [Genesis 3:1-6] – that ancient serpent, who is the Devil. In the Authorized Version, the King James Version, you’ll have several times in the New Testament, "devils," plural. That is never correct. There is one diabolos, always used in the singular. There is one devil. There are many demons, and sometimes they translate that word daemon, they translate it "devils." Never. It is "demons." There is one diabolos. His name is "Diabolic." There is one devil, and is always used in the Scriptures in the singular, and always refers to him. Diabolos refers to his character as a liar and as a murderer. Jesus said he was a liar and a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44]. That’s diabolos, singular, the name of this archfiend.
He has another name, and this name is the same in Hebrew, it’s the same in Greek, and it’s the same in English. The Hebrew name is transliterated in Greek, transliterated in English, "Satan, Satan." "Satan" means "the accuser." Satan is the enemy of God’s people and of God Himself. He opposed God in the beginning. He’s the one who [would have] destroyed Job, had it not been for the intervention and the kindness of God. And he’s the one who assails our Lord Jesus. Now, that’s the one who lies back of all of the evil in this world. And God sends this mighty angel from heaven with an assignment, and he has a key in his hand, and he has a chain in his hand. And that angel laid hold on that old dragon, that ancient serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, and he bound him, and cast him into the abyss, set a seal upon him and shut him up [Revelation 20:1-3].
Now, where is that, the abyss? And in answering that, we come to the whole discussion of the netherworld, the world beyond our sight and the world beyond this present life. For, you see, this Devil is cast into the abyss where he’s bound for a thousand years, but after the abyss, he’s loosed for a season, and then he is cast in judgment into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, where he’s tormented day and night, world without end and forever [Revelation 20:2, 7, 10]. Well, what’s the difference in these things? They are very simple as we stay in the revealed Word of God, so we’re going to take these words that the Bible uses about that world beyond into which we are entering, all of us. Just like these resurrections concerning which I will preach, all of us will be in one or the other. We are going to live through these things that God hath revealed in His Word. That’s why God hath revealed them to us, for our assurance, and that we might be warned in some way and that we might be encouraged in other ways.
Now, what about that netherworld beyond this life and beyond our mortal eyes? Now these are the things that God has said, and these are the words that God uses to describe for us what is out there beyond this life. Let’s take first the one used here, the word "abyss." The word "abyss" is used nine times in the New Testament. It’s a Greek word meaning "bottomless pit," used nine times, seven of them in the Revelation. One time it is used in Luke 8:31, and the ninth time, the last time, the other time, it is used in Romans 10:7. You can get a good idea of what it refers to in Luke 8:31. That tells the story of the Gadarene demoniac who had in him a legion of demons – not devils, demons. There is one devil. He had a legion of demons in him. He was filled with every vile and unclean thing like I’ve seen men today; filled with all manner of concupiscence and iniquity and filthy, vile dirtiness. I see that today – an unclean spirit. There was a legion of them that lived in that man and drove him out of his mind.
Now, when the Lord came, those demons, recognizing the Lord Jesus, said, "Lord, do not send us into the abyss before the time" [Luke 8:31]. The abyss, that place, it is a hole, it is an imprisonment, a place where demons, foul and wicked, are chained by the Lord God.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans in the seventh verse, we are not to say the Lord Jesus is to come up from the abyss as though He were one of those superior demons. And here in the seventh chapter and here in the Book of the Revelation, seven times that word is used, and it always refers to a place, to a place where fallen angels and where foul and evil spirits are imprisoned by God. That is the "abyss." That’s the only way the word is used: to refer to that prison, that hole somewhere in God’s creation where these foul and fallen angels are imprisoned. That’s where Satan is going to be cast and chained and locked and sealed for this thousand years.
Now, there are other places beyond this life and grave and beyond the days: "The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, And they both were cast alive into a lake of fire and burning brimstone" [Revelation 19:20]. And then that’s the ultimate place where this devil is cast: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are" [Revelation 20:10]. Then these wicked dead: "And the sea gave up the dead, and the death and hell, death and the grave gave up the dead, and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire" [Revelation 20:13-14]. Then in the next chapter, 21 and verse 8: "the fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers and the whoremongers, sorcerers, and idolaters, all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone."
Now, what is that? Our great, and everlasting, and continuous confusion lies in the translation. It lies in the King James Version, the Authorized Version. They take the word sheol and translate it "hell," they take the word hades and translate it "hell," and finally we come to the place where we have no idea of what God has revealed to us of that other world.
Now let’s take those words briefly: First, that word "abyss" [Revelation 20:3], now, we have that in our mind. The abyss, that bottomless pit, that is a place where God has sent and does chain against the day of judgment evil and vile and fallen angels and demons, spirits of evil. That’s the abyss. Now the word sheol: the word sheol is used in the Old Testament sixty-five times. Thirty-one times in this Authorized Version it is translated "hell." Thirty-one times it is translated "the grave." Three times it is translated "the pit," sheol. The Greek word hades in the New Testament is an exact equivalent to sheol in the Old Testament. They are identical. They are alike. One is the same as the other. The word hades in the New Testament is used eleven times. Ten times it is translated "hell." One time it is translated "the grave."
There is nothing in sheol or in hades that refers to hell, nothing. All that sheol means and all that hades means is "the departed, that unseen world beyond this life." When we die, we enter into sheol; we enter into hades. Now, there are those who, reading the Scriptures, say that sheol or hades has two parts in it: one is torment, one is paradise. There are those who say when Christ died; He entered into hades, into paradise, and brought those saints who were in paradise into heaven, ascending on high, taking captivity captive. However those things may be discussed or delineated, the word sheol and the word hades refer to nothing other but the unseen world beyond which we live. We are still alive, we are immortal when we lay down this life. Sheol and hades is the life beyond the grave.
Hell is something altogether different. In the Old Testament, the word "hell" is tophet; in the New Testament, it is gehenna. Gehenna is used twelve times in the New Testament, and each time properly translated "hell" in this Authorized Version; all twelve times translated "hell." For example, here’s one of them. Our Lord said "if your right hand offends you, cut it off." Cast it from you. "It is better for you to enter into life everlasting with one hand rather than with two hands to be cast into hell," into gehenna, into the burning fire of damnation. "Or if your eye offends you, cut it out, cast it off. Better to have one eye and enter into everlasting life than having two eyes to be cast into hellfire" [Matthew 5:29-30]. That is hell. The word tophet in the Hebrew is exactly gehenna in the Greek.
Gehenna is "the Valley of Hinnom" beyond Jerusalem. In that valley, they burned their children to Molech there, a thing that God despised; and God cursed the place. So they took gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom, and used it for the refuse of the city. And for the centuries and for the centuries, the filth, and the refuse, and the offal, and the carcasses of animals were thrown there in that Valley of Hinnom. And the fire never died, and the worm was never killed, and the jackals fought and gnashed one another as they ate the carcasses and the carrion of that filthy, burning, everlasting fire and dump! And that word gehenna was used to describe the everlasting damnation of hell, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched [Mark 9:44-48]. That is hell!
Up to this present moment, no soul has ever entered hell. Not yet. The first ones to be cast into hell are the beast and the false prophet [Revelation 19:20] – they are first. The second to be cast into hell is the Devil [Revelation 20:10], and the third to be cast into hell are those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:15].
Oh, these things, they bow your soul. O God! O God! That’s why the urgency and the immediacy of the preaching of the gospel of the cross; that’s why the imperative that brought our Lord down into this world. He never came just to teach us a better ethic or a finer way to pronounce holy words. It was because we were in danger of the hellfire and damnation that our Lord was incarnate, that He came into this vile world; that He died on the cross; that He gave His life for us that we might be saved from the judgment and penalty of our sins! And to those who turn in repentance and in faith to the Lord Jesus, God writes their names in the everlasting Book of Life, and they are saved [Luke 10:20]. But those who spurn the overtures of mercy and their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, they are forever and forever consigned to this everlasting, unending damnation. This is the revealed Word of God. It makes you tremble.
"The beginning of wisdom," God says, "is the fear of the Lord" [Proverbs 9:10]. Don’t you be afraid of him, says the Lord Jesus, that can take away this life and after that has no power; but rather, fear Him that can not only destroy this life, but cast a soul into everlasting hell! [Matthew 10:28]. There’s that word. Fear Him, tremble before God. And that is the beginning of wisdom. O God, as I face this grave, and as I face this inevitable death, and as I face this judgment, O God, that I might find an advocate and a friend and a Savior in the blood of the Crucified One who gave His life for me. That is the immediacy and the urgency of the preaching of the Gospel of the Son of God. That’s why it is pressed to the heart of every man who decides – looking in faith to Jesus, or living in unforgiven sin.
Now, in the moments that remain, we come to a revelation here in the Word of God that I cannot understand. I don’t purpose to understand it. I don’t think any man can understand it. There is something here that lies beyond human understanding, comprehension. And after Satan is bound for a thousand years, after that he must be loosed a little season. "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. And shall go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog" [Revelation 20:7-8]. I think Gog and Magog – apparently, those are words you find describing the great tribes to the north. You find it in the thirty-eighth and the thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Ezekiel. I think here it just typifies the great mass of this world. "To gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea." And they violently war against the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and they’re destroyed by fire from heaven [Revelation 20:9]. I cannot enter into that. That is beyond me, why Satan is loosed.
That’s why you have the word millennium when Satan is bound for that thousand years; thousand. The Latin word is mille, millennium; thousand years. The thing that separates that thousand years, that cuts it off, that marks it out, the thing that marks out the millennium from the eternity of the eternities, the thing that separates it is this loosing of Satan for a little while, for a season [Revelation 20:3].
Why does God loose Satan, having him bound and imprisoned and under a key and a seal and in chains? Why does God loose Satan? It is a part of the inexplicable problem that no man can enter into. Why did God create Satan in the first place? And when evil was found in him and he sinned against heaven, why didn’t God obliterate him? Why did God allow him to come into the garden of Eden? [Genesis 3]. The problem of the presence of sin is inexplicable to human mind. You cannot enter into it. It belongs to the secret counsels of God, and that is exactly the same thing here. There is a necessity in the economy and the government of God that I cannot understand. There is a necessity why Satan must be loosed for this season after his being bound a thousand years.
Now, there are many things that are said about why, as men speculate upon it. Practically all of them will say this: the reason Satan is loosed is these who grew up in the millennium, under the perfect and righteous reign of Christ, they have never had the chance to choose between good and evil, between God and Satan. They have never been tempted. They have never been tried. And at the close of a thousand years, Satan is going to be loosed, and everyone who has grown up in that millennium is going to have an opportunity to choose between God and Satan, between righteousness and unrighteousness, like everybody else that has ever been born in this world has had that same choice. They’re going to have that same choice, and Satan is going to be loosed to try them and to tempt them. Whether that is true or not, all I know from it is this: that however the man is placed, in the millennium or out of it, before it or after it, in the garden of Eden or today, whether he’s young or old, wherever the man is, he’s a sinner! Satan deceives him, and he is like he is depraved all the way through!
And he is here. Satan is always Satan, though he’s bound in prison for a thousand years, yet still he’s as vile, and as subtle, and merciless, and ruthless, and diabolical as he was in the beginning. He doesn’t change. And mankind doesn’t change. Here, after the millennium, after the thousand years, Satan goes out, and he finds their hearts open to his deception by the uncounted millions – their number is as of the sand of the sea! [Revelation 20:8].
What an indictment against man, and what an attestation to the depravity of human nature! You know, this thing of Satan, when you turn over here in this book, how in the world did all of those teams and all of those armies find themselves at Armageddon? How? The book says because three unclean spirits were sent out from that dragon and that beast and that false prophet, and they deceived the nations of the earth and thrust them together to that awful holocaust called Armageddon [Revelation 16:13-16]. It is a deception. And that’s the same thing in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation: it is the machination; it is the cunning; it is the evil; it is the deceiving of that vile and false and fallen archangel. So mighty is he, so great and powerful is he, that Michael himself, the archangel, dare not rebuke him, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee" [Jude 1:9] – how much more a man, an ordinary man, man made out of the dust of the ground! Ah, the weakness, the weakness, the prone to err, to wander, to stray, to be deceived by this sinister and tragic spirit!
But this is the last confederation against God, this is the last deception, this is the last death, this is the last sin. And when Satan has been loosed out of his prison that little while, God comes down and seizes him and casts him not into that abyss – that was a prison, that was a prison where the foul and evil spirits are chained against that day of final judgment – the Lord God comes down and takes that diabolos, that Satan, and He casts him into the hell, into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and there does God judge him, in torment, day and night, forever and ever [Revelation 20:10]; oh, the unending, the unending, the unending forever and ever and ever!
Whenever you let your mind dwell on these things and what it is to be lost, that place of fire and brimstone, that hell of burning, were not made for a man. They were not made for a human soul. Christ said they were prepared for the Devil and his demons and his angels [Matthew 25:44]. Not for us! The man goes there by choice, by volition: "I had rather serve evil. I had rather be a disciple of Satan. I had rather follow the Devil than to look in faith to the Lord Jesus."
He chooses, he chooses! Oh, how a man could choose to spurn the overtures of the grace of the Son of God and cast his life in the perdition of the duped, of the deceived, of the lured who follow after Satan! O Lord, open our eyes that we can see! Open our ears, Lord, that we can hear! Open our hearts, Lord, that we can believe and accept! Open our souls, Lord, that we can dedicate to Thee the love, the devotion, the confession, the repentance, the dedication that leads into life everlasting. O God, save me! Remember me! O God, save our people, remember our people!
These things bring us to our knees. Oh, the trembling, the searching! O God, how we need Thy grace, Thy care, and Thy forgiving mercy! And that’s why the message, and that’s why the sermon, and that’s why the revelation, and that’s why the praying, and that’s why the preaching, and that’s why the invitation, and that’s why the appeal: all of you, all of us, that we come to Jesus, that we look in faith to the blessed Lord Jesus. And that’s our invitation to you while we sing this song of appeal. Giving your heart to the Lord, trusting Him as your Savior, looking in faith to the Lord, would you say today, "Preacher, I give you my hand the best I know how. I turn in repentance and in faith to the blessed Jesus, and here I come; here I am." Is there a family to put your life with us in the church, to help us to pray and to preach and to work for Jesus? One, somebody you – a child, a youth, a man, or a woman, there’s a stairway on either side at the front and back. If you’re in the balcony, there’s time and to spare, come. If you’re on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: "Here I stand, preacher, and here I come." As God shall open the way, shall lead, as the Spirit shall speak to your heart, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.