Sunday, March 15, 2020

Satan Unleashed

A reader of the book of Revelation writes:

“Doesn’t the Pre-Mill version of Satan’s release seem weird? In it Jesus has physically ruled over the nations for a thousand years. Don’t you think they’d have learned something? And then Satan just waltzes out of his prison, goes, ‘Hi, it’s me, your old pal Satan!’ and EVERY nation goes, ‘WE LOVE YOU SATAN, LEAD US PLZ!!’ I mean, how long does it take to get to that point? A few weeks? A month? How does that work?

In the Pre-Mill view, doesn’t it also seem weird that the nations don’t go, ‘Wait, things are happening JUST like in that book Jesus has been talking about for a millennium. But hey, following Satan still seems like the best idea!’ How could they possibly get confused over this?”

The way a reader reacts to Satan’s release and the events which follow it in Revelation 20:7 very much depends on what he believes about the Millennium: its intended purpose(s), its governing conditions, and the people over whom Jesus Christ will rule.

Personally, I find the reaction of the nations in Revelation 20 all too plausible.

What follows is my personal understanding of what the Bible teaches about the coming reign of Christ on earth. I will not presume to speak on behalf of dispensationalists or premillennialists generally.

Two Solutions

Our earth has had two periods of significant duration in which God has offered man solutions to the problem of sin.

Under Law, man followed a list of divine regulations, offering sacrifices which anticipated the coming of Christ, but which in themselves made nothing perfect and which provided no permanent way to purify the human conscience from dead works. Law proved insufficient because man was insufficient to it.

Under Grace, man entered into a relationship with his God by faith in his Son, rather than by obeying rules. Instead, God put his laws into the human mind and wrote them on the human heart. The Spirit of Christ was sent to indwell the individual and to baptize believers into a single spiritual body of which the glorified Christ is Head.

Grace is a vast improvement over Law, but it was never intended to be the final solution to the sin problem. Wickedness still runs rampant in the world, Satan continues to exercise dominion over the planet, and temptations to sin remain, afflicting even those indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Under both Law and Grace, the failure of man is made evident. A perfect set of rules has not mended him. A new heart has not rendered him immune to external or internal temptation. Something more is still needed.

A Third Try

Thus there remains a third period of human history to be played out, in which conditions will once again be altered. Satan, the god of this world, will be banished and Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem for a full thousand years. Having given man his Law to reveal his character, and having given man his Spirit in order to enable him to keep it, God will now add perfect government to the mix. What will be the result? Why, failure of course.

It is important for us to grasp that the Millennium is not God’s final answer to sin. It is just one more way of demonstrating that man as he is currently constituted is fatally flawed. The final solution requires the reign of Christ until all enemies, death included, have been put under his feet and the permanent removal of all external temptation and the presence of God, not just in the hearts of individuals or on a throne in Jerusalem, but everywhere. “God will be all in all.”

In eliminating Satan as a contributing factor to human sin for a full thousand years, God will rip away our last feeble excuse: the devil made me do it.

A Biblical Millennium

If we believe the Old Testament prophets, the millennial reign of Christ is a period in which creation rejoices and flourishes, but animal sacrifices are still offered; in which men may live longer and happier lives, but death still occurs; in which nations still exist but are subjected, often against their wills; in which sin is still present in the hearts of those who resent being made subject to Christ, but conditions do not allow them to give practical expression to their rebellious thoughts.

In short, the Millennium is a time during which Christ is generally obeyed but not universally loved. Picture Prohibition divinely imposed, but instead of merely curtailing drunkenness (and this time doing it successfully), perfect government forcibly eliminates prostitution, drugs, porn, adultery, divorce, abortion, gambling, pre-marital sex, usury, slavery, homosexuality ... every vice in existence.

For the unregenerate, the Millennium will be no picnic. All their favorite toys and distractions will have been ruled off-limits. For a thousand years. Picture how that frustration will build ...

Satan Unleashed

So now we come to Satan’s release. When the thousand years have ended and Satan comes out to deceive the nations, I believe they will be more than ready to welcome him back. In fact, they’ll be delighted. I have no doubt that the Bible will still exist during the Millennium and will surely be better understood than ever, but even the widespread revelation of God’s truth, along with all kinds of miraculous supporting evidence, has never served to convince those who refused to believe.

The fact that Jesus had appeared on the scene in the first century doing everything the prophets had promised did not keep the rulers of the Jews from crying out for his execution and doing everything in their power to accomplish it. The fact that the power of God was at his disposal, that demons were subject to him, and that he could raise the dead never seemed to concern them or restrain them in any way.

This being the case, why would we expect unregenerate hearts to behave any differently during the Millennium?

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