Lange Commentary - Revelation 20:6 - 20:10

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Lange Commentary - Revelation 20:6 - 20:10


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

III. THIRD OR GENERAL END-JUDGMENT. JUDGMENT UPON SATAN AND ALL HIS COMPANY. THE SECOND DEATH

Rev_20:6-10

A.—HEAVENLY PROGNOSIS OF THE LAST GENERAL JUDGMENT

Rev_20:6-8

6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on [over] such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and [ins. they] shall reign with him a [the] thousand years. 7And when the thousand years are expired [finished], Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8and shall go out to deceive [seduce or mislead ( ðëáíῆóáé )] the nations which are in the four quarters [corners] of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to [the] battle [war]: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

SYNOPTICAL VIEW

The prophecies relative to the three judgments here taper, so to speak, to a point. The most detailed of these prophecies was that which concerned the Harlot; the prophecy concerning the Beast was couched in less ample terms; and this last prophecy of judgment is concentrated in a very little sketch, so that we can scarce perceive the articulations which separate one cycle from another, and divide the heavenly prognosis from the earth-picture. Nevertheless, the breaks in question are still to be found. The words of Rev_20:6 do indeed glance back to the thousand years; but this is, manifestly, in order to the introduction of the last Judgment, which brings with it the second death. Even within this diminutive judgment-picture, the antithesis is unmistakable. Rev_20:7-8 speak of the loosing of Satan and the seduction of Gog and Magog in the future tense. But with Rev_20:9 the Seer makes a historic presentation, in the prophetic preterite, of the fact which he has before predicted. The plan of the whole Book is, therefore, retained in this case also. The perspective brevity of this section testifies unmistakably to the canonical truth and chasteness of the description. For an apocalyptic fiction, the elaboration of this sombre picture of the last revolt of the heathen, the fiery judgment upon Satan, and the second death in the lake of fire, would have possessed the greatest charms. Our Prophet, however, gives only the few features that he has seen—gives them as he has seen them, darkly, in well-nigh figureless language. It cannot be said, however, that he is wearied, for soon after follows the picture of the perfected City of God, magnificently developed and vividly distinct.

With a beatitude relative to the sharers in the first resurrection, the perspective of the last judgment is opened. The participants in this resurrection are called blessed, as those whose lot is absolutely decided, who have passed their judgment and come forth from it as holy ones, forever consecrate to God. This retrospect is occasioned by the prospect of the second death as the doom of the third and last judgment. Over such the second death hath no authority. The second death ( äåýôåñïò èÜíáôïò ) is damnation in the pool of fire, according to Rev_20:14 and Rev_21:8; not gradual dissolution and annihilation (Rothe). The term eternal death [Düsterdieck] is less explanatory of this mysterious judgment than the figurative expression, the pool of fire. It is a fellowship with all those who are in that condition of absolute irritation which is at the same time absolute stagnation, in endless ethical self-consumption and annihilation as a punishment for the persevering negation of God and the personal Kingdom of love. The opposite of this death-peril consists in the fact that the sharers in the first resurrection will be priests of God and of Christ. This priesthood, as absolute submission to God in blessedness in Him, stands contrasted with the unblest madness of the pool of fire; and, furthermore, it is perfect submission in reference to the economy of the Father as well as to the economy of redemption. They offer the whole creation, they offer the whole Church, with all the good things of them both, evermore to God and to Christ; and this is the condition whereby an eternal and ever-better possession of these good things is secured—a participation in the dominion of the Lord. Even in the Millennial Kingdom they shall reign with Christ.

Not in the vision form, but in prophetic discourse the Seer now announces the loosing of Satan after the thousand years. He shall be loosed out of his prison—not break out of it. In accordance with the determination of God, Satan, and with him all evil, must be thoroughly and completely judged. Hitherto judgment has been predominantly accomplished through instrumentalities. The historic judgment upon the Harlot was executed by the Beast, i. e., the preliminary hypocritical instance of evil has been judged by the perfect consistency of evil, in accordance with a very general historic law;—half-way-ness succumbs to consistency. Antichristian evil, as a spiritual power, has been judged by the spiritual effect of the personal appearance of Christ, by the terror of His óüîá and by the sword out of His mouth. In the end, however, Satan employs the means of resistance still afforded him by his creaturely strength, reviving in a convulsive struggle, in rebellion against God; and with the brutal opposition of consummate Satanity, corresponds the savage sense of strength of the heathen [nations] in the corners of the earth, who have withdrawn themselves from the sanctifying process of the eschatological economy (the new ïἰêïõìÝíç ), aye, have hardened themselves under it, and have become, especially in their resentment against that heavenly order of things which oversways them, kindred in mind to Satan. It has been asked: whence come these countless heathen, since, according to Rev_19:21, Christ has slain the Antichristian host? But apart from the fact that He slew them with the breath of His mouth, i. e., morally annihilated them, which might not prevent a continuance of physical vegetation on their part, the terms employed, the heathen [nations] in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, afford sufficient explanation. Ezekiel prophesied that the people of God should, long after the more familiar anti-theocratic assaults, have to sustain an attack from the circle of the remotest barbaric Orient (Ezekiel 38, 39). This eagle-glance at the future, whose significance trains of Huns, Mongols, Tartars and Turks have already confirmed, could not be missing from our Apocalypse. The present prophecy is heralded in Rev_16:12. But whilst Ezekiel, in prophesying of Gog in the land of Magog, referred to distinct Asiatic peoples (see Düst., p. 552), John employs the terms as a universal symbol, in designation of all the barbarous peoples in the corners of the earth—so, however, that the distant Orient plays the principal part. The idea of these last heathen is precisely analogous to the churchly idea. In the earlier days of Christianity, the inhabitants of the villages (pagani) or of the heaths, far remote from the great centres of civilization, formed the remnants of the old world—remnants which were both unconverted and difficult of conversion. Thus the entire old world will leave its remnants in a moral, symbolical heathenism, which will surround the Kingdom of Christ not merely as a terrestrial, but also as a spiritual boundary. But the idea that Evil shall at last break out and incur judgment in such a final heathenish mutiny, in a brutal revolt, the stupidity of which is veiled by the innumerable force of the hosts therein concerned, is characteristic of the great Prophet, who sees far above and beyond the learning of the schools.

EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL

Rev_20:6. Blessed and holy is he, etc.—As in the process of the formation of Christian character, the beatitudes of the righteousness of faith condition sanctification or the becoming holy, so in the condition of consummation, blessedness is still more decidedly the eternal source of the renewal of holiness. It is a remarkable fact that even Spinoza had a dim idea of this, that blessedness is itself a virtue and a condition of virtue. Even civic contentment has, in a limited degree, an ennobling influence. By holiness, eternal and complete consecratedness to God is here expressed.—Over such the second death, etc—They are beyond temptation, and cannot relapse into sin, and hence cannot fall under the fearful dominion of the second death.—The second death is, Rev_20:14, declared to be the judgment in the pool of fire: eternal agitation amidst the eternal frustration of plots and attempts: the specific demonic and Satanic suffering. “A dying and an inability to die,” ancient expositors were wont to say. The fact is here expressed that the Millennial Kingdom forms only a heavenly circle of culture of the new world within the old earth—in other words, that the heathen [nations], from whom the last rebellion proceeds, form an antithesis to God’s people of the first resurrection. The remains of the old humanity will occupy very much the same relation to the new humanity which the remains of the pre-Adamite creation occupy to the human world; although a general recognition of Christ, and, to this extent, the beginning of Christianity amongst all these peoples, is induced by Christ’s victory over Antichrist (Revelation 14). The general conversion of the heathen even precedes the Parousia of Christ. They shall be priests of God and of Christ.—Because they shall be priests, they shall also be co-regents with Christ, and being both throughout the thousand years, they appear unconditionally elevated above the perils of the last Satanic assault.

Rev_20:7. And when the thousand years are finished.—When the destination of the thousand years is fulfilled ( ὅôáí ôåëåóèῇ ). Satan shall be loosed.—The obedience of the heathen [nations], their Christianity, their faithfulness, must finally undergo a fiery test, after they have long enough been spectators of the Heaven on earth, and enjoyed, in nature and grace, the blessings of the Parousia of Christ. For a similar purpose Satan was permitted to exercise his arts in the first Paradise, to tempt Job, Christ Himself, and His Apostles. Such is the Divine method for the testing and perfecting of the elect, the purification and sifting of the churches, the unveiling of the wicked in order to their judgment, and the inducement of the self-judgment of Satan, resulting in his dynamical destruction. Under this Divine economy, evil in abstracto is permitted fully to develop, as is also evil in concreto, in wicked individuals, in the fellowship of the wicked, in the father of liars.

Rev_20:8. And shall go out to seduce [or mislead] the nations [Lange: heathen].—“The difficulty occasioned by the statement that heathen peoples are here once more represented as going up to battle against the saints, after the destruction (Rev_19:21) of all peoples and kings that worshipped the Beast” (Düsterd.), is very simply solved by a distinction between the Antichristian host and the remaining world of peoples, particularly those under the Eastern kings—irrespective of the fact that it is doubtful whether the killing of the rest (Rev_19:21) should be taken literally. Vitringa calls attention to the fact “that the ἔèíç , Gog and Magog, dwell in the uttermost ends of the earth (Eze_38:15 and Rev_20:9).” Another difficulty, according to Düsterdieck, consists in the fact that foes belonging to this earthly life fight against the faithful who have part in the first resurrection. This will undoubtedly be a very foolish proceeding, but it will not on that account be improbable, as those who have passed through the resurrection dwell upon earth in bodily form. Dogs attack lions, beasts attack men, barbarians and savages attack civilized nations, the foes of Christ attack the Church of God;—all these are wars from motives of, sheer instinct, the rationality of which we have not to take upon ourselves to prove. In the antithesis of Cain and Abel, it was, in reality, the mortal who assaulted the immortal. Consider further “that these heathen peoples are seduced to battle against the saints by Satan himself directly.” Rev_16:13, it is affirmed, militates against this idea. That passage, however, rather gives an explanation of the manner in which we should conceive of the agitation of Satan. At first, as the red Dragon (Revelation 12), he had no such definite organs as at a later period (Revelation 13), and yet even then he could work by spiritual influences. And even though the Beast and the False Prophet are destroyed, the frogs which went forth from their mouths as well as from, the mouth of the Dragon, reminiscences of rancor, resentment and rage [Groll. Gram und Grimm], can be made effectual for the seduction of the heathen, primarily through their leaders. In the four corners of the earth.—Hengstenberg, in the interest of his exegesis, has very ingeniously taken the edge off of the four corners of the earth by striving to prove that the corners comprehend that which lies within them, and that hence the four corners of the earth denote the same ground as ôὸ ðëÜôïò ôῆò ãῆò (see his citations, vol. ii., 368 sq. [Eng. Trans.]). But allowing that the four corners might denote, by synecdoche, the complete totality of the land or the people, such a use of the term is entirely different from the present statement, that Satan shall go out to seduce the heathen in the four corners; and from the further statement that they went up upon the breadth of the earth. Gog and Magog.—The following questions arise here: 1. What ethnographical sense did the theocratic world attach to Gog and Magog? 2. How did Gog and Magog become, in the Old Testament, the symbol of the last foes of the theocratic Church of God? 3. How has the Apocalypse taken up this symbol and applied it in manifold forms? 4. How is the same idea reflected in Jewish tradition? [1.] In respect to Biblical ethnography, the name of Magog appears, by the side of Gomer, amongst the sons of Japhet, Gen_10:2; see Comm. on Genesis, p. 348 [Am. Ed.]. Josephus explains Magog as indicative of the Scythians. “Magog seems to be a collective name, denoting the sum of the peoples situate In Media and the Caucasian Mountains, concerning whom a vague report had reached the Hebrews, etc.” See Winer, Title Magog; Düsterdieck, Note on p. 552. Gog, according to Uhlemann, as there quoted, and others, means mountain; Magog the dwelling-place, or land of Gog. According to Ezekiel, eze38:2, the prince or the nation is called Gog, the land of the same being denominated Magog, which embraces Rosch, Meshech and Tubal (see the table of nations). [2.] In the Apocalypse of Ezekiel, the spirit of prophecy has, in accordance with a distinct ethical pre-supposition, arrived at the idea that the people of God shall, after all its conflicts with familiar anti-theocratic enemies, after its complete restoration, re-instatement and renewal, have to undergo one more last assault from the rude and brutal enmity of Eastern barbarian nations. These enemies are introduced by Ezekiel under the names of Gog and Magog. Hitzig [Commentar. zu Ezech., p. 288) thinks that the Prophet chose the name Gog, the Scythian, on account of its being the name of the most remote peoples; and adds that the Scythians had appeared in Palestine not so very long prior to the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy—two explanations which invalidate each other. On the question as to whether the Scythians had been in Palestine previous to the prophecy, comp. Winer, Title Scythians. We behold in the name the symbolic term for the rudest and most savage heathenism as contrasted with the perfected Theocracy. Jehovah will curb, subdue and destroy Gog like a wild beast. [3.] In harmony with the same eschatological idea, the Apocalypse took up the symbolical announcement, and to its representation of Gog and Magog as two collateral powers the inducement was given by Ezekiel, in his designation of Magog as a complex of different peoples. In the general judgment picture (Revelation 16) these enemies appear as the kings of the east, who come from the region of barbarism beyond the Euphrates. [4.] “In Jewish Theology, also, the two names, of which the first denotes in Ezekiel l. c., the king of the land and people of Magog, are found in conjunction as the names of nations: In fine extremitatis dierum Gog et Magog et exercitus eorum adscendent Hierosolyma et per manus regis Messiæ ipsi cadent, et VII. annos dierum ardebunt filii Israelis ex armis eorum (Targ. Hieros. in Num. xi. 27, etc.).” Duesterdieck. Comp. De Wette, p. 191. Ibid., singular interpretations of the names by Augustine, Jerome et al.; application to the Goths, Saracens, Turks, all enemies of the Church, Antichrist. “The sorriest interpretation is that of Bar Cochab (Wetst.).” Hengstenb. (2. p. 369 [Eng. Tr.]) seems to find a significancy in Brentano’s initial juxtaposition of Gog, Magog and Demagog. A witty reply to the perhaps only seeming desire to discover Gog and Magog in the demagogues of the 19th century, see in Ebrard, Note, p. 517. To the war.—That last great war, foretold for ages by Prophecy. The number of whom is as the sand of the sea.—According to Ezekiel even, Gog leads with him a mixture of eastern nations (as did, in reality, Attila, Genghis Khan and Timur). At the same time, the figure employed is expressive, on the one hand, of the multitude of sordid human natures, and on the other hand, of a blind trust in this multitude. The salvability of the Scythians, however, is expressly declared by the Apostle Paul, Col_3:11.

In the coalition of Satan with the mob of Gog and Magog, the combination of demon and beast, serpent and swine, formed by the dragon figure, is completely realized.