Q&A: How "Bound" is Satan?

How "Bound" is Satan?

Question

From the amillennial perspective, what does Revelation 20 mean when it says that Satan is bound for 1,000 years?

Answer

There isn't really one single position that amillennialism takes on the binding of Satan. Rather, there is an assortment of views that amillennialists take. My understanding, which is pretty common, is that Revelation 20 speaks of Satan as being restrained but not impotent. He can no longer deceive the nations as he once did, but he can do a lot of other damage.

Think of him as a gang leader who gets thrown into prison. He can't do as much damage as he did before, but he can still issue orders to his crew outside, and he can still exert influence in other ways. Or think of Paul, who wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon from prison. Those who are bound are not unconscious or inactive.

In the context of Revelation 20, being bound specifically restricts Satan from deceiving the nations. It does not protect the nations from being deceived by others, nor does it necessarily restrict Satan from causing other sorts of trouble. Revelation 20 also says nothing about all the demons being bound; only Satan is bound. There are still plenty of demons left to cause all sorts of havoc in the world.

Moreover, Revelation 20 is a highly figurative text. For example, it says Satan is a dragon (v. 2). It says that the vision that John witnessed 1,000 years of history during this vision (v. 4). God and Magog are used figuratively: Gog was a man who died thousands of years ago who was from the land of Magog (v. 8; cf. Ezek. 38:2). There cannot possibly be as many warriors on the field as there are grains of sand on the seashore: the earth would not hold that many people (v. 8). Earth and sky are personified figuratively (v. 11). Because this chapter (indeed, this book!) is so metaphorical, the image of binding may not intend to imply the literal stuffing of the horned one into a canister. It may simply intend to communicate a restraining or limiting of his power.

Finally, there is the fact that all prophecy is conditional (this, by the way, is not a standard amillennial tenet!). That John saw Satan being bound did not guarantee that it would happen that way. Personally, I believe he is bound, if we understand that to be a simple limiting of his power. After all, things are not quite as crazy as they were in the B.C. days, even if we still do have many wars and widespread unbelief, etc. I think God offered hope in saying that he would bind Satan, and that we have seen the fruit of that. But even if I am wrong in my evaluation of the world, the fact that God can alter the way he fulfills a prophecy creates enough flexibility to handle any scenario.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.