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In Revelation 20:7-9 we read,
7 And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. 9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Satan’s sentence is only for a thousand years. Satan does not escape, but is “released.” Since a thousand years of legal time is just 980 years (or twenty Jubilee cycles), it may be that the final twenty years will be used to deceive the nations and to conclude this final battle of earth’s history.
Legal and Chronological Time
I explained the difference between chronological time and legal time in chapter 2 of my book, Secrets of Time. When certain years are overlaid on each other, the laws of time treat those years as double time. Every Jubilee year, for example, is both the fiftieth year of the previous cycle and the first year of the next Jubilee cycle. Hence a period of ten Jubilees is only 490 years of chronological time, but it is actually 500 years of legal time.
Furthermore, 120 Jubilees is 5880 years of chronological time, but it is 6000 years of legal time. The year 1986-1987 was the 120th Jubilee from Adam. By actual chronology it was only the year 5880, but by legal time it was 6000 years from Adam. God is using this legal maneuver in order to shorten the time for the sake of the elect (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20). Jesus implied that the earth would be destroyed if the present world order were allowed to continue until the year 2106-2107, which is the actual chronological 6000 years from Adam. So He has shortened the time by establishing the principle of legal time.
This principle of the laws of time are seen most clearly when studying the amount of time that the kings of Judah ruled in Jerusalem. In chapter 7 of Secrets of Time, I showed how Judah was held liable for 434 years in which they had kept no Sabbath years or Jubilees. Their liability was for 62 Sabbath years and 8 Jubilees, and for this reason God sentenced them to a 70-year captivity in Babylon.
However, the actual chronology of this same period was only 385 years, because many of those kings ruled for some years as co-regents with their father. With two kings ruling at the same time, the time of legal liability was doubled during those years. If it were not for the factor of legal time, God’s sentence would have been excessive and unjust.
If the legal time factor plays such a prominent role toward the end of 6000 years, then perhaps this same principle plays a role toward the end of 7000 years. It is too soon to say for sure, but it is possible that Satan will be given twenty years in which to deceive Gog and Magog into thinking that they are powerful enough to regain control over the earth. This would also be enough time to plan and to muster support for the final war.
John implies that the nations of Gog and Magog will lead the attack upon Christ’s Kingdom. Whether or not other nations join forces with them is not stated specifically, but they are certainly numerous, for we read that “the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.”
In other words, during the thousand years, the Kingdom of God does not yet fill the whole earth. Not all nations rejoice over the rule of Christ and the overcomers. Even so, Daniel 2:35 says that the Kingdom, pictured as a great “stone,” will grow to become a great mountain and will ultimately “fill the whole earth.” I can find no prophecy giving the precise proportion that will be inhabited by Christ’s kingdom, but it is clear from Revelation 20:8 that there are nations with very large populations that remain outside of Christ’s dominion during the entire thousand years.
This is the “outer darkness” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 8:12, 22:13, and 25:30. In Matthew 8:10-12 Jesus commented on the faith of the Roman centurion:
10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
While many identify this “outer darkness” with a burning hell, it is actually the part of the earth that is outside of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is full of light, as we read in Revelation 21:25,
25 And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed.
So the “outer darkness” describes the territory of non-Kingdom nations who do not want Jesus Christ to be their king, nor do they want to adopt His righteous laws. It appears that Gog and Magog are set forth as the leading nations in this outer darkness. Although it is described as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” it is not a torture pit, but a place of oppression and sorrow, much like we see even today in many parts of the earth.
Many too have misunderstood the “gnashing of teeth,” thinking it is a reaction to pain. In fact, clenched teeth is a sign of anger, as we read in Job 16:9,
9 His anger has torn me and hunted me down; he has gnashed at me with his teeth; my adversary glares at me.
This shows that those who are “cast out into the outer darkness” are unrepentant and are angry that they would be denied citizenship in the Kingdom on account of their lawlessness.
Many years ago, while in the mission school, I asked my teacher why God would release Satan at the end of the thousand years. It seemed odd for God to do this, knowing that he would only cause havoc and cause World War Whatever. Her explanation was that the children who were born during the thousand years needed to be tempted even as we have been tempted by Satan prior to his incarceration.
Even as a child, I thought her explanation was inadequate, but as I had no further insight, I had to accept this for the moment. In later life, as I gained greater understanding of the Scriptures, I came to see that God often induces men and nations to attack God’s people. God’s motives are quite clear when we study the context of such passages.
For example, in 1 Kings 11:9 we read about Solomon’s idolatry later in his life,
9 Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
God then sent a prophet to tell him that his kingdom would be divided. In order to accomplish this judgment upon Solomon and the monarchy of Judah in general, 1 Kings 11:14 says,
14 Then the Lord raised up an adversary [satan] to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal line in Edom.
In this case Hadad was called a satan, which is the Hebrew word for “adversary.” There are spiritual adversaries and earthly adversaries, just as there are angels (“messengers”) and earthly messengers. In this case God found Hadad useful, because, as the passage explains, King David had defeated Edom and ruled over them (2 Samuel 8:14). King Hadad himself had fled to Egypt, where he found favor with Pharaoh and even married the queen’s sister.
Years later, he returned from exile, and Solomon lost control of Edom. But this was not the only satan that God raised up against Solomon. 1 Kings 11:23-25 says,
23 God also raised up another adversary [satan] to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah… 25 So he was an adversary [satan] to Israel all the days of Solomon, along with the evil that Hadad did; and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Aram.
There are other passages where God raised up satans in order to execute judgment upon Israel or upon other nations. However, God does not do this without legal cause, or occasion. It is always done in accordance with His law.
Divine Judgment on the Philistines
During the time when the Philistines ruled over Israel, God saw fit to bring a certain level of judgment upon the Philistines. We are not told specifically what the Philistines did to warrant this, since God had raised them up on account of Israel’s own violation of the covenant (Judges 13:1). But nonetheless, God raised up Samson to judge both the Israelites and the Philistines.
In Judges 14 we read how Samson was actually friends with the Philistines and even wanted to marry one of the young women form Timnath, a Philistine city. Samson’s parents objected, of course, but then we read something strange in Judges 14:4,
4 However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines….
When God brings judgment, He must always have “an occasion,” that is, a legal cause for judgment. He cannot judge for arbitrary reasons, for this would go against His will and even against His own nature, as expressed in His law.
This principle is the reason why God releases Satan at the end of the thousand years in Revelation 20:7. Essentially, God will seek occasion against Gog and Magog by inducing them to attack the Kingdom of Light. For a thousand years, Gog and Magog will remain peaceful, but yet their hearts remain stubborn and angry. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and will not attack Gog and Magog without legal cause.
Yet the purpose of God is for Christ to rule the whole world, for He is the Heir of all things, and all things must be put under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). Hence, God releases Satan, because it is his purpose to cause men to expose their hearts and to act upon their base motives. The people in outer darkness and the leaders of Gog and Magog harbor malice and anger ("gnashing teeth") against Christ and His Kingdom for a thousand years, but they have no tempter to induce them to action. Satan is released to tempt Gog and Magog to act upon their anger, in order that Christ may lawfully take over the remaining parts of the earth and incorporate them into His Kingdom. In that way, the “stone” kingdom finally fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
Once He has taken control over the entire earth, then the stage is set for the Great White Throne to bring the final judgment, not only of the living, but also of the dead.