More on καὶ at Revelation 20.1

St Michael the archangel, dressed somewhat lik...
The Picture of Irony - The Archangel dressed as a Roman soldier

I wanted to return this issue to buttress my thoughts from here. My contention remains that Revelation 20.1-6 is a recapitulation of the battle in Revelation 19.

1. καὶ εἶδον ἄγγελον καταβαίνοντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κτλ.] The formula καὶ εἶδον does not, like μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, determine the order of time in which the vision was seen relatively to the visions which precede it, but merely connects it with a series of visions which for whatever purpose the writer has seen fit to bring together in this part of his book; cf. 19:11, 19:17, 19:19, 20:4, 20:11, 20:12, 21:1, and contrast μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον in 18:1, and μετὰ τ. ἤκουσα in 19:1. It must not, therefore, be assumed that the events now to be described chronologically follow the destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet and their army.

The Apocalypse of St. John, ed. ]], 2d. ed., 256 (New York: The Macmillan company, 1907).

The last half of the preceding chapter (19:11–21) revealed the removal of the Antichrist and the prophet of falsehood from this earth and the demise of their followers, John’s message in that chapter is that Christ Jesus is victorious and so are the saints. Also, the defeat of the anti-Christian forces signifies the cessation of evil. All that remains for John to relate in chapter 20 is the removal of Satan and the end of Death and Hades.

In the first part of this chapter (vv. 1–10), John presents an additional aspect of the end of time. In it John directs full attention to Satan’s imprisonment, release, defeat, and damnation. Afterward John focuses his attention on the last judgment, which eventuates in the elimination of Death and Hades and the dispatch of unbelievers to a place prepared for them (vv. 11–15).

We note that chapter 20 presents a picture that is concurrent with preceding chapters that relate repetitive scenes on the judgment. Thus, the twenty-four elders announce the time of judgment (11:18) and the Son of Man inaugurates the Judgment Day (14:14–20). God pours out his wrath in anticipation of the final judgment (16:17–21), the rider on a white horse judges with justice to defeat his enemies (19:11–21), and God opens the books to judge each person at the last judgment (20:11–15). In short, Revelation is a volume of parallels that progress with each successive cycle.

The cyclical method of interpreting Revelation 20 can be illustrated exegetically. First, the Greek text, but not the translation, features the definite article in the expression the war at three places that feature the final battle (16:14; 19:19; 20:8). Next, the word war (Greek polemos) occurs nine times in the Apocalypse, but only the last three have the definite article and thus stress the ultimate conflict at the end of cosmic time. Last, the literal wording of the Greek text is nearly identical in all three places: “to gather them for the war” (16:14); “gathered to make the war” (19:19); and “to gather them for the war” (20:8). These three chapters cyclically refer to the end of time when the last battle is fought.

There is a close connection between chapters 12 and 20 in regard to the binding of Satan. Satan lost the battle against the archangel Michael and his warriors when he and his angels were cast out of heaven (12:7–9). Consequently Satan was restricted in his activities, for God himself protected the woman representing the saints who obey his commands and believe Jesus’ testimony (12:13–17). God binds Satan in such a way that he cannot deceive the nations anymore (20:3). The devil is unable to stop the advance of Christ’s gospel across the globe. Therefore, the decision to bind Satan was first made in chapter 12 and not in chapter 20.

A linear interpretation of chapters 19 and 20 encounters a difficulty with respect to the anti-Christian forces that were completely destroyed in 19:18, 21 and reappear in 20:8. Chapter 19 offers no indication that, at the conclusion of the final battle, survivors were able to regroup for another confrontation. Instead it conveys the concept of finality, for Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords is victorious.

A last preliminary remark. As is evident, Revelation on the whole and chapter 20 in particular demonstrate symbolism. For instance, the chain with which the angel binds Satan is not a customary string of metal links; neither is the key to the Abyss a metallic object nor are the thousand years chronologically ten centuries. The term key appears in 1:18, where Jesus notes that he holds the keys of Death and Hades; in 3:7 Jesus says that he holds the key of David; and in 9:1 an angel described as a star holds the key to the Abyss. In all these passages the word signifies authority. It is clear that a spirit cannot be shackled with a chain but can be restricted by a divine command. And the expression one thousand in a book that is filled with symbolic numbers intimates a multitude, that is, a large number.

]] and ]], vol. 20, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Book of Revelation, New Testament Commentary, 530-33 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).

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