The Binding of Satan: A Quick Review

written by G de Leon

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer” (Revelation 20:1-3)

Though futurists, like dispensationalists, render these passages to be futuristic, the events actually took place at  Jesus’ first advent.   First, it is essential to understand that the angel depicted here is Christ Himself.  He holds the key and the chain, and binds Satan for a period of time (thousand years) .  In verse 3 we find the purpose of the binding, which is to set free the elect (God’s people) from darkness who were being deceived by the devil… so that he would not deceive the nations any longer.   The nations stand for the people of God from everywhere… Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).  This sets the stage on how it took place in the Gospels.

Upon His incarnation Christ proclaimed, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18).   The time had come for the people of God to be released.  To no longer be blinded and separated from the rest, who… “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  (2 Cor 4:4).  Jesus declared, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32).  He sent his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and, The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:17-18).

Jesus performed many miracles releasing people from Satan’s grip  including a woman who was ‘bound by Satan for eighteen years (Luke 13:16).  At that time, having been questioned by the Pharisees, Jesus explained to His audience, But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.”  (Matthew 12:28-29).  Jesus, here, was declaring what He was doing to Satan and his kingdom, and with the spoils!  Consider the following:

When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11:21-22).  

“… He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”  (Isaiah 53:11-12) 

“…And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)

Satan is bound and the Kingdom of God is a present reality.  This is how it is possible for the elect to respond to the Gospel today.  This is not something new.  Satan being bound by Christ was understood even by our church fathers.  Here are some of them…

Melito
“What new mystery is this? The whole creation, I say, was astonished; but, when our Lord arose from the place of the dead, and trampled death under foot, and bound the strong one, and set man free, then did the whole creation see clearly that for man’s sake the Judge was condemned, and the Invisible was seen, and the Illimitable was circumscribed, and the Impassible suffered, and the Immortal died, and the Celestial was laid in the gave. For our Lord, when He was born man, was condemned in order that He might Show mercy, was bound in order that He might loose, was seized in order that He might release, suffered in order that He might feel compassion, died in order that He might give life, was laid in the grave that He might raise from the dead.” (From The Discourse on Soul and Body)

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/spicilegium_6_melito_fragments.htm

Claudius Apollinaris 
“The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements,4 water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb.” (From the Book Concerning the Passover)

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apollinaris.html

Irenaeus
“But also, when He spoke of the devil as strong, not absolutely so, but as in comparison with us, the Lord showed Himself under every aspect and truly to be the strong man, saying that one can in no other way “spoil the goods of a strong man, if he do not first bind the strong man himself, and then he will spoil his house.” Now we were the vessels and the house of this [strong man] when we were in a state of apostasy; for he put us to whatever use he pleased, and the unclean spirit dwelt within us. For he was not strong, as opposed to Him who bound him, and spoiled his house; but as against those persons who were his tools, inasmuch as he caused their thought to wander away from God: these did the Lord snatch from his grasp. As also Jeremiah declares, “The Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and has snatched him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” If, then, he had not pointed out Him who binds and spoils his goods, but had merely spoken of him as being strong, the strong man should have been unconquered. But he also subjoined Him who obtains and retains possession; for he holds who binds, but he is held who is bound. And this he did without any comparison, so that, apostate slave as he was, he might not be compared to the Lord: for not he alone, but not one of created and subject things, shall ever be compared to the Word of God, by whom all things were made, who is our Lord Jesus Christ.” (from Book III of Against Heresies)

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/irenaeus-book3.html

Methodius 
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: God against the devil; not manifestly in His might, which cannot be looked on, but in the weakness of the flesh, to bind the strong man that is against us. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: the King against the tyrant; not with omnipotent power and wisdom, but with that which is accounted the foolishness of the cross, which hath reft his spoils from the serpent who is wise in wickedness.” (from his Oration on the Psalms)

http://orthodoxmetropolisportland.org/hf_methodius_palms.html

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3 thoughts on “The Binding of Satan: A Quick Review”

  1. I agree with the overall premise, that is, that the passage indicates the immediate result of Christ’s first advent, but I wonder what the author thinks about those last few words in verse 3 – “and after that he must be loosed a little season.” I think that’s where a lot of the trouble in understanding this passage comes from.

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    1. This is true, verse 3 can be difficulty to put a time frame on. There are at least two competing views regarding the timeline, which is why I carefully stated “a period of time” to represent the thousand years. The first view renders the thousands years to be “a long while”, suggesting the release of Satan to be near the second advent of Christ because it is quickly followed by the great white throne of judgment (v.11), and death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire (v.14).

      The second view understands the thousands years to be “a little while” or “a short while”. The defense requires a bit more of an explanation, but tersely it interprets Satan’s “time is short” (Rev. 12:12) as the forty or so years (an incredibly short time in the scheme of Biblical history) as being from the Cross to the destruction of Jerusalem. Wherefore, the thousand years is measured from the time that Christ started His ministry all the way to the cross. I know I’m not doing justice to the view with the brief description, but properly presented it gives a strong case. Regardless, this should serve as a platform for further research/study on it.

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