A Biblical Case for Amillennialism
What Jesus Teaches about the Binding and Casting out of Satan during the "Thousand Years" in Revelation 20
Bible-believing Christians have often disagreed about the significance of “the thousand years” (sometimes called, “the millennium”) that John writes about in the book of Revelation:
 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,  and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Rev. 20:1–3)
The big question is not only when this “thousand years” has been/is/will be, but what will happen during this “thousand years.” Notably, John tells us that during this time, Satan will be bound “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.”
What should we expect from the binding of Satan?
Different Millennial Views on the Binding and Casting Out of Satan
Premillennialists take this thousand years as a reference to a Messianic reign of Jesus after his return, but before the glorification of God’s people in the eternal state. I had a dear, premillennialist mentor who would often remark to me, “I look around the world, and it seems pretty clear that Satan is still loose and up to his old tricks.” For the premillennialists, Satan’s binding cannot come until after King Jesus has returned.
Postmillennialists understand the thousand years as something that will take place after the eventual transformation of society by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, they believe that the leaven of the gospel will so thoroughly permeate our world that “all [will be] leavened” (Matt. 13:33). Once the entire world is brought under the dominion and Lordship of Jesus Christ, there will be one thousand years of peace and prosperity, during which time Satan is bound from harassing God’s people on earth. The millennium comes immediately before Christ’s return, at the conclusion of the thousand years.
Amillennialists see the thousand years as a reference to the age of the New Testament church. The “thousand years” is not a precise amount of time, but, as a large, round number that functions as a symbol for an undefined long period of time. For amillennialists, the key phrase for understanding the nature of Satan’s binding has to do with the definition John gives about the quality of this binding: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer” (Rev. 20:3).
Amillennialists take this as the essential difference between the Old Testament and New Testament: Satan’s dominion over the nations has been shattered, so that the gospel of Jesus is now drawing people from every tribe, language, people, and nation into his kingdom (Rev. 5:9). Certainly, God drew a few Gentiles into the nation of Israel during the Old Testament. The degree to which God accomplishes this now in the New Testament era, however, is entirely unprecedented.
Amillennialism is my own understanding of the nature of the millennium. In this post, I want to focus on two important texts the help us to interpret the binding and casting out. I will argue that letting Scripture interpret Scripture drives us toward holding an amillennial view of the “thousand years” of Revelation 20.
The Binding of the “Strong Man” (Matt. 12:29)
The first text comes in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus gives us some important insight into the progressive conquest of his kingdom into this world:
“Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Matt. 12:29).
What, precisely, does this binding of the strong man refer? Brandon Crowe makes a compelling case that it was Jesus’ successfully resisting Satan’s temptation at the beginning of his ministry that marks the binding of Satan. He writes:
In all three Synoptics [i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke], the temptation is the first action of Jesus after being baptized and anointed as Messiah; before Jesus heals any diseases or casts out any demons, he first overcomes Satan’s opposition. After this initial victory, Jesus begins to demonstrate his victory over Satan’s realm in various ways….Only after this initial victory does Jesus proclaim the imminence of the coming kingdom ([Matt.] 4:17). From this we should conclude that the kingdom comes after the initial victory over Satan, which Jesus later identifies as the binding of the strong man.1
When Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations that came in the wilderness, immediately after his baptism, he did not fall like Adam before him. This, however, is only part of the story. Jesus’ obedience also bound Satan (the strong man) so that he could begin to ransack the world that Satan had bound up for so long in captivity because of sin.
Later, Crowe ties this sense in the Gospels about the binding of Satan explicitly to the passage about Satan’s binding in Revelation 20:
The relationship between the binding of Satan and the gospel going to the gentiles also seems to be in view in Revelation 20:1–3….Significantly, this binding is specifically identified as restraint from deceiving the nations (20:3), which entails the preaching of the gospel to the nations and their coming to faith (cf. Acts 14:16; 17:30). In Revelation 20 this initial binding of Satan comes through Jesus’s death and resurrection, though it is also quite possible that this binding had already begun during Jesus’s ministry. If so, then Revelation 20 may betray a similar perspective to the binding of the strong man in Matthew, since the binding of the devil leads to the spread of the gospel among the nations, though his final demise has not yet come.2
With the utmost respect to my premillennialist brothers and sisters (especially to my dear mentor, who has since gone to be with the Lord), the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 does not refer to an entire removal of Satan from the world. Satan’s “final demise has not yet come,” but his influence has been radically curtailed, since the gospel goes out to all the nations. Praise the Lord!
The Casting Out of the Ruler of this World (John 12:31)
The second important text for this topic comes in the Gospel of John. As Jesus prepares for the cross, he utters these words:
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out [ἐκβάλλω; ekballō]” (John 12:31).
Significantly, when Revelation 20:3 describes how the angel “threw” Satan down into the pit, the word is βάλλω (ballō). The word Jesus uses in John 12:31 (ἐκβάλλω) is the same word, albeit with the prefix ἐκ (ek), which turns the word from “thrown/cast” to “thrown/cast out.” Thus, there is a very close connection between the two passages.
Additionally, in the immediate context of this passage in the Gospel of John, we should note that Jesus says this after Greeks approach the disciples, asking to see Jesus (John 12:20–21). Seeing Gentiles approaching him prompts Jesus to speak about casting out of the ruler of the world, just as Satan is bound and cast out in Revelation 20 “that he might not deceive the nations any longer.”
On this connection, William Hendriksen writes:
These Greeks represented the nations—elect from every nation—that would come to accept Christ by living faith, through the sovereign grace of God. Hence, through the death of Christ the power of satan over the nations of the world is broken. During the old dispensation these nations had been under the thraldom of satan (though, of course, never in the absolute sense of the term). With the coming of Christ a tremendous change takes place. On and after Pentecost we begin to see the gathering of a church from among all the nations of the world (cf. Rev. 20:3). That is what Jesus sees so clearly when these Greeks approach him.3
While Jesus’ defeat of Satan at his temptation bound Satan for the initial invasion surge of Jesus’ kingdom into this world, it is Jesus’ work at the cross that casts out Satan into the pit.
Again, this binding and casting out of Satan does not mean that Satan is removed from the scene entirely. R. C. H. Lenski describes the overall biblical teaching well in his commentary on this passage in the Gospel of John:
Compare the symbolic description in Rev. 20:1–3…Bound in the bottomless pit by the great Angel of the Covenant (Jesus), Satan “should deceive the nations no more” for the era of the thousand years, the great New Testament period. Not that the world is not wholly rid of the devil and goes on with him being completely removed. The judgment on his kingdom (“this world”) is the judgment on his rule over this kingdom, the decree that throws him out. What remains to him is the hopeless attempt of an already dethroned ruler to maintain himself in a kingdom, the very existence of which is blasted forever.4
The Case for Amillennialism
When we compare the description in Revelation of the millennium with the Jesus’ own descriptions of binding and casting out Satan in the Gospels, one crucial point emerges: this is a work that Jesus accomplishes during his earthly ministry, not later. By Jesus’ two great victories over Satan during his temptation and his cross, Jesus shatters the vice-grip of our Enemy over the nations.
Now, during the New Testament era of the church, the kingdom of heaven is breaking into this world, liberating those who have been held for so long in captivity to sin and misery. While the devil was granted tyranny over the nations for a time as a result of the curse over sin, that dominion has been demolished, and the gospel goes out to all the nations.
We are living in the millennium now, even as we await Christ’s bodily return to put away his last enemies forever (1 Cor. 15:20–26). Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Brandon D. Crowe, The Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 158.
Crowe, The Last Adam, 165.
William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. II, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1953), 202–03.
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 874.