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The thousand-year kingdom, the judgment of the devil, the resurrection, and the last judgment


(Ch. 20)

The twentieth chapter, while speaking about the kingdom of the saints and the twice-occurring defeat of the devil, encompasses the whole period of existence of Christianity. It sums up the drama in the twelfth chapter regarding the pursuit of the Woman-Church by the dragon. The first time the devil was defeated by the Savior's death on the cross. At that time he was deprived of power over the world, "fettered" and "confined to the bottomless pit" for a thousand years; that is, for a very long time (Rev. 20:3). "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out," so said the Lord before His sufferings (John 12:31). As we know from the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse and from other sources of the Holy Scripture, the devil, even after the Savior's death on the cross, had the ability to seduce the faithful and to set traps for them, although he no longer had power over them. The Lord said to His disciples: "Behold I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and on all the powers of the enemy" (Luke 10:19).

Only before the very end of the world, when as a result of mass abandonment of the faith by mankind "the deterrent" would be taken from the midst (2 Thess. 2:7), the devil once again will dominate sinful humanity, but only for a short time. He will then lead the final terrible war against the Church (Jerusalem), directing against her the armies of "Gog and Magog," but he will be defeated by Christ for the second and final time. "I will build My Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). The armies of Gog and Magog symbolize the union of all the godless (theomachistic) forces, both human and those from the nether regions, which the devil will unite in his insane war against Christ. In this way, the ever accelerating war against the Church throughout history ends in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse with the total defeat of the devil and his servants. The twentieth chapter summarizes the spiritual aspect of this war and shows its end.

On the bright side of the persecution of the faithful is the fact that although they suffered physically they were victorious over the devil spiritually because they remained loyal to Christ. From the moment of their martyred deaths, they reign with Christ and "judge" the world, participating in the fates of the Church and all of mankind (Rev. 20:4). (This is the reason we turn to them for help, and this is the basis for the veneration of the saints by the Orthodox.) On the glorious participation of the sufferers for the sake of faith, the Lord said: "he who believes in me, though he may die, he shall come back to life" (John 11:25). The "first resurrection" in the Apocalypse is the spiritual rebirth that begins with the moment of Baptism of the believer, is strengthened by his Christian deeds, and reaches its highest state at the moment of a martyr's death for Christ's sake. The following promise pertains to those spiritually reborn: "The time is high and has already come, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and having heard shall be revived." The words of the tenth verse of the twentieth chapter are the concluding words: the devil, having deceived mankind, "is cast into a lake of fire." Thus concludes the narrative regarding the condemnation of the godless, the false prophet, the antichrist, and the devil.

The twentieth chapter ends with the description of the Last Judgment. Before it is to take place, there must be the universal resurrection of the dead; that is, a physical resurrection, to which the Apostle refers as the "second" resurrection. All people will be physically resurrected, both the righteous ones and the sinners. Following the universal resurrection, "the books were opened and . . . those dead were judged according to the entries in the books." Evidently, it is then, before the throne of the Judge, that the spiritual state of each person will be manifested. All dark deeds, angry words, secret thoughts and desires, all that was carefully hidden and even forgotten, will suddenly be brought to the surface and will become evident to all. It will be a terrifying sight!

As there are two resurrections, so there are two deaths. The "first death" is the state of unbelief and sin in which those who did not accept the Gospel dwelt. The "second death" is to be doomed to eternal estrangement from God. This description is very concise because the Apostle had already spoken previously about the Last Judgment (Rev. 6:12-17, 10:7, 11:15, 14:14-20, 16:17-21, 19:19-21, 20:11-15). Here the Apostle sums up the Last Judgment (the prophet Daniel having touched briefly on this in the beginning of the twelfth chapter). With this brief description, St. John concludes the writing of the history of mankind and moves on to the description of the everlasting life of the righteous.

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