Satan Evicted: Is Satan Bound?

Satan before the Lord circa 1750

Is Satan Bound?

Introduction

Amillennialists claim that Satan lost the battle at Christ’s resurrection the binding in Revelation 20:1-4 occurred at that time. They assert that this binding should not be taken literally but symbolically. Before Christ’s earthly ministry, the good news of God’s grace was only available to the Jews; however, after the resurrection, the good news could be spread to all nations – Satan was no longer permitted to deceive the Gentiles – he was bound.

This theory, I believe, was developed to justify progressive parallelism and demonstrate their belief that Revelation, Chapter 20, begins the seventh parallel section. Remember, each parallel section describes the major events from the beginning of the Church Age until the White Throne judgment. If the progressive parallelism theory is valid, Satan had to be bound early in the Church Age.

My initial reaction upon reading this theory was one of amazement, “How could anyone look at the drug addiction, homicide, genocide, greed, and other atrocities and claim that Satan was bound?” However, amillennialism is a widely doctrine within Western Civilization and should be considered.

When was Satan Bound?1
by Ross A. Taylor

It is clear from scripture that Satan was bound during the ministry on earth of Jesus. This was legally secured by his death (Heb 2:14) and we see that at his resurrection he was raised far above all rule and authority, power and dominion (Eph 1:21, also Phil 2:9).

The same word used to bind Satan in 20:2 (deo:G1210) is also used for the binding of Satan in Mat 12:29, Mark 3:27. Jesus is referring to the casting out of spirits from the demon possessed; he says that first the strongman must be bound and then you can plunder his goods. In Luke 10:17 the seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." Jesus responds by saying "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." Shortly before his death Jesus said:

(John 12:31-32 NIV) Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. {32} But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

We should notice the connection here between the prince of this world being driven out and drawing all men to himself. In John 16:11 Jesus says that the prince of this world now stands condemned. In Acts 26:17 Jesus commissions Paul to go to the Gentiles and Jews to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. In Col 1:13 Paul tells them that they have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness.

This means that Satan was bound during Jesus' ministry and especially at his resurrection for the purpose that the gospel can be successfully preached to all nations.

Satan Bound: Rebuttal

Anthony Hoekema in his article “Amillennialism” provides a comprehensive yet concise argument that Satan has already been bound.2 I will use his argument for the basis of my analysis.

PLEASE NOTE: The following rebuttal is intended for academic purposes. It is not intended to slight Dr. Hoekema or his work. This rebuttal is intended to help illustrate that there is a viable alternative to the amillennialism viewpoint.

Surely the defeat of Satan began with the first coming of Christ, as has already been clearly spelled out in chapter 12:7-9.

Revelation 12:7-9: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out , that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

This passage occurs immediately following the description of Christ’s resurrection and the flight of Israel into the wilderness (Revelation 12:5-6). There is little indication that there is a break in John’s vision between verse 6 and verse 7; therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the war in heaven occurred shortly after Christ’s resurrection.

The next verse seems to validate the belief that Satan was cast out of heaven because Christ’s redemption of mankind removed Satan’s justification for accusing man before the God’s throne:

Revelation 12:10: And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down , which accused them before our God day and night.

While we see the seeds of victorious Christians in the next verse, the final clause tends to indicate that the victory comes not through the binding of Satan but because the believer is willing to sacrifice their lives for their belief in Christ:

Revelation 12:11: And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

The next verse, Revelation 12:12, also seems contrary to the notion that Satan was bound:

Revelation 12:12: Therefore rejoice, [ye] heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

While there is rejoicing in heaven because the victory has been won, there is woe on the earth because (a) Satan has been cast down to earth and (b) he is angry because he knows he has only a short time left.

Instead of Satan being bound, he seems to have been let loose:

1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

It seems counterintuitive to claim that Satan was bound in one arena but not others:

2 Corinthians 4:3-4: But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Ephesians 2:1-2: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

1 Thessalonians 3:5: For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

That the millennial reign described in verses 4-6 occurs before the Second Coming of Christ is evident from the fact that the final judgment, described in verses 11-15 of this chapter, is pictured as coming after the thousand-year reign. Not only in the book of Revelation but elsewhere in the New Testament the final judgment is associated with the Second Coming of Christ. (See Revelation 22:12 and the following passages: Mt. 16:27; 25:31-32; Jude 14-15; and especially 2 Thess. 1:7-10.) This being the case, it is obvious that the thousand-year reign of Revelation 20:4-6 must occur before and not after the Second Coming of Christ.

The amillennial construct does not allow for two physical resurrections. This disagreement was examined in detail in the section entitled “The 1st Resurrection” to include specific responses to the scriptures Hoekema cites here. However, this might be a good point to discuss the problem with taking a narrow instead of a broad perspective.

Amillennialism takes a narrow perspective on biblical prophecy. This perspective tends to view prophetic events as one lined-up directly behind the other. (See diagram below.) With this perspective, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish gaps between events. In fact, two or more events may be seen as occurring at the same time.

I fear that an amillennialism construct may suffer a similar shortcoming as the Old Testament prophecies. From their viewing angle, it is nearly impossible to distinguish time gaps between the first resurrection (the coming of Christ in the clouds), the second coming (the coming of Christ as conqueror), the general resurrection, the white throne judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth. All of these major events are stacked up one behind the other – they can’t visualize anything in between. A less abstract reading of the Book of Revelation would help fill in these valleys, but amillennialism resists accepting any new from that book.

Now, I believe that Jesus understood what was in the gaps between key prophetic events during his ministry on earth, but his primary focus was on the eventual complete victory. I speculate that the apostles had at least a general understanding because several passages hint of a resurrection for the elect and a resurrection for the wicked:

John 5:28: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26: But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then [cometh] the end…

I Thessalonians 3:13: So that he may establish your hearts blameless holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all his saints.

The Gospels and Epistles paint an incomplete portrait of entire prophetic events. Therefore, the Lord revealed to John those pieces of the puzzle that were missing from the Gospels and Epistles. Unfortunately, amillennialism has a very difficult time accepting anything new concepts from John’s vision. The Book of Revelation helps us to understand the broad view, but we must be willing to listen before we can be enlightened.

Revelation 20: 4-6: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

The book of Revelation is full of symbolic numbers. Obviously the number “thousand” which is used here must not be interpreted in a literal sense.

This topic discussed in greater detail within the next section.

Hoekema’s next argument is multipart: (Please refer to Hoekema’s article for his full explanation.)

Revelation 20:1-3: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

During the gospel era which has now been ushered in, Satan will not be able to continue deceiving the nations the way he did in the past, for he has been bound. (The Gospel can now be preached to the Gentiles.)

There seems to be a logical disconnect here. First, although Satan may be known as the god of this world, Satan was not the one preventing the God’s revelations from reaching the Gentiles… rather it was God who chose to limit his vision to the Jews. Second, until the end of Jesus’ ministry, not even the disciples were permitted to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. Thus, the binding of Satan would have no effect on the spreading of the Gospel to all the nations.

Matthew 10:5: These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying , “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not.”

Hoekema does not provide a valid argument. In order to be a valid, an argument must possess two qualities: (1) the premises (claims) must be true and (2) the conclusion must be derived from the premises.

Satan prevented the God’s message from being preached to the Gentiles. (This premise is false.)

Following Christ’s ministry the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles. (This premise is true.)

Therefore: Satan was bound by Christ’s ministry. (The conclusion is invalid.)

Hoekema’s argument is invalid because the first premise is false. There is no biblical evidence that indicates that it was Satan who was preventing God’s message from being preached to the Gentiles; the scriptural evidence indicates that it was God who limited his message to the Jews.

We could alter the argument to make both premises true:

God’s plan was not available to the Gentiles prior to Christ. (This premise is true.)

Following Christ’s ministry the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles. (This premise is also true.)

Therefore: Satan was bound by Christ’s ministry. (The conclusion is invalid.)

Since Satan is in neither premise, then the conclusion cannot be derived from the premises.

This does not imply that Satan can do no harm whatever while he is bound. It means only:

▪ He cannot prevent the spread of the gospel:

▪ He cannot gather all the enemies of Christ together to attack the church:

This seems to be an artificial limitation placed on the term “deceive.”

4105 planáō – properly, go astray, get off-course; to deviate from the correct path (circuit, course),roaming into error, wandering; (passive) be misled.3

We know from the epistles that Satan continues to attempt to hide the Gospel:

2 Corinthians 4:3-4: But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

There is possibly some scriptural support for the second claim, “He cannot gather all the enemies of Christ together to attack the church”…

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7: And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

…but we know that passage is referring to the antichrist that will come in the authority of Satan. However, I can find no scriptural evidence that limits Satan’s deception to the spread of the Gospel, nor does Hoekema provide such evidence.

Hoekema utilizes the strongman parable to illustrate that Christ has the power to bind Satan

Matthew 12:28-29: 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.

I’ll certainly agree that this looks like the binding in Revelation 20:1-3, but then what of the timing and extent? Hoekema asserts:

One could say that Jesus bound the devil when he triumphed over him in the wilderness, refusing to give in to his temptations. Jesus’ casting out of demons, so he teaches us in this passage, was evidence of this triumph.

First, placing the binding of Satan during the beginning of Christ’s ministry seems to place the event outside amillennialist scope for the Book of Revelations… but, perhaps, that is getting too nit-picky. Second, I could assert that this parable is only related to casting out demons, but Hoekema has a response for that:

But I would reply that the casting out of demons is an evidence of the presence of the kingdom of God (Mt. 12:28) and that it is precisely because the kingdom of God has come that the gospel can now be preached to all the nations (see Mt. 13:24-30, 47-50).

I would then respond, “Why do amillennialists limit this binding only to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles?” Interestingly, Hoekema provides the answer:

Luke 10: 17-18: And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Hoekema tells us that we cannot take these verses literally. (Satan cannot fall from the heaven at this point in time because he has already been bound after the temptation, correct?) He also leaves out the next verse because it does not support his thesis:

Luke 10: 19: Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

If we are to accept Hoekema’s argument that the casting out of demons illustrates that Satan was bound, then we should also accept the ramifications of that assertion… that this binding was not limited to the spread of the Gospels to the Gentiles… but it empowers sanctified Christians with a wide array of powers. We must, therefore, assume that Hoekema’s restrictions on the term “deceive.”

John 12:31-32 us used to illustrates the restriction of Satan’s activities with Christ’s missionary outreach

John 12:31-32: Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

First, this scripture does not restrict Satan’s binding as originally presented: That the binding of Satan is limited to (a) he cannot prevent the spread of the gospel and (b) he cannot gather all the enemies of Christ together to attack the church.

Second, the use of the word “now” does not indicate that the judgment or the casting out will take place at that exact period of time:

3568 nýn (an adverb) – now, as the logical result of what precedes; now, in light of what has gone before.4

The term simply indicates that because of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion, God has the legal justification necessary to rightly judge the earth and Satan. He has yet to physically act upon those two judgments because he is still waiting for the full harvest of his saints… then the end will come.

Third, this is an excellent example of how the scripture seems to say something is going to happen now… but that event doesn’t truly take place under sometime later.

Conclusion

In my opinion, this amillennialist argument is less than honest. The casual observer readily sees that there is deep, dark evil in the world… there have been too many Hitlers, Stalins, and Pol Pots. Knowing this, amillennialism hedge their argument limiting it only to the preaching of the gospel to the nations. But even this limitation does not withstand casual observation. Throughout history there have been organized government attempts to keep Christianity out. Just last week, a native Christian Iranian was convicted of apostasy and potentially faces the death penalty.

Even if we limit our rebuttal to biblical scripture, the argument seems less than honest. They claim that it was Satan who prevented God’s message from reaching the Gentiles. That is simply a false claim. How could Satan restrain the spread of the God’s message unless God permitted it to spread first? Then they use the authority to cast out demons as an illustration of Satan’s binding but they then claim that the casting out of demons and the other powers are symbolic only. They give Christians a slice of pie, but do not permit them to eat it… something seems wrong with that?

Jesus Christ has fulfilled all of the requirements for the redemption mankind and the planet earth: he resisted Satan’s temptation, he led a obedient life as a man, he suffered the persecution and humiliation of mankind, he was separated from God, he gave his life on the cross, and he was victoriously resurrected. Satan was cast out of heaven because his accusations before God’s throne were no longer justified. However, the Father has not yet granted permission for Jesus Christ to repossess the earth and evict Satan as the god of this world… Satan is loose on the earth, not bound.


1 Ross A Taylor, “When was Satan Bound?” Revelation: Apocalipsis.org. NDA. <http://www.apocalipsis.org/t20-amillennialist.htm> Oct. 3, 2001.

2 Anthony Hoekema, Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminar, “Amillennialism,” The Highway, c. 1977. <http://www.the-highway.com/amila_Hoekema.html> Sep. 30, 2011.

3 “planáō ,” HELPS Word Study, Helps Ministries, 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/4105.htm> Oct. 5 , 2011.

4 “nýn,” HELPS Word Study, Helps Ministries, 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/3568.htm> Oct. 5, 2011.


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