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John saw the Lord Jesus come down from heaven with a key to lock the bottomless pit and a chain to bind the devil (9:1, 11; 11:7). This bottomless pit has a lid upon it that can be locked and sealed.
Remember, this is only a picture, a figurative symbol, nothing more. But it tells us of the work of Christ. He laid hold upon Satan, overpowered him, rendered him helpless, and bound him securely with the mighty chain of his sovereign power. He cast him into the bottomless pit, locked the lid, and sealed it for a thousand years, more literally, “for the thousands of years.”
What does this mean? How did this binding of Satan take place? You will remember that when our Lord Jesus began his public ministry, the Pharisees accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. His answer was, “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 12:29). That word, “bind” is exactly the same in Matthew 12:29 and in Revelation 20:2. And it is talking about the same thing.
In the Wilderness
The binding of Satan began when our Lord triumphed over him in the wilderness of temptation (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). When Satan met Christ Jesus in the wilderness, he was foiled by the Word of God. As a result of this triumph, our Lord, having bound the strong man, began to spoil his goods, casting out demons. — “The power and influence of Satan over the deluded masses was beginning to be curtailed.” (William Hendriksen)
In the Garden of Gethsemane our Lord Jesus again broke the power of Satan by faith and prayer (Matthew 26:36-46). In that dark, cold night, Satan came to oppose our dear Savior, taunting him with the hideous load of sin that must be put upon him and made his, tormenting him with the anticipation of being made sin, becoming vile (Lamentations 1:11), being made to suffer the wrath of God, and being forsaken by the Father. He was trying to keep the Lord from the cross. And our Savior’s tender, holy, human soul was crushed with sorrow. But he rose in triumph after he prayed (Hebrews 5:7-9). In confident faith, he rose up to lay down his life for his sheep (Hebrews 12:1-2).
On the Cross
Then, our great Savior, crushed the serpent’s head, bound him as a wild beast, and cast him into the bottomless pit, by his glorious, triumphant death upon the cross (John 12:28-32). By his death upon the cursed tree, our Lord broke the arms of Satan’s usurped dominion over the nations of the world, and began to draw all men unto himself, Gentiles as well as Jews. The light was taken from the Jews who despised it, and sent to the Gentiles who never had it, that God’s elect in every nation might see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and be saved.
In the Ascension
When our Savior ascended up to heaven and was exalted as King over all things, he brought Satan into captivity under his sovereign rule (Psalm 68:18-19; Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 12:5-11). The Son of God has always ruled Satan, as he has ruled all things, by virtue of his total sovereignty as God. But now, he has, as the God-man our Mediator, taken away Satan’s power to deceive the world so that he might gather his elect out of every nation in the world.
Every text of Scripture which speaks of the binding and captivity of Satan refers to and is associated with our Lord’s first advent, his life, his death, and his exaltation. This is a glorious, comforting Gospel truth which few people seem to apprehend. We are not awaiting the day when Satan shall be bound and Christ shall be King. Jesus Christ is the sovereign King over all things today! And Satan is bound already!
Our Lord Jesus Christ has so thoroughly bound the prince of darkness that he has total dominion over him. Our great adversary is under the total rule and control of our dear Savior. — He cannot harm God’s elect! His temptations are under the rule of Christ. His assaults are under the rule of Christ. Even his roars are under the rule of Christ. This binding of Satan is not his destruction. That comes later, at the Day of Judgment.
By the Gospel
This binding of Satan is specifically the restraint of his power to deceive the nations. Satan’s influence in the world is not destroyed, but curtailed, so that he is unable to prevent the spread of the Gospel, the salvation of God’s elect, and the progress of Christ’s kingdom in the nations of the world. Satan cannot prevent, or withstand, the increase and completion of Christ’s Church in this world (Matthew 16:18; Luke 10:19).
Satan is bound in this Gospel Age by the power of Christ, through the preaching of the Gospel (Luke 10:16-20). As we preach the Gospel of the grace of God, when it is effectually applied to the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners by God the Holy Ghost, Satan is bound and his house is spoiled. I do not suggest, by any means, that Satan is bound with reference to all men. He is not. But, in so far as God’s elect are concerned, Satan is bound everywhere. He cannot stop the progress of the Gospel until the thousand years are finished, until the Church of Christ is complete, and all God’s elect are saved.
A Little Season
But then he must be loosed for “a little season.” This little season is the time of antichrist, when God sends men a strong delusion that they might be damned, because they received not the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2). I have often said, “It appears to me that we are in that little season.” What greater delusion has ever vomited out of hell than the will-worship of the Arminian, free-will, works religion of this generation? Whether we are in that little season or not I cannot say. But this joyful fact I can and must proclaim — Christ is King and the fiend of hell is under his absolute rule! — God’s saints have nothing to fear, even from Satan!