And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
It’s time to play 4-square and you draw your boxes. Every person has to control the bouncing ball while playing the game. I want you to picture a pie graph of three parts to help us see what happened in the Garden of Eden. There was no more confusion. No more uncertainty. Satan is in one part because he had brought the temptation to doubt God’s love. Adam and Eve are in another part because they had listen to Satan and rebelled against God. God is in the third part because it was time for him to set things straight. When you look at this pie graph you can see who is bad and who is good. God made it clear that life on the earth would no longer be an open beach without restricted areas. No, God drew his lines in the sand.
There are some places where having lines draw can be fun. Drive to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Four Corners and you can touch all four states at the same time. But, when it comes to spiritual matters, it’s not good to stand on more than one side of the line. You can’t play for two teams. Adam and Eve thought they could get good things from God and from Satan. God came to clean up their mis-perception. God-the giver of life & Satan-the giver of death; God-truth & Satan-Lie; God-blessing & Satan-curse.
You are all familiar with these comparisons from the Bible. 1) You can’t love God and money. 2) You can’t love God and the things of this world. 3) You can’t play spiritual Twister and be all divided up after many things. In today’s gospel Jesus knew the blood relatives on the outside, but he knew the faith-relatives sitting around him in the room.
“Here is my family—Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”
Think of the progression we’ve had in our worship. Two weeks ago (Trinity) we talked about who God is. Last week we remembered that our relationship with him is not about external things, but about feeding our souls and the spiritual rest we receive from the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Today is about association. Where do we stand? It’s a quick way for us to remember what life is all about. There is God, Satan and people. To be sure these lessons do more than just draw a line in the sand. But, just like for Adam and Eve we get to learn about sides. God pulls us close, declares us loved, forgiven and promises life with him forever. God also teaches us, yes warns us about the futility and curse of Satan and where he stands.
So we open up to the Book of Revelation. For some this Book is scary—like some horror show from hell about to come on us in the Last Days. Rather, this book is a celebration of Jesus’ victory over Satan. God doesn’t just draw up lines in the sand to teach us about sides. In today’s text we see what happens
When God Draws Lines in the Sand
He Wins & We Stand
Last week I heard someone on the radio say it would be good for the DFW area if one of our professional sports teams would win. People like to live in a city where their teams win! There is a clear winner in Revelation 20. The war between God and Satan was never really a fair fight, if we can even call it a fight. Satan is destined to lose just as he had lost from the very beginning when he rebelled against God. Here’s what John saw in this vision:
“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”
Jesus commands an angel (that’s how strong Jesus is) to have Satan bound, chained, restricted and limited for a 1,000 years. We learn from Scripture that in this vision the 1,000 years stands for the time of the New Testament. Jesus gained his victory over Satan and he died and rose from the dead. This is the time between Jesus’ first coming as our Savior and his second coming as our victorious King. We are living in this time right now. The vision makes this promise: Jesus limits the power of Satan
“to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”
But, don’t you want to ask, “How?”
We know that Satan has many tools in his toolbox. He loves to use deception when it comes to tempting people to sin. He used it against Adam and Eve, King Saul, the Children of Israel, the Pharisees over and over to get them to cross over the line into his part. Then after people fall into sin Satan uses more deception to cause people to deal with their sin on their own—which always fails. He certainly doesn’t want us to have our sin dealt with God’s way. So, he gets out lies for people. They might sound like this: 1) Do you really think that you’re so sinful that you need a Savior? 2) You don’t have a sin that’s so bad that it will damn you to hell like murder and rape. 3) Do you really think God would damn for you disobeying authority? For being lazy when it comes to doing your homework? For bypassing someone you don’t even know who needs help? For failing to be a witness about Jesus to FRANs? For refusing to use some of your time to support the work of the church? Satan loves to blind us to the sins that are on the table so refuse to deal with them and stay on our side of the line and Satan is happy. On the other hand, if you realize your sinfulness then Satan would have you think that there’s no help for you. A) You’re the only one that is THAT BAD! B) You’re the only one in this church that is committing THAT SIN! C) You can’t expect God will forgive you for THAT SIN! And in your despair you stand on your side of the line and Satan is happy.
God’s main teaching of the Bible deals with both of those lines. God says to the proud,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
And to the despairing God says,
“and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”
There is God across his line with a message that creates faith in our hearts to trust in him rather than Satan. God sends us the Bridge that connects our part to his with the message that a Savior came from heaven for us. This is the powerful message that Satan hates, but is the truth that overcomes him. That Jesus has died to pay the penalty of all our sins is the key that locks Satan away. That Jesus rose from the dead is the chain that holds Satan’s back. Jesus wins! Yes, when the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed, listen to and believed is like putting a clamp on Satan’s mouth, a leash around his neck and fencing him in the backyard. Jesus does this through his powerful Word of promise. By faith we are brought across the line from sin and death to God who shields us by his power from the power of Satan into God’s victory circle. St. Peter described it like this:
“who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”
1 Peter 1:5
God draws his line in the sand which Satan cannot cross. Jesus Wins! And gives us the victory.
Recall Jesus’ Ascension. Remember God’s victory at work even today in his church. Why? Because we so often see the power of Satan at work. This shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus shows us in this vision to be so,
“After that, he must be set free for a short time.”
Yes, while Jesus has already gained the victory, Satan roams the earth inside his lines, chained and locked up. So, the people of John’s day saw relatives murdered by the Romans. Where is the victory there? The people before Luther’s day were being mislead by the church to trust in their works for salvation. Where is the victory there? Today, more people are being turned to materialism, family, work and pleasure than pursuing a godly life in Christ. Where is the victory there? When terrorists kill, disease claims victim after victim, and false teachings make it more and more difficult to proclaim the truth, where is the victory there? When jealousy, greed, boasting, judging others, lust and hatred, and all the sin in your life runs wild, doesn’t it seem as though Satan is winning? No! Because God’s promises are as good as fulfilled. When God draws lines in the sand that proclaim the ultimate victory in Jesus Christ, that is
Where we stand.
John saw this in the vision:
“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. ”
While Jesus chained and bound Satan, he used the trouble of this world to spread his people to new places. Jesus sent his apostles and many from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and to the end of the world. Actually, in the history of the Church, God often caused the move aggressive expansion of his kingdom to take place during times of persecution. The power of Pentecost continued, yes continues even today when we send missionaries around the world. Just this past week at our District Convention we learned of new places in Vietnam, for example, where the Gospel work is being pursued. People of God are still taking their stand with the Lord!
So look around you in this room and you still see Satan bound when you all were brought to faith in Jesus. Yes, we have our struggles, our pet sins, our repeat offenses, our failures and our broken lives, but God continues to lead us by his power Word to repent and to trust in his forgiveness by the pierced hands of Jesus Christ. He comes to us through baptism and the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faith in Jesus who has forgiven all your sins. He drives away Satan and causes us to stand safe and secure in the name of Jesus!
This vision is more than lines draw in the sand. This is God bringing you into his eternal mansions by the power of Christ’s key and chain. Jesus keeps you safe by feeding your soul his Holy Word. Jesus causes you to grow in the grace of God. Here, on God’s Word, we take our stand with the people the people of John’s day that lived among the Romans, the with the people of Luther’s day who learned of Christ, with the people today whose souls stand with Christ!
When people go missing there is always great relief when we hear they are alive and well. Did you see those of Christ who were winners for taking their stand?
“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.”
Jesus went missing in the tomb for three days, but is now alive. Those faithful who died in Christ have not gone missing, but are also alive in heaven in eternal, joyful service to God. You know the great comfort that comes to us when we are at the funeral of a Christian and say to one another, “He’s with Jesus in heaven!” For all those loved ones you know had taken their stand with Jesus, be comforted that they crossed the line from this life to life with Jesus!
“They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Do you understand this vision? Those in heaven are alive. Their first resurrection was from spiritual death to spiritual life, then came their eternal life in heaven. Their next resurrection will be on Judgment Day. The
that is eternal death in hell, has no power over them. They are standing with Jesus Christ in glory!
This vision follows the first three chapters of Genesis. It is a statement of victory. It shows you the things you can’t see with your physical eyes. If shows you our faithful God who drew lines in the sand to separate Satan, God and you. It shows that our gracious God has strengthened the footings of your soul in Christ Jesus. Stand with Jesus Christ to live and reign with him forever. Amen!