‘And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Rev. 20:7-10).
Everything dealt with in the first six verses of Revelation 20 is already in the process of fulfillment. Here, in verses 7-10, John is given a vision of things to happen just before and at the time of our Lord’s second coming. Satan, whose power was limited (bound) by our Lord’s victory on the cross, will have his complete power restored in the very end of the millennium, and will begin a full-scale warfare against the church. Paul informs us (2 Thess 2:7) that this warfare is already going on, but in a limited way. This limitation is because of the present ‘binding’ of Satan in his power to deceive the nations concerning salvation. In calling this final battle Gog and Magog, John is following the pattern of the entire book of Revelation – he uses Old Testament terminology to teach New Testament spiritual truths.
John does not leave his hearers to speculate as to what he means by this coming battle which he calls Gog and Magog. In vers 9 he says that the target in this battle will be the beloved city, which is headquarters for the camp of the saints. Contrary to those who make this battle apply to national Israel, John tells us that the beloved city is actually the church, which, of course, includes all believers. All are agreed that only the church is referred to in the New Testament as the bride of Christ. In chapter 21 of the Revelation John specifically says that the city of Jerusalem in his apocalyptic message represents the bride of Christ, or the church.
‘And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the Glory of God’ (Rev. 21:9-11).
The writer of Hebrews used this same symbolic language in speaking of the present position of the saints: But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (Heb 12:22,23). John predicts how this battle will end and also the destiny of Satan who will lead it. John saw that when the battle reached its very height, then fire from heaven would destroy all the enemies of the saints (Rev 20:9). Paul describes the same event, in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-2:8, and he, too, teaches that the second coming of our Lord will bring this great battle to its end. John describes it as fire from heaven, while Paul terms it the breath of Jesus’ mouth at the manifestation of his coming. Paul also mentioned flaming fire in connection with the second coming (2 Thess 1:7). To make these two different events is to beg the question by haggling over word pictures.
‘For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:7-12).
Satan’s being loosed for a little time coincides with Paul’s man of sin being given full sway just before the second coming of our Lord. The fact that Paul says God will send a working of error upon the unbelievers at that time also points up the fact that Satan’s power to deceive is limited (bound), and that he can act only as God permits.