The First Scene in the Moral History of Redeemed Humanity
Revelation 20:1, 2
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.…

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, etc. No inspired book presents a greater scope for visionary and idle speculation than this Apocalypse. Here every imagination has the widest sweep for its wildest evolutions. Hence we have almost as many interpretations of its contents as we have expositors. One can scarcely pursue a more easy or certain path to popularity than by propounding some ingenious exegesis of this book. I intend going through the whole of this chapter and the first four verses of the succeeding one, in five analyses of homilies; because I think I discover there what seems admirably adapted for deep and practical moral impression. The nineteen verses may be fairly taken as an illustration of the moral history of humanity. They disclose no less than five moral scenes through which the redeemed portion of our race is to pass; namely:

(1) The scene of moral struggle;

(2) the scene of moral triumph;

(3) the scene of moral reaction;

(4) the scene of an awful retribution; and

(5) the scene of the final destiny of the good. The first - the scene of moral struggle - is the one unfolded in these verses. This scene shows us two things.

I. THAT REDEEMED HUMANITY HAS A TEARFUL ANTAGONIST TO CONTEND WITH. This enemy is called "dragon," "serpent," "devil," "Satan." This highly symbolic language, applied to the great antagonist of the good, implies three things.

1. The actual existence of such an enemy. The names "dragon," "serpent," etc., must stand for something. They are the names of real beings, and cannot be supposed as used to designate the mere phantoms of the imagination. Most conclusive arguments for the existence of some mighty agent of evil, whose influence is world wide, may be drawn from three considerations.

(1) The universal belief of humanity.

(2) The opposite classes of moral phenomena. In the world we have error, selfishness, infidelity, and misery; and truth, benevolence, religion, and happiness. Can these be branches from the same root? or streams from the same fount?

(3) The general teaching of the Bible.

2. The personality of such an enemy. These are names of creatures having individual existence and attributes. The Bible always speaks of this evil existent as a person. It is far too great a demand upon our credulity to believe that the various inspired writers, from Moses to John, extending over a period of more than two thousand years, possessing various idiosyncrasies and attainments, and living under different economies, governments, and circumstances, could all fall into the common habit of speaking of evil as a person if it were only a principle. This, I say, is too much for our faith. Moreover, an evil principle implies an evil person. Sin is not some mysterious entity, separate from moral existence. Is sin an act? Then it must have an agent, Is it a motive? Motive implies thought, and thought implies a thinker.

3. The characteristics of such an enemy. "Dragon" stands as the emblem of power. Probably the leviathan described in Job 41. is of the same class: "Shall not one be cast down, even at the sight of him?" "Serpent" stands as the emblem of cunning and venom. "Devil" means accuser. "Satan" signifies opposer. This adversary of redeemed humanity, then, is mighty, crafty, and virulent. The New Testament is full of the doctrine that this being is the determined foe of humanity (Matthew 4:10; Matthew 12:26; Mark 4:15; Luke 10:18; Luke 22:3, 31; Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 12:9).

II. THAT HEAVEN HAS VOUCHSAFED AN AGENCY WHICH IS DESTINED TO MASTER THE ADVERSARY. "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit [abyss]." Who is this angel that descends from heaven? The word "angel" both in Hebrew and Greek, means messenger. It is applied to impersonal as well as personal agents; and it is applied to evil, as well as good, personal agents. It is evidently used here to designate some good personal agent, for he descends from heaven, and descends from heaven to do battle with evil. The language applies preeminently to Christ, but refers also to every true religious teacher. Let the word "angel," here, then, stand forevery true religious teacher - including Christ and all his true servants; and we shall get a most clear and practical meaning from the passage. We have here two things about this true teacher - this angel.

1. His authority. He has the "key" of the bottomless pit. A key is the emblem of authority. Christ is said to have the keys of death and hell (Hades) at his girdle; and to his servant Peter he gave the "keys" of the kingdom - the authority to open the kingdom of truth, by true preaching, to Jew and Gentile. Every man who has the true spirit and power of a teacher, has the "key" or the authority to teach. He has a right to do battle with the enemy wherever he is found; whether in literature or commerce, Churches or governments, theories or practices. A true man has Heaven's key in his hand for this work.

2. His instrumentality. What is the instrument employed? "A chain." What is the chain? Iron, brass, adamant? No, no! These cannot fetter intellect - these cannot manacle soul. Nothing can curb or restrain the influence of Satan but Christian truth. What is meant by binding Satan? It does not mean the binding of his being or faculties, but the binding of his influence. He is to be bound, in the sense of limiting his sway, by closing up human hearts against him. As liberty binds the influence of slavery, intelligence the influence of ignorance, and religion the influence of infidelity, so Christian truth is to bind the influence of Satan. Every truth is a link in that mighty chain. The chain of Christian teaching is far too weak and short at present to restrain the force or measure the dimensions of Satanic influence. This is the scene through which we are passing. All is battle now. For the subjugation of the common foe, let each forge some holy thought link for the all-enfettering chain. - D.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

WEB: I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.

Satan Bound for a Thousand Years
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