In Revelation 12-17 John saw Satan (the “dragon”) and his allies (the “beasts” and then the “great harlot”) presented as emblems of the evil one’s power and overwhelming determination to conquer the faithful through persecution, trial and seduction. From chapter 17:16 onward he saw these same forces being overcome – in reverse order – by the power of God (first the harlot, 18:2, then the “beasts,” 19:19-21, and finally in chapter 20, the “dragon” himself, Satan). Just as Satan’s servants had set themselves to do battle against the Lord (only to be summarily dispatched, without so much as “firing a shot”), John now sees the evil one himself bound (and then loosed as if to make war against the Lamb) and finally judged (20:10) along with his allies – all WITHOUT being allowed to actually “do battle” against the Lord!
The “takeaway” from the last chapters of Revelation? The final outcome is never in question: God is in complete control of these events, and “the dragon” is only able to do what He permits.
While Revelation 20 does mention a 1,000-year “reign,” this is the only place in scripture where it is mentioned. (The number “1,000” represents 10 X 10 X 10, with “10” generally understood as representing fulness, raised to perfection by being multiplied three times.) The first ten verses of this chapter are the virtual “heart” of millennial doctrines about Jesus and His kingdom, and those who impose these views on the bible envision a literal earthly paradise, with Jesus ruling for 1,000 years from David’s throne in Jerusalem. They assert that all Jews will (miraculously) convert to Christianity, and perfect harmony will exist during that time among all peoples on a “renovated” earth that is no longer influenced or affected by Satan. Note, however, that Revelation 20:1-10 mentions NONE of these things.
Chapter 21 shows the destiny of the redeemed, a stunningly magnificent climax to the visions John has seen and a fitting conclusion to this last book of the bible. John’s vision takes us beyond the great and terrible day of Judgement to show the ultimate destination of God’s faithful. Amid a “new” creation described as a “new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), God’s people experience the blessing of perfect fellowship in His presence forever. All their trials and difficulties are over; neither pain nor sorrow is there; John’s inspired image of that “city” clearly describes something that beggars the imagination!
The final chapter of the Revelation continues the description of life in eternity: God’s saints have free access to the river of the water of life (cf. John 7:37-38) and the tree of life (cf. Genesis 2:9 & 3:22- 24), and they see the face of God (note also Matthew 5:8). These images show God’s perfect and eternal provision for His children; everything we could need or want is there, we lack nothing!
The angel showing John these things stresses in vs. 6 that what he sees must “shortly” come to pass. John falls at his feet to worship, only to be corrected once more and then instructed to leave the book he has just written “unsealed” (this shows that its contents concerned those who would originally read it in John’s own time). Verses 10-16 recount in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself a series of contrasts that emphasize the certainty with which judgement is approaching and the inexorable quality of the division it will produce. The book concludes with an invitation, an admonition, and a benediction.