Fourfold Loosing & Binding of Satan

James Durham
Commentary on Revelation
Ch. 20, Lect. 1, Vol. 3,
pp. 378-382, 384-387

There is a fourfold loosing and raging of the devil mentioned in the Word, and there is a fourfold victory of the Church over him in opposition to these, also spoken of, and the last is still the greatest.

1. Satan’s Personal Dominion & Casting Out of Heaven.

His first dominion we may call personal, when he kept all the world in gross darkness, worshiping him directly in temples, and he giving responses and answers in them, possessing men personally and corporally (as he did in Christ’s time) leading the world at his will. He is bound in this respect by Christ’s birth, preaching, miracles, death, ascension, and sending forth the Apostles and the Gospel (like a white horse conquering, Rev. 6) whereby the prince of this world was judged, Satan cast from heaven like lightning, many corporally possessed, were dispossessed and freed from his dominion, and the devil chased from his audible answering in oracles, as formerly he had done. His known answer given at Delphi to Augustus his Legates, who were sent to him to inquire concerning his successor, about the time of Christ’s birth, is by many cited to this purpose:

An Hebrew child, King of the heavens high
To leave these Temples hath commanded me,
And to be gone, to darkness, and to woe:
Thou therefore silent from our altars go.

After this, no audible answer was given at these oracles. Thus Satan is bound from the beginning of the Gospel to the end of the world. For, Christ shall have a Church, even among the Nations and Gentiles. And thus Christ hath overcome him, and so spoiled him, that he shall never prevail against the catholic Church (Mat. 16:18).

This is not the binding here [in Rev. 20:2-3], because this is a binding that is eminently applicable and agreeable to one particular time, so as it cannot agree to any other before nor after. And it would seem that as it is clear that Satan is loosed after it, before Christ’s second coming, so it is clear that Satan hath been (as to this binding) loose before it, after Christ’s first coming, except we say, that all the time between Christ’s first coming and His second, shall be taken up in these two, to wit: First, a thousand years restraint upon Satan, and then a little times liberty, upon the back whereof comes the judgment. But the length of time intervening and the various and frequent ups and downs of the Church show that there are more periods in her case, and the great liberty of the Church (and so the binding of Satan, which is still contemporary with it) spoken of to be in the latter days of the Gospel, at least after the first thousand years, will not admit that. These thousand years therefore must not begin either at Christ’s birth or death, or yet at the destruction of Jerusalem, or sending of the Gospel to the Gentiles (besides that it presupposes martyrs as prior to it) and therefore it must begin after these periods.

2. Satan’s National Dominion & Casting Down.

There is a second dominion Satan hath yet, even when the Gospel is preached, and that is by his guiding the public magistracy of the world, whereby he condemned Christians, persecuted and destroyed them, and obstructed the public and avowed profession of Christ in an united church-way (at least in a great part), and kept up still temples and idol-worship, and that as countenanced by authority.

Satan is put down from this in Rev. 12, where we have the story of his casting from the throne, before which time he is seen as loose in heaven, that is, in person of the emperors, as a bloody dragon ready to devour the child. As formerly in Rev. 6 he rides, as it were, on the red, pale, and black horses, till by the sixth seal answerable to, and contemporary with chapter 12, he is in all these respects defeated, the public and avowed worshiping of idols overturned, and the public profession of Christianity countenanced by authority. In which respect in Rev. 12:10 it is called “the Kingdom of our God, and power of His Christ,” which certainly infers a good condition to the saints with it.

3. Satan’s Antichristian Dominion & Millennial Binding.

His third storm and loosing, after he comes to the earth, is by more subtle means prosecuted in the first six trumpets by the beast in Rev. 13 and in the end of chapter 12, which is contemporary with the first six trumpets. His restraint (as to that loosing) is by the seventh trumpet, wherein his dominion by the beast, such as formerly he had by the heathen emperor, is overturned. And answerably to that liberty of his (spoken of in chapters 12 and 13), here is set down in this third explicatory prophecy—Satan’s third restraint in opposition to that dominion of his by Antichrist. And this prophecy will be found contemporary with the seventh trumpet and the vials from their beginning, which succeed immediately to the witnesses ascending up to heaven, and to the end of the woman’s flight and abode in the wilderness, and to the forty two months of the beast’s reign.

4. Satan’s Little Season & Casting into Hell for Eternity.

The fourth and last liberty and dominion of the devil mentioned, is this of his stirring up Gog and Magog [Rev. 20:7-9]. And his restraint, in reference to this, is the last judgment [Rev. 20:10].

Now, seeing his binding here [in Rev. 20:2-3] cannot be the first, as is said, nor the second in chapter 12, this presupposing the beast in being (as appears by these who reign in this time), nor yet the last—it must necessarily follow therefore, that it is the binding spoken of in the third place, which is contemporary with the beast’s overthrow, in whom he was formerly worshiped, and fain would have sustained that worship, but was bound up from it, and could not help himself, as in chapter 18.

Taking this then to be the binding of Satan, following upon that rage of his in Rev. 12:13-17, the scope will be to show what came of the devil after he had brought that design to a great height in chapter 13. So that if it be asked, what became of him after he had raged forty two months against the woman, having made her flee to the wilderness, and against the witnesses, having made them prophesy all that time in sackcloth? It is answered here, “I saw,” saith John, “him again taken and bound up from his liberty, as the beast was from his; and I saw that Church, which by and under the beast he had persecuted and made despicable in the world, brought again to an honorable condition” (wherein he could not impede them). Having again an honorable public and avowed profession of the Gospel in a greater number of professors, purity of doctrine, holiness of life, spirituality of worship, and vigor of discipline, with much less outward disturbance than formerly—which restraint of his and kingdom to them continued a long time, till God in his secret justice permitted him to make a new onset before the last judgment by Gog, which follows that assault of the devils by the beast. Thereafter, the Lord pursues and overturns him and his designs everlastingly, after which he shall never have a link of his chain loosed to the disturbance of Christ’s Church. This is the sum, which will be more clear in the particular explication of the words, and in that which follows.

. . .

Satan’s Binding (Rev. 20:2-3) is not Absolute.

Whatever be meant by Satan’s restraint here, it is not to be understood absolutely and simply in all respects, but comparatively and in some respect, so as notwithstanding thereof he is still deluding, deceiving, tempting and carrying many to Hell, and not wanting instruments to disturb the saints’ peace. Though he get not to that success he would be at in the means he uses, nor yet to that readiness of instruments and means he has formerly used, for there are many dead, and continuing so as yet, in verse 5 he has Gog and Magog, many yet without, and possibly also within the Church, in whom he reigns, though he prevail not with them so as to bring them up against the camp of the most high. And his full binding is reserved till the last day, when he is cast in the lake, and when he gets his final judgment (Jude 6). And therefore he pleads that his time was not come, fully and simply to be shut up (Mat. 8:29). Besides, that that warning (that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may destroy, 1 Pet. 5:8) concerns Christians till the end of the world, they shall have a tempter of him till then, against whom they shall still have cause to watch. Therefore he is not simply bound up in Hell, but, in his raging among men, restrained, and that eminently to a great degree. For, as Satan is said to be bound when he is cast out from having absolute dominion over a man (Mat. 12:29), though he continue to tempt and trouble, so, in respect of the Church he is bound. Though he may be troubling them as he may do a particular person, yet he gets never such absolute and full dominion over them again. In that respect he is restrained and bound. Even so, here.

Satan’s Binding (Rev. 20:2-3) is more eminent than the previous two.

We think here is understood his most eminent restraining after Christ’s birth till His second coming. And therefore Christ’s victories over him being always the longer the greater, it is likely to be the last great restraint of Satan, to wit, after Antichrist’s (at least, begun) ruin—which may be in sundry respects shown to be greater than any of the former, as having some things of all the former restraints concurring together in it, and that in an eminent degree. However, that it is most eminent, is clear by these evidences:

1. That he is bound and sealed (in some measure) not only cast from the throne to the earth, but kept from that liberty which formerly he had on the earth. The expression certainly signifies a very great restraint.

2. The saints’ peaceable reign, shows him to be eminently bound. For, that they are now [peaceably reigning] in more respect than at any other time, it is from this, that he is more bound up. And therefore this effect or concomitant thereof, to wit, their reigning, must of necessity be from a more than ordinary binding.

3. That he may, and must be restrained, and said to be so in a greater measure and in a more eminent manner than agrees to him, or can be said of him, either before or after that. It is therefore a singular eminent binding, which differentiates this time and event from any time or state of the Church before or after it.

. . .

The Millennial Reign of the Saints is Figurative and Spiritual.

The saints’ reign for a thousand years is not literally to be understood and properly as the words sound, but figuratively and spiritually. The particular making out of this will follow in the opening of the words. Yet this we may in general say:

1. That they are figuratively to be understood, not as the letter properly sounds. For, that the devil is bound with a chain, cannot be proper, but to show that he is kept in like a violent mastiff in a chain, by God’s sovereignty. So thrones, the souls of these slain, their living and their resurrection, is figurative, as the rest who continue dead, signifies not properly those who continued in the grave, but those in nature. For, it is said of all men, contra-distinctly from these living, “the rest of the dead,” etc. Yet the last judgment is not come (therefore many lived a natural life then, who did not live thus, but as all men are divided in regenerate and unregenerate, so here they are divided in living and dead to that same purpose). So, souls sitting on thrones and reigning with Christ cannot but be figurative, as that also of the resurrection, there being in the Scripture but one acknowledged, that is proper, which this is not.

2. I say they are to be understood spiritually, which confirms the former, that is, this dominion, reign, living, and resurrection of the saints, must be spiritually understood especially and chiefly. For clearing whereof, understand, that as there is a natural and proper life, dominion, and resurrection, so there is one figurative and spiritual which agrees to all Christians.

(1.) There is a spiritual slavery and bondage to sin, death, Satan, etc. (Rom. 6). We were servants to it, led captive by the devil at his will, sold under sin, and its reign (Rom. 7). So there is a spiritual dominion to be free from that, made kings unto God, (Rev. 1:6; 5:10), reigning on the earth.

(2.) There is a spiritual death (Eph. 2; 1 Tim. 5:8), and so there is a spiritual life (Gal. 2:21).

(3.) There is a spiritual resurrection from the death and dominion of sin, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and live” (John 5:25). And this is the in-bringing of many to the Gospel, or the breaking out of it, which is called a resurrection (Rom. 11:15), as there is a universal resurrection in the great day mentioned (Rev. 20:12).

I say then, these words here are spiritually to be understood especially, though not only. As is clear, for: 1. This dominion and reign is on the earth. Therefore it is not proper, but figurative, seeing clear Scripture promises no such earthly temporal kingdom to saints, but warns them to be always looking for the cross and affliction. Which could not be if there were a thousand years of freedom and temporal reign.

2. This is a dominion common to all saints as saints. For, the world now is divided in dead or unregenerate, and living, that is, believers, and all these living are martyrs, and such as have not received the beast’s mark (which is the character of all the elect in chapters 13, 14, and 17), whereby is understood all true believers. But no temporal kingdom is promised to all saints as saints, but what is spiritual is promised. Ergo, etc.

Yea, there can be no other. For, if all the saints were temporal kings, whom should they command? Who should be their subjects? Yet, without any confusion, spiritual dominion will agree to them all.

Neither can it be said they are to govern the reprobates, who continue dead. For, 1. That would imply a distinct discernible separation even hereaway [on earth], as if no hypocrite could lurk. 2. The text supposes the visible Church and these without to be separated, as having their own rulers, which appears in Gog’s undertaking afterward, who is not subject to them.

3. There behooved to be many kingdoms, if every saint had one now, when they are multiplied and the wicked fewer. This is a reign especially of souls, and it is not for naught so expressed here, as there is a soul-merchandise hinted at by this expression in chapter 18.

4. So these live and reign as the most part of the world are dead and in bondage, and enjoy not that resurrection. But that is spiritually to be understood, they were dead in sin and not raised thus to reign. Therefore so must the reign of saints and their life on the contrary be spiritual, for in this only they are singular.

5. It is a dominion at this time as common to all saints, so peculiar to them and common to none other. But, no question, many reprobates have yet dominion in the world, and so live without the Church. For Gog and Magog have their own magistrates then, and are said to come against the saints, and not to rebel against them, which would have been true if saints only had born dominion and rule over these. And when the devil goes out to the four winds, it supposes great and large territories to be even then without the Church, which certainly wanted not temporal rule.

6. It is such a dominion as Christ has, for they reign with Him. As therefore His Kingdom is on earth, so is theirs. But His Kingdom is not of this world, but is spiritual. Therefore so is theirs. For, this, to reign with Christ, speaks not any new way of Christ’s reigning, but speaks a new accession to His Kingdom, of others coming-in to partake of it with Him, and is certainly to show what sort of Kingdom this is, which the saints shall have, and to contradistinguish it from that dominion that is worldly.

7. It is such a reign on earth as all the saints have in respect of kind, though not for degree. For there is but one Covenant and Kingdom, and the same promise is made to all under the New Testament. But that is spiritual. They all so reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10). Ergo, etc.

8. It is such a reign, as it is a priesthood, so are they kings, as they are priests (cf. Rev. 20:6). These partakers of this resurrection are priests to God. But their priesthood is spiritual, and not again of offering outward sacrifices, so must also therefore be their dominion and kingdom.

9. Certainly spiritual mercies are the best, and the Church’s condition that flows and abounds most in these, must be the best condition. Seeing then this is the Church’s best condition spoken of, it must therefore be especially understood spiritually. For what is commended here is not as simply commendable to men, but as commendable in a Church, and peculiar to her as such.

The Millennial Reign of the Saints is Not Exclusively Spiritual.

Objection. If it be said here, Then nothing peculiar is promised to saints or believers in this time, (seeing that dominion agrees to saints at all times) which seems to be absurd. Therefore something more must be here. Answer. It is granted that something more is here, as is said. For:

1. Now saints not only reign singularly over their own lusts, but jointly in visible Churches, and in a Church-estate, having all the ordinances of Word, Sacraments, and Discipline amongst them. And these in more purity, power, and fruits than for any time before, and in longer continuance. The stamp of God’s authority on His ordinances shall be more sensible now, than before.

2. Though it be not a temporal thing that their reigning consists in, yet shall they have more temporal freedom than formerly. The devil shall not mar the course of the Gospel neither by open violence, nor by Antichrist’s deceit. But still there shall be Churches either in kingdoms where they shall have law and allowance for their profession, or amongst enemies, and their enemies shall be restrained from being able to put them in such doleful conditions as they have formerly been into. Thus the Gospel shall be countenanced with public authority, which was in chapter 12. And besides, they shall have freedom against Antichrist’s dominion with a more full performance of promises of the Spirit, which they had not then.

The Millennium will have more temporal peace than ever before.

A seventh thing concerning this dominion, is clear, that it implies as more spiritual, so more temporal, peace and freedom than at any other time (putting the continuance of it and all together) and though it does not mainly and especially, yet, in some measure, it does take in outward peace in their condition also. Which appears:

1. From Satan’s eminent restraint, which has influence also on the Church’s temporal peace as well as spiritual, so it follows in some part as the other.

2. It appears from the event after his loosing, their temporal peace is then marred. Therefore they had it by the devil’s restraint in some measure. Otherwise they reign when Gog is high, as before spiritually in a good measure.

3. The pointing out of this reign as having a more continued eminent honorable profession of the Gospel, not common to other times; and it being opposite, probably, to the saints’ suffering times also when their prophets were in sackcloth, and the Church forced to flee; It is likely, it holds out a temporal freedom suiting with these ends and freeing them from the bondage they laid under before. For if in suffering times, saints still reign spiritually, then that new engagement of Gog and Magog would not interrupt it. And so it would be a reign not for a thousand years only, but for the length of the world, for so they still did reign. Therefore it is not purely and only spiritual.


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