Has Satan Been Bound?

In Revelation 20, the fundamental characteristic of the 1,000 year Millennium is that Satan is bound during this period.

Revelation 20:1-3 describes what happens to Satan at the beginning of the Millennium, "Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. 2 He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan—and tied him up for a thousand years. 3 The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.)"

Verses 7-8 then describe his release at the end of the Millennium, "Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle."

What seems very clear to me in these verses is that during the Millennium:
1) Satan is seized and bound by an angel, not by Jesus or his Church
2) His binding occurs suddenly and decisively at the beginning of the Millennium. It is not something that happens progressively during the Millennium.
3) He is thrown into the Abyss (v.3), which is described as his prison (v.7). In Greek thinking, the Abyss was as far below the earth as heaven is above it. Satan is therefore no longer at large, or a danger to those on Earth. He has not only been imprisoned, but also exiled to the remotest possible location in the depths of the Earth.
4) The angel holds the key to the abyss (v.1) and he locks Satan inside it (v.3)
5) The angel then seals the lock, further emphasising that Satan cannot get out. He is in a maximum security prison!
6) In his bound state, Satan can no longer deceive the nations (v.3). This has been Satan's primary activity throughout human history. Jesus said of him in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy". It is through deception and false religions that Satan is able to steal, kill and destroy.

It is the status of Satan in the present age, more than any other single issue, that makes me reject both Amillennialism and Postmillennialism. Both these positions require us to believe that we are currently in the Millennium and that Satan has already been bound. To me, it is plainly obvious that this is not the case. In Matthew 13:19, when Jesus explains his Parable of the Sower, he says, "When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path". Any Christian with any experience of sharing the Gospel knows that this parable is still applicable today, and that Satan continues to snatch away many of the seeds sown. The world is full of religions and ideologies that deceive people and cause them to reject the Gospel, and the bible is very clear that Satan is behind such deception. This has been the case throughout the present interadvental age.

On a case-by-case basis and in certain situations, I do believe that Satan is bound from deceiving some people. By God's grace, these people are freed from Satan's bondage and enabled to respond to the Gospel message and be saved. In Matthew 12:28-29, Jesus said, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you. How else can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house". Jesus said this in the context of having just driven a demon out of a blind and mute man and healed him. The Pharisees accused him of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons (a name for Satan). The 'house' in this context was the blind and mute man whom Jesus had healed. He was making the point that he had released this man from Satan's bondage, and thoroughly plundered what was formerly 'Satan's house' by completely healing the man. Jesus also points out that this is how his kingdom advances in the present age, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you". In Matthew 11:12, Jesus said, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it". In other words, as the Gospel spreads, a violent spiritual battle takes place between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. At times, the kingdom of God advances against the kingdom of Satan. But at some times in Church history, the kingdom of Satan has advanced against Christ's kingdom and taken back ground. Think, for example, of the rise and spread of Islam in the 7th century. Almost half of Christendom fell to Islam, and countries like Algeria and Turkey that had been strongholds of Christianity became strongholds of Islam. As recently as the 19th century, Europe was the main stronghold of Christianity in the world. But today, most Europeans have no real religion, and practicing Christians are in such a minority in Europe that they may soon be outnumbered by practicing Muslims.

In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, the Apostle Paul speaks of the continued presence of satanic darkness in the present age, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ." In Paul's thinking, Satan is still a present danger to unbelieving humanity. He has not been locked away in a maximum security prison.

Similarly, 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour". This is not language Peter would have used if Satan had already been bound and imprisoned in the remotest possible location and in the securest possible manner, as Revelation 20 portrays.

Amillennialists and Postmillennialists might argue that we should understand the binding of Satan in relative terms. During the Old Testament period, most of the world's population lived in spiritual darkness, blind to the truth about God and his salvation plan. Only the people of Israel had the light of God's truth, and even most of them rejected it and chose to live in darkness. In the present age, the light of the Gospel has spread abroad, and Christian believers can be found in nearly every nation and ethnic group in the whole world. This is certainly true. As Christ's kingdom has advanced around the world, individual lives have been released from Satan's bondage and they have been saved and healed. But Satan's deceptions are still present in countless different ways, and huge numbers of unbelieving people remain in his bondage.

If Satan had already been bound, as portrayed in Revelation 20, and was no longer able to deceive the nations, surely there would no longer be false religions, and everyone would follow the truth. It implies the kind of reality that Habakkuk 2:14 speaks about, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, just as the waters cover over the sea". But this is still a future hope and not a present reality. On this basis, Amillennialism surely falls.

Postmillennialists anticipate Habakkuk's vision being fulfilled through the triumph of the Gospel in the latter part of this present age. But then the binding of Satan is a gradual process, not the kind of decisive 'arrest and incarceration' that Revelation 20:1-3 portrays. So Post-Millennialism also falls, as far as I am concerned.

On that basis, I must be a Premillennialist. However, there are still other variables to consider, and not all of them fit easily within a Premillennial framework.