(Rev. 20:2-3) Is Satan currently bound?

CLAIM: Because amillennials and postmillennials believe that we are currently in the millennium as Christians, it follows necessarily that Satan is currently bound. Postmillennial Kenneth Gentry writes,

Christ accomplished Satan’s binding judicially in the first century; the binding increasingly constricts Satan throughout the Christian era (i.e., the ‘one thousand years’), except for a brief period just prior to the Second Advent (Rev. 20:2-3, 7-9). This binding does not result in the total inactivity of Satan; rather, it restrains his power by Christ’s.[1]

Likewise, amillennial G.K. Beale writes,

The binding was probably inaugurated during Christ’s ministry, which is more the focus of texts such as Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; and Luke 10:17-19. Satan’s binding was climactically put in motion immediately after Christ’s resurrection, and it lasts throughout most of the age between Christ’s first and second comings.[2]

The ‘binding’ (deo) of Satan in Mark 3:27 (= Matt. 12:29) does not restrict all his activities but highlights the fact that Jesus is sovereign over him and his demonic forces… That Satan is “cast out” (exballo) by Christ’s death does not restrict Satan in every way. Rather, it keeps him from preventing ‘all people’ throughout the earth being drawn to Jesus (John 12:31-32).[3]

‘Sealing’ may connote an absolute incarceration, but could just as well connote the general idea of ‘authority over,’ which is its primary meaning also in Dan. 6:17 and Matt. 27:66 (though the context of the latter pertains to absolute confinement). God’s ‘seal’ on Christians does not protect them in every sense but only in a spiritual, salvific manner, since they suffer from persecution in various physical ways. Conversely, God’s seal on Satan prevents him from harming the salvific security of the true church, though he can harm it physically.[4]

But exactly how is the binding to be defined? In the light of 1:18 and 3:7-8 it can be said that Satan no longer has authority over the realm of the dead as he did prior to Jesus’ resurrection.[5]

These interpreters often line up the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2 with the confinement of Satan in the abyss. When the restrainer is taken away, this is the opening of the abyss and the release of Satan.[6]

RESPONSE: When we read the passage in Revelation 20 to which Gentry refers, we do not see that Satan is being “constricted.” Instead, we read that he is bound, shut out, and sealed in an abyss. John writes,

(Rev. 20:2-3) [Jesus] laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed.

Of course this language is symbolic, but what is it symbolic of? For instance, if I said, “I’m as hungry as a horse…” I shouldn’t be taken literally (i.e. I have the appetite of a 900 pound animal), but I should be taken seriously (i.e. I’m famished). Likewise, what does John mean by these serious symbols (“bound him” “shut it” “sealed it”)?

In addition, Revelation 9:14 sheds some light on the use of the word “binding” (Greek deo). There we read that the angels were “bound” to the river Euphrates, which is a clear marker of restraint on the angelic order.

Most importantly, when we read the rest of the Bible, we find absolutely no evidence that Satan is bound. In fact, the Bible repeatedly states that Satan is currently alive and well on Earth—not in an abyss (Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 5:5; 7:5; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Cor. 2:11; 4:3-4; 11:14; 12:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Heb. 2:8; 1 Thess. 2:18; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 Jn. 3:8-10; 5:19-20). Moreover, why do we read so much about Satan in the NT only to find that he is immediately bound? It seems more reasonable to assume that God has given us so much information on Satan, so that we can face him in battle (Eph. 6:10-18).

Amillennial interpreters offer two rejoinders to this view:

ARGUMENT #1: Satan is PARTIALLY bound in that he can’t deceive the nations any longer.

Amillennialists often retort that Satan is still active, but he can’t stop the nations from being deceived from the gospel (“bound him… so that he would not deceive the nations any longer”). For instance, amillennial G.K. Beale writes,

Christ’s work of restraining the devil’s ability to ‘deceive’ is not a complete curtailment of all of the devil’s activities but only a restraint on his deceiving activities… The locking up of the ‘abyss’ in 20:1-3 may convey the idea that Satan and his hordes cannot be on the loose to deceive those ‘who did not receive the mark [of the beast] on their foreheads.[7]

However, we might retort: Why would John write that Satan is bound from the spreading of the gospel, if he really is actually entering the hearts of believers (Acts 5:3; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), scheming against believers (2 Cor. 2:11), thwarting Paul’s ministry (1 Tim. 2:18), looking to destroy believers (1 Pet. 5:8), blinding the eyes of non-Christians (2 Cor. 4:4), and currently in control of the whole world (1 Jn. 5:19-20)? Moreover, can we really say that the spread of the gospel has been unopposed in closed countries by Satan? When we speak with missionaries on the field, we find that Satan has been anything but docile in opposing the spread of the gospel.

ARGUMENT #2: The sealing of the abyss doesn’t mean absolute incarceration, because Daniel 6:17 and Matthew 27:66 use the same word.

Beale cites two passages above to claim that “sealing” isn’t a complete incarceration, but neither support his case. Daniel 6:17 refers to the king “sealing” Daniel in the lion’s den with his signet ring. In this case, the symbol of sealing him with his signet ring resulted in a literal sealing (i.e. Daniel couldn’t get out!). Moreover, Matthew 27:66 refers to the guards that set a royal seal over the tomb of Jesus (i.e. Jesus couldn’t get out). Of course, God’s power opened the tomb, but that was not the intent of the Roman guards when they set a “seal” on the tomb of a dead person. Moreover, even if the symbolism of “sealing” is not absolute, the amillennial interpreter would need to show that the “binding” and “shutting” were also.


For these reasons, we believe that the binding of Satan is a future event that has not occurred yet, but will occur in the future millennial kingdom.

[1] Gentry, Kenneth. “Postmillennialism.” Bock, Darrell (General Editor). Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 1999. 52.

[2] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 985.

[3] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 985.

[4] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 985-986.

[5] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 985-986.

[6] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 989.

[7] Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999. 986.