Apocalypse xx.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. And bound him for a thousand years. I shall give the reader an abridgment of what St. Augustine has left us on this chapter, in his 20th book de Civ. Dei[City of God]. From the 5th to the 16th chap., (t. vii. p. 578 et seq.) he treats upon these difficulties: What is meant by the first and second resurrection; by the binding and chaining up of the devil; by the thousand years that the saints reign with Christ; by the first and second death; by Gog and Magog, &c. As to the first resurrection, chap. vi., he takes notice on the 5th verse, that resurrection[1] in the Gospels, and in St. Paul, is applied not only to the body but also to the soul; and the second resurrection, which is to come, is that of the bodies: that there is also a death of the soul, which is by sin; and that the second death is that of soul and body by eternal damnation: that both bad and good shall rise again in their bodies. On those words, (ver. 6) Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection; in these the second death hath no power. Such, saith he, (chap. ix.) as have risen from sin, and have remained in that resurrection of the soul, shall never be liable to the second death, which is damnation. Cap. vii. p. 580, he says that some Catholics not understanding rightly the first resurrection, have been led into ridiculous fables,[2]and this by the interpretation which they put on the thousand years; as if the first resurrection implied a resurrection of the bodies of the martyrs and saints, who should live on the earth with Christ for a thousand years before the general resurrection, in all manner of delights. This was the opinion of those called Millenarians: this, saith he, might seem tolerable in some measure,[3] if taken for spiritual delights, (for we ourselves were once in these sentiments) but if for carnal pleasures, it can only be believed by carnal men. He then expounds what may be understood by the binding and chaining of the devil for a thousand years; (Cap. vii. & viii, p. 581) that the thousand years, meaning a long time, may signify all the time from Christ’s first coming[4] to his second at the end of the world, and to the last short persecution under antichrist. The devil is said to be bound, that is, his power much lessened and restrained, in comparison of the great and extensive power he had over all nations before Christ’s incarnation; not but that he still tempts many,[5] and raiseth persecutions, which always turn to their greater good; and that towards the end of the world he shall be let loose, as it were, for a short time, and permitted with his infernal spirits to exercise his malice against mankind, to try the patience of the elect, and to shew the power of God’s grace, by which his faithful servants shall triumph over the devil. (N. B.[Nota Bene, Note Well?]) What St. Augustine adds divers times in these chapters: “Let no one,” says he, “imagine[6] that even during that short time, there shall be no Church of Christ on the earth: God forbid: even when the devil shall be let loose, he shall not be able to seduce the Church.” Cap. ix, p. 586, he expounds those words, (ver. 4-5) I saw the souls of them that were beheaded….and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years….This is the first resurrection: i.e. the first resurrection is while the devil is chained up for the space of a thousand years. He takes notice that the present state of the Church is many times called the kingdom of God, and that the Church of Christ reigns now with Christ, both in the living saints and in those who are dead, in the souls of the martyrs, and of others, who having lived and died piously, now reign with Christ, not yet in their bodies,[7] but their souls reign with him. On those words of the 4th verse: who had not adored the beast, nor his image, nor received his mark, he only gives this exposition, as agreeable to the Christian faith, that by the beast may be understood the multitude of wicked sinners in general, and the image of the beast[8] those who are of the Church in outward appearance and profession only, and not by their works. When it is said (ver. 5) that the rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years were finished: they lived not, says he, as to their souls, when they should have lived; and therefore not being happy in heaven, when their bodies shall rise, it shall not be to life, but to judgment and damnation, which is the second death. Cap. xi, he expounds the 7th and 8th verses, where it is said that Satan shall be loosed….and seduce the nations which are over the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog,[9] and shall gather them together to battle. This, says St. Augustine, will be the last persecution at the approach of the day of judgment, which the whole city, or the whole Church of Christ dispersed through the universe, will suffer from the whole city of the devil. Neither need Gog and Magog be taken for a particular[10] barbarous people, but such as are dispersed in a manner in every nation, and who shall then break out by the instigation of Satan into an open hatred and persecution against the faithful servants of God; as it is said, (ver. 8.) they ascended upon the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, where we cannot literally understand one camp, one city, or one place, but the Church every where dispersed. Cap. xii, he expounds the 9th verse, where he takes fire to signify, metaphorically, the firm resistance and constancy of the good, and the fire[11] of their zeal, which devoured as it were the wicked; or we may understand with others, the temporal fire of God’s judgments in this world against the wicked, but not the last eternal fire; because the eternal fire comes not down from heaven but the wicked are cast into it below. Cap. xiii, he teacheth that the last persecution[12] of antichrist, here mentioned, shall  last but three years and six months; i.e. a little while. Cap. xiv and xv, he expounds the 10th and following verse, of the devil being cast into the lake of fire, after the last persecution of antichrist. By the beast he understands, as before, the city or multitude of all the wicked; and by the false prophet, either antichrist or the outward appearance of faith in them that have none. Then follows the last judgment, where it is said that the books are opened, and also that another book was opened. By the first book, may be understood men and their consciences; and by the other book, the book of life, that[13] of eternal predestination. Thus far S. Augustine, where we see that he delivers the common Catholic doctrine, that by the thousand years, so often mentioned in this chapter, he understands all that time in which the souls of the martyrs, and of all other saints, reign happy with Christ in heaven, till after the general resurrection they receive a full and complete happiness, both as to soul and body. A false exposition of these thousand years gave occasion to the mistake, the error, and heresy of those called the Millenarians, which Mede and Dr. W. have followed. Papias, who lived soon after, or perhaps with St. John, was the chief promoter of this mistake; a man, says Eusebius, of “little judgment and capacity,”[14] who misconstrued the discourses which he heard. He was followed by divers writers in the second, third, and fourth century, who did not hold with Cerinthus and his followers, that the saints should rise before the general resurrection, and reign with Christ on earth for a thousand years in all manner of sensual pleasures; but in spiritual delights, in the city of Jerusalem, built anew after that glorious manner described in the next chapter. Now though this opinion had several considerable abettors, of which I find these seven: Papias, St. Justin[St. Justin Martyr], St. Irenæus, Tertullian, Nepos, (a bishop, in Egypt; in Eusebius, lib. vii. chap. xxiv.) Victorinus Petabionensis, Lactantius, and Severus Sulpitius: yet were there always other learned Catholic writers who rejected it as a fable. Of this number was Caius, a priest, at Rome, about the end of the second age[century]; Origen, in his prologue on the Canticles; St. Denys, of Alexandria, who in the third age[century] wrote to confute Nepos; (see Eusebius, lib. vii. History of the Church, chap. xxiv., who treats it as a fable ) St. Basil,[15] who calls it an old wife’s tale, and a Jewish fiction, Epist. 293; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. 52; St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, Philastrius, Theodoret, who place this opinion among the heresies and heretical fables: so that this could never be looked upon as the constant doctrine and tradition of the Church. The bishop of Meaux[Bossuet] takes notice, that Mede either mistook or falsified the text of St. Justin,[16] who, in his Dialogue with Tryphon, holds that opinion of a thousand years reign; but adds, “I also told you, that many who are Christians of pious and sound sentiments, do not own this to be true.” Thus we read in the Greek, as well as in the Latin translation: but Mr. Mede quite changes the sense, by adding a negative in this manner; but many who are not of this pure and holy doctrine, &c. We may observe that St. Justin says in the next page, that they who own not the resurrection of the body, and say that souls go to heaven without any future resurrection, are not to be accounted Christians, but are to be looked upon as Sadducees and unbelievers. Which is very true. And he adds, that he, and others who think right with him, know that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and a rebuilding of Jerusalem for a thousand years, which St. Justin himself judged grounded on the prophets, Isaias, Ezechiel, &c. So that not to make St. Justin contradict himself, he mentions three opinions: the first is the heresy of those who absolutely denied the future resurrection of the dead: these were not Christians, but unbelievers, Sadducees, &c. The second was of those who held that the martyrs and saints should rise, and reign for a thousand years in their bodies on the earth; this, which was his own opinion, he calls the right and true doctrine. But thirdly, he does not condemn those pious Christians who, as he had said before, disowned this thousand years reign, for this would be to contradict himself. (Witham) — In the above chapter, what man can reflect without trembling, that the devil has the rage of a dragon, the cunning of an old serpent, the malice of a calumniator, and that he is a most implacable enemy? On the other hand, what man is there that does not feel consolation in the reflection, that Jesus Christ has vanquished this savage fiend, and bound him in fetters, by limiting the exercise of his rage and malice? Some understand this chaining of the dragon of the reign of Constantine, and particularly after the defeat of Licinius; (see above, [Apocalypse] chap. xii. 18.) and the thousand years of the intermediate period between Constantine and antichrist, when the devil will again be let loose, but for a short time, only three years and a half. (Bible de Vence) — Bound him, &c. The power of Satan has been very much abridged by the passion of Christ; for a thousand years; that is for the whole time of the new testament, but especially from the time of the destruction of Babylon or pagan Rome, till the new efforts of Gog and Magog against the Church, towards the end of the world. During which time the souls of the martyrs and saints live and reign with Christ in heaven, in the first resurrection, which is that of the soul to the life of glory, as the second resurrection will be that of the body, at the day of general judgment. (Challoner)


[1] Ver. 2. St. Augustine, chap. vi. Prima animarum est.

[2] Ver. 2. Chap. vii, p. 580. In quasdam riduculas fabulas.

[3] Ver. 2. P. 581. Utcunque tolerabilis.

[4] Ver. 2. Mille annòs pro annis omnibus hujus sæculi posuit, &c. Chap. viii, p. 583. A primo adventu Christi usque ad finem sæculi.

[5] Ver. 2. Chap. viii, p. 583. Alligatio diaboli est non permitti exercere totam tentationem, &c.

[6] Ver. 2. Ne quis existimet eo ipso parvo tempore, quo solvetur diabolus, in hâc terrâ ecclesiam non futuram, &c. Tales erunt, cum quibus ei belligerandum est, ut vinci tanto ejus impetu, insidiisque non possint, &c.

[7] Ver. 2. Chap. ix, p. 586. Quamvis ergo cum suis corporibus nondum, jam tamen eorum animæ regnant cum eo.

[8] Ver. 2. P. 587. Quæ sit ista bestia….non abhorret a fide recta, ut ipsa impia civitas intelligatur, et populus infidelium contrarius populo fideli, et civitati Dei. Imago vero simulatio ejus mihi videtur….fallaci imagine Christiani.

[9] Ver. 2. Chap xi, p. 589. De Gog et Magog: hæc erit novissima persecutio, novissimo imminente judicio, quam sancta ecclesia toto terrarum orbe patietur, universa scilicet civitas Christi ab universa diaboli civitate.

[10] Gentes istæ, quas appellat Gog et Magog, non sic sunt accipiendæ, tanquam sint aliqui in aliqua parte terrarum barbari constituti….non utique ad unum locum venisse, vel venturi esse significati sunt, &c.

[11] Ver. 2. Chap xii, p. 589. Bene intelligitur ignis de cælo de ipsa firmitate sanctorum, qua non cessuri sunt sævientibus, quoniam non poterunt attrahere in partes antichristi sanctos Christi.

[12] Ver. 2. Chap xiii. Hæc persecutio novissima, quæ futura est ab antichristo (p. 590) tribus annis et sex mensibus erit….tempus exiguum, &c.

[13] Ver. 2. Chap. xv, p. 593. Prædestinationem significat eorum, quibus æterna dabitur vita, &c.

[14] Ver. 2. Eusebius (lib. 3, chap. xxxix) says of Papias, omikr[] on ton noun; and that he followed muthikotera.

[15] Ver. 2. St. Basil (tom. 3, p. 284) says, graiodeis muthous.

[16] Ver. 2. St. Justin, (Ed. Joachimi Perionii, p. 62.) multis autum eorum, etiam qui integræ piæque sententiæ Christianæ sunt, hæc incognita (seu non agnita) esse tibi exposui. In the Greek of Rob. Stephen, out of a manuscript in the king’s library, in the year 1551, p. 88, pollous d au, kai ton tes katharas, kai eusebous onton christianon gnomes, touto me gnorizein, esemena soi.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Satan is bound for a thousand years: the souls of the martyrs reign with Christ in the first resurrection. The last attempts of Satan against the Church: the last judgment.

1 And I saw an Angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand.

2 And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years:

3 And he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should no more seduce the nations, till the thousand years be finished: and after that, he must be loosed a little time.

4 And I saw seats, and they sat upon them: and judgment was given unto them: and the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not adored the beast, nor his image, nor received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5 The rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: in these the second death hath no power: but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

7 And when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth and seduce the nations which are over the four quarters of the earth, *Gog, and Magog, and shall gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

8 And they ascended upon the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.

9 And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them: and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast

10 And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose countenance the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them.

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in presence of the throne, and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it: and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them: and they were judged every one according to their works.

14 And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.



7: Ezechiel xxxviii. 14.