Question: "What does it mean that Satan will be bound for a thousand years?"
Answer: End-times prophecy has historically been a hot topic. Debates continue about the meaning of prophetic verses in the Bible, especially those found in Revelation. Of all the captivating events covered in Revelation, Satan being bound for a thousand years is one of the most discussed and debated. We take a literal view of the thousand years of Satan’s captivity.
God’s Easy Victory
The battle that rages in Armageddon is the precursor to Satan’s captivity. Jesus returns to completely route the beast, the false prophet, and the vast armies gathered to defeat Israel. At the end of the battle, “the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. . . . The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (Revelation 19:20–21). By simply speaking, Jesus (the rider) is instantaneously victorious against the forces of evil. His power is ever evident in Scripture, and His victory at the battle of Armageddon is yet one more proof that He is Lord.
1,000-year Jail Sentence
With the human foes out of the way, Jesus turns His attention to Satan. Revelation 20:1–3 tells us, “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” This thousand-year period is commonly referred to as the millennial kingdom. During this time, Satan no longer has influence over the inhabitants of the earth.
Earth’s Inhabitants During the Millennium
There will be two sets of people who inhabit the earth during the millennial kingdom, when Satan will be bound for a thousand years: those with glorified bodies, and those with earthly bodies. Those with earthly bodies will have lived through the tribulation period and into the millennial kingdom. Those with glorified bodies are the Church and the resurrected martyrs of the tribulation (Revelation 20:4–6). This resurrection is mentioned right after Satan is bound for a thousand years.
Personal Choice in the Millennium
You might think that that nothing could possibly go wrong during this thousand years, since Satan has no power. However, even in the millennium, God will allow people to choose whether to accept Him or not. Those with earthly bodies will still be bearing children during the thousand years, and there will be many people who must make a choice. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released from the Abyss. He proceeds to deceive the nations, and there will be a large rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7–9). The rebellion is short-lived, for “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9).
While Satan is bound for a thousand years, God allows one last opportunity for those born during that time to choose Him. During the millennial kingdom, God will show us that, even in the absence of the tempter (i.e., Satan), there will be those whose hearts are “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” and who will be ripe for deception (Jeremiah 17:9).