- Published: 28 September 2011
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The opening verses of Revelation 20 speak of the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1 -3), which will be one of the great characteristics of this great Day. We have in these three verses, such words as 'key', 'bottomless pit', 'a great chain', 'to lay hold', 'bound', 'shut up' and after the thousand years 'to loose'. It would be an insult to the intelligence and the integrity of the reader to set out a detailed 'proof' that these terms mean all that we associate with 'imprisonment'. The 'bottomless pit' however calls for examination, although no one we hope needs an explanation of the figure 'bottomless', which simply means 'fathomless' or deep beyond human gauging.
The Greek word so translated is abussos, which becomes in English abyss, and this Greek word is found in the Apocalypse seven times. In Revelation 9:1-2 it is joined with the Greek word phrear, 'a well or pit', the remaining passages using the word abussos alone.
The way in which this word is distributed in the book of the Revelation clearly indicates that it is of importance. Let us see:
Abussos in Revelation
A Rev. 9:1-2, Rev. 9:11. Key Let loose Locust scourge.
The Angel called in Hebrew Abaddon in Greek Apollyon.
B Rev. 11:7. The Beast ascends out of the abyss, overcomes saints
B Rev. 17:8. The Beast ascends out of the abyss.
Lamb overcomes (Rev. 17:14).
A Rev. 20:1-3. Key Shut up Loosed Deceive (Rev. 20:8).
Serpent, called Diabolos (Greek) and Satan (Hebrew).
When we examine Revelation 13:1 we learn that the beast rises up (same word as 'ascend') out of the sea, and this proves a help not a problem, for we shall find that the abyss is constantly associated with the sea. This of course we learn by considering its usage in the Septuagint (LXX). We find it equated with the sea in Job 28:14; Job 38:16; Psalm 33:7; Psalm 42:7; Psalm 77:16; Psalm 135:6; but more important still, we discover that in all these passages, the Greek word translates the Hebrew tehom, 'the deep' of Genesis 1:2, and of Genesis 7:11, the flood of judgment before the advent of Man, and the flood of judgment in the days of Noah.
Psalm 104:6 says, 'Thou coveredst it with the abyss as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains'. Psalm 106:9 says, 'He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so He led them through the abyss, as through the wilderness'. Psalm 148:7 associates 'dragons' with all deeps, and Isaiah 51:9-10 does the same. Proverbs 8:23-24 takes us back to 'the beginning, or ever the earth was, when there were no abysses'. Amos 7:4 reveals that the great abyss could be devoured or eaten up 'by fire', while the poetic vision of Habakkuk 3:10-11 associates the trembling of the mountains and the abyss lifting up its hands, with the paralysing of the sun and moon. Such are the predecessors of the seven references to the abyss in the Revelation. The first occurrence, at the 'overthrow of the world', Genesis 1:2, and the last occurrences in Revelation 20:1 and Rev. 20:3 link the purpose of the ages, just as surely as the reappearance of the Paradise of Revelation 22 links this passage with the expulsion of Genesis 3. All this gives point to the words of Revelation 21:1, 'and there was no more sea', no more abyss, no more 'deep'. Associated with this connection of the deep with Satan and his imprisonment, is the statement in Revelation 9:14:
'Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates'.
We can no more explain how this river could hold in restraint four such angels and the 'two hundred thousand thousand' demon horsemen that slay a third part of men, than we can understand what sort of 'key' or 'chain' or 'abyss' could keep in hold such a being as Satan for a thousand years, but these are revealed facts and they agree. We can, however, see that the Euphrates has a connection with Babel, even as the abyss is linked with Genesis 1:2.
Returning to Revelation 20:1 -3, we see that the imprisonment of Satan is the first, and the cause, of a series of 'restraints' that characterize the Millennial reign. The margin of Daniel 9:24 reads 'to restrain the transgression' where the Authorized Version reads 'to finish the transgression'. The Hebrew word is kah-lah, 'to keep back, be restrained, shut up'. The noun form of this word keh-leh is translated in its ten occurrences 'prison' with six marginal notes which read, lit., house of restraint. Transgression will by no means be 'finished' when Daniel 9:24 is fulfilled, it will be 'restrained' or imprisoned along with the Devil, but will break out as soon as the Devil is loosed from his prison.
Daniel 9:24 also says, 'to make an end of sins' and the margin reads, 'to seal up'. The same word appears in the later reference in the same verse, 'to seal up vision and prophecy'. The Hebrew word is chatham and appears again in Daniel 12:4, 'shut up the words, and seal the book', and this 'even to the time of the end'. We meet the word again in Dan. 12:9, 'the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end', and in Daniel 6:17 'the king sealed it with his own signet'. The words 'shut up' and 'close up' of Daniel 8:26, Dan. 12:4, Dan. 12:9 but confirm the meaning of the words of Daniel 9:24. Satham means 'to stop up' as one would a well or source of water supply. Sennacherib attempted to stop the waters that supplied Jerusalem, and Hezekiah stopped up the watercourse of Gihon (2 Chron. 32:3, 2 Chron. 32:30). We can therefore translate Daniel 9:24 freely yet nevertheless truthfully 'To Imprison the transgression, to Seal Up, as a book or as a well, sins'.
We have seen that the 'deep' of Genesis 1:2 finds an echo in the 'abyss' of Revelation 20. We have seen the possibility of a 'little season' when Satan, 'that old Serpent', was loosed from the abyss of Genesis 1:2 and immediately set about his campaign of deceit in Genesis that echoes the 'little season' and the 'deceit' of Revelation 20. There is, however, another parallel that bears upon the subject of 'Restraint' that we have before us, but for the key to this we must turn to Psalm 8. When it says 'that Thou mightest Still the enemy' (Psa. 8:2), the word translated 'still' is the Hebrew shabath, and is used in Genesis 2:3 in the words, 'He had Rested from all His work'. It means a sabbath keeping. God rested on the seventh day of Creation week; Satan will unwillingly keep sabbath in prison, for the sabbath that remains for the children of God is the 1,000 -year reign of Christ. He will indeed be 'stilled', but who, without access to the original, would have dreamt of such a correspondence or such a teaching. Here is 'restraint' indeed covering the whole period.
The remaining terms of Daniel 9: reconciliation, righteousness and the anointing of the Most Holy, belong to a separate inquiry. We are concerned at the moment with 'the bottomless pit', the chain, the restraint of the Devil and his works that introduce the Millennium into the pages of Scripture, namely at Revelation 20:1-3. Sin is by no means 'finished' or 'made an end of' in the evangelical sense of the words, and the Authorized Version margin reveals that the translators were not quite happy in thus translating the Hebrew words used. This element of restraint is reflected in the 'feigned obedience' that will characterize some of the nations in the Millennium, and after the reader has surveyed the evidence given for this marginal translation of Psalm 18:44; Psalm 66:3 and Psalm 81:15, he may realize that there is no need to attempt to justify the marginal rendering, the problem will be rather to understand why the translators should have departed from their own rendering in so many other places. Had they been consistent, the problem would never have arisen. That there could not have been 'a finish' or 'an end' to transgression or sin, Revelation 20:8-9 will demonstrate to all who have no theory to justify, for the terms 'Gog and Magog', 'gather to battle', 'sand of the sea', 'went up on the breadth of the earth', 'compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city' together with the judgment of fire which 'devoured' them with which the Millennium ends, are all so far removed from any conception of peace and sinlessness as to make a long disquisition unnecessary. We can only ask, if these are symptoms of 'perfect peace', are words of any use as vehicles of truth?
Some of our readers may be interested in a few sidelights on this question of the abyss, and its relation to the Serpent.
Job 41:32 (in the LXX 41:23) reads:
'He reckons ... the tartaros of the abyss his captive'.
Peter uses the verb 'tartaroo' (cast down to hell) in 2 Peter 2:4. The title, 'old Nick' in folk lore is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Nicor, a water sprite, a sea monster. Beowulf* writes of one who 'On the waves slew the nickus by night' and speaks of 'sea dragons and nickus'.
*Beowulf -- An heroic poem, circa 700 A.D. Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, whose exploits and character provide its connecting theme. There is no evidence of a historical Beowulf, but some characters, sites, and events in the poem can be historically verified (Encyclopædia Britannica).
The Euphrates (Rev. 9:14) associated with angels and demons, was a mighty river when Paradise was first planted (Gen. 2:14), and may have had its origin in the fountains of the great deep (Gen. 1:2; Gen. 7:11). See Revelation 9:14-15. Of this we know next to nothing, thank God, but the record must be in Genesis for a reason.
Dragons are associated with sea and the deep in Scripture:
Dragons, and all deeps' (Psa. 148:7; cf. Psa. 74:13-15).
Rahab, the dragon and the deep are associated together in Isaiah 51:9-10, while the serpent and the bottom of the sea are joined together in Amos 9:3.
The sea itself is looked upon as a rebellious power:
'Am I a sea, or a sea -monster?' (Job. 7:12 author's translation).
The 'proud waves' of Job 38:8-11 look back to Genesis 1:2 (see also Prov. 8:25-29). The waters of the sea are the surviving remnant of the raging abyss of Genesis 1:2. The Deluge in the days of Noah was a temporary return to chaos. Jeremiah 5:22 refers to the restraining power of the presence of the Lord, binding the sea by a perpetual decree.
Other passages which refer to the sea as a type of rebellion are Isaiah 17:12-14; Isa. 59:19; Jonah 2:5. The pledge of the rainbow (Gen. 9:13-17) and the blessed 'no mores' of Revelation 21 and 22 which open with 'no more sea' and close with 'no more curse' all point in the same direction, and reveal depths of meaning in the terms surveyed in this article that while lying beyond our comprehension are within the encirclement of our faith.
While all our teaching is drawn from and rests solely on the inspired Scriptures, the remnants of truth that have percolated into the mythologies of ancient nations, and especially those who at the beginning were contingent with Israel, lend a background to the doctrine of the bottomless pit.
Tehom, the Hebrew word translated 'deep' in Genesis 1:2, was soon personified and in the Babylonian tradition where we read 'The primeval deep was their generator', the word 'deep' is equivalent to the Hebrew tehom, and the word for 'primeval' is rishto, an equivalent of the Hebrew reshuth, 'the beginning'. In later transformations tehom became identified with the Dragon, the Serpent and with Ea, the god of the waters and of wisdom. Just as the name Job epitomizes the 'enmity' of the two seeds, so the Babylonians called the serpent aibu, i.e. Job, 'the enemy'.
The reader who may feel somewhat disturbed by these references to Babylonian beliefs can ignore them, but some who realize the interrelation of words in parallel languages may value their supporting evidence. Let no critic try to use these asides as a red herring across the path; our basis throughout all our ministry is only and solely, 'Thus saith the Lord'.