Revelation / chapter 20 (read the chapter)
There is something stunning at the beginning of this chapter of Revelation: “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.” (vs 1-2)
Okay, so perhaps it doesn’t seem so remarkable upon first reading. But when you consider that the universe-wide war we’ve been engaged in has been a war between God and Satan and that this war has been raging now for thousands of years, it seems rather unceremonious—perhaps even comical—to have an unnamed angel come out of heaven and bind Satan for a thousand years, doesn’t it?
I mean, this isn’t even one of those strong angels John has been seeing in his visions. It’s not Gabriel or Michael or even God Himself. No, the one who seizes and subdues the “mighty” Satan is just an anonymous angel with no particular status or rank.
Incredible! To me, this is a striking revelation that—despite this war which has gone on for millennia—Satan is most certainly not God’s opposite or equal in terms of power or position. Therefore, God could easily have stopped Satan’s activity at any time, bringing the war to a grinding halt. In fact, He could have allowed it to never start in the first place.
That God decided not to do that tells us a lot of profound things about Him:
- He truly gives His creatures freedom—even freedom to rebel.
- He doesn’t stack the deck in His favor.
- He solves conflicts on the basis of demonstration, not coercion.
- He submits Himself to circumstances caused by His own creatures.
Satan may have thought in his heart that he was going to set his throne above God’s throne. He may have thought that he was going to destroy God and become the god of the universe. He may have fancied himself in such a position of power and authority that God would eventually have to fully acquiesce to him and his demands.
He was wrong. At the end, he is helpless to stop a nondescript angel from hauling him away.
God has no equal in any area. The reason this universe-wide war has continued this long is because God has allowed it to continue—both for the sake of Satan’s freedom and the ultimate freedom of the universe. Satan has no physical power with which to challenge God; He has always been able to stop Satan at any time.
In case that makes you angry, it is worth considering that, in this war, nobody has suffered more than God. It’s true that all of us have had to endure a certain amount of suffering because Satan chose to start this war and God chose to let it continue, but nobody has ever or will ever suffer more for that decision than God.
Even in that area, God has no equal.