Advent with Revelation (Ch 20)
December 16, 2022
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.


Chapter 20 (Friday of the Third Week of Advent)

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while. 

Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 

When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. 


The “times” of these events are coextensive in a way we cannot imagine.

This should serve to clarify the second picture of the binding of Satan and the thousand-year reign of the saints with Christ. We must not simply equate the thousand years with the period of the Church’s history (as Augustine does); but we should take literally what is said about those who lived and died for the testimony of Jesus: “Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection!” (20:6): the saints and the blessed exercise a bodily presence and influence on the earthly Church that is not shared, to the same degree, by the “rest of the dead” (20:5). The binding of Satan is thus only the necessary counterpart to the saints’ exercise of power together with Christ; it can be regarded as a different perspective on his fall from heaven. While this fulfills and transcends the resurrection prophecy of Ezekiel 37, Revelation 20:7-10 (corresponding to Ezekiel 39) interposes the final battle of Satan, in league with Gog and Magog, against “the beloved city”, the “camp of the saints”. The depiction of the countless deceived (“like the sand of the sea”) who come forth from “the four corners of the earth” exhibits a mythical hue: this is the final intensification of the struggle that had always been going on between the two civitates. Again there are no episodes; fire descends from God to decide the battle’s outcome, and evil’s innermost potency is thrown to eternal, self-devouring torment along with the two beasts who are its embodiments. In chapter 12, this potency falls from heaven; in 13 and 17, it emerges from the sea, the earth and the abyss; we are never told where it came from in the first place. 

The last judgment is described precisely but, as it were, sotto voce. We are not told who sits on the judgment throne. Death’s finitude is manifest: the sea and even death and the underworld have to surrender their prey. We are also shown the finitude of the cosmos as a whole: heaven and earth (and the sea: 21:1) flee into oblivion. All that now remain are the dead; they are judged individually according to their works. The lake of fire that swallows death and the underworld is also ready for those whose names are not written in the book of life.  

Musical Selection


Exultabunt justi in voce jucunditatis, cum
ascendent in regnum lucis et irradiatum vitae
splendoribus, ubi omnia consonant et flos
tranquillitatis inhabitat. Exultabunt in Domino
Sancti quos virtute pares, dissimiles pugna gloriae:
sol victoria Deus justus judex coronavit;
prae laetitia cordis canentes et dicentes:

O felix gloria, o perennes divitiae, splendeat
dies in qua mortui sumus, splendeat nox in qua
vexati fuimus. (Giacomo Carissimi)

In the voice of mirth will the righteous rejoice,
while they ascend unto the kingdom of light, lit
with the beauties of life, where harmony and
the flower of peace reside. The Saints, equal in
virtue, diverse in their fight, will rejoice in the
lord: the sun of glory, God, the righteous judge,
hath crowned them with victory; and they, with
hearts full of joy, will sing, and say:

O happy glory, O eternal riches, let the day
shine in which we died, let the night shine in
which we were tormented.


Let your tireless grace accompany us, Lord God,
let it go before us and follow after,
that we who long for the coming of your Son
may be sustained by your love
in this life and in the life to come.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.