Many of the prophecies in the book of Revelation can be confounding, and one question about them managed to baffle even our experts in the episode “Purpose, Faith, and Bible Numerology?” (Good Question! Episode 6).
What does John’s Revelation mean when talking about the devil being let loose after what is known as the “millennium,” and what is the meaning of those 1,000 years?
In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose discuss what our research into eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s works revealed about this question.
Jonathan sometimes finds that he hasn’t noticed a blockage until after having made it through some painful life circumstance. Once he looks back and sees it, he can learn from it and grow. Curtis has noticed that the hard things that hit him actually help to shake him out of himself and improve his spiritual practice.
Swedenborg spent a lot of time writing about the book of Revelation, and that might be because it’s such a challenging read for most people. His take on the book is rather unique—he says that the judgment it described was a spiritual one, and that it has already happened!
The book of Revelation describes the spiritual apocalypse through correspondences—physical symbols of spiritual concepts—and these are explored in detail across the related videos linked at the bottom of this recap.
But here’s a summary of what it’s talking about:
The passage in question is especially confusing.
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. (Revelation 20:1–3)
But, as Swedenborg says, everything in the Bible is symbolic.
A thousand years does not mean a thousand years, but a while or a period of time, because in the spiritual world that is the symbolism of a thousand. . . . The reality of this is something I have been told from heaven, where none of these numbers are found in the Word that exists there, but instead of the number some property, and instead of a thousand a period of time. (Apocalypse Revealed §842)
So in this case, the number 1,000 doesn’t refer to a single stretch of time but to something much deeper.
I can testify that angels do not entertain a natural idea of any number, as people do, but a spiritual one. Indeed, they do not know what a thousand years is, but only that it is some interval of time, short or long, which can only be expressed as a while. (Apocalypse Revealed §855)
And here are the inner meanings:
Even if the dragon is symbolic, it’s still baffling why Satan would be released.
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 sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:7–10)
But when you understand that the evil is the work of free will, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be contained forever.
Now let’s dig deeper into Swedenborg’s take on this story with three telling passages from Apocalypse Revealed.
The dragon was entirely removed for a time in order that the people who had been hidden away by the Lord might be raised from the lower earth . . . without being led astray by the dragon-people as they were being raised. Consequently the text also says, “so that it should not lead the nations astray any more,” which symbolically means, to keep them from inspiring any of their heresy in those other people. This event occurred in the world of spirits, which is midway between heaven and hell, and it took place because in that world evil people have dealings with the good while the good are being prepared for heaven and the evil for hell, and the good there are tried and tested by having some association with the evil and being explored as to their character and constancy. The good are meant by the nations that the dragon-people were kept from leading astray. . . . It can be seen from this that the dragon’s being cast into the bottomless pit, shut up, and having a seal set on it, symbolically means that the Lord removed entirely those who were caught up in falsities as regards their faith, and took away from them any communication with the rest, to keep them from inspiring any of their heresy in people being raised into heaven. (Apocalypse Revealed §843)
So the time the dragon is locked away is more a way to protect the good people in the world of spirits than it is a punishment of those who are evil.
Till the thousand years were completed. But after that it must be released for a little while. This symbolically means that this was the case for a while or for a period of time until people with truths springing from goodness were raised by the Lord into heaven, after which those meant by the dragon would for a short time be set loose and have a communication opened with those who were left. . . . Then, when the thousand years have been completed, Satan will be released from his prison. This symbolically means that after the Lord raised into heaven those who previously had been hidden away and protected in the lower earth, and the New Christian Heaven was increased by their number, all those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith were let loose. When the thousand years have been completed means, symbolically, after the Lord raised into heaven those who previously had been hidden away and protected in the lower earth. . . . Satan’s being set loose from his prison means, symbolically, that those people were let go who had confirmed themselves in faith alone as regards their doctrine. (Apocalypse Revealed §§844, 856)
And those who are let go are the ones who hold fast to faith without goodness.
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 worshiped 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 a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) (Revelation 20:4–5)
For more on this, check out our episodes “The Meaning of the Book of Revelation: Souls Under the Altar” and “What Does It Mean to ‘Reign With Christ’?”.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were completed. This symbolically means that besides these just described, no others were raised into heaven until after the dragon was set loose and they were then tried and examined to discover their character. The rest of the dead symbolize people who were rejected by those caught up in faith alone because they worshiped the Lord and lived in accordance with His commandments, but who had not yet been tried and examined to discover their character. . . . For after their departure from the world, all people first come into the world of spirits, which is midway between heaven and hell, and there they are tried and examined and in this way prepared, the evil for hell and the good for heaven. It is said of these that they did not live again, that is, that they were not yet so conjoined with the Lord and affiliated with angels in heaven as the first people were. That many of these were afterward saved is apparent from verses 12 to 15 in this chapter, where we are told that the Book of Life was also opened, and anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Apocalypse Revealed §850)
Having planted those three seeds in our minds, let’s take a moment to meditate on these ideas.
This story offers wisdom in that it gives people a 1,000-year break when they need it, but it also provides a challenge at the end that helps people figure out what they really love.
Curtis: The remnant
At the beginning of the episode, we asked about some blockage you’ve overcome. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- Learning to have and believe in Faith – Bonnie Bowers
- Meditation and prayer have helped me remove blockages and feel closer to God – Kaye Lermitte
- Knowledge and understanding, the more I gain the better I can see myself. – Sean Smith
- When my mom died, within a year after that I had studied a lot of NDEs as part of my Bachelors and then I had an awakening so I knew a lot of things taught were false. – Angel Shining
- For me, meditating on the nature of Divine Providence helps me to see the larger picture and regain my faith. – Pete Dawson
- Shunning evils as sins. Sounds archaic but it has been magic for me. – Jon Childs
- Time has helped me remove blockage. Time is very healing; but I think it’s the worst at…..times. – Robbie Tullos
- I tell myself there is a good intention from god behind everything. I just can’t see it now but soon it will be revealed in a magical way. – rainlion01
- As soon as I started paying attention to how I treat other people in “every” instance I realized how many selfish tendencies I had which enabled me to start to make improvements – Matthew Bush
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
Related Swedenborg & Life Videos
“Purpose, Faith, and Bible Numerology?” (Good Question! Episode 6)
“What Does It Mean to ‘Reign With Christ’?” (News from Heaven)