Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Binding of Satan

From the January 2012 E-Block.


Revelation 20:1-3 speaks of Satan being bound, and as a preterist, I regard that binding as currently in force. An interested reader recently requested an evaluation of an article arguing against this position, wondering how it might affect my views. 

The answer, as it turns out, is that it doesn't, although it does provide for a certain teaching opportunity. As it turns out, the article is directed towards a form of amillennialism which does not apply to my own beliefs, one which sees Revelation as a whole as describing the whole church age. And so we have then our chief teachable principle: As I once told a reader, all preterists are amillennial, but not all amillennialists are preterists. To that extent, the critique is inapplicable to preterism inasmuch as it seems unaware that there is more than one way to skin a millennium. a 

The critique specifically addresses the idea that Rev. 20:1-3 describes a binding that took place in the first century, and began the millennial kingdom. In my own view, this was prefaced by the binding of lesser demonic powers (as reflected in Jesus' ministry, as well as described in Paul's letters), with Satan himself bound sometime close to 70 AD. Some might place it earlier, around 33 AD (within Jesus' ministry), but I consider that unjustified, especially in light of 1 Peter 5:8 and other references to Satan still being active. Those that opt for a binding in 30 AD or so are compelled, as the article notes, to limit Satan's binding to particular activities (deceiving the nations in particular), a view I find rather insensible. So as we will see, the article actually makes the same arguments I would for a 70 binding as opposed to a 30 binding. 

Four points are offered, but the first is delivered against the broader reading of Revelation as descriptive of the broader history of the church, and so does not apply to my views. I would note for the record, however, that the critique again seems to think that there is no other way to be amillennial than to hold to this historical-perspective view of Revelation! In any event, the first point is centered on what is perceived to be the arbitrary treatment of chronology in Revelation by proponents of this historical-perspective view. 

The second point grasps on to a weakness we have already noted -- namely, the historical-perspective view doesn't do real justice to the language of binding. To limit Satan's binding to not deceiving the nations fails to fulfill the metaphors used of a chain, an abyss, etc. Mounce is justly quoted: 

The elaborate measures taken to insure his [Satan's] custody are most easily understood as implying the complete cessation of his influence on earth (rather than a curbing of his activities).
And so...that leaves us with the third point, which is that the NT depicts Satan as still active and not bound -- as I would agree, since I date all of the NT prior to 70 AD. We ought to note agreement with one point: 

What then of the amillennial argument that Matthew 12:29 teaches that Jesus bound Satan at His first coming? The answer is that this verse does not teach that Satan was bound at that time. What Jesus stated in Matthew 12:29 is that in order for kingdom conditions to exist on the earth, Satan must first be bound. He did not say that Satan was bound yet.
And we would say, of course, that 70 AD, marking Jesus; enthronement in heaven, also likewise signified the formal start of his kingdom. 

In the same way, the fourth point argues that Revelation depicts Satan's activity as ongoing. But again, if Revelation is to be dated prior to 70, this too is in accord with a preterist eschatology, although again, the critique shows no awareness of this option. 

And so, to answer the reader's query -- when the article closes by saying: 

To answer the question posed in the title of this work, "Is Satan bound today?" The answer from the biblical evidence is clearly, No.

The answer given, though, presupposes that the kingdom advent must have either begun in 30 AD, as the critiqued view supposes, or else has not yet begun as of today. And so, the critique remains without any bearing on preterist eschatology.


  1. Hey again JP. I was wondering if you could write\already wrote something about Ariansim. Apparently there is a line in john 14:28 that gives credence to the Arians: "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I". What do you think of this?

    1. Well, my material at is my basis, but how is John 14:28 being used here? It doesn't help any particular view, though it does hurt modalism. I can't see any way it would help Arianism.

    2. that line "for the father is greater than I" could be used to justify their christology, from wikipedia: "The Arian concept of Christ is that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by—and is therefore distinct from—God the Father."

    3. It's just as compatible with the orthodox view of Christ as ontologically equal but functionally subordinate eternal Wisdom. The Arians sure can't find a more specific defense of their aberrations.