Revelation chapter 20 is replete with apocalyptic language and is distinct from the previous chapters. Furthermore, if one were to follow a strict chronology, then this chapter breaks that pattern clearly. Why? Because Satan being bound is clearly a recapitulation of the gospel narrative (see Matthew 12:22-29; Colossians 2:15).
There are a few other key elements in the text that have been given attention in at least two very influential books:
1) An Eschatology of Hope by J. Marcellus Kik
2) Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison
Marcellus Kik’s masterful treatment of the judging of the saints sets the tone for the triumph of the church. His main argument is that the entire scene of Revelation 20 is upon the earth since the “saints who reign are beset by Gog and Magog” (223). In other words, any form of opposition cannot take on a heavenly orientation (v.8), for in heaven there is no opposition.
Keith Mathison deals wisely with the symbolic nature of a thousand years. Premillenialists at large avoid the symbolic language of Revelation, which often leads to a bizarre scheme including flying objects and cobra helicopters. Unfortunately, the same line of interpretation is applied to the numerology of Revelation in the premillenial scenario. However, a proper approach to Revelation 20 sees the thousand-year reign as a sign of completeness or fullness in quantity and therefore should not be taken literally (just as one would not accept a physical chain to bind a spiritual being, Satan). Consequently, the interpreter can be confident that the 1,000 years mentioned in Revelation 20 is symbolic for a large period of time. Mathison writes that the “millennium is the present age between the two advents of Christ” (155).
This passage affirms the greatness of Christ’s kingdom. Unlike Premillennialism, the Reformed thinker sees the coming of Christ as a coming in triumph. He has indeed established his kingdom on earth and the church awaits and works vigorously for the manifestation of the glories of this present age through Christ’s authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Further, we not only await the glories of a Christianized culture, but we also wait in expectation for the final display of humiliation of the devil. When he is loosed for a short time, he will gather his remnant of rebels and seek to proselytize more to his army. Then, as in a dramatic turn of events (such as in the Old Covenant where the devil was loose and tragically deceived the nations through idolatry), the nations under the Lordship of Christ will mock the evil one and Christ will crush him and send him to everlasting torment.