What is it that Satan is trying to avoid? We have looked at Satan’s behavior through the course of the Bible and what is consistent among them is the opposition and hostility to God and God’s people. This occasionally mindless hostility has often been used by God in order to provide that God’s will is accomplished in spite of Satan. The hostility of Satan to Job allowed God to use Satan’s dare as a way of refining Job’s character above and beyond its existing blamelessness. So too the hostility of Satan towards even disfellowshipped brethren allows for their character to be refined through suffering and temporal judgment so that they are able to escape eternal judgment. Yet there will come a time where Satan’s usefulness, as unwillingly given as it is, is no longer wanted. Revelation 20:1-3 discusses the beginning of this process: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.”
There are plenty of implications of this particular event. For one, we see that Satan’s freedom of action is limited to what God allows him to do. When it is time for Jesus Christ to begin His millennial reign over the earth, Satan’s presence will no longer be welcome and at that point Satan will no longer be present to tempt and deceive the world. It should be noted that this will not make humanity perfect, as there will still need to be moral instruction of mankind to as to remind people what way is proper to live and behave. Human beings will still have their own natural bent that has to be overcome, yet without Satan and the evils of corrupt society to inflame those natural evils that we all possess, humanity can live in a godly realm where godly authorities teach and enforce God’s laws. In such a world Satan is no longer welcome, and so he will be restrained during that thousand year period the Bible describes here in Revelation 20.
It is particularly telling that Satan is referred to by a variety of names, all of which are either symbolic or behavioral in nature, none of which are a personal name. Nowhere in the Bible is Satan given a personal name. All of his names are either symbolic aspects of creation or human politics or are descriptions of the job that Satan has as the adversary of God and mankind. So it is that Revelation 20 uses four such terms that are common in the Bible to refer to Satan by name: the dragon (see Revelation 12), that serpent of old (a reference to his behavior in Eden in Genesis 3), who is the Devil and Satan (two more titles expressing his obstinate hostility to God’s ways and to God and His people. None of these names is a personal name, which suggests that although it is important that we know what Satan does and to overcome it and oppose it, it is not important for us to know who Satan is as a being. The Bible’s interest in Satan is practical, focused on his behavior, and not at all interested in plumbing his psychology and in seeking to view him with pity as is the fashion of many contemporaries with those who are evildoers.
There are further implications of this particular passage that ought to remind us of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians when he talked about how someone that is cast out of fellowship is consigned to Satan. When Satan is restrained for the period of 1000 years so as to prevent him from tormenting and tempting humanity, we see a picture of imprisonment that is rare in scripture. One will search in vain in the Bible for imprisonment being a long-term punishment among the people of God. Imprisonment as a lengthy fate is something that only the ungodly are engaged in, whether we are looking at Zedekiah’s imprisonment of Jeremiah or the imprisonment faced by Joseph in Egypt for a crime that he refused to commit, or whether we are looking at the imprisonment of Paul by the Romans or that of Jehoiachin in Babylon. Punishment in the Bible was generally meant as a way of allowing a chance for restoration. When someone repaid their debt as a result of a crime, they were restored once again to their full rights as citizens. If they committed a crime that did not allow for full restoration, they were subjected to the death penalty so as to be subject to the reconciliation that takes place after resurrection in the world to come. Yet Satan is restrained for 1000 years because there is no potential for reconciliation and because the time of his final judgment has not yet come. But it is at least in view.