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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Winter 1990, Fall 1997

The Binding And Loosing Of Satan

    Wesleyan fundamentalists affirm that Satan is now bound in this present age through he power of the Cross, and the victory of Christ's resurrection. This is apparent from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 12:29; Mark 3:27; and John 12:31. If the strong man (Satan) is not first bound, then his house cannot be spoiled. And if Satan's house cannot be spoiled in this present age (i.e., if he is not first bound in this present age) then there has no true redemption been made available to the human race by virtue of Christ's first advent. To deny the binding of Satan, in this present age, therefore, is, according to the clear teaching of Jesus in Matthew 12:29 and Mark 3:27, to invalidate the spoiling of Satan's house and means that there is no redemption!
     But thank God! There is redemption! And that because the strong man has now been bound and his house is being spoiled.
    Modern dispensational premillennial end-time Bible prophecy theorists posits the binding and loosing of Satan predicated for the one thousand years of Revelation chapter twenty in terms of what happens in a yet future "millennial kingdom" that is supposed to be set up after the Second Coming. The Scriptural premise rather, however, is that the binding and loosing of Satan motif is, itself, a messianically impregnated ideal that is limited in its application to the opening and closing events of this present messianic age. On that premise, then, we should expect to find the "binding" of Satan a pronounced phenomenon of the First Advent, as well as his "loosing" a prominent feature in the apocalyptic formula that has to do with Christ's return.
    The cumulative evidence of the Gospels is that the inauguration of the messianic kingdom of God, which occurred with the first advent of Christ, resulted in an incisive curtailing of Satan's hitherto unmitigated rule over the nations. First in the public ministry of Jesus himself among the Jews, and second in the commission of his apostles to the nations, a new authority and power was being injected into human affairs that could facilitate a complete deliverance from the dominion of the Evil One. The casting out of demons in the ministries of both Jesus and his apostles was positive and indisputable proof that the messianic kingdom of God had come in the binding of the Adversary and the spoiling of his house (Matt. 12:28-29).
    Further, the "cross of Christ" became a judgment on this world. In the verdict rendered the Prince of Darkness was destroyed (Heb. 2:14) and cast out (Jn. 12:31). In the subsequent messianic enthronement of Jesus via his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to the everlasting messianic throne of David at the right hand of the Majesty on High, the binding of Satan, in terms of salvation history, stood cosmic and complete. Henceforth until the final consummation, all power in heaven and in earth must reside in the hands of the Crucified One (Matt. 28:18).
    Thus, the consignment of Satan to the bottomless pit in Rev. 20:1-3 is,  in the symbolic language of the Apocalypse, an apt expression for the position in which the Adversary has now been placed by the first advent of Christ, wherein he has no ground to stand on (i.e., in the "bottomless" pit), yet at the same time is in constant motion (i.e., "free-falling"), going about "as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). That's why James can write: "resist the Devil and he will flee from you [not "devour" you"] (4:7). Why? Because the Devil  is "bound" and has no ground to stand on to maintain his kingdom in the face of those who, in the name of Jesus, are determined to see it overthrown.
    The binding of Satan in Revelation chapter twenty is,  we repeat, a messianically impregnated ideal that can only be realized through the appropriated authority and power of the now reigning Christ. It has no reference to the literal, physical binding of Satan (a spiritual being), as would preclude the idea of his temporal mobility, or restrict in principle the quality of his activity. How is it metaphysically possible for a spiritual being to be incarcerated in physical chains—the very idea is preposterous! Rather, that "binding" is provisional in respect to a singly declared purpose: "that he should deceive the nations no more" (vs. 3).
    Not that the text says that Satan "would" deceive the nations no more (with emphasis on the word "would") but that he "should" deceive them no more. The language sets forth the idea of purpose or intent. The fact that nations are deceived by Satan today, therefore, cannot be laid to the charge of God, for God's purpose, or intention, is that they "should not be deceived, " any longer, but should now, rather, become Christ's disciples. And if Christians would be and do exactly what God told them to be and do, this would happen, would it not?
    No predestinarianism is thus implied in the text of Revelation 20:3, as if to say that God somehow "wills" for Satan to deceive the nations in this present, but not some future, age. The Christian Gospel provides for the "undeceiving" of the nations.  And the text of Revelation 20:3 is telling us that Satan is curtailed, or bound, by God in order to allow this to happen. In other words, Revelation  20:3 is expressing the truth that  Satan cannot prevent the Gospel from being spread, because "greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world."
    The Christian movement's  problem in accepting the revealed plan of God for the present Christianize of the nations roots in the mentality generated by a secular theodicy--whether on the deepest level of our theological system we hold to a humanistic concept of divine sovereignty, with its intrinsic inability to differentiate between divine foreknowledge and divine foreordination (i.e., the popular Calvinism that underlies the metaphysical dichotomies of modern dispensational premillennialism), or, whether we hold to the biblical "supra-humanistic" projection of the Almighty, which, in the positing of an agnostic hiddenness to the human approbation of God's sovereignty, allows for the conceptual differentiation between the divine foreknowledge and the divine foreordination that an adequate doctrine of free moral agency requires (i.e. the "Arminianism" of the Wesleyan faith).
    Dispensationalists in particular, and premillennialists in general, who give little consideration to the Scriptural testimony concerning the present glorious messianic "reign" of Christ, will naturally stumble over the concept of a binding of Satan during this present age that is more than what a general doctrine of providence will allow. The primary questions for theodicy in Christian theology, however, are whether or not in his first advent Christ actually conquered the Devil, and, what degree of deliverance from the power and dominion of the Evil One is actually available to believers in this present life. Wesleyan soteriology (doctrine of atonement) confesses that Christ's victory over Satan and his works is forensically complete; the experiential complement we now have, and must proclaim the same--a great salvation, present, full, and best to all, it's free for call.
    Wesleyan fundamentalism contends that it is ridiculous for anyone to deny the binding of Satan, yea, even with chains in this present age, in the face of the fact that both Peter and Jude have said that, even in the first Christian century, this was so. "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment" (II Peter 2:4). "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).
    Now, is Satan one of those fallen angel, who kept not their first estate, or is he not? Yes or no. And if, obviously, he is, then the Bible says that he has already been bound in everlasting chains of darkness unto the day of judgment, and that this was an historical reality at least by the time that II Peter and Jude were written in the first Christian century! Wow! It sounds tantalizingly like Peter and Jude are talking about the same thing John saw in Revelation chapter twenty, doesn't it?
    If one is willing to accede from the woodenly literalistic viewpoint that physical chains are being used in the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3, then, in terms of self-consistency in logic, one he has essentially conceded the entire premillennial argument, for to be logically self-consistent with oneself, one cannot forbid that other elements in the passage may be symbolic, or representational in nature, as well.
    And that is the very point! The elements in the passage ARE symbolical, or representative in nature. Why strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel, by some unreasonable unwillingness to accept the medium of communication that God has chosen to employ? it doesn't make sense.
    Friends, the harmony of the Sacred Word lies not in attempting to contradict, or contravene, what common sense dictates as the obvious for the sake of a prejudice, or a preconception, but in humble, open-mindedness to search eagerly, and to receive with keen anticipation, the engrafted Word, which is able to save our souls. This, my friend, is truly being "alive to God." 
    In the warp and woof--the tenor--of the whole New Testament is found the testimony that Satan has now been defeated (i.e., bound) by the victory of Christ's first advent.  To be in denial over that is to call into question one's understanding of, and commitment to, the most essential rudiments of the Christian faith.  In terms of religious reality it is a being  "returned to Judaism" as an apostate from the historical world religion called "Christianity! "
    Beware of the teachings of dispensational premillennialism.  They not the doctrines of Christ. They--by their unrelenting spirit of obstructionism toward the clear biblical teaching of the present messianic reign of Christ, and the binding of Satan in this present age as a consequence there from--are the doctrines of antichrist.
    In the nature of the case one cannot deny and affirm at the same time.  The New Testament affirms--Satan is now bound by the victory of Christ's first advent. Dispensationalism denies, and says that it takes something more--some future era--to bring such glorious freedom to pass. Righteousness, and peace and joy await the second coming, the premillennialists would say.  The Gospel teaches us that the age of righteousness and peace and joy is now. We cannot have it both ways, and still be talking about THE SAME gospel.
    Think about it.

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