Revelation 20:1-3 Commentary: Is the Casting of Satan into Hell a Mirror Opposite of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven?
From the vantage point of the earth’s surface heaven is said to be up (2 Kings 2:1, Psalm 14:2, Lamentations 3:41, Matthew 28:2, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11) and hell down (Numbers 16:31, Ezekiel 26:20, Luke 16:23 and 2 Peter 2:4). If Jesus’ ascension into heaven is pictured in Acts 1:9-11 as Jesus rising up into the sky, does this fact imply that when Satan was to be cast to hell that this event would depict Satan being cast down into the earth?
Revelation 20:1-3 Commentary: Revelation 20:1-3 is a Restatement of Revelation 9:1-2.
The first three verses of this chapter are basically a restatement of Revelation 9:1-2. In Revelation 9:1-2, a star comes down from heaven with the key to the Abyss. With this key, he opens the shaft of the Abyss. Revelation 20:1-3 adds the fact that this angel does this in order to bind Satan in the underworld.
Revelation 20:2-3 Commentary: Did Cassius Dio Record the Binding of Satan?
Two months after the death of Vespasian Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Before its eruption, Cassius Dio records what appears to be the binding of Satan in the Abyss, the underground realm of the dead:
Numbers of huge men quite surpassing any human stature — such creatures, in fact, as the Giants are pictured to have been — appeared, now on the mountain, now in the surrounding country, and again in the cities, wandering over the earth day and night and also flitting through the air.[i]
Could these beings seen over Vesuvius be Christ and His angels binding Satan in the Abyss as described in Revelation 20:1-3? Could the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius be the direct result of casting Satan into the subterranean lake of fire in the earth’s core?
The Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch reveal that the realm of the Abyss is located under the earth. In 1 Enoch 10:4-7, the angel Rafael is ordered to bind the fallen angel Azazel in the Abyss: “’Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness.” 1 Enoch 18:10-16 reveals that the Abyss is a realm of fire:
And I saw a deep abyss, with columns of heavenly fire, and among them I saw columns of fire fall, which were beyond measure alike towards the height and towards the depth. And beyond that abyss I saw a place which had no firmament of the heaven above, and no firmly founded earth beneath it: there was no water upon it, and no birds, but it was a waste and horrible place. I saw there seven stars like great burning mountains, and to me, when I inquired regarding them, [t]he angel said: ‘This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven. And the stars which roll over the fire are they which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord in the beginning of their rising, because they did not come forth at their appointed times. And He was wroth with them, and bound them till the time when their guilt should be consummated (even) for ten thousand years.’
According to 1 Enoch, the Abyss is an underground pit of molten fire and burning sulfur similar to the magma of the earth’s core. The events in Revelation 20:1-3 also appear to be mentioned in Revelation 9:1-2. In Revelation 9:2, an angel opens up a shaft releasing the smoke of a furnace, an act that looks like a volcanic eruption. During a volcanic eruption, thousands of pounds of smoke are ejected. This smoke can darken the sky for miles like the smoke described in Revelation 9:2: “When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.” Recall that according to 1 Enoch, the Abyss is located under the earth so the smoke released from Vesuvius is truly like smoke from the Abyss.
I believe the supernatural beings witnessed before and during the eruption of Vesuvius may have been Jesus in the presence of His mighty angels binding Satan in the fiery Abyss under the earth just like Raphael did to Azazel according to 1 Enoch 10:4-7. Remember that according to 1 Enoch 10:4-7, the angel Azazel was cast in the Abyss after Raphael had made an opening in the ground: “’Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness.” The binding of Azazel in the Abyss in 1 Enoch 10:4-7 looks very much like the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3. When the angel of Revelation 20:1-3 made a similar opening in the earth to bind the devil in the Abyss, did this cause the Vesuvius to erupt? In light of the similarities between Revelation 9:1-3 and Revelation 20:1-3, perhaps there is a dual fulfillment to Revelation 9:1-3? Maybe the second time Revelation 9:1-3 were fulfilled was in Revelation 20:1-3? Evidence in favor of this idea is recorded by Cassius Dio when he says that a sound of a trumpet was heard at the eruption of Vesuvius. Was this the fifth trumpet of Revelation 9:1?
Revelation 20:2-3 Commentary: The Sky is a Symbol or Shadow of Heaven, Not Heaven Itself, just like the Deep Recesses of the Earth are a Symbol of Hell, Not Hell Itself.
The fact that Satan was bound under the earth does not mean that the magma of the earth’s core is literally hell in the same way that when Jesus rose up to the sky when He ascended into heaven in Acts 1:9-11 does not mean that the sky is literally heaven. Hebrews 8:5 says that the sanctuary of the Temple is a shadow or symbol of heaven: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” In Matthew 5:22, Matthew 18:9 and James 3:6 hell is called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem. The fiery trash heap of Gehenna is an earthly shadow or symbol of hell, not hell itself, just like the sanctuary of the Temple is an earthly shadow of heaven, not heaven itself. Similar symbolism is applied to the sky (i.e. heaven) and depths of the earth in the Bible.
As stated above, from the vantage point of the earth’s surface heaven is said to be up (2 Kings 2:1, Psalm 14:2, Lamentations 3:41, Matthew 28:2, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11) and hell down (Numbers 16:31, Ezekiel 26:20, Luke 16:23 and 2 Peter 2:4). Whether or not this cosmology is literally true is impossible to know. Perhaps heaven is above the earth but it exists in another dimension and hell is below the earth in another dimension? Regardless of whether or not this is true, in many languages the word dirt or earth is the same as hell and the word heaven is the same as sky. Thus in this way the sky is a symbol or earthly shadow of heaven and the deep recesses of the earth are a symbol or shadow of hell. This symbolism seems appropriate since hell is described as a lake of fire like the molten magma of the earth’s core (Matthew 25:41, Mark 9:43-48, Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15; 21:8). But, of course, this does not mean that the magma of the earth’s core is hell. It is an earthly shadow or symbol of hell, not hell itself, in the same way that the sky is a shadow or symbol of heaven and not heaven itself.
Revelation 20:2-3 Commentary: The Casting of Satan into Hell in Revelation 20:1-3 is a Mirror Opposite of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
Above we explained how the sky is a symbol of heaven and the deep recesses of the earth are a symbol of hell. If this is true, and if the supernatural beings seen over Vesuvius were Jesus and His angels binding Satan in the Abyss in fulfillment of Revelation 20:1-3, then the casting of Satan into the Abyss in Revelation 20:1-3 is a mirror opposite of the ascension of Jesus to heaven in Acts 1:9-11. In Acts 1:9-11 Jesus is shown rising up into the sky as a physical sign of the fact that He was about to enter heaven. The opposite occurs at the casting of Satan down into the Abyss. Here Satan is depicted being hurled into a pit in the earth as was Azazel in 1 Enoch as a sign of the fact that Satan was about to enter hell. If Satan was bound in hell at the eruption of Vesuvius then it appears that the casting of Satan to hell is a mirror opposite of Christ’s ascension into heaven. Could the fact that these two events are polar opposites lend an added degree of credibility to the idea that Satan was cast down into hell at the eruption of Vesuvius?
It should also be said that I believe that the supernatural specter seen over Mt. Vesuvius mentioned above was similar to Elisha’s servant’s vision of the army of angels that surrounded Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17. In 2 Kings 6:17 Elisha prays that his servant would be able to see all the angelic soldiers protecting them, and the servant is temporarily given the ability to see this. I believe that those who witnessed these angelic beings over Mt. Vesuvius were also temporarily given the ability to see this otherwise invisible, otherworldly event in the same way that Elisha’s servant was temporarily given the ability to see the otherwise invisible angelic beings around him and his companion in 2 Kings 6:17.
[i] Cassius Dio Roman History 66.22.