Revelation 20

Rev. 20:1 the bottomless pit

Bruce R. McConkie
"The bottomless pit is the depths of hell. It is not a literal pit without a bottom, for such is a contradiction in terms. But it is a pit or prison where the inhabitants suffer, as mortals view suffering, to an infinite, unlimited, or bottomless extent. Referring to finite inability to comprehend the vastness of the suffering of those reaping the full measure of this status, the revelation says: 'The end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation.' (D. & C. 76:48.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 101.)

Rev. 20:1-3 an angel...laid hold on...Satan, and bound him a thousand years

We remember what Mormon said of Moroni, 'if all men had been, and were and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.' (Alma 48:17) Likewise, Joseph Smith said, "The devil has no power over us only as we permit him." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181.) Because of these ideas (see also 1 Ne. 22:26), some have taught that the only thing which binds Satan during the Millenium is the righteousness of the saints.
But there are some problems with this concept. For one, it undermines the scriptural truth that Jesus Christ holds the priesthood keys over hell (Rev. 1:18) including power to bind Satan at will. It undermines the idea that Christ delegated this power to an angel who holds 'a great chain in his hand,' symbolic of a real, spiritual shackle which prevents the devil from going abroad to 'deceive the nations.' Secondly, some have taught that the Lord won't come until the saints are righteous enough (presumably righteous enough to bind Satan). This idea is equally false, for the Lord will come at the appointed time-a time which is not dependant on the obedience of the church members (see Matt. 25:1-13). The third misconception is that no one will make mistakes or sin in the Millenium. But just because Satan is not allowed to tempt us, does not mean that no one will make mistakes. Mortals will live and exercise agency throughout the Millenium. Therefore, mistakes and sin will continue, for the Prophet Joseph taught that not all our sins can be blamed on Satan (Teachings, 187), and that "there will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years" (Teachings, 268-269). All of this evidence makes it clear that it is not the righteousness of the saints alone which binds Satan during the Millenium but also the priesthood power of Christ that shuts him up and sets a seal upon him.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"There are many among us who teach that the binding of Satan will be merely the binding which those dwelling on the earth will place upon him by their refusal to hear his enticings. This is not so. He will not have the privilege during that period of time to tempt any man." (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:192)

Rev. 20:4 I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them

John does not identify who sits on these thrones to judge the world, but the scriptures tell us that the Apostles and the saints will act as judges under the authority of Christ (John 5:22). The Lord promised Peter, 'ye which have followed me, in the regeneration (i.e. resurrection) when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' (Matt 19:28). Paul reminded the Corinthians, 'Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?' (1 Cor. 6:2) The secret to being worthy of such an incredible task was revealed to the Nephite Twelve, 'ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27)
How will this work? Well, apparently the Lord will give his saints a handbook, as it were, by which they can pass judgment in righteousness. Thereby, those who have worshipped him in spirit and in truth can act as judges by the same spirit. John said 'judgment was given unto them,' meaning that Christ had instructed them how to act as judges. President Kimball remarked:
"God's judgment will be just. The judges at the gate will know for certain the formula, the records, the spirit, the true deserts. The Book of Life (see Revelation 20:12) will show the earthly activities of all of us, and the book of the angels will give the entire story of every man and what he did in the light and in the shadows, in the open and in the corners, all that is said in the secret places and from the housetops, all that was thought and expressed, whether good or bad. There will be no escape. The honest judge will give full value to all for their good works and will not overlook the other." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 46.)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Under Christ, selected agents and representatives shall sit in judgment upon specified peoples and nations. Scriptural intimations indicate that there will be a great judicial hierarchy, each judge acting in his own sphere of appointment and in conformity with the eternal principles of judgment which are in Christ." (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 399.)

Rev. 20:4 they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years

The Millennial earth will usher in a terrestrial state of glory. Hence, those capable of living a terrestrial law will be spared the associated destruction. However, Christ, the ancient saints, and the righteous latter-day saints will all have been resurrected to a celestial glory. In a way, they don't belong on a terrestrial earth but on a celestial one. This may be why the prophet said that resurrected saints may not reside on the terrestrial earth the entire time.
Joseph Smith
"Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell on the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it." (Teachings, 268)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"All those who have died in Christ shall come forth from the dead at his coming and shall dwell upon the earth as Christ shall be upon the earth during this millennium. They shall not remain here all the time during the thousand years, but they will mingle with those who are still here in mortal life. These resurrected saints and the Savior himself, shall come to give instruction and guidance; to reveal unto us [mortals] the things we ought to know; to give us information concerning the work in the temples of the Lord so we may do the work which is essential to the salvation of worthy men. Smith, Joseph Fielding" (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 59.)

Rev. 20:5 This is the first resurrection

An initial reading of verse 5 gives the reader the false impression that the first resurrection occurs when 'the thousand years were finished.' To avoid this confusion, the verse can be read as follows, "This is the first resurrection. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished."

Rev. 20:5 the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished

Joseph Fielding Smith
"John, in his great vision, saw the rest of the dead and they lived not again until the thousand years were ended. That is a calamity-it is a dreadful thing to contemplate, for there shall be a great host of men swept off the face of the earth because of their wickedness. The bodies of these will have to remain in the grave and their spirits in the spirit house to be taught repentance and faith in God while the thousand years of peace are progressing upon the earth." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 60.)
Sterling W. Sill
"Now suppose we...journey into the telestial kingdom, the glory that Paul compares to the twinkle of a tiny star. This is the glory occupied by those who are least worthy of blessings. They are the ones who were liars, adulterers, and others guilty of gross disobedience. They have not sinned unto death but will be required to serve a long term in the prison house where they must be purified through suffering. They must stay there until they are reformed and educated. How difficult this will be may be indicated by the fact that they will not be released until the final resurrection." (January 20, 1960, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1960, p. 11.)
LeGrand Richards
"Can any man read these things and not want to prepare to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, rather than have to remain in his grave for a thousand years while the Savior is completing and preparing his kingdom to be delivered up unto the Father, as a bride prepared for her bridegroom, during which time the righteous are to serve as priests and kings unto the Most High God to help him in the preparation of his kingdom?
"It has always been my feeling that when the trump of God shall sound and the righteous dead shall come forth, it will be the lifters and not the leaners that the Savior will call forth to help him in preparing his kingdom. But as John said: 'The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished' (Rev. 20:5)." ("The Righteous Shall Come Forth," Ensign, Apr. 1981, 11)

Rev. 20:6 blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection

LeGrand Richards
"Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing, to be worthy to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection?
"But the angel didn't leave it there. He said, 'But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.' (Rev. 20:5.) Is there any clear thinking man who would want to gamble on being left in his grave a thousand years when the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven with all the holy angels, and those who have died in him shall be brought forth from the grave, and those who are living in him shall be caught up in the air and changed in the twinkling of an eye? I like the statement of the philosopher Cicero. He said he was much more interested in the long hereafter than he was in the brief present...And I think we ought to be more interested in the long hereafter than we are in just the brief present. I wonder if we ever stop to figure how long that long hereafter really is." ("Be Ye Prepared," Ensign, Nov. 1981, 28)

Rev. 20:7 when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison

"Satan will be sealed up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years-but not forever. 'When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed' to once again do his work of deception and destruction on the earth. He will gather followers from all nations to a battle in which the warriors are as many 'as the sand of the sea.' Satan's mortal hosts will surround the Saints and their 'beloved city,' but the Lord will act in great glory and power to devour his enemy. Then the devil will be cast away forever, to be punished for his great sins for all eternity.
"The account in 4 Ne. 1 gives us a sobering preview of how the bright millennial era can be brought to a close. After the Savior's visit to the descendants of Lehi in the Americas, the people entered into a condition that was millennial in some important respects: 'There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people...'
"The breakdown in this near-perfect society had tiny beginnings: 'a small part of the people . . . revolted from the church and [had] taken upon them the name of Lamanites' (vv. 20)...From that point, the society disintegrated rapidly. Within the next decade, 'there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness. And this church did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts' (vv. 27-28).
"Thus it was that in only a few years, Satan, who had essentially been bound, was loosed again in the land...The decline and fall of this blessed society makes for troubling reading, and the lessons for our day are clear. Satan ever lies in wait to deceive and destroy, and if he fails with one generation, he will try with redoubled efforts to harm the next." (Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 273-274.)

Rev. 20:7-9 the battle of Gog and Magog

For years, commentators have equated the Battle of Gog and Magog with the Battle of Armageddon. The chronology of Ezekiel and D&C 29 might suggest that Gog and Magog occurs prior to the Millennium. However, the Book of Revelation clearly teaches us of two separate battles. Armageddon is described as "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:12-16). It is listed as the 6th of 7 plagues that are to precede the Second Coming of Christ. The Battle of Gog and Magog, on the other hand, is clearly described as occurring after the millennium.
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of
camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Rev. 20:7-9)
In the scriptures, the term Armageddon is not used in reference to Gog and Magog, nor vice versa. The Prophet Joseph clearly teaches that the Battle of Gog and Magog is different, declaring, "The battle of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium." (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5: 298.)
Why have these two battles been equated by so many commentators as well as many of the Brethren? The Battle of Gog and Magog is described in detail in Ezekiel chapters 38-39. The next chapter, Ezekiel 40, is the beginning of the prophet's elaborate description of the Millennial temple. If one assumes a chronological relationship between chapters 39 and 40, then Gog and Magog would seem to precede the Millennium. This would seem to be the source of the confusion. Reading Ezekiel sequentially suggests that the Battle of Gog and Magog precedes the Millennium. However, these are separate visions. Ezekiel 40:1-2 declares that the temple vision was in "the five and twentieth year" of the Jewish captivity. It is a separate vision with a different subject matter, a different chronology, and a different timeline than the content of the preceding chapters.
Truly, there are many similarities between Armageddon and Gog and Magog. In this respect, one could argue that the distinction between the two is only a matter of semantics. In each, nations will come against Israel from the north. In each, destruction rains from heaven with "great hailstones, fire, and brimstone." (Ezek. 38:22) In each, the fowl and beasts are assembled to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the mighty. However, the battles will be separate. Gog will come against Israel in a day when they have dwelt safely in Israel-a safety enjoyed during the Millennium, "Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?" (Ezek. 38:14) The Battle of Gog and Magog will be a case of history repeating itself.
Joseph Smith
The battle of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5: 298.)

Rev. 20:12 the books were opened: and another book was opened

'You will discover in this quotation that the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life; but the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; consequently, the books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven.' (DC 128:7, italics added)
Bruce R. McConkie
"The books were opened. What books? The Standard Works of the Church, the holy scriptures wherein the law of the Lord is recorded and the instruction given as to how men should walk in this mortal probation; also, the records of the Church wherein are recorded the faith and good works of the saints-the records of their baptism, celestial marriage, tithe paying, missionary service, and their acts of devotion and worship." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 579.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Do you know that the time is coming when we are going to be judged out of the books that are written? Therefore we should make these [church] records accurate; we should be sure of the steps we take. We are going to be judged out of the things written in books, out of the revelations of God, out of the temple records, out of those things which the Lord has commanded us to keep and have on file concerning the records of the people.
"There will be other records, of course, because if we happen to make mistakes, there will be the record in heaven which is a perfect record. In our history, if there are mistakes, we can say as did Moroni in the Book of Mormon, 'They are the mistakes of men.'" (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 200.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"For those too concerned with credit, the mortal books, however well kept and well intended, are incomplete anyway. They could not stand a real 'outside audit.' The real and complete Book of Life is kept elsewhere! One day it will be opened and we will all be judged out of it (see Rev. 20:12). There will be no challenge then to the justice or mercy of God (see Mosiah 27:31; Alma 12:15). (That Ye May Believe, p. 55.)

Rev. 20:12 the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books

Albert E. Bowen
"As the hosts from the dead passed before the throne, they were judged every man, according to his works. That is justice in the highest sense of the term. It is judgment founded in righteousness. It reaches completely up to the perfect ideal. No fault can be found in it, for every man is to be classified and rewarded on the basis of his own individual performance...Amos admonished his nation: '. . . let judgment roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.' (Amos 5:24.)" (Conference Report, April 1951, Afternoon Session 121.)
Spencer W. Kimball
"The wicked may prosper for a time, the rebellious may seem to profit by their transgressions, but the time is coming when, at the bar of justice, all men will be judged, 'every man according to their works.' (Rev. 20:13.) No one will 'get by' with anything. On that day no one will escape the penalty of his deeds, no one will fail to receive the blessings he has earned. Again, the parable of the sheep and the goats gives us assurance that there will be total justice. (See Matt. 25:31-46.)" (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 305)
Spencer W. Kimball
"The one who harbors evil thoughts sometimes feels safe in the conviction that these thoughts are unknown to others and that they, like acts in the dark, are not discernible. The Revelator, John, seemed to clear this matter when he wrote: (quotes Rev. 20:12.)
"And in the last days an angel will 'sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts.' (D&C 88:109.)
"Accordingly, men's deeds and thoughts must be recorded in heaven, and recording angels will not fail to make complete recordings of our thoughts and actions. We pay our tithing and the bishop records it in his book and gives us a receipt. But even if the entry fails to get in the ward record, we shall have full credit for the tithes we paid. There will be no omissions in the heavenly records, and they will all be available at the day of judgment.
"President John Taylor emphasized this:
'Man sleeps the sleep of death, but the spirit lives where the record of his deeds is kept.
'Man sleeps for a time in the grave, and by and by he rises again from the dead and goes to judgment; and then the secret thoughts of all men are revealed before him with whom we have to do; we cannot hide them; it would be in vain then for a man to say, `I did not do so and so`; the command would be, unravel and read the record which he has made of himself and let it testify in relation to these things, and all could gaze upon it.'
"At that day we may be sure that we shall receive fair judgment. The judges will have the facts as they may be played back from our own records, and our voices and the pictures of our acts and the recordings of our thoughts will testify against and for us." (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 108-109)
Sterling W. Sill
"An ancient American prophet asks this important question. He said, '. . . can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all of your wickedness, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea a remembrance that Ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?' (Alma 5:18.)
"That calls for an important ability, and the best way to avoid possible tragedy is to focus our imagination upon Judgment Day before we actually get there. We can be absolutely certain that we will all want to be a faithful, devoted, hard-working, enthusiastic full tithe-paying member of God's kingdom when we stand before the judgment bar. But we must get the impulse to faithfulness ahead of time; as someone has said that hell is 'truth seen too late.'" (Conference Report, April 1964, First Day-Morning Meeting 15.)
Sterling W. Sill
"If each day we could see what God writes in his book about our works for that day, it would certainly motivate us to make better scores. We can most surely reach any goal by putting our results down on the paper every day. When our statistics are low, it is more important than ever that we keep them. How stimulating it would be to see our personal errors published every day on the front page of the newspaper. With this kind of situation, our errors would be much fewer. This would also help us prepare for that great day when all of our present secret acts shall be revealed." (Principles, Promises, and Powers [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 215 - 216.)
Ezra Taft Benson
"On that important day, I have a feeling the question will not be so much 'What office did you hold?' The real question will be, 'Did you serve me with all your heart, might, mind, and strength?' God bless us that we may serve so that we will never have any serious regrets." ("Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work," Ensign, Sept. 1990, 7)

Rev. 20:13 death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them

While the world struggles to understand the nature of the human soul, latter-day saint theology teaches the beautiful principle that the united spirit and 'body are the soul of man' (DC 88:15). At death the spirit and body are separated. The spirit goes to the spirit world, and the body to the grave. In this verse, John sees how the spirit and body are reunited at the resurrection, for death (meaning the grave) will give up the bodies of the dead, and hell (meaning spirit prison) will give up the spirits so that the two can be reunited at the resurrection of the unjust.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Hades (Greek), sheol (Hebrew), spirit prison, outer darkness, the temporary abode of wicked disembodied spirits, as they await their ultimate destiny in the resurrection of the unjust. When death and hell deliver up the dead which are in them, these spirits will receive an inheritance in the telestial kingdom or will be cast out into that eternal hell reserved for the devil and his angels, who are sons of perdition. (Rev. 20:13-15; D. &. C. 76:105-106; 88:31-32.) Thus, except for the sons of perdition, hell is a temporary abiding place and shall have an end. Passages in which the word hell is a translation of gehenna (Hebrew) have reference to the anguish, torment, and remorse of conscience suffered by those in hell, gehenna being the name of the valley near Jerusalem where eternal fires burned the garbage and refuse of the city." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 521.)

Rev. 20:14 the lake of fire

Joseph Smith
"A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man." (History of the Church, 6:314)

Rev. 20:14 This is the second death

The second death, or spiritual death, is defined as being cut off from the presence of God. This means that you cannot see the face of God, you cannot withstand the presence of God, you will not enjoy the visitation of the Son, and you are not worthy of the smallest portion of the spirit of the Holy Ghost. It is a total and complete separation from God. As described in scripture, this state happens to those who suffer in hell. It also describes the state of the Sons of Perdition who are cast out after the last soul is resurrected. Therefore, the second death has power upon all those who suffer in hell until the resurrection of the wicked. At that point the second death applies only to the Sons of Perdition, 'These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels-And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power' (DC 76:36-7).
One might be inclined to think that the "first death" must be the death of the mortal body. This is not the case. The Lord explains that the first death is also spiritual and occurs when we leave his presence and come to earth. This is symbolized by the fall of Adam, 'I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death (or second death), which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed' (DC 29:41).