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Revelation 20:7-15
Last update: December 15, 2007

7. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

The number seven has to do with the complete and full expression of something. Though Satan is "defeated" at the end of the sixth Millennium, his "reappearance" at the end of the seventh Millennium is part of a sequence of events that must unfold, one that even includes a "Shabbat rest" for him.

(This idea of something being part of a chain of events may also be said of Yeshua's life, death and resurrection, 2,000 years ago, which played a key role in the perfection of mankind.) 1

8. and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

The following text describes Satan as not only the "accusing angel" but also the one who comes to earth (as an "ox") to lead astray.

Zohar, Bemidbar 186a - The “Satan” is he who has charge of the souls in Gehinnom, who ever craves for more and says “give, give”, more souls to Gehinnom. Then, “The Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, Satan, and the Lord rebuke thee....” Why two rebukes here? One for Dumah and one for him who comes out of Gehinnom to lead astray. That higher Satan, as we have stated elsewhere, goes down to earth in the form of an ox, and all those wicked spirits which have been condemned to Gehinnom he licks up in one moment and hands over to Dumah after he has swallowed them

Interestingly, the name given to the "unclean spirit" coming from (and returning to) the great abyss is, "the end of all flesh." The Zohar states that there was once a time when the Shekinah (Holy Spirit) ruled (at the time of the Temple) and this unclean spirit was no longer "in the world."

Further, it is the actions of man that allow this spirit to return. This would indicate that the yetzer hara will still be present in the Millennium and cause the final, brief return of haSatan. Only in the Olam Haba, following the Millennium is every aspect of evil totally eradicated.

Zohar, Shemoth 269a - THEN THE CLOUD COVERED THE TENT OF MEETING, whereby the Shekinah dwelt on the earth, and the unclean spirit, designated “end of all flesh”, passed out of the world and disappeared into the cavern of the great abyss. The Holy Spirit had thus sole sway over the world, as Scripture says: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting”. It is further written: AND MOSES WAS NOT ABLE TO ENTER INTO THE TENT OF MEETING, BECAUSE THE CLOUD ABODE THEREON, in other words, because the Holy Spirit hovered over the world and the unclean spirit passed out. The wicked, however, draw him again into the world, and if not for them he would completely disappear. But in the days to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause him to pass completely out of the world, as Scripture says: “He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8); also, “and (I will cause) the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (Zechariah 13:3). Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen and Amen. “The Lord will reign for ever.”

9. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

Fire is associated with the world of Atzilut - that which is "from God" (i.e., "beyond" heaven. See chart on

Why punishment by fire? Pride seems to be at the core as shown in this Midrash:

Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 7:6 - R. Levi said: It is a praiseworthy enactment that a person who behaves boastfully should be punished by fire, as it is said, This is the law regarding a person striving to be high: it is that it goes up on its burning-place (Leviticus 6:2).1-The generation of the Flood, because they had been haughty, having said: What is the AImighty, that we should serve Him? (Job 21:15), were punished by fire, as it is said, What time they were scorched, they were exterminated-nizmathu (ib. 6:17).--R Joshua b. Levi said: [This means that] their burning up was complete, as it is said, Completely (la-zemithuth) to the buyer (Leviticus 25:30).-It being hot, they were consumed out of their place (Job loc. cit.). ’It being hot’ means: with boiling water. R. Johanan said: Every single drop [of rain] which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought down on the generation of the Flood, He made to boil in Gehinnom. This is [indicated by] what is written, ’Through His heat were they consumed out of their place.’ The Sodomites, because they had been overbearing, saying: ‘Let us cause the law of hospitality to be forgotten from our midst,’ as it is said, They are forgotten of the foot that passeth by (Job 28:4), were punished by fire, as it is said, Then the Lord caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire, etc. (Genesis 19:24). Pharaoh the wicked, because he had behaved boastfully, saying: Who is the Lord, that I should hearken unto His voice? (Exodus 5:2), was punished by fire, as it is said, So there was hail, and fire flashing up amidst the hail (ib. 9:24). Sisera, because he had been overbearing, and oppressed Israel, as it is written, And he oppressed the children of Israel with forcefulness (Judges 4:3)-what does ’with forcefulness’ mean? Said R. Isaac: It means blasphemy and reviling-was punished with fire [as it is said], The stars in their courses fought against Sisera (ib. 5:20). Sennacherib, because he had behaved overbearingly by saying: Who are they among the gods of these countrtes, that have delivered their country out of my hand (Isaiah 36:20), was punished by fire, as it is written, And under his glory there shall be kindled a burning like the burning of fire (ib. 10:16). Nebuchadnezzar, because he had behaved insolently, by saying: And who is God, that He shall deliver you out of my hands? (Daniel 3:15), was punished by fire, as it is said, The flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach Meshach and Abed-nego (ib. 22). The wicked State, because it blasphemes and reviles, saying: Whom have I in heaven...? (Psalm 73:25), is to be punished with fire, [as it said], I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and it was given to be burned with fire (Daniel 7:11). Israel, however, who are despised and lowly in this world, will be comforted by means of fire, as it is said, For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her (Zechariah 2:9).

The following Midrash speaks of this fire coming from "within" their bodies:

Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 6:6 - And the day that cometh shall set them ablaze (Malachi 3:19). R. Jannai and R. Simeon b. Lakish said: There is no other Gehenna [in the future] save a day which will burn up the wicked. What is the proof? For, behold, a day cometh, it burneth as a furnace (ib.). Our Rabbis maintain: There will be a Gehenna, for it is said, Whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9). R. Judah b. R. Ila'i said: There will be neither a day nor a Gehenna, but a fire shall come forth from the bodies of the wicked themselves and burn them up. What is the proof? Ye conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble, your breath is a fire that shalI devour you (ib. 33:11).

Another reference to this destruction by fire is found in Midrash:

Midrash Rabbah, Ecclesiastes 1:11 - 11. It has been taught in the name of R. Nathan: The globe of the sun has a sheath, as it is written, In them hath He set a tent for the sun (Psalm 19:5), and therefore it is a lake of water. Whenever the sun desires to come forth it flames, and the Holy One, blessed be He, weakens its force with the water in order that it should not burn up the world. In the Hereafter, however, the Holy One, blessed be He, will strip its sheath and uncover it and cause it to consume the wicked; as it is said, For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall set them ablaze (Malachi 3:19). R. Jannai and R. Ishmael both declared: There is no Gehinnom in the Hereafter; but the sun will come forth and the righteous derive benefit from it. Whence do we know this? As it is said, But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings (ib. 20). The wicked, on the other hand, will be punished by it, as it is said, ' And the day that cometh shall set them ablaze

10. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The interesting concept in this verse is what sounds like "eternal punishment" (i.e., "...forever and ever.") This merits careful interpretation as God does not act without purpose. The idea of punishment that lasts "forever and ever" is not one of sadistic, pointless revenge. It is best rendered as one disallowing entry into the Olam Haba, eventual annihilation, and a "recycling" of the spiritual "energy" associated with that entity. (Akin to the parable of Yeshua told in Matthew 25, specifically verse 28.)

The following text alludes to this idea:

Zohar, Bereshith 66b - ‘Woe to the wicked who will not repent of their sins before the Almighty while they are still in this world. For when a man repents of his sins and feels remorse for them, the Holy One, blessed be He, forgives them. But those who cling to their sins and refuse to repent of them will in the end descend to Gehinnom and never come up again. Thus because the generation of Noah were stubborn of heart and flaunted their sins openly and defiantly, the Holy One, blessed be He, punished them as here described.’ Said R. Isaac: ‘When a man sins in secret, if he repents, the Holy One, blessed be He, being merciful, relents and forgives him; but if not, He then publishes his sins before the world. We learn this from the treatment of the faithless wife (Sotah). Similarly here, the wicked were exterminated in sight of all. The manner of their death was as follows: scalding water spurted up from the abyss, and as it reached them it first burnt the skin from the flesh, and then the flesh from the bones; the bones then came asunder, no two remaining together, and thus they were completely blotted out.’ R. Isaac said: ‘The words “they were blotted out from the earth” is analogous to the expression “let them be blotted out of the book of the living” (Psalm 69:29), thus indicating that they will not participate in the resurrection and will not rise in the Day of Judgment.’

The following speak of the doing away of evil with the coming of Messiah:

Zohar, Shemoth 235b,236a - ‘The Tabernacle, in its recondite significance, reflected the supernal mysteries comprised within the Divine Name ADNY. The same significance is reflected by the Ark, of which it is written: “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord (ADN) of all the earth” (Joshua 3:11), the term ADN being identical with the Divine Name ADNY. The name ADNY corresponds to the most sublime Divine Name YHVH,, the Aleph of the one containing the same recondite meaning as the Yod of the other, the Daleth of the one corresponding to the He of the other, and so with the Nun and Vau, the Nun being emblematic of the male principle and the Vau of the female principle, but the two forming a complete whole; and so, too, with the Yod of the one and the He of the other. The several letters of the two Names, moreover, imply each other, complement each other, and together enfold one mystery. Now, the lower and earthly Tabernacle was the counterpart of the upper Tabernacle, whilst the latter in its turn is the counterpart of a higher Tabernacle, the most high of all. All of them, however, are implied within each other and form one complete whole, as it says: “that the tabernacle may be one whole” (Exodus 26:6). The Tabernacle was erected by Moses, he alone being allowed to raise it up, as only a husband may raise up his wife. With the erection of the lower Tabernacle there was erected another Tabernacle on high. This is indicated in the words “the tabernacle was reared up (hukam)” (Exodus 40:17), reared up, that is, by the hand of no man, but as out of the supernal undisclosed mystery in response to the mystical force indwelling in Moses that it might be perfected with him. It is written above: “And all the wise men that wrought all the work of the sanctuary came”, etc. (Ibid. 36:4). The “wise men that wrought” embrace the “right”, the “left”, and all the other sides constituting the ways and paths that lead into the sea and fill it. These wrought the supernal Tabernacle and perfected it. Likewise, the lower Tabernacle was wrought by Bezalel and Oholiab, the one of the right, the other of the left, followed by “every wisehearted man”, all after the supernal pattern. On the day the Tabernacle was reared up death was removed from the world, that is, it was deprived of its dominion over the world. For, indeed, the entire extinction of the evil impulse will not come to pass until the coming of King Messiah, when the Holy One, blessed be He, will rejoice in His works and “he will swallow up death for ever” (Isaiah 25:8). Yet when the Tabernacle was reared up by the hand of Moses the power of the evil impulse was subdued so that it could not exercise dominion. At that time the power of Samael, the wielder of the fury of the “left side”, was removed from the evil serpent, so that the latter was not able to dominate the world or attach himself to man and lead him astray.’ R. Judah said: ‘It is written: “And Moses used to take the tent and pitch it without the camp” (Exodus 33:7). The reason of this was that Moses did not wish that the “holy side” should rest in the midst of the side of defilement.’ Said R. Eleazar: ‘So long as the “holy side” rules, the side of defilement is powerless and bows before it. So we have learnt that so long as Jerusalem is in its fulness wicked, Tyre remains devastated.’ [Tr. note: Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 42b.]

Zohar, Shemoth 240b - Of the time that God will restore His House it is written: “He will swallow up death for ever” (Ibid. 25:8); it will not be as at the time when Moses reared up the Tabernacle, but for ever and for all generations. The Holy One, blessed be He, will then establish the Community of Israel, will raise up the pillars and the pins, and all the beams of the Sanctuary in their proper setting to endure for evermore. The “other side” will be swallowed up for ever.

A more recent study explains that even the "snake" will be recycled into something beautiful - the breastplate of the High Priest:

As soon as the kingdom of the Mashiach will be established, the remarkable feature will be that his former enemies will make peace with him, i.e. the kelipa will then be purified, and all the Gentile nations will acknowledge the truth. That is the day when G-d and His name will be One. Even the erstwhile "Nachash" [the proverbial "Snake"] will be turned into "Choshen" [breastplate of the High Priest, spelled with the same letters as "Nachash"]. 2

11. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

12. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

The mention of the white throne is an allusion to Yom Kippur, the time of judgment. There are three books ("bad," "good" and "intermediate") mentioned in Jewish writings as shown in this Talmudic passage. Inevitably, at Yom Kippur everyone ends up in either the "good" or "bad" book:

Talmud, Rosh HaShana 16b - Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of life; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed definitively in the book of death; the doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.

Repentance allows for even the wicked to change their outcome:

Zohar, Shemoth Raya Mehemna 43a - AND EVERY FIRSTLING OF AN ASS THOU SHALT REDEEM WITH A LAMB, AND IF THOU WILT NOT REDEEM IT... THOU SHALT BREAK HIS NECK. The ass and the lamb symbolize the evil and the good inclinations. The very evil can be turned into good by repentance: the “ass” must be redeemed by a “lamb”. In other words, even if a man is an “ass”, a spiritual ignoramus, he can be redeemed from the exile of darkness and be included in the redemption of Israel, “the scattered sheep” (Jeremiah 50:17). But if he does not repent, “thou shalt break his neck”, meaning, he belongs to the stiffnecked ones who will be blotted out from the Book of Life, for concerning such unrepentant sinners it is written: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33).

13. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

"Hades" is not a term typically found in Hebraic spiritual writings. It would seem to have a connection to the abode of souls who await the resurrection (associated with the idea of "Abraham's bosom"):

Zohar, Bereshith 175b,176a - R. Judah discoursed on the verse: For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just do walk in them; but transgressors stumble therein (Hosea 14:10). ‘All the ways of God’, he said, ‘are right and true, but mankind know not and regard not what it is that keeps them alive. Hence “the just do walk in them”, because they know the ways of God, and they devote themselves to the Torah; for whoever devotes himself to the Torah knows those ways and follows them without turning either to the right or the left. “But transgressors do stumble therein”, to wit, the sinners, since they labour not in the Torah nor regard the ways of the Almighty, and know not in which way they are walking. And since they are thoughtless and do not study the Torah, they stumble in their ways in this world and in the world to come. Now the soul of one who has laboured in the study of the Torah, when it leaves this world, ascends by the ways and paths of the Torah-ways and paths familiar to them. They who know the ways and paths of the Torah in this world follow them in the other world when they leave this world. But those who do not study the Torah in this world and know not its ways and paths, when they leave this world know not how to follow those ways and paths, and hence stumble therein. They thus follow other ways which are not the ways of the Torah, and are visited with many chastisements. Of him who devotes himself to the Torah, on the other hand, it is written: “When thou liest down, it shall watch over thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee” (Proverbs 6:22). When thou liest down”, to wit, in the grave, the Torah shall watch over thee against the judgement of the other world; “and when thou awakest”, that is, when the Holy One, blessed be He, will awake the spirits and souls so as to bring the dead to life again, it shall talk with thee, the Torah will speak in defence of the body, so that those bodies which laboured to keep the Torah as required will rise up. These it is who will be the first to rise up, and of whom it is written: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, etc.” (Daniel 12:2), for the reason that they occupied themselves with everlasting life, which is the Torah. Further, all the bodies of those who have devoted themselves to the Torah will be preserved, and the Torah will protect them, inasmuch as at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise up a wind from all four quarters of the world, a wind specially prepared to bring to life all those who have laboured in the Torah so that they should live for ever. It may be asked here, what of the dead who were revived by the prophet's invocation, “Come from the four winds, O breath” (Ezekiel 37:9), and who yet did not survive, but died a second time? The answer is that at that time, although the wind was compounded of all four winds, it did not come down to give them permanent life, but only to demonstrate the mode in which God will one day bring the dead to life, namely, by a wind formed in this fashion. So that although those who were then resurrected turned again into bones, since their resurrection was only meant as a proof to the world that God will one day raise the dead to life, we may still believe that at the proper time the righteous will be resurrected for an everlasting life. For the Torah itself will stand by each one of those who have occupied themselves in the study of the Torah, recounting his merits before the Almighty.’ R. Simeon said: ‘All the words of the Torah, and all the doctrine of the Torah to which a man devotes his mind in this world, are ever before the Almighty, and at that time the Torah will recount how the man devoted himself to the Torah in this world, and thereat such men will all rise for everlasting life, as we said already.’ Thus, “the ways of the Lord are right, and the just do walk in them; but transgressors do stumble therein.”

14. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

There are many references in the writings of the sages regarding death being swallowed up at this time:

Midrash Rabbah, Deuteronomy 2:30 - God said: ' In this world, because the Evil Inclination is present, men kill one another and die, but in the time to come I will uproot the Evil Inclination from your midst and there will be no death in the world,’ [as Scripture says], He will swallow up death for ever (Isaiah 25:8).

Again, "hades" may be a term used for a Hebrew concept, possible "Sheol" as shown here:

Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 26:2 - And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their form shall be for the wearing away of the nether-world on account of His habitation (ib.)3: this teaches that Sheol [the nether-world] will be destroyed.

15. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Midrash Rabbah, Ecclesiastes 3:23 - ‘What, then, is the meaning of the text, AND THE SPIRIT OF THE BEAST WHETHER IT GOETH DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH?’ He replied, ' It refers to the souls of the wicked which descend to Gehinnom below, as it is stated, In the day when he went down to the netherworld I caused the deep to mourn and cover itself for him’ (Ezekiel 31:15).

A person's relationship with Torah in their life impacts what happens to them upon death, as expressed so eloquently in this portion of the Zohar:

Zohar, Bereshith 184b,185a - AND THEY TOOK HIM AND CAST HIM INTO THE PIT . R. Judah here discoursed on the text: The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul (Psalm 19:8). ‘The study of the Torah’, he said, ‘procures for a man life in this world and in the world to come, so that he gains the two worlds; and even he that studies the Torah for worldly motives and not purely for its own sake as he ought to, gains a good reward in this world, and escapes punishment in the other. The Scripture says: “Length of days is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour” (Proverbs 3:6). There is, indeed, length of days for him who devotes himself to the Torah for its own sake. For such a one there is length of days in the other world, where days are indeed days. And further: “in her left hand are riches and honour”, which means good reward in this world. Moreover, if a man has devoted himself to the Torah for its own sake, when he departs this world the Torah goes before him and proclaims his merit, and shields him against the emissaries of punishment. When a man's body is laid in the grave, the Torah keeps guard over it; it goes in front of his soul when it soars upwards, breaking through all barriers until the soul reaches its proper place; and it will stand by the man at the time when he is awakened at the resurrection of the dead, in order to defend him against any accusations. Thus Scripture further says: “When thou liest down, it shall watch over thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee” (Ibid. 4:22). The “Iying down” is an allusion to the time when man's body is lying in the grave and is being judged there; the Torah will then protect him; whilst “when thou awakest”, that is, when the dead will rise from the dust, “it shall talk with thee”, that is, plead thy cause.’ R. Eleazar interpreted the clause “it shall talk with thee” to mean that when they rise from the grave the Torah will not be forgotten of them, but they will know it much as they did when they left this world. For their Torah will be preserved from that time, will penetrate within them, and will talk, as it were, within their very inwards; and moreover, they will be more adept than they were previously, so that points which formerly baffled them in spite of all their labour will now be fully comprehended by them, the Torah itself speaking within them. Hence: “when thou awakest, it will talk with thee”.’ R. Judah said: ‘In a similar way, whoever devotes himself to the study of the Torah in this world will be privileged to study in the world to come; and so we affirm. On the other hand, the man who fails to study the Torah in this world, and so walks in darkness, when he leaves this world is taken and cast into Gehinnom, a nethermost place, where there will be none to pity him, a place called “tumultuous pit, miry clay” (Psalm 40:3). Hence, of him who has not devoted himself to the study of the Torah in this world, but has besmirched himself with the offscourings of this world, it is written: “And they took him and cast him into the pit”, that is, into Gehinnom, a place where those who have not laboured in the Torah are brought to judgement. “And the pit was empty”, in the same way as he was empty: why so? “Because there was no water” (i.e. Torah) in him. Observe, too, how great is the punishment for neglect of the study of the Torah, seeing that Israel were not exiled from the Holy Land save for having abandoned the Torah, as it is written: “Who is the wise man that may understand this?... Wherefore is the land perished?... And the Lord saith: Because they have forsaken my law, etc.” (Jeremiah 9:11).’ R. Judah derived the same lesson from the verse: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, for want of knowledge” (Isaiah 5:13), that is, because they have not applied themselves to the study of the Torah, which is the foundation of the upper and the lower worlds, as it says: “Were it not for my covenant enduring day and night, I would not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25).

1. For more on this concept, see Derech Hashem, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, pp. 121-125.

2. From