Of course the passage (Rev. xx. 1-10) does not give us a direct description of “the intermediate state.” We must bear in mind that the book we are reading is written in symbols and gives us a direct description of nothing that it sets before us, but always a direct description only of the symbol by which it is represented. In the preceding vision (xix. 11-21) we had no direct description of the triumph and progress of the Gospel, but only of a fierce and gruesome war: the single phrase that spoke of the slaying sword as “proceeding out of the mouth” of the conqueror alone indicated that it was a conquest by means of persuading words. So here we are not to expect a direct description of the “intermediate state”: were such a description given, that would be evidence enough that the intermediate state was not intended, but was rather the symbol of something else. The single hint that it is of the condition of the “souls” of those who have died in Christ and for Christ that the seer is speaking, is enough here to direct our thoughts in the right direction. What is described, or rather, to speak more exactly – for it is a course of events that is brought before us – what is narrated to us is the chaining of Satan “that he should deceive the nations no more”; the consequent security and glory of Christ’s hitherto persecuted people; and the subsequent destruction of Satan. It is a description in the form of a narrative: the element of time and chronological succession belongs to the symbol, not to the thing symbolized. The “binding of Satan” is, therefore, in reality, not for a season, but with reference to a sphere; and his “loosing” again is not after a period but in another sphere: it is not subsequence but exteriority that is suggested. There is, indeed, no literal “binding of Satan” to be thought of at all: what happens, happens not to Satan but to the saints, and is only represented as happening to Satan for the purposes of the symbolical picture. What actually happens is that the saints described are removed from the sphere of Satan’s assaults. The saints described are free from all access of Satan – he is bound with respect to them: outside of their charmed circle his horrid work goes on. This is indicated, indeed, in the very employment of the two symbols “a thousand years” and “a little time.” A “thousand years” is the symbol of heavenly completeness and blessedness; the “little time” of earthly turmoil and evil. Those in the “thousand years” are safe from Satan’s assaults: those outside the thousand years are still enduring his attacks. And therefore he, though with respect to those in the thousand years bound, is not destroyed; and the vision accordingly requires to close with an account of his complete destruction, and of course this also must needs be presented in the narrative form of a release of Satan, the gathering of his hosts and their destruction from above.
We may perhaps profitably advert to some of the traits that go to show that it is the children of God gathered in Paradise that are in view in the description of the rest and security that occupies the central section of the vision (vers. 4-6)