“No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house” (Mark 3:27 NKJV).
Much commentary on the Revelation seems oblivious to its allusions to the Pentateuch (although there are many that do enlighten us concerning many isolated points). Even the “binding” of Satan in Revelation has an Old Testament background.
This act by Jesus has a “sacrificial” element, and it is only half the process. The process we observe throughout the Bible is one of binding and loosing. The “head” is bound that the “body” might be loosed. A husband is bound to one wife that she might have freedom to shine in a safe domain. Adam was bound under a single Law that Eve might not be deceived. Abram was “bound” by circumcision that Sarai’s womb might be “freed.” The bondwoman and her son were cast out that the son of the freewoman might be the heir. Isaac was quite literally bound that Israel’s tribal future might be freed. Joseph was bound that Israel’s national future might be freed.
Animals were sacrificed so Israel could be redeemed. Israel was bound under Moses for the sake of the nations, but they “broke loose” with the golden calf. We also see a hint of this process in Daniel 3: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods’” (Daniel 3:24-25).
Moving to the New Testament, Jesus was bound by soldiers so that the disciples might be freed. At the Lord’s Table, the past was bound and broken in Jesus, and the future was released, poured out as new wine.
Then, the apostles were bound that the Gentiles might be freed. This willing submission of the apostles to being “bound” for the hope of Israel (Acts 28:20) is what resulted in AD 70, and the binding of Satan. That is what their faithful witness achieved. “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (John 21:18 NKJV). True apostolic succession is a willingness to be a living sacrifice. As followers of Christ, we are bound (in prayer and fasting) that others might be freed. The idea is that Satan is bound with us, we take him to the altar (or grave, or furnace) and leave him there, while we ourselves are freed, “resurrected” along with his captives. It is the ministry of Christ in miniature.
The application in Revelation might be complicated, but the process isn’t. The Revelation, indeed all the New Testament, must be expounded with reference to the processes founded in the Torah.
The fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 was the Lord’s Table played out on an imperial scale. Satan was bound in AD 70 that the nations might be freed. The Lord’s Table, and its representatives, mediate between heaven and earth. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Mike Bull is author, most recently, of The Shape of Galatians.