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Revelation 19 & 20 Notes

Rev. 19 Notes

19:1-5 Triumphant Praises to God: Revelation 19 begins with a picture of the redeemed saints in heaven singing triumphant praises to God with all their hearts. They are praising God for the justice and righteousness of His judgments on Babylon and for salvation from sin and from the power of Satan. All the heavenly beings join their voices proclaiming "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." All heaven is filled with unutterable joy in the love of God and with rejoicing at the eradication of evil from the universe.

19:6-10 The Marriage Supper of the Lamb: The announcement is made, "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." Here Christ receives His kingdom, which is called "His Bride" (Rev. 21:9), and is symbolized by the New Jerusalem. Rev. 21:9-10.  She is clothed in "fine linen, clean and white." The "fine linen" is the righteousness of Jesus which He gives to all who receive Him as Lord. The hosts of the redeemed are the citizens of His glorious kingdom. Thus "His Bride," Christ's Church and Kingdom is symbolically clothed in "the righteousness of the saints."   The saints take part in "the marriage supper of the Lamb," vs. 9. All heaven rejoices in a glorious celebration as Christ receives His kingdom.  In v. 10, the angel tells John to "worship God" only. Angels and prophets are both created beings, servants of God trusted with a common task, to bring prophecy, called here "the testimony of Jesus," to mankind.

19:11-16 The Feast of the Birds-Armageddon:  Next, John sees a vision of Christ's Second Coming that deals with the wicked. Christ appears on "a white horse" as the Conquering King. He comes with the "armies" of "Heaven" to "judge and make war." His eyes seem to pierce to the heart of each person, for He knows every thought and word and action of their lives. His vesture has on it the "blood" of the victory He won at Calvary; that accomplishment ensured His triumph now in the battle of Armageddon.   The "sharp sword" and "rod of iron" signify victory over His enemies. Jesus comes to smite the wicked nations, who have waged war against Him, His saints and His church. He has laid aside his priestly garments and put on "crowns" and kingly attire; He is coming as "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."

19:17-18:  When the battle of Armageddon is over and the wicked are all dead, an angel invites "all the fowls" to "the supper of the great God" that they "may eat the flesh" of the wicked. While the saints partake of the "marriage supper of the Lamb," the wicked become a feast for the birds at "the supper of the great God." May we all accept Christ's gracious invitation to live and dine with Him in Heaven.

19:19-21: "The beast," along with "the false prophet," (apostate Christianity) are "cast alive into a lake of fire." The rest of the wicked are slain and left to be eaten by the birds; no one is left alive.

KRELL:  3. Hallelujah for God's great supper (19:11-21). In 19:11,35 John sees another vision: "And I saw heaven opened,36 and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. John sees the glorified Lord Jesus on a white horse. Today most people think of horses as either farm animals or runners on the racetrack. However, in the ancient world horses were thought of as military machines used in war (Isa 63:13; Jer 12:5; 8:6). Three short observations should be made about the symbolism37 used here of Christ as the warrior King on a white horse.

First, the picture contrasts sharply to that of His first coming. In Jesus' procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He rode on a donkey, a lowly beast of burden (Matt 21:5; cf. Zech 9:9). At Christ's second coming the little domestic animal will be exchanged for the military steed. Second, the scene in Rev 19 stands in contrast to the scene in Rev 6, which refers to another rider on a white horse. That rider is Antichrist, who will bring new levels of evil to the earth, but the rider in Rev 19 will remove that evil. Third, He will ride a white horse. In Revelation the color white symbolizes judgment (20:11) and victory. In Rev 19, Almighty God considers the False Christ on the white horse who has terrorized the earth during the tribulation period. "That's not the Christ," He proclaims. "THIS IS THE CHRIST!" And our Lord appears to conquer His enemies.

In 19:12-13, John further describes this rider as "Faithful and True." Jesus is faithful (trustworthy) and true (righteous, the real Messiah; cf. 3:14). He came out of heaven to judge the Beast and to make war with him on earth (cf. Isa 11:3-5). The warrior King from heaven will judge and wage war "in righteousness." John writes, "His eyes are a flame of fire." This speaks of the Lord's ability to see through all pretenses. Nothing can be hidden from the penetrating gaze of the Messiah. He is omniscient (cf. 1:14; 2:18). Many things in human experience are mysteries and unsolved riddles. But the eyes of Christ search and understand all things. There are sins in the lives of people that no one else can see. Yet He sees them all. People rationalize many sins and crimes, refusing to censure them as evil. Christ sees the innermost heart and evaluates everything by the perfect standard of His holiness.

On the Warrior's head John saw "many diadems." The diadem was a royal crown.38 At His crucifixion Jesus received a crown of thorns (Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5). To the soldiers it was an attempt to mock royalty. To His followers, however, it testified of His true kingship, and it anticipated His victory over death and His return to rule the world. The accumulated crowns on Jesus' head speak of accumulated victories and dominions-the greatest of all, by far, being His victorious passion. It says He is the winner of many mighty battles and the holder of much sovereignty. John added that Jesus "has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself." John means that the human mind cannot grasp the depth of Christ's being. There is a lesson here in humility. This name is purposely left in obscurity so people will remember that it is God the Son, of whom John was speaking, and be reminded of the wonder and reverence due Him.39 John wrote, "He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood." This is a reference to the blood of Messiah's foes (see Isa 63). The bloodstained garment points in two directions: ahead to the victory at Armageddon and back over many enemies already vanquished.40 John then mentioned the third name of the Warrior in this section, "His name is called The Word of God" (cf. John 1:1, 14). This name is a name that we can know with absolute confidence.

As I reflected on Jesus' name, "The Word of God," I couldn't help but be challenged. If I had to choose one focus of my Christian life over all others, I would choose the reading and study of God's Word. If a disciple is committed to God's Word, he/she will inevitably become a person that will worship God, serve in the local church, fellowship with other believers, and be involved in telling others about Christ. It is the Word that changes peoples' lives. Today, will you commit to spending daily time in God's Word?

In 19:14, John writes, "And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,41 were following Him on white horses."42 The Bible is clear that angels accompany Christ at His second coming.43 But Christ's bride is also a part of this army. In 17:14, the Lamb goes to war with an army identified as "the called and chosen and faithful." Furthermore, in 19:8, the bride is dressed in "fine linen, bright and clean," that is, in the same clothing as this army. Those who have been Christ's companions in His rejection now accompany Him at the judgment.

In 19:15-16, John writes, "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.'" Christ will strike down His enemies with His Word, symbolized by a long, tongue-shaped sword (Isa 11:4; 49:2). He will destroy His enemies with inflexible righteousness that the iron Shepherd's rod pictures (cf. 2:27; 12:5; Ps 2:9; 45). He will execute the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty that these enemies must drink (cf. 19:13; 14:8, 10, 19-20; 16:19; Isa 63:1-6). God will judge Israel, namely Jews, living when He returns (Ezek 20:33-38), and the Gentiles living then (Matt 25:31-46). The name that Christ bears is the sign of universal sovereignty (Phil 2:9-11). When Jesus Christ returns, He will come with authority to punish rebels and evildoers.

In 19:17-18,45 John "saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, 'Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.'" The "birds"46 will be invited to "the great supper of God" (19:17), a terrible counterpart to "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (19:9).47 Jesus told a parable of a big dinner to which all were invited (Luke 14:16-24). That dinner is a picture of the kingdom of heaven. For 2,000 years men and women have been invited to come. Many have accepted the invitation, but many have refused. That feast and the wedding supper of 19:9 picture the same thing. It is a supper of joy. The supper in 19:17, however, will not be one of joy; it will be a supper of judgment.

In 19:19-21, our chapter reaches its climax as "the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.48 And the beast was seized, and with him the False Prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive49 into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh." God originally prepared the lake of fire for Satan and his angels (Matt 25:41). They will be the first inhabitants. Nevertheless, God permits men and women who reject Him to spend eternity separated from Him. This epitomizes the justice of God. People of the world have many answers to the problems confronting society. For some the answer is progress, growth, and development. They say the only thing people need is time and solutions will come, for they have the tools, namely education, science, and democracy. For others the answer is found in various religions and the development of spiritual forces. However, the Bible repudiates all human answers. The solution to the problem of evil in the world is not through some sort of improvement or development of the present order. The solution is the complete rooting up and throwing over of the present order.

Rev. 20 Notes

20:1-3 The Millennium:  After Christ's second coming, the earth is utterly desolate, a jagged smoldering ruin. The righteous have been taken to Heaven, and the wicked have been destroyed. 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

As the prophecy continues, John sees "an angel come down from heaven," lay hold on Satan and bind him for "a thousand years." Satan is alone with no one to ruin or deceive. He has a thousand years to reflect on the effects which sin has wrought, to behold the results of his rebellion, and to look forward with dread to the time when he will be punished for the evil he has done and the sins he has caused others to commit. At the end of the thousand years (commonly known as the "millennium") he will be "loosed" for a short time.

20:4-6:  The scene shifts to heaven where the saints sit with the Lord in judgment on the wicked. They will not determine the salvation or damnation of anyone, for each one's case has already been decided. Instead Christ, in union with his people, judges the wicked dead, as well as Satan and his fallen angels. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3. The books of record are examined, and the punishment to be administered to each of the wicked is determined. During this time God patiently answers any questions the saints may have. This work takes "a thousand years" to complete, but when it is finished both saints and angels agree that God has been just in all His acts and in the way He has dealt with the great rebellion.  Jesus said in John 5:28-29: "The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have one good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." "The first resurrection" is the "resurrection of life." It takes place at the second coming of Christ when He resurrects all the righteous who have died (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor.15:51-57), and it marks the beginning of the millennium. The second resurrection is the "resurrection of damnation." It takes place when "the thousand years" are "finished," and is composed of the wicked, who will take part in "the second death."

20:7-10 At the end of the thousand years of the millennium, Jesus and His people, along with the holy City, the New Jerusalem, descend to the earth. Revelation 21:2. All the wicked who have ever lived are now resurrected in "the resurrection of damnation," and "Satan" is "loosed out of his prison." After his long incarceration, he now has all his subjects, the vast multitude of the lost, to tempt, deceive and torment. He then goes out "to deceive the nations" and "to gather them together to battle." He persuades them that he has resurrected them from the grave by his own power. He convinces them that together they can conquer the New Jerusalem and overthrow God. Now plans are made, instruments of war constructed, and the armies of Satan Surround "The camp of the saints" and "the beloved city."

Before judgment is executed against the wicked, they are shown the charges for which they are condemned; they agree with the saints and the angels that God's judgment is just. See vss. 11-13.

Then the sentence is executed. "Fire" comes "down from God out of heaven" to devour the wicked, turning the earth's surface into a vast "lake of fire." It burns up "the devil," "the beast," "the false prophet" and "whosoever was not found written in the book of life," vs. 15. Sin and the effects of sin are destroyed, including "death" and "hell" (the grave), vs. 14. In the cleansing flames the wicked are annihilated; this is the second death. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power," vs. 6. The fire that consumed the wicked purifies the earth. Every trace of the curse of sin is swept away. The universe is once again free from sin and rebellion.

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11); to Him the destruction of the wicked is a strange act. Isaiah 28:21. God loves and sends blessings upon all, even on those who are evil. John 3:16; Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35. The wicked have made themselves unfit for Heaven. The purity, peace and harmony of paradise would be a great torture to them. Their destruction is the most merciful thing that God can do for them.

20:11-15 The Great White Throne Judgment: After the wicked surround the City of God, but before they are destroyed, God opens the books of Heaven and shows each one of the lost the record of his life of rebellion against God. They also see the love of God in the effort He has expended to affect their salvation, and in the blood of the Son of God poured out on their behalf.

The record books of heaven portray its unmistakable detail their selfishness, cruelty, and every particular of their rejection of God's authority. They will see clearly why their names are not in the Book of Life. Revelation 13:8; Exodus 32:32, 33; Revelation 3:5.

All the wicked will be fully convinced of God's justice in the sentence of eternal death pronounced against them. All of God's judgments are seen to be fair and honest. The entire host of the lost will bow down and confess that God is just. Romans 14:11. Even Satan will knee' before God and admit that he has been wrong in his rebellion Then the wicked receive their punishment in the lake of fire with Satan and his angels.

KRELL:  After the devastation of Armageddon (19:11-21), several matters must be resolved in our prophetic understanding. What is going to happen to planet earth now that the political, religious, and economic systems have been destroyed? What will happen to Satan? What will happen to the righteous dead and those that survived the tribulation period? What will happen to unbelievers? These questions become key issues in Revelation 20. In these 15 verses, we will see four future events come to pass. First, ...

1. Satan's power is limited (20:1-3). John writes, "Then2 I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss3 and a great chain4 in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon,5 the serpent of old,6 who is the devil7 and Satan,8 and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw9 him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time."10 The word "then" (20:1) moves the chronological account forward. In 19:20, God judged the Beast and the False Prophet. Now He deals with Satan himself. He does so by assigning an unnamed angel to "man handle" (or "angel handle") Satan. In history's most sensational arrest, the cosmic criminal is put in chains and "bound" for a "thousand years" (20:2).11 This serves to remind us that Satan is not Jesus' equivalent. Rather, he is the counterpart of the archangel Michael. The principle is this: God has full sovereignty over Satan. Therefore, we have nothing or no one to fear. This will not only be true when the events of Revelation 20 unfold, it is also true today.

In 20:2-3, four definitive actions take place: (1) The angel lays hold of the Dragon, (2) he binds him, (3) he throws him into the Abyss, and (4) he shuts the Abyss and seals it over him (cf. Isa 24:21-22). These are future events. These events did not take place at the cross.12 Scripture describes this present time in which we live as an evil age and Satan is called "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4). Today Satan is free and walks about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), but because of Christ's victory on the cross, Satan and his forces are even now a defeated lot. Consequently, during Christ's reign on earth, Satan (and this includes his demon hosts) will be bound and put out of action until the very end of the thousand-year reign of our Lord (cf. John 12:31; Col. 2:15).

The reason for this heavy-handed response to Satan is given in 20:3: "so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed." It is crucial to note that Satan's great ploy is deception.13 We could call it his "bread and butter." He deceived Eve in the beginning14 and will go down in flames still working his deception game (cf. 20:7-10).

In the last phrase of 20:3 John writes, "After these things (i.e., the one thousand years) he must be released for a short time." It is significant to note that Satan "must be released." The word "must" (dei) points to a logical as well as a moral necessity. Why is Satan not permanently bound or cast directly into the lake of fire? Why is it necessary for him to once again be released? This is an important question, but since 20:7-9 are devoted to his release; we will save the answer for then. But let's not miss the fact that his release is "for a short time" only.

[Satan's power is limited. We will now see that...]

2. God's reign is fulfilled (20:4-6). Beginning in 20:4, John now sees another vision: "Then I saw thrones,15 and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."16 Verse 4 is a very controversial verse because John sees a group ("they") sitting on thrones but he does not bother to tell us who they are. Fortunately, we can put the pieces of this puzzle together. John informs us in 20:4 that the martyred tribulation saints will be resurrected17 and will reign with Christ. These saints are the only group expressly mentioned in this context.

Christ especially cherishes those who become martyrs for His sake. Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." God loves all believers but there is special blessing and honor that comes to those that lay down their lives for Christ. When you contemplate these tribulation martyrs, how do you stack up? Are you willing to be beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God? Are you willing to stand in the face of a ruthless one-world government, religion, and economic system? Are you willing to pray for Christians who are facing martyrdom?

So are the tribulation martyrs the only ones that reign? I think not. One of the primary themes in Revelation is the perseverance of God's people. Therefore, in this context, I believe that the tribulation martyrs18 are representative of all faithful believers that will rule and reign with Christ.19 This was predicted back in Daniel 7:9-10, 22. Then in Matthew 19:28, Jesus told His disciples that they will sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Luke 22:30). In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul tells faithful believers that they will reign with Christ (cf. Rom 8:17). These truths are also confirmed in Revelation. In 2:26-28, he who overcomes and keep Christ's deeds until the end will be given authority to rule over the nations. Again in 3:21, the overcomer will sit down with Christ on His throne. In 4:4, the 24 elders will be seated upon 24 thrones (cf. 11:16). Again in 5:10, believers will be "a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." Reigning with Christ is linked with reward.

John further explains the chronology of events in 20:5. He writes, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed." "The rest of the dead" refers to the wicked who are physically dead that God will raise at the end of the millennium20 (20:12). This second resurrection will be to judgment (see John 5:28-29). This will be developed further in 20:11-15. John then mentions the "first 21 resurrection"22 (20:5b). This refers to the first of the two resurrections John spoke of in the context (20:4-6, 12).23 This includes the resurrection of the tribulation martyrs at the second coming of Christ (20:4) and other believers resurrected at the same time (i.e., Old Testament saints; Dan 12:2; John 5:28; cf. 1 Cor 15:23).24

In 20:6, John declares, "Blessed25 and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection;26 over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign27 with Him for a thousand years."28 There is great blessing and joy in our salvation. The "second death" has no power over us. The "second death" is separation from God in the lake of fire (cf. 19:20; 21:8).29 Instead of experiencing this fate, we will reign as priests for a thousand years.

We must note that in 20:2-7, "thousand years" is used six times in connection with a number of chronologically interrelated events.30 John appears to be setting up a definite timetable of events relative to the 1,000 years. As someone wisely suggested about interpreting the Bible, "When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense."31 There are four good reasons why Jesus Christ's reign will be a physical, earthly reign, rather than a spiritual, heavenly one.32 First, Christ will be on earth after He returns (19:11-16). Second, at the end of His reign, the saints, who reign with Him, will still be on the earth (20:9). Third, God promised the saints an earthly reign (5:10). Fourth, the Old Testament messianic prophecies anticipated an earthly kingdom (e.g., 2 Sam 7:10-16; Ps 2:8; Isa 65:17-66:24; Dan 7:27). The thousand-year reign of Christ will be a time when the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, and His faithful followers will celebrate His victory.

What has been the most satisfying moment in your life? When you signed a contract that secured your financial future? When you sold a house that everyone said you could never sell? When you received your diploma after having worked your way through school? When your child was born? When your care made a sick person happy? There will be no more disease, no more fear, no more dishonesty, no more crime, no more war, no more racism, and no more poverty and starvation. This will be a time like no other. It will be the best years of your life!

The Marines use the Latin expression, "Semper fidelis" (always faithful). That is what God is. He will always remain true to what He promises. He will fulfill His promise to reign. Count on it.

[In the same way that God's reign is fulfilled...]

3. Satan's judgment is required (20:7-10). John explains, "When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth,33 Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.34 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints35 and the beloved city,36 and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."37 At the end of the millennium,38 God will release Satan from the Abyss (20:7). Satan will then attempt his final revolt. He is able to gather nations from all over the world. The huge size of this army isn't hard to explain when you think about all the babies that will be born over a thousand-year period. And the fact that people will live a lot longer means that the population in the millennium will be enormous.39

The phrase "Gog and Magog" (20:8) evidently refers to the world's rulers and nations in rebellion against God. People will come from all over the world to rebel against Christ (Ezek 38:3-6). It seems quite clear that the total invasion by Gog described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not in view here, though part of it is.40 In view of its description in Ezekiel, Gog's invasion of the Promised Land finds fulfillment in two events. These names are used to describe the nations though they are used without any explanation; they are simply introduced as a description of the nations from the four corners of the earth. So why use this term here? Because, from its use in the Ezekiel passage, these names stand symbolically for a rebellious and war-like people and for the nations in rebellion against God and His people (Ps 2) who will be crushed. As Walvoord suggests, it may be used like we use "waterloo" to express a disastrous battle, but one not directly related to the historic situation. The ties are: (1) the nature of the people, rebellious, and (2) their defeat, complete disaster! This battle ends up being the shortest war in human history. The Lord incinerates all of the armies.

Why does God release Satan from the Abyss? No explicit answer is given. However, three reasons are implied in the text: (1) to demonstrate the wickedness of Satan, (2) to demonstrate the depravity of humanity (cf. Jer 17:9), and (3) to demonstrate the justice of hell.

Stop and think about these truths. Even after being bound for a thousand years, Satan still comes out fighting and deceiving. With one last bit of strength, he leads a final revolt against the Lord. He's mad! There is no end to his wickedness. Clearly, Satan deserves it and the justice of God demands it (20:10).

But humanity is every bit as rebellious and wicked. We blame many things on the Devil but people in the millennium will not be able to do that because he will be bound. There is thus no way that anyone can say, "The Devil made me do it." People then will live in a perfect environment and still they will commit sin.41 There will be perfect government, perfect health, perfect climate, and even formerly wild animals like lions will be tame. There will be perfect justice. Yet, a perfect environment will not keep man from sinning because a perfect environment cannot produce a perfect heart. A perfect environment will not solve humanity's problems; only personal trust in the person and work of Christ will change a person's heart. Nothing else can permanently change man.

You don't have to go to the millennium to find this out. This is a human trait today. The better life becomes for some people, the better the possibility that they will conclude they don't need God; but that any effective and lasting change must come from within, through God's grace plan of salvation.

Lastly, one of the purposes of this passage is to justify the necessity of eternal punishment. This section proves that even the equivalent of 14 lifetimes (based on the current life expectancy of about 70 years divided into a thousand years) is not enough to overturn man's allegiance to Satan. Therefore, the eternal lake of fire is a necessity.42

[The Bible teaches that Satan's judgment is required. It also predicts a time when...]

4. Man's judgment is completed (20:11-15). In 20:11, John sees "a great white throne." First, it is called "great."43 It is great for three primary reasons: (1) Here each unbeliever's eternal destiny is determined and declared with ample proof and reason. (2) It is great because it is the final judgment putting an end to all judgment for all time. (3) It is great because all the unbelievers of all time, from Cain to the final revolt at the end of the millennium, will be here assembled to face the bar of God's perfect justice. The only exceptions will be the Beast and False Prophet and perhaps those of the judgment of the Jews and Gentiles, at the end of the tribulation, who have already been consigned to the lake of fire. Second, it is called "white" because it will be the supreme, undimmed display of the perfect righteousness, justice, and purity of God (cf. Ps 97:2; Dan 7:9). Throughout history God has taught man that he must have God's kind of righteousness, that God is of purer eyes than to approve evil, or to accept or look upon wickedness (Hab 1:13), that all have sinned and come short of God's glory (Rom 3:23), and that the penalty of sin is eternal death, separation from God (Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23; Eph 2:2). Now these facts will become evident to each individual and proven without question. Third, it is called a "throne" 44 because here the Lord Jesus Christ will sit in absolute majesty and sovereign authority to consign these eternally to the lake of fire.

The one sitting on this throne is Jesus Christ (cf. John 5:22-23, 26-27). John saw earth and heaven flee from Christ's presence (cf. Ps 114:3, 7).45 This seems to indicate that we have come to the end of God's dealings with this earth, as we know it (cf. 2 Pet 3:7, 10-12). The flight of the present earth and heaven from Christ's presence strengthens the description of Him as the ultimate Judge.

In 20:12, John continues his vision with these words, "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing46 before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds."47 The dead before this throne are evidently the unsaved of all ages48 that now stand resurrected (20:5; Dan 12:2).49 They come from all classes and groups of humanity. The identity of the books is not specifically revealed. We can only speculate from a comparison of other Scriptures and from the nature of these verses. The first book opened will probably be the Scriptures, which contains the revelation of God's holy character, the moral law, the declaration of the sinfulness of man and God's plan of salvation by faith in the Savior. This book also reveals that even when men do not have the written Word, they have (1) the law of God written in their hearts (Rom 2:14-16) and (2) the revelation of God consciousness in creation (Rom 1:19-20). Because of this they are without excuse (Rom 1:20; 2:12). All men are responsible for the revelation they have and stand at this judgment because of their own negative volition to God's grace (Rom 1:18; 2:4, 14; John 7:17). So then, Scripture will be used to demonstrate the clearness of the plan of God and that man is without excuse (cf. also John 12:48-50; and 1 John 3:23).

The "Book of Life"50 contains the names of God's elect. God will condemn those raised to face this judgment because of their works including failure to believe in Jesus Christ (John 6:29). Since He will evaluate their deeds, there seems to be a difference in degrees of punishment as there will be differences in rewards for believers (cf. Matt 11:20-24).

The second book will be the Book of Works (deeds). Verses 12 and 13 state that the unbelieving dead will be "judged according to their deeds" (works).51 The principle here is that Jesus Christ died for their sins, for their evil deeds, to forgive them, and to provide them with a righteousness from God so that they might have a perfect standing before Him. But when men reject the knowledge of God and His plan of salvation, they determine to stand on their own merit or in their own righteousness. So the Book of Works will contain a record of all their deeds, good and bad, to demonstrate Romans 3:23, that they fall short of God's righteousness and have therefore no basis upon which to stand accepted (justified) before God. This judgment proves them sinners and in need of Christ's righteousness by faith.

The issue at the great white throne judgment is the degree of punishment. All unbelievers will suffer forever; however, the suffering will be in direct proportion to how one lived and how much light he or she rejected (cf. Matt 10:14-15; 11:21-24; 12:36; Rev 20:13). Exceedingly wicked men like Hitler, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot will experience the utmost in suffering. So too will men like Judas, who rejected the greatest degree of light.

The great white throne will be nothing like our modern court cases. There will be a Judge but no jury, a Prosecutor nut no defense attorney, and a sentence but no appeal. None of these things will exist in this courtroom because Christ will judge the unbelieving world with absolute justice. Nothing will be missed or overlooked as unsaved people from throughout history appear before Christ in the final judgment of the ages.

In 20:13-14, John writes, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." "Death and Hades" represent the fact of dying and the condition entered on after death. When non-believers die before the great white throne judgment, they go to hades.52 "Hades" is not the final judgment. The holding cell for a death-row inmate is not the final step. Execution is that prisoner's final judgment.

These are temporary hells, a holding place until the final judgment. At the final judgment, God will raise non-believers out of these temporary hells to be judged at the great white throne. Then He will cast them into the permanent lake of fire. The idea of "giving up the dead" has to do with restoring physical bodies to their spirits. Their physical bodies long died but their spirits were in hades. Although the sea swallowed up a person hundreds of years ago, God will restore that body to judgment in hell. From this point on, there will be no more death (cf. 1 Cor 15:24-28). God will cast death and hades into the lake of fire. This is hell, the place of eternal punishment.53

In 20:15, John concludes this chapter with some very sobering words: "And if54 anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown55 into the lake of fire." The names of the wicked will be absent from the Book of Life. This will confirm their eternal fate (cf. 14:11). Eternal punishment is a doctrine that is becoming increasingly unpopular in our day. Notice that Jesus Christ, the Judge, spoke very plainly when He affirmed it.56 If we once saw sin as God sees it, we would understand why a place such as hell exists.

No other verse in the entire Bible should cause us to flee God's wrath and run into His grace and forgiveness as does 20:15. Yet, the vast majority of Americans are in denial. Barna Research recently conducted a nationwide poll about belief in life after death, heaven and hell, and who might end up where. Three-quarters of us believe in heaven, nearly that many believe in hell (71%) - and only one half of 1% say that they're heading for the hot place after the closing bell.57

C.S. Lewis was an atheist who tried to prove that God didn't exist. In the process of doing so, he became one of Christianity's boldest defenders. In clarifying his view that hell is a choice, Lewis said, "Sin is a person's saying to God throughout life, 'Go away and leave me alone.' Hell is God finally saying to that individual, 'You may have your wish.'"