"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev 20:7-15, KJV)
The passage with which we are dealing is highly controversial. Because of this, many have chosen to ignore the passage, supposing that diverse views indicate the text is extremely difficult. Should we choose to follow this line of thinking, we will be deprived of a significant degree of comfort and encouragement.
There are texts in which God speaks with principle in mind rather than specific details. The perspective reflected in such texts is a high perspective-from the vantage of "heavenly places." To impose upon such texts highly controversial detailed views will not enhance faith or stabilize hope. Too, such a procedure thrusts us into the realm of human opinion and controversy. For example, if a body of people were all walking down fifth avenue in Manhattan, New York, they could come to some agreement on the height of the buildings, names and location of the street, and focus of specialty shops. Unless, however, they had personal knowledge of the infrastructure of the city, they would not be able to agree on the general layout of the city, whether or not it was on an island, and other general perspectives. Should that same group, however, view the city from an airplane, about 20,000 feet in the air, the whole city would look differently. From that higher perspective, they could see the general layout of the city. They might be able to identify some unusual structures, like the Empire State Building and the the Twin Towers. However, if they tried to identify the number of stories in each building, and the various streets and shops of the city, they would not be able to agree among themselves. Such details were not plain from that high perspective. It would be unwise to define all of the details from that higher view.
The book of Revelation is, in my understanding, a high view of the working of the Lord. It is intended to give us the layout, so to speak, of God's "eternal purpose," and not all of the historical details. That is why both Jesus and His enemies are pictured according to their character, and not according to appearance. They are viewed from a higher and more general perspective-one that is required to properly understand the details revealed elsewhere. Think, for example, of the many references to the Lord Jesus. "Him which was, and is, and is to come" (1:4). The "first Begotten from the dead, and prince of the kings of the earth" (1:5). The "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending" (1:8). "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" (5:5). "A Lamb as it had been slain" (5:6). "The Word of God" with eyes "as a flame of fire," and a sword proceeding "out of His mouth" (19:13-15). The devil is depicted as "A great red dragon" (12:3), "Abaddon and Apollyon" (9:11), and "the angel of the bottomless pit" (9:11). Those who oppose the saints are portrayed as "The beast" (11:7; 13:2), "another beast" (13:11), "great Babylon" (16:19), "the great whore" (17:1), "the mother of harlots" (17:5), and "the false prophet" (16:13; 19:20). All of these are lofty views-perspectives dealing with principle, not details.
This is not the end of the matter. Things that are specifically detailed elsewhere in Scripture are portrayed symbolically in the Revelation. Take, for example, the nourishment of the people of God. That is a subject of much Apostolic doctrine. They provide the details of the procedure. Often, it comes through the body of Christ (1 Cor 14:3). Other times, it is traced to the direct involvement of God Himself (2 Cor 1:3-4). Again, it is associated with the working of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). But when we come to this book, the very same nourishment is seen from yet higher perspective. "Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days . . . But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent" (12:6,14).
FAITH GRASPS THE HIGHER VIEW
Because of the nature of faith, it must have the higher view. That does not obviate the necessity or value of the detailed views. However, the details can only be correctly seen within the context of the higher view.
In the world, learning takes place at the lowest, or detailed, level. Thus we first learn about words, then use sentences, then express thoughts, etc. But this is not the manner of the Kingdom. Learning takes place at the highest level. The Gospel, for example, is the proclamation of what the Lord has done in Christ Jesus-the higher view. Once faith lays hold of that, the details of obedience, following the Lamb, etc., are provided, and can be comprehended. It is "in light" that we are able to "see light" (Psa 36:9): i.e., within the higher view, or Divine summation, the details of doctrine come into sharper focus. If you can see that Christ has "destroyed" the devil (Heb 2:14), it makes sense that you can "resist" him (James 4:17).
Those who major on the details of Christian living, even though they mean well, have greatly handicapped the saints. Men dispatched by the Lord "preach Christ," not obligations (Acts 8:5; 17:3; 2 Cor 4:5; Col 1:28). This does NOT mean they never declared the responsibilities of men, or warned against the neglect of those responsibilities. It DOES mean the focus of their preaching was the Lord Jesus Himself. The heart of their proclamation was the Lord and what He had done. They consistently spoke of the duty of men WITHIN the context of Christ Jesus and His great salvation. Their exposition was NOT of duty, but of Christ and salvation.
COME UP HIGHER!
Even though John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," the heavenly summons was "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this" (4:1). The Lord, in a sense, did not bring the Revelation down to John, but brought John UP to it. He was being given a higher view of the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. The higher view would allow for a glorious summation that would actually clarify what was occurring on the earth.
In these lofty spiritual realms, the development of theological positions is not at all the point. The definition of historical events is not the focus. That does not mean theological positions are wrong, or that historical events cannot be, to some degree, identified-even in this book. However, such things are not the intention of the Book. Should we pursue that approach, we will not gain the benefit the Revelation was intended to bring. Too, we will set ourselves against one another over matters of opinion.
We must be challenged to come up higher-to enter the realms where the consummation looms larger than the means through which it is accomplished. Every believer, regardless of their level of spiritual attainment, can grasp the conclusions affirmed in this book. We are told of the destiny of the saints, the devil, political opposition, and religious corruption. We are told of a lake of fire as well as a place where God and His people will be joined together-and we are told who will occupy both places.
Do not take for granted that these things are known by everyone. The best of saints can easily forget them in the wake of persecution, frustration, and protracted warfare. They must be reminded of them-having their "pure minds" stirred up with the recollection of them. Persecution and hardship will be easier to endure if we can see "the end of all things." Faithfulness and obedience will be more cheerfully and consistently rendered if we are convinced our labor is not vain in the Lord.
So, come up higher! Do your best not to impose upon this text a personal persuasion. Your persuasion may be true-altogether true. But it is not to be imposed where it does not belong, and it cannot be forced upon your brethren, or made a point of contention-particularly in the study of Revelation. Our objective is to perceive the point the Lord Jesus is making.
THE LOOSING OF SATAN
"7Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison [loosed out of his prison, KJV], 8and 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 very idea of Satan being "released from his prison" should produce great sobriety among the people of God. When speaking our "adversary the devil," the Spirit admonishes us "Be sober, be vigilant" (1 Pet 5:8). No believer is ever told to be casual about the devil. Rather, they are solemnly told, "do not give the devil an opportunity" (Eph 4:27, NASB). Whenever and wherever he is given a place or opportunity to work, he will do so! To be sure, he is under the government of God, but that does not mean God never gives him leave to work. The single account of Job, the "perfect man" from Uz, is enough to dispel such an imagination (Job 1-2).
Our text affirms, "Satan will be released." He will be released AFTER he has been "bound" for "a thousand years" (v 2). After a lengthy period of seeming success, the devil is said to have been "bound." Again, after a period during which "he should deceive the nations no more," he is said to be "released for a little while" (v 3). Both the binding and the releasing were dictated and facilitated by heaven.
With this principal mind, texts tending to be mysterious become more clear. " I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa 45:7, NKJV). " . . . If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?" (Amos 3:6). It is no wonder the Spirit says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31).
The Thousand Years
Only "when the thousand years are expired" will the devil be "loosed." In my understanding, this does not necessarily speak of a precise period of time. However, neither does the language exclude such a season. Believing this is speaking in terms of principle (which does not eliminate the possibility of precise duration), several things may be seen.
This is a period of sufficient length to vindicate the martyrs.
It is a season that will bring the world into rest from the dominancy of evil.
This is a time of Divine determination, both initiated and terminated by the Lord of glory.
If it is not a period of 1,000 literal years, it will be one in which a thousand years (as ordinarily conceived) of accomplishment will be realized.
There are times when Satan is powerless to deceive the nations.
There are times when the saints are powerless to restrain the devil.
Righteousness and unrighteousness cannot dominate simultaneously. One must give way to the other.
There are also several other observations concerning this period of blessedness.
With Satan bound, the Word spreads rapidly.
The thousand years is not a period of unmixed good. Evil will be restrained, and Satan's delusional power bound, yet sinners will still remain.
Evil can be subdued without disappearing.
Death will still be in the world.
There will still be reason for the people of God to be prepared for war-to arm themselves.
These observations are prompted by the fact that when Satan is loosed, he does gather the wicked together (verse 8). They have remained in the background, even though they could not prevail as they did formerly.
One More Thing
One more thing should be observed. Satan cannot and will not be loosed until Divine objectives have been realized: i.e., "until the thousand are expired." Jesus expressed this succinctly in His words to those arresting Him in the Gethsemane. "When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk 22:53, NKJV). Just as the "power of darkness" could not work until Christ's ministry was completed, so Satan will not be loosed "until the thousand years are expired."
For this reason, we must, in our own measure, say with Jesus, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). While we have the light, we are to walk in the light, aggressively throwing off the shackles of slothfulness. As it is written, "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth" (John 12:35).
THE DIVINE MANNER
It is the Divine manner to subject His people to hardship after they have been delivered-to allow evil to surface after it has been subdued. Thus Sarah remained barren after she had received the promise. Joseph went into prison after he had been made "overseer" over Potiphar's house (Gen 39:4-5,20). Israel faced the Red Sea after they came out of Egypt (Ex 12:34-37; Ex 14:18). Daniel was thrown into the lion's den after he had been made "the third ruler" of the kingdom (Dan 5:29; 6:16). The early church was grievously persecuted after it had "favor with all of the people" (Acts 2:47; 8:1-4). Every believer experiences opposition to some measure after they have been delivered. As it is written, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions" (Heb 10:32).
When, therefore, we read of Satan being "loosed" AFTER he has been bound, it should not sound strange to our ears.
While "the bottomless pit" is a source of iniquity, it is also Satan's prison-the place where HE is kept. It is not simply that Satan's plans failed, being overpowered, as it were, by the Gospel of Christ. He is not simply restrained, he is imprisoned-and there is a vast difference.
While he is in "prison," the saints will enjoy reigning with Jesus. Understanding there are a variety of teachings on this matter, it should suffice to show such a thought should not be difficult for us. The Lord is the "King of kings," ruling "in the kingdom of men." Thrice it is affirmed of the kingdoms of this world, He "Gives it to whomever He" (Dan 4:17,25,32). It is even declared that God "setteth up over it the basest of men" (Dan 4:17b). Why, then, should it be thought incredible that it could be given to the saints of the Most High God? Such is the result when Satan is "bound."
THAT WE MAY KNOW
It is possible, because of a lengthy period of dominance, for men to overestimate their strength and ability. Perhaps this is another reason why Satan will be "loosed for a little season." Here again, it will be confirmed that the "excellency of the power" is of God, and not of us (2 Cor 4:7). A theological view that leads one to suppose all danger has been removed, and that Satan is impotent, is a delusion. There is a vast difference between Satan being "bound" and him being impotent or powerless. His destruction by Jesus (Heb 2:14) was not his annihilation, but his removal from the heavenly realms. He is ONLY powerless in the heavenly places.
DECEIVE THE NATIONS
The very thought of Satan deceiving the nations should awaken the greatest degree of sobriety within the saints! Thank God He is to be "released" for only "a little while." However, what havoc he can wreck in but a brief period!
Upon his release, Satan "will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth." Those who are persuaded Satan was "bound" at the beginning of the Gospel age, or the "day of salvation," must account for the universal delusion of the nations existing in our day. As pervasive as the Gospel has been, I do not believe the truth of God has ever been dominant in this world-at least not to date. The knowledge of the Lord has not yet "covered the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). Neither, indeed, has the "whole" of society yet been affected by the Kingdom of God. Speaking of the nature of the Kingdom, Jesus said, "To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened" (Lk 13:20-21).
THE DANGER OF DELUSION
This text points up the most dangerous aspect of Satan's activity. It is delusion! Satan once attacked Job, causing all of his goods to be confiscated and his body to be covered with boils (Job 1-2). Deception is worse than that! He once bound a woman with a spirit of infirmity, so that she was "bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up" (Lk 13:11-16). Deception is worse than that!
Men often do not regard deception as a great danger, because they overestimate their own intellectual abilities. But they are foolish to do so. Satan has deceived, and even blinded, the wisest men the world has ever produced. The Spirit said this of Satan's universal impact: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19, NIV). ONLY in Christ are individuals freed from Satan's control. The Gospel is "hidden," or veiled, to those deceived by Satan. As it is written, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Cor 4:3-4).
While Satan was "bound," iniquity was subdued, but did not disappear. The knowledge of the Lord covered the earth, and yet there remained marshy places throughout the world that were not healed. People did not get smarter, thus enabling them to avoid the snares of the devil. No one was so wise in themselves that they could no longer be deceived. The loosing of Satan would again bring deception throughout the nations. We can learn much from this.
That truth is not dependent upon people to be successful.
That Satan can appear to be dominant.
That Satan's deceptions are stronger than man's power of analysis and intellectual prowess.
That God can start revivals of righteousness or loose surges of iniquity at will.
That Satan is only as powerful as the will of the Lord.
That wicked men can be subdued. However, without a change of heart, they remain subject to Satan's delusion.
The phrase "four quarters of the earth" denotes from every part of the world. The emphasis in this expression is not quantity, but area. The idea is that every part of the world will have people who have not embraced the truth, even though Satan was bound.
There is an important aspect of the situation that should be mentioned here. Men do not naturally gravitate toward the Lord. When Adam sinned, the human nature was defiled, falling away from any Divine inclination. Even if Satan is bound or severely restrained, men must hear the Gospel of Christ and choose to believe it. Their hearts are corrupt by nature. In the words of the Spirit, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer 17:9).
OG AND MAGOG
This is the only place in all of Scripture where the exact expression "Gog and Magog" is used. Once Ezekiel referred to "Gog, of the land of Magog" (Ezek 38:1). Nine times Ezekiel refers to "Gog" (38:2,3,14,16,18; 39:1,11). Expressions used include, "Gog, of the land of Magog" and "Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" (38:3; 39:1).
Nothing good is said about "Gog." Ezekiel was told to set his face "against Gog" (38:2). God affirmed He Himself was "against" Gog (38:3). The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to Gog, "In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes" (38:14-16). When, the Lord said, Gog came against the "land of Israel," "My fury shall come up in My face. For in My jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken" (38:18-19). Ezekiel also declared God would come against Gog, leaving only a small remnant of them. They would fall upon "the mountains of Israel," never to rise again. They would then be buried in Israel in a place that would be called "the valley of Hamon Gog" (39:1-11).
This is the sum total of everything the Almighty has said about Gog in any language and at any time. While a significant amount of teaching has been developed upon the foundation of these few verses, I do not feel comfortable with much of it. It seems unnecessary to say students of Scripture must take special care NOT to explain the Word of God within the context of humanly-conceived theologies. Yet, it must be affirmed again and again, as men continue to have this propensity.
The meaning of "Gog" is "covering." Apart from this lexical definition, little is known of it. The progeny of Reuben included one of the sons of Joel who was named "Gog" (1 Chron 5:4). Nothing more is said of this person-he is simply listed as one of Reuben's descendants. He is not related to the "Gog" of Ezekiel, who wrote around 500 years later.
The only association we have with this name is that of an enemy of the people of God. Ezekiel's prophecy is a particularly difficult, because the person and land to which he refers are not specifically defined. Neither, indeed, are there meanings assigned to the words by lexicons, as ordinarily given to names. The whole matter has been shrouded with a degree of mystery, like Melchisedec, king of Salem. While something specific is no doubt encased in this passage, it appears as though the Lord has shut men up to thinking in terms of principle concerning Gog and Magog. That is the manner in which I will approach this passage, not feeling comfortable with many of the popular interpretations created by men-even honest and good men.
According to Ezekiel, "Gog, the chief prince of Meschech and Tubal," would be joined by Persia, Ethiopia, Libya (African continent, excluding Egypt), Gomer (Aryans, from Southern Russia), and Togarmah (Armenia is considered most probable)-Ezek 38:5-6. Ezekiel's prophecy foretold a massive invasion against Israel. After Israel had been gathered from all nations and brought to dwell safely in their land, Gog and his horde would come over them "like a storm," and "like a cloud to cover the land." This, Ezekiel said, would take place "in the latter years" (38:8-9). These enemies would think that because Israel dwelt in "unwalled villages", "all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates," they could override Israel easily.
In a remarkable parallel with our very text, the Lord informs this evil multitude He would be "sanctified" in Gog before the eyes of all nations (38:17). At that very time, when Gog comes up against God's people, His "fury" will come up in His face, and the fire of His "jealously" will burn in fiery wrath. Surely, the Lord affirms, "there will be a great shaking in the land of Israel" (38:19). The destruction of the enemies would be so great, "seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land" (39:12). The grand conclusion, according to the Prophet, is staggering. "So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward. And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword" (39:23).
It is not clear if Ezekiel and the Revelation are referring to precisely the same event. However, they are referring to exactly the same principle. The focus of Ezekiel was Israel. Some, taking a historical view of the Ezekiel text, say the prophecy was fulfilled when the Scythians came up against Israel early in the seventh century BC. That was, indeed, a devastating time for Israel. However, the Lord's wrath did not burn against those Scythians at that time, nor was He sanctified before the eyes of all nations according to Ezekiel's prophecy. The historical view that text, in my judgment, is only a surface view, lacking much.
Compared to Ezekiel's prophecy, the Revelation refers to "the camp of the saints" and "the beloved city" (20:9), both of which are much larger in scope than the nation of Israel. Further, suddenly turning our attention to a consideration of the nation of Israel alone does not blend when the tenor of the passage. We have been speaking of the binding of Satan and "the nations" being deceived no more. Now Satan is to be loosed to "deceive the nations." He will gather opponents, going "upon the breadth of the earth" (20:9). Further, this book is written to "the churches," not to the Jews. Its value is found in its relevancy to the reign of Jesus, not a detailed disclosure of Israel's future. The ancient people of Israel ARE included in the Revelation, but they are not its focus.
The Spirit is borrowing the language from Ezekiel to describe the futility of Satan's effort to remove the saints. The impression being made is not that of meticulous details, i.e., times and places. Rather, the Spirit is confirming to our hearts the absolute control exercised by the heavenly realms. The nature of our adversary is also declared. The devil himself is unchangeable. His purpose remains the same, together with his intent to fulfill it-even though he is shut up for a thousand years! Too, those who do not receive the love of the truth remain debased in their nature. As soon as Satan is given leave to work, they will at once side with him in open opposition to the saints of God. The absolute fallenness of men is not to be denied.
THE FRUSTRATED ATTEMPT
"9They 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." The language is awesome! You get the picture of a multitude of inimical hosts covering the earth and surrounding the saints of God. They are rallied by the devil himself. Those who are not in Christ ARE aligned against the people of God. If they do not break forth against them, it is only because they are restrained by the King of kings. However, given leave by God, they will be mustered against believers.
THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS
Notice, the saints are encamped, thereby depicting their temporal residence in this world. Even though Satan was bound, and his cause could not flourish, and although the knowledge of the Lord covered the earth as the waters covered the sea, yet they remained "strangers and pilgrims in the earth" (1 Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13). A professed church that courts the friendship of the world will be destroyed by it. Further, a religion that allows for close identity with the world is more from Satan than from God. Believers do move in and out among the ungodly, but they do not "camp" with them. They are "in the world," but they are not "of the world" (John 17:14). Any comfort they enjoy in this world is but temporary. If their enemies are subdued, it is only for a season. Until the heavens and the earth pass away, we live by faith and maintain separateness from the course and fashion of this world, which is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).
The message of the Revelation assumes the pilgrimship of believers in this world. They have been chosen "out of the world" (John 15:19), and are being oriented for "the world to come," over which they will preside (Heb 2:6; 6:5). If these realities are ever forgotten, we will not be able to "hear what the spirit is saying unto the churches."
THE BELOVED CITY
Here the people of God are declared to be the objects of Divine affection. While it is true that God "so loved the world," this is never said of Jesus. When His love is declared, it is pointedly said to be upon the church-his body. " . . . having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end . . . we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us . . . the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me . . . Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us . . . Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her . . . To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (John 13:1; Rom 8:35-38; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2; Rev 1:5). There is such a remarkable consistency on this matter one wonders how it could possibly be missed. The love of God is only realized in Jesus Christ.
THE LOVE OF GOD
When the love of God the Father is declared, it also is said to be focused upon those in Christ Jesus. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) . . . Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace . . . In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins . . . We love Him because He first loved us" (Eph 2:4; 2 Thess 2:16; 1 John 4:10-11,19).
The ONLY place in all of the Bible that God is said to have loved the world is John 3:16. It is a marvelous expression, and is not to be in any way despised or minimized. Neither, indeed, is it to be distorted. Notice, the expression is in the past tense: "loved." The MANNER of the love is also highlighted: "SO loved." The love was provisionary, and not an expression of preference or delight. That love was exhibited in the sending of the Son into the world to provide a means through which God could be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). That is a marvelous love, furnishing a means to personally experience Divine love.
However, when it comes to those who are "beloved" of God-or who are BEING loved by God-the privilege belongs only to those in the Son. They are a city that is loved by God and Christ-a body of people residing in Divine favor. They are preferred by God, honored by Him, and the focus of His attention. Presently, they are a city in encampment-on the move. But the day is coming when they will "go no more out" (Rev 3:12). Individual believers are looking for that "city" with great anticipation (Heb 11:10; 13:14).
The people of God are also called a "city" because they gravitate toward each other. The means through which they become apparent to the world is not their love for the world, but their love "for one another" (John 13:35). No person is commended in Scripture for having a love for sinners. However, believers are consistently applauded for having love for the saints (Eph 1:15; Col 1:4; Phile 5,7; Heb 6:10). The love of the brethren is our personal evidence we have "passed from death unto life" (1 John 3:14). While this view conflicts sharply with contemporary representations of Divine love and Christian love, it is the viewpoint of Scripture. There is not a single deviation from it throughout God's word.
Once loosed, Satan wastes no time rallying the unregenerate. They have a single focus, having embraced the cause of the devil. It is NOT to corrupt the government! It is NOT to defile the educational system! It is NOT to contaminate the family structure. When Satan is given leave to gather his hosts together, he does not set out to bring a nation down. His is more focused than that! A destroying flood proceeds from him that is calculated to carry away "the woman"-the saints of God (Rev 12:15). A fallen nation is bad. A fallen church is worse! The deterioration of the family structure is alarming. Disintegration within the church is worse! When the education system becomes corrupted by distorted philosophies, it is contemptible. When the church is contaminated by false teaching, it is worse!
SAINTS AT A DISADVANTAGE
This vivid picture shows the church at an apparent disadvantage. From all human perspectives, the situation appears hopeless. Frequently Scripture uses the word "compassed" to depict the apparent advantage of the godless. The wicked men of Sodom "compassed" the house of Lot (Gen 19:4). The wicked Syrians "compassed" the house in which Elisha resided (2 Kgs 6:1). The 22nd Psalm presents the coming Redeemer as being "compassed" with strong opposing forces (Psa 22:12,16).
The 118th Psalm presents the need to trust the Lord, even when surrounded by seemingly insurmountable odds. In language much like that of our text, the Psalmist cries out, "All nations compassed me . . . they compassed me about, yea, they compassed me about . . . They compassed me about like bees" (118:10-12). That is the situation described in our text. It is a condition that has existed throughout history, but will particularly come to pass at the close of time.
This tactic of the devil is mentioned elsewhere in the Revelation. "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (16:14). That evil gathering was thwarted by the coming of the Lord (16:15-16). Again it is written, "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army" (19:19). The utter frustration of their intent is again declared: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (19:20).
The wicked will be taken at the height of their power. Satan will be brought down violently and decisively when he appears to be invincible. That is the Lord's manner, for in so doing He gains honor and glory for Himself. When our adversary seems to have the upper hand, we must believe that he does not really have it!
AND FIRE CAME DOWN
Suddenly, under these seemingly impossible circumstances, "fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them." With an abruptness of which God alone is capable, the intent of the devil is thwarted. The saints are not harmed. The "beloved city" is not destroyed. The devil only gathered his forces together so they could be openly and finally destroyed by the Lord God Almighty.
When the people of God are tempted to imagine they are at a disadvantage, they must bolster their hearts by a recollection that the disadvantages all belong to Satan and his camp. His time is "short" and his purpose destined to fail! It is not the possibility of his removal that is affirmed, but the surety of it!
Like Pharaoh AND his armies were destroyed in the Red Sea (Ex 14:17; 15:19), so the wrath of God will fall upon Satan and all those allied with him. This is not a matter of conjecture. Hear the Word of the Lord. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess 1:7-9).
It makes no difference how aggressive evil is, how numerous those who perpetrate it are, or how successful their efforts appear-all wicked initiatives will be brought to an abrupt end. It will be a God-glorifying, devil-debasing conclusion!
Some are persuaded this passage is dealing with Northern nations flooding down against Israel, only to be destroyed by Divine fire. I do not for one moment rule out the possibility of such a thing happening. We must not allow godless academia to rob us of a sense of God's mighty power. However, neither must we allow a cramped view of Scripture to rob us of the comfort it is designed to bring. Your faith requires the rich consolation that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus IS the King of kings-even of Satan. Your heart needs the confidence that comes from being persuaded ALL of Satan's efforts will be frustrated by the lord-whether they are against an individual, Israel, or the body of Christ in particular. Anything and everything he purposes is temporal.
Notice the finality of the Divine act, and let it strengthen your heart. The devil was loosed. He quickly marshaled together enemies of the saints. Like an unconquerable horde, they went upon the breadth of the whole earth. With malicious intent and seeming invincibility they surround the saints. All appears hopeless. But do not let your vision end here. Scan the horizon of eternal purpose! Lift up your eyes and see the baring of the Lord's arm. "And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them!" A sudden end to an impossible circumstance! O, the glory of the sight! How often the saints need to hear that evil can come to an abrupt end!
THE DEMISE OF THE DEVIL
"10The 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." O, how we need to hear of the end of the devil! In the very beginning, before the transgressing pair was expelled from the Garden, God told the devil of his end. We must never tire of hearing of it. "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel" (Gen 3:15). To give us hope in the good fight of faith, we are told the bruise has already been delivered to the devil. It was administered in Christ's death, during which the "heel" of the Messiah was bruised. How glorious the words. "That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). Now our adversary is powerless in the heavenly places. He will yet be powerless in every place.
By the time of this text, two of Satan's wicked initiatives have already been absolutely thwarted. The "beast and the false prophet" have already been removed, and their dominancy brought to a grinding halt. Political tyranny against the saints, and religious corruption will both be absent when the "knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea." Unregenerate hearts will still exist, but they will not be able to form coalitions or launch a drive against the saints.
This perspective is seen in the words, "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are." There is no battle here, no resistence by the devil, and no retaliation by his forces. The devil is simply removed from the scene, and cast into the place "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:41). The lake of fire, however, will also house all who have been "deceived" by the devil. Just as all those who have embraced Jesus will be with Him, so those who have espoused the cause of Satan will dwell with him.
The "lake of fire and brimstone" does not denote annihilation but Divine cursing and removal from the arena of influence. It is also a place of unutterable suffering. The devil and his confederation "will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Earlier, the future of those who were deceived by the devil is described in similar terms. One additional perspective, however, is added. Such "shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (14:10). The lake of fire will afford those consigned to it the vision of the holy angels and the Lamb of God, Whom they rejected. The emphasis is on the condemned beholding the angels and Jesus, not on the angels and Jesus beholding them. It is not that the sight will provoke a desire to be with the Lord-that will be an impossible thing for the damned. The devil hated the sight of Jesus when He was upon the earth. He will hate it even more from the lake of fire. His torment will be accentuated by his inability to do anything about his foaming hatred. The same will be true of "the beast and the false prophet." Their utter frustration, as well as their surrounding, will contribute to unspeakable suffering and torment.
Those imagining God is incapable of consigning people to such a state must consider the destiny of the devil. It is exactly the same destiny to be shared by everyone who made a place for the devil, embracing his delusion and ignoring the Lord's Christ. There is altogether too little thought about these matters in the contemporary church. Enough must be said about this to make the slothful ill at ease with their manners. Truly, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31).
THE TIME OF DIVINE VINDICATION
"11Then 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." When referring to the place of Divine rule, "throne" is never used in the plural. The use of the word "thrones" consistently refers to under-rulers, and never the Lord. The placed occupied by earthly rulers are "thrones" destined to be cast down (Dan 7:9). Jesus said the twelve Apostles would sit upon "twelve thrones" (Matt 19:28). All forms of authority, seen and unseen, are included in the "thrones" created by our Lord and for Him (Col 1:16). Earlier in this chapter, John saw those living and reigning with Christ seated upon "thrones."
But when it comes to the residence of Divine authority, we never read of "thrones," only of "throne." No less than forty-one times, the Revelation refers to God's "throne" (1:4; 3:21; 4:2,3,4,5,6,9,10; 5:1,6,7,11,13; 6:16; 7:9,10,11,15,17; 8:3; 12:5; 14:3,5; 16:17; 19:4,5; 20:11; 21:5; 22:1,2,3). It is the place of determination and accountability. Here is where both blessings and judgment are dispensed. Worship and praise are directed toward this throne. The destiny and duration of men are determined at this throne. Here is where the extent and length of Satan's influence have been set. From this throne saints are nourished and protected. This is, in every sense of the word, "THE throne."
In every instance where "throne" is used in the Revelation, it comes from the same word: "thronos" (). It will now be seen as the place where every person will give an account, and from which their destiny will be announced.
This throne is seen from various perspectives in the Word of God. It is "the throne of holiness" from which righteous decrees are executed (Psa 47:8). Because the reigning Christ is made known from this throne, it is called "the throne of His glory" (Matt 19:28; 25:31). The dispensing of needful grace comes from this throne. Therefore it is called "the throne of grace" (Heb 4:16). But, it is a single throne-a solitary place from which Divine determinations are executed, and before which every created being shall stand.
A "Great Throne"
This is a "GREAT" throne. It is "great" by nature, not only in appearance. It excels all other thrones, dominating in judicial authority. It is "great" in sight, compelling the attention of everyone. When this throne is seen, no one will be looking elsewhere. It is also "great" because of the judgment emitting from it.
A "White" throne
Here purity, righteousness, and justice are enforced. There will be no fault charged against the Lord at His throne. Men find fault with God in this world, but it is only because they are not aware of His presence. When all stand before the "white" throne, every mouth will be "stopped." It will become clear that the Judge of all the earth does "right," and only "right" (Gen 18:25).
This is the place where absolute Sovereignty is expressed. God is truly "above all" (Eph 4:6). The Lord Jesus, to whom all judgment has been committed (John 5:22), is "Head over all things" (Eph 1:22). This is not a place of delegated authority, like that of earthly dignitaries.
Crystallized views of the last time have been developed that employ the words "the great white throne judgment," making it a unique judgment. As cherished as it may be, such phraseology is not found in Scripture. In my judgment, this leaves us with no alternative but to view both the throne and the judgment within the context of what the Spirit has elsewhere said of them.
The Fleeing Earth and Heaven
We are beholding a glorious throne and a glorified Lord. It is precisely the same throne that has governed all affairs from the beginning. It is also the same Lord that was exalted above all things, and given a name that is above every name. God has promised to unveil the exalted Son. As it is written, "He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15). This is the point to which we have come in the Revelation-the showing of the Son.
As it is written, "the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus" (Acts 3:13). That glory transcends the natural order-so much so that it cannot be unveiled and the natural order remain. The Lord repeatedly reminds us of the transitory nature of "the heavens and the earth which are now" (2 Pet 3:7). They are "reserved for fire," and will "pass away" (Matt 24:35). That passing is specifically associated with the coming of the Lord. As it is written, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Pet 3:10).
Some has suggested the fiery destruction of the heavens and the earth will be the result
of nuclear warfare. This is an imagination. Not only the earth will be affected by the declared end, but the heavens, or universe, as well. Man is not capable of removing what God has put into place. The heavens and the earth came into existence "by the word of the Lord" (2 Pet 3:5). Their destruction, we are told, will be accomplished "by the same word" (2 Pe 3:7). Novel views of Scripture often betray a lack of familiarity with the truth.
GLORY WILL BE THE MEANS
Our text provided an expanded view of Peter's prophecy. It is the "face" of the glorified Lord that will be the means of appointed destruction. Nothing that is natural can survive exposure to the face of the Lord. What has been infected by sin cannot abide the fulness of Divine glory. This is what the Lord meant when He apprized Moses, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live" (Ex 33:20). Indeed, when ONLY a portion of His glory was revealed, the earth itself convulsed as though it was coming to an end (Ex 19:18; 20:18; Deut 4:11-12; 5:22; Judges 5:5; Psa 68:7-8; 104:32).
The nature of the Lord is in sharp conflict with everything that is made. Thus it is written, "A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth" (Psa 97:3-5). In very vivid language, the Psalmist spoke of the revelation of God. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him" (Psa 50:3, NKJV). Daniel alluded to the same thing when he wrote, "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him" (Dan 7:10, NKJV). Nahum spoke of the same thing. " The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein" (Nah 1:5). Malachi adds his word to this matter of the effect of the Lord's glorified presence. "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Mal 4:1). Finally, the Spirit adds a confirming word in the book of Hebrews. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29).
Thus, when the King of glory appears, nature will not be able to abide His presence-to say nothing of His enemies! The heavens and earth themselves will flee from the face of their Maker. Thus will come to an abrupt conclusion everything that is transient.
No place will be found for anything that defiles or has been defiled! As the result of man's sin, "the heavens are not clean in His sight" (Job 15:15). The shroud of mortality has been draped over the entirety of creation. Because of that circumstance, the glory of the Lord will bring an end to the era of defilement for nature. Unlike unredeemed humanity, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now," longing for deliverance "from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:22). That deliverance will come when the face of the Lord is seen.
The Lord's appearance (when we see "His face") will conclude the time when good and evil are mingled. The stewardship of evil will be finished. Because the drama redemption shall be complete, the stage upon which it was enacted (the earth) will be destroyed. The age of resistence will be over. Temptation will no longer exist. God's people will no longer be strangers and pilgrims in any sense. The fleeing of the heaven and the earth involves all of this. There will be no evidence of temporality in any form. When the glory of the Lord is unveiled, all of nature will flee away! The very notion of a glorified Christ reigning upon a temporal stage is absurd. Glory and flesh cannot mix-that is why the glorified Christ returned to heaven. As long as the world remained, He could not remain there in a glorified state. Even so, when He returns, the earth will not be able to remain.
I cannot leave this section without exulting in the marvelous effects our Lord's coming will have upon the saved. The revelation of the Lord will bring great joy to the redeemed. As Isaiah wrote, "And it will be said in that day: Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa 25:9).
The same coming that destroys the devil and his hosts will liberate the saints of God. The same coming that will consume all of His adversaries will change all of His people. The heavens and the earth will flee from before His face, but we will rejoice and be exceedingly glad. As it is written, "but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2, NKJV). The very same appearance shall affect all of these thing
THE BOOK AND THE BOOKS
"12And 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." What an awesome sight is before us! From one perspective, we are seeing "the end of all things" (1 Pet 4:7; 1 Cor 15:24). From another view, however, the coming of the Lord will be the beginning of things. For the enemies of God, it will be the beginning of accountability, punishment, and retribution. For the saints, it will be the beginning of an eternal reign, complete conformity to the likeness of their Lord, and a life without hostility or disruption. For creation, it will be the beginning of the freedom from the curse and mortality. In fact, life is to be viewed with this verse in mind.
This is not the first time John has been shown "the dead." At the very beginning of the book, the churches are alerted to the return of Jesus and the inevitable confrontation that will take place as "every eye" sees Him (1:7). In the eleventh chapter John was exposed to "the time of the dead," when saints will be rewarded and sinners will be destroyed (11:18).
John sees "the dead, small and great, stand before God"-the ultimate confrontation. The word "dead" can be seen from two perspectives. First, it is all who were slain in the fall of mankind-those "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13)-in other words, the entire human race. Second, and more specifically here, it is all who were subject to the Divine appointment of death (Heb 9:27). By saying "small and great," the Spirit is again emphasizing that all men will be there. "Small and great" is a Divine synonym for everyone (Gen 19:11; 1 Sam 5:9; 2 Kgs 23:2; Acts 26:22; Psa 115:13; Rev 11:18).
This will take place after every word of God has been fulfilled. With great power Peter spoke of Jesus being retained, or remaining, in heaven until everything the prophets declared has come to pass. "And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20-21). Now, in a gigantic assembly, "the dead" stand before God. He does not say "the rest of the dead," but "the dead." He does not say "the dead in Christ," but "the dead." This is "the time of the dead," and is precisely described in the eleventh chapter. "Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (11:18). All of them, will know why they are there. The saved of the nations will be rejoicing and the lost lamenting-but they will all be there. Judgmental believers are reminded of this occasion. "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10).
Some have concluded this is a different judgment because of the term "judgment seat." This expression is taken from a different word than "throne." The word translated "judgment seat" is bh,mati (ba-ma-ti). Fastening upon this expression, the doctrine of the "bema-seat" judgment has been developed. This teaches that sinners will be judged at a different judgment and time. The saints are said to be rewarded rather than judged, at a previous time. This simply does not blend with the rest of Scripture. Believers are told what will occur at the "judgment seat of Christ." "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:11-12).
Jesus spoke of the separation of the sheep from the goats as taking place when the nations are gathered before Him (Matt 25:32). At THAT time, the "sheep" will enter into their inheritance, and the "goats" will be thrust from the presence of the Lord into "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:3-41).
"The books" that will be opened are the works of men. With remarkable consistency, judgment is always said to be "according to" our works (Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:8; 2 Cor 11:15; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Tim 4:14; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 2:23; 10:12-13). Our Lord went so far as to say, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matt 12:36). On the positive side, Malachi speaks of the heavenly recording of gatherings of those fearing the Lord. "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name" (Mal 3:16).
Daniel also spoke of these books, looking forward to the time when judgment would be take place. "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened" (Dan 7:10). What far reaching vision was given to this holy prophet!
A day of accountability is coming! O, that more professed believers were convinced of this! Those having rule over the house of God, who speak to them the Word of the Lord, will also give an account for the flock. "They watch out for your souls, as those who must give account" (Heb 13:17). Due consideration of this accounting will have a favorable effect on our labors for the Lord. A failure to recall the time when we stand before the Lord will contribute to slothfulness and spiritual sleep.
WHY ARE THE BOOKS OPENED?
The "books" are not opened to determine who is saved and who is lost. That is determined while men live in the world. Jesus once said, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already" (John 3:18). He does not say the believer WILL not be condemned, but that such "IS not condemned." Nor, indeed, does our Lord say the unbeliever WILL be condemned, but that he is "condemned already."
A TIME OF DIVINE VINDICATION
The day of judgment (and it is always in the singular) is a time of Divine vindication. Here the reasonableness of both condemnation and salvation will be openly displayed. The worthiness of the redeemed will be displayed, as well as the unworthiness of the wicked. For some, this is too difficult to receive, for they imagine the saints possess no worthiness. But this is not the case. Their worthiness is not owing to their own goodness, to be sure, but nevertheless, it is very real. Of the faithful few in dead Sardius, the Lord said, "they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy" (Rev 3:4). Christ has "made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col 1:12). The spirit says of those who refused to thrust the Word of the Lord from themselves, "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Rev 22:14). The day of judgment will declare the rightness of believing in Christ, abandoning the world, and resisting the devil. The worth of denying oneself, crucifying the flesh, and being a stranger in this world will be shown.
Too, the uprightness of the condemnation of the wicked will be apparent. God will be found absolutely true in all of His sayings. As it is written, "let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Rom 3:4). Every person refusing to yield to the Lord has judged the Lord unworthy of their obedience. They have pitted themselves against the Lord, choosing their own way over that of their Creator.
The Lord has told us our thoughts, words, and deeds will some day confront us. (Matt 12:36; 16:27; Mk 4:22; Lk 12:2-3; Rom 14:10; 1 Cor 3:13; 4:5). The books WILL be opened!
The greatness of salvation will be seen, as well as the absurdity of sin and transgression. While men are upon the earth, the books are not opened. There are secret things that are written in the books that are known now by no one but God. But that will not always be the case. God will "judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom 2:5). Things that were "hidden" in this world, will be "revealed" in the day of judgment. Our Lord declared, "For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad" (Mark 4:22). Some who appeared good and upright will be seen as corrupt and depraved. Others, appearing to men to be naive and foolish will be seen as God's kings and priests.
The "books," we will find, are perfectly coordinated with "another book." This is "the Book of Life," or the record of those who are "alive unto God" (Rom 6:11). This book is mentioned by name eight times in Scripture. Paul spoke of fellow workers "whose names are in the Book of Life" (Phil 4:3). Jesus promised the overcomer, "I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life" (Rev 3:5). In a description of those who were ultimately deceived by Satan and his evil confederacy, the Spirit identifies them by where their names were NOT recorded. "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8). Those enamored of Satan's representative are also described as those "whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world"(Rev 17:8). Later, those dwelling forever with the Lord are portrayed as "those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Rev 21:27).
The relevancy of this "book" is made known in a telling remark about those who dare to tamper with the words of Revelation. Those taking away from these words are told "God shall take away his part from the Book of Life" (Rev 22:19). A solemn warning, indeed.
Particularly for those who do not believe such a thing is possible! This was spoken by the Lord of glory Himself. Further, the removal of the names of offenders will be accomplished by God Himself. Men do well to abandon doctrines that cause them to deny the affirmations of scripture.
Another Way of Saying "Eternal Life"
The term "Book of Life" is another way of saying eternal life. Not only do the saved know God, God also knows them! Thus, when speaking of our identity with God, the Spirit says, "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God . . . " (Gal 4:9). This kind of knowledge was prefigured in faithful Moses. Of him the Lord said, "for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name" (Ex 33:17). Jesus also said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep" (John 10:14). And again, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them" (John 10:27). The Spirit declares in First Corinthians, "But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him" (1 Cor 8:3). We are told the day is coming when we will "know" even as also we are "known" (1 Cor 13:12). And who can forget the marvelous affirmation of Second Timothy 2:19: "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His."
These are all references to "the Book of Life"-the recognition of those in Christ Jesus by both the Father and the Son. In this world, not even the most godly of all people have been shown this book. Each person does well to know whether they are written in it. But in the day of judgment, the full contents of the book will be disclosed.
Names Written in Heaven
Another way the Scriptures speak of this book is found in Hebrews 12:23. There the saints are referred to as "the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." As citizens of heaven, their names are recorded in the appropriate register. To have your name written in this book is a cause for great rejoicing. When confronting a rejoicing number of disciples, returning from remarkable victories over the powers of darkness, Jesus spoke of a greater cause for rejoicing. "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20).
O, for the day when "the Book of Life" will be opened-the register of every one who is alive and sensitive to God. This is the roll of those "acceptable to God" (Rom 14:18) and "approved in Christ" (Rom 16:10). It is the listing of those whom "Christ has received to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7).
All people are not alike! There is a group of individuals who are loved and honored by God. He knows them by name, and His Son intercedes for them. His Holy Spirit helps their weaknesses, and strengthens them within. His holy angels are dispatched to serve them, assisting them in their journey to glory. Their names are in the Book of Life.
The day is coming when these people will be disclosed to the assembled universe. The angels know who they are now, and will know who they are when they gather them from every quarter of heaven and earth. But some day everyone will know! The Son of God will step forward, as it were, and acknowledge them before the Father and the angels. As it is written, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:32). "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God" (Lk 12:8). That is another way of saying the Book of Life will be opened. Make every effort to be sure your name is written there. The day of judgment is coming, and you have an appointment to be there (Heb 9:27). You have nothing to fear if your name is in "the Book of Life," and everything to fear if it is not. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10), so that when the Book of opened, you will be glad. e
EVERYONE IS THERE
"13The 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."
The Spirit now underscores the thoroughness of the day of judgment. Everyone will be there! Everyone affected by sin will be affected by Divine judgment. A large percentage of graves are in "the sea." For the most part, these are lost from both view and mind. Think of mass of people who died in the flood. Who can estimate the vastness of the number? They will ALL stand before the "great white throne." Since the flood, there have been localized floods, and sea disasters in which untold millions have died. They will all be brought back to stand before "the great white throne."
"Death and Hades" will yield the dead that are in them. "Death," in this case, is the grave, or abode of the body. "Hades" ("Hell" in the KJV), is the abode of spirits. Upon death, the spirit and the body are separated. That is what death means, separation. Each part of man, the seen body and the unseen spirit, are consigned to separate places until the time of resurrection.
The Scriptures have much to say about the grave, i.e., "death," or the place where the body is interred. Presently, it has swallowed up humanity, appearing to be victorious. Through Hosea, God has spoken to the grave, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes" (Hosea 13:14). The word "death" refers to the general residence of dead bodies-the earth-and not to particular graves, like "the grave of Abner" (2 Sam 3:32), the "grave of Lazarus" (John 12:17), etc.
"Death" is a prison house for the bodies of the deceased. Jesus, however, has the "keys of death," and will open this prison when He returns in all of His glory.
There is coming a day when we will mock the grave. Even now, we do it by faith, looking forward to the resurrection. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor 15:55). In obedience to God, the time is coming when death will deliver up the dead who are in it. The earth will "cast out her dead" (Isa 26:19). And when will that occur? When the Lord is revealed. When He face is seen. Even the grave will not be able to survive the coming of the Lord!
"Hades" is mentioned eleven times in Scripture (Matt 11:23; 16:18; Lk 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; 1 Cor 15:55; Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14). In all of these texts, the KJV translates the word "hell." The word "hades" is a general word denoting an unseen place for departed spirits.
Those who have departed from this life are not unconscious. Their bodies "sleep," but they do not. They are, however, confined to an unseen realm. There is such a sparse amount of information revealed about this abode that we do not well to develop a rigid view of it. We do know that Jesus was not able to be confined there, as Peter affirmed. "For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption . . . he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:27,31). There you have both realms, death and Hades, visited by the Lord Himself. Neither realm could contain Him. As Peter declared, "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:24).
Jesus also referred to "The gates of Hades" (Hell, KJV). He was not referring to the realm of the damned, but the realm of the dead. Of His Deity He said, "on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18). The thing against which the gates would not prevail was preeminently His person, and secondarily His church. What He was saying is both Himself and His church could not be confined by death. He would come back from the region of the dead, and so will His church.
Each person will stand before the Lord in a complete state-spirit, soul, and body. Consider the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). Both of their bodies will be raised, and both of their spirits will come from the realm where they were consigned. Spirit and body will be rejoined in the resurrection to stand before the "great white throne."
THE EXTENT OF THE SITUATION
The extent of the judgment is challenging to consider. Not Only will all men confront the Lord Himself, they will also confront one another. Those whose records have been provided in Scripture, and from whom we should have learned, will be at the judgment. We will be acutely aware of them, and they of us.
Jesus spoke of this matter. For those who refuse to repent, even when they are confronted with the truth of their condition and the glory of the Gospel, Jesus gave this word. "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here" (Matt 12:41). And what will an impenitent generation have to say when they "rise up?" How will people, for example, in Joplin, Missouri explain their obstinance before the likes of Nineveh. Nineveh heard no Gospel, yet did repent.
For those who do not extend themselves to appropriate available truth, Jesus said these words. "The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here" (Matt 12:42). Knowing that Solomon had greater wisdom than she did, the queen of Sheba "came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue" (1 Kgs 10:1-13). She asked him hard questions-questions no one else could answer. What will those who have not inquired of Jesus-who have not sought His mind-say when she rises up in the day of judgment. She will not remain seated when she beholds people who had access to the "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" in Christ Jesus, yet did not take advantage of them. People who have remained fundamentally ignorant of the Scriptures, God, Christ, and salvation, will surely confront the Queen of Sheba, as well as the Lord of glory. How will they account for their spiritual obtuseness before her?
Jesus also spoke of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how they will appear on the day of judgment. "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" (Matt 10:14-15). As wicked as those cities were, they did not have the advantage of Moses, the Prophets, John the Baptist, the ministry of Jesus, the Apostles, or the Scriptures. Their sin, as wicked as it was, is not as bad as that of those rejecting the Lord's Christ and His great salvation. The righteous judgment of God will find it "more tolerable" for Sodom and Gomorrah than for such people. Adding to this, Jesus said to Capernaum, "for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matt 11:23-24).
To Chorazin and Bethsaida, where Jesus did "most of His mighty works" (Matt 11:20), the Lord spoke of confronting Tyre and Sidon. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you" (Lk 10:13-14). The curse of the Lord against Tyre is recorded in Isaiah 23:1-18. It is mild when compared to those who have been exposed to the working and word of Christ, yet have remained in unbelief!
THE SAINTS WILL JUDGE
The saints will not only stand before the throne themselves, they will participate in the judgment. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor 6:2-3). It is in this sense that we will be given "power over the nations" (Rev 2:26-27). The tables will be reversed! Those who judged the saints in this world will be judged by them on the day of judgment. This is involved in the promise of our Lord to those in Philadelphia. "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (Rev 3:9).
The day of judgment will not be a simplistic occasion. The gathering of every created personality together before the holy God is certainly not to be taken lightly. The affair will not be for merely making announcements. It is a time of Divine vindication and justification. Every single word the Lord said will be shown to be true. Every single person who contradicted His word will be shown to be foolish. Every individual who embraced the Lord and His word will be shown to be right. To fail to prepare for this inevitable day is foolish, indeed! We have not only been apprized this day will surely come, but have been given everything necessary to prepare for it.
JUDGED ACCORDING TO WORKS
Many have stumbled over the statement that men are judged "according to their works," even though this is the ONLY way judgment is presented in Scripture. How is it possible to be "saved by grace," yet be "judged according to our works." First, the question is really out of order. God has affirmed both to be true, which should be an end of all controversy. "By grace" we are "saved" (Eph 2:5,8). Too, we will be judged "according to" our "works" (Rev 20:12,13).
Salvation is not something theoretical or psychological. It is very real and effectual. A new heart is really granted, together with a purged conscience and a clean moral slate. The person in Christ is "a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). That salvation, duly heeded, results in "good works." Even though we are NOT justified by works (Rom 4:2; Gal 2:16; Tit 3:4,5), salvation does not exclude them. The Word of the Lord is very clear on this matter. "By grace you have been saved . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:5-10).
Those who are not characterized by "good works" are outside of the realm of salvation. Their life is a contradiction of salvation, and not evidence of it. Christians must stop explaining the absence of "goods works." These "good works" are not defined by men, but appointed by God. It is another way of saying living by faith, walking in the Spirit, or living unto God (Heb 10:38; Gal 5:17; Gal 2:19).
There is a perfect coordination between the works of believers and their salvation. New life in Christ does not erupt in devilish activity. The absence of good works indicates the absence of spiritual life. Thus, when they are judged according to their works, the effect of salvation will be publically displayed to the glory of God and the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is gloriously effective, as the judgment will confirm.
TEMPORAL RESIDENCES DESTROYED
"14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." The extent of "the end of all things" challenges our souls. We have already been told the "beast and the false prophet" were "cast into the lake of fire" (19:20). The devil will also be cast there (20:10). Whoever was not found written in the Book of life will be thrown there (20:15). Here, however, we read of something impersonal that will be cast into the lake of fire. "Death and Hades" (Hell, KJV).
These are both temporary residences. They depict the place where bodies are held and spirits reserved until the resurrection. The final destiny of the damned will, in fact, be the "lake of fire"-not the grave, and not Hades, or Hell. The final destiny of the saved is to "ever be with the Lord." There will be no release of the condemned from their final destination. Nor, indeed, will the saved ever again leave their final abode.
The earth will no longer be in a temporal state, condemned to the "bondage of corruption" by the curse. Flesh and blood will no longer exist as we know it. There will be no more births, initial or spiritual. No one will ever again die. Thus, there will be no need for death, or the grave. There will also be no further requirement for Hades, or the place of departed spirits. Having no further utility, both "death and Hades" will be cast into the "lake of fire."
There will be no more comfort in Abraham's bosom, for the saved will be "with the Lord." There will be no more souls "under the altar," crying out for the avenging of their blood. They will ever be with the Lord. There will be no more souls in hell, like the rich man of Luke 16. He will be in the lake of fire. Thus, both "death and Hades" will be "cast into the lake of fire," together with the damned. I do not know all of the ramifications of "death and Hades" being where the condemned are. Perhaps the fear and dread of these places will be part of the reward of the wicked.
The Lake of Fire
The "lake of fire" is a place of absolute separation from God. Divine wrath will not be mingled with mercy, as it is now. Not a shred of goodness, consideration, relief, or hope will be found in "the lake of fire." The eternal lament will rise from this awful realm, "The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!" (Jer 8:20).
This condition is described in the words of Second Thessalonians 1:9. "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power" (NIV). This is a very real situation about which speculation is completely out of order.
ANYONE NOT FOUND WRITTEN
The very thought of not being found written in the Book of Life should awaken a resolute spirit in every person. Remember, "there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom 2:11). There is no hope for anyone whose name is not found in "the Book of Life."
The ramifications of this are significant. The "Book of Life" is the Divine record of those "alive unto God"-who are "known" by Him. It is the record of those in fellowship with God's Son, whose lives are "hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:3). Here are the names of those who KNOW the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom He has sent (John 17:3).
Anyone and everyone that are not in this category do not have their names in the Book of Life! The outcome of that circumstance is succinctly stated. "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." They will be eternally consigned to the same place as the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. They will occupy the same realm as everyone who was deceived by the devil. The villains and despots of the world will be their associates-and yet they will not be able to join hand in hand.
Those bold enough to give due thought to this matter will find it influencing the way they live. They will be provoked to view the Lord Jesus more intently, and expose themselves to the Word of God more consistently. This message is written "to the churches." They are to give heed to it, working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-12). Their efforts will be undergirded by Omnipotence, and cannot be in vain.CONCLUSION
We have dealt with an unusually controversial passage of Scripture. The controversy, however, has not been caused by the passage itself, but by what men have said about the passage. If we will rise high enough, great benefit can be derived from this text. If we remain on a lower and more fleshly plain, the text will generate more questions than answers, and we will find ourselves in conflict with other believers. A proper view of the text will promote unity, not disunity. It will also tend to strengthen and enlighten believers, emphasizing the glory of redemption and the danger of rejecting or neglecting it.
A brief recollection of the broad perspective of this text will serve to confirm these things.
Satan will be contained for a significant period of time, during which he will not be able to deceive the nations.
After a time of binding Satan will be loosed to deceive the nations throughout the world.
He will gather those deceived by him in a confederacy to do battle against the people of God.
The camp of the saints will be surrounded by this wicked host.
Those who are surrounded are loved by God.
The aggression is abruptly terminated when fire comes down from heaven and devours them all.
The devil is summarily cast into the lake of fire, where he and his cohorts will be tormented day and night forever.
There is a great white throne, and One upon it, before whom the heaven and earth cannot remain.
Once removed from the Lord's face, there will be no place for the fleeing heaven and earth.
All of the dead will stand before God.
The books of human deeds will all be opened.
The Book of Life will also be opened.
Men will be judged out of the books, in strict accordance with their works.
The sea will give up all of it's dead.
Death, or the abode of interred bodies, will give of the dead in it.
Hades, or the abode of departed spirits, will yield up the dead in it.
Everyone will be judged according to their works.
Death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Whoever is not found written in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire.
Faith CAN take hold of those affirmations. They must be taken into the heart as they are stated. If done so, the Spirit will expand them to us, showing their relevancy to the life of faith.
Some general conclusions are in order. These are supported by all of Scripture, and have no affect upon the text itself.
Only heaven can bind Satan.
Only heaven can release Satan.
Men gravitate to sin by nature.
Satan's chief work is deception.
Wicked men can be rallied against the church.
It is not possible to side with Satan, or yield to his deception, and yet be saved.
It is not possible to identify with Jesus and cleave to Him, and be lost.
Those who do not live unto God cannot be saved.
Those who live to the Lord cannot be lost.
Nature cannot survive the confrontation of the full glory of Christ.
All men will eventually confront God. Better to come to know Him now, in preparation for that confrontation.
As you can see, there is good reason to "receive" Christ, and walk in Him. As it is written, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Col 2:6). Be encouraged to do precisely that.