The Final Judgment

Posted: May 1, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 20:7-15, “The Final Judgment”

Think back for a moment to Class Presentation Day in school…those days in which you had to give an oral report in front of the teacher & the entire class.  There are only two types of students on those days: those who are ready & confident (though perhaps nervous), and those who aren’t (who knew they hadn’t done their homework).  The same could be said of music recitals, athletic tournaments, and more.  There comes a day in which the preparation time has passed, and either you’re ready – or you’re not.

The same will be true for all of humanity.  The Bible tells us that it is appointed to man to die once, and then face the judgment (Heb 9:27).  The days of our lives are the preparation time; on the day of judgment, it’s too late.  As the book of Revelation starts to come to a close, it shows us a brief snapshot of Judgment Day – the day when all the books will be open, people’s lives will be laid bare before the King, and judgment will be doled out.

Understand that prior to this point, we’ve seen the “preparation” time.  Not only had there been 2000 years (and counting) of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there had been the 7 year period of Tribulation in which the power & judgment of God was made known & the gospel still went to every corner of the world.  Mankind had been given opportunity after opportunity to repent, and although many came to faith, many did not & persisted in rebellion & war against God.  When Jesus came back in His power & glory, multitudes of people were destroyed in the battle of Armageddon.  After Jesus’ 2nd coming will be His glorious reign upon the earth, in which every prophecy given to Israel regarding the majestic reign of Messiah the King will be fulfilled – righteousness will stretch to every inch of the planet – the saints will rule alongside Jesus their Savior & King.

During this time, Satan will be locked up in the bottomless pit – yet he’s been prophesied to be released for a little while (vs. 3).  What happens when he gets out?  What happens to the people who live during the Millennial Kingdom?  These questions are answered in the rest of Rev 20.  The time of preparation is over; the final judgment has come.  Are we ready for that judgment?

Revelation 20:7–15 (NKJV)

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

  1. For 1000 years, the people of the earth have lived in peace under the perfect rule of Jesus Christ.  Reigning from Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the promises to David, King Jesus has enforced perfect righteousness upon the population of the earth – a more perfect kingdom could not be imagined.  And then one day…things change dramatically.  Keep in mind the kingdom is not over; but something happens on that one day that will affect every single human being in creation.  On the moment of the year 1001, Satan’s prison term in the bottomless pit expires & he is released.
  2. At this point, most people probably ask the question “why” (which is important & the Bible addresses) – but the more important question to ask is “how”?  If the Devil was thrown into prison by an angel of God & shut up there for 1000 years with no possible way of escape, how is it that the Devil could actually get out?  The Bible tells us clearly: “Satan will be released.”  Satan does not escape; Satan is set free.  If he is set free, then there is only one Being in the entire universe that could set him free: God.  Thus Satan’s release is by the will of Almighty God.
    1. God has a plan
    2. God has the power – Satan is under a tight leash.
    3. That’s no less true today than it will be at the end of the Millennium!
  3. WHY?  Why will Satan be released?  God allows him to be released in order “deceive the nations… to gather them together to battle.”  “Nations” = ἔθνος (~ethnic), which could also be translated “Gentiles” or “peoples.”  Obviously during the Millennium, there’s only one Kingdom as Jesus reigns over all the earth.  Apparently Satan will go to every corner looking for those he can dupe into rebellion, allowed by God to conduct one final deception to bring them to one final battle.
  4. Question: “But why does God even allow THAT?”  On this point, Scripture doesn’t explicitly say.  Ultimately, God is God, and is deserving of our trust, regardless if we can understand His reasoning or not.  (The clay does not question the potter…)  That said, most pre-trib/pre-mill scholars believe the reason is fairly simple: to provide a test for humanity.  Keep in mind that those who survive the Great Tribulation that physically live into the Millennium will still be capable of reproduction.  Life does not end during the Millennial Kingdom…in fact, the Bible indicates that it will go on & children will be born & life will be prolonged.  Those who die at 100 years old would be considered children (Isa 65:20) – we will likely see a return to the days before the flood when humans lived for hundreds of years at a time.  Imagine the population growth possibilities! []  Yet every person born during this time will still be born with a nature of sin & still be in dire need of the salvation offered through Jesus Christ.  Those born during the Millennial Kingdom will still only be born of the flesh; we need to be born of the Spirit to experience eternal life!  True, their actions will be mostly righteous because they will live under the righteous rule of Christ – but their hearts will still need to be willingly submitted to Jesus as Lord.  It seems that Satan will be released at the end of the Millennial time to allow one final test to distinguish between those who truly belong to Christ & those who may have bowed their knee, but never their heart.
    1. Objection: “But does God even DO that sort of thing?  After all, God doesn’t tempt anyone! (James 1:13)”  True, God does not tempt – but He does test.  To allow Satan’s release is not to tempt the people of the Millennium, but it does test their heart.  For 1000 years, there will be no choice whether or not to serve Christ, but for a brief moment after the 1000 years are up, that choice will once again exist.  And yes – God DOES do this sort of thing.  We need look no further than Genesis 2, when God set a single tree in the midst of a wonderful garden…the one tree from which Adam was forbidden to eat.  Yet the choice was there, and it was a real choice with a real advocate (the serpent).  Apparently, at the end of the Millennial age, God allows that same choice to exist one last time.
  5. The most shocking aspect about this passage is not the release of Satan, but the willingness of multitudes to go along with his deception.  Not just a few follow the Devil; so many follow him that their number was incalculable – it was like the sand on the sea. Don’t miss the magnitude of the tragedy of this rebellion.  After 1000 years of living under the perfect reign of Jesus Christ.  After 1000 years of knowing nothing but the very best that God would have for each one of us.  After some knowing no other life in their entire existence other than the perfect love of God for them…some of them – multitudesof them choose the deceptions of Satan over the truth of Christ.
    1. There are some who boast, “If I were the one in the garden of Eden, I would have never have made the same choice as Adam & Eve!”  Oh really?  A multitude at the end of the Millennium proves you drastically wrong.  Every single one of us would have made the same tragic choice with the same awful results.  Just like Adam, left to our sinful nature, we still choose sin when given the opportunity.
    2. What’s the solution?  The gospel of Jesus Christ!  Those who live during the Millennium will be just as dependent upon the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation as are every single one of us.  There will never be a time when we are not utterly dependent upon the grace of God in the Lord Jesus!
  6. Before we move on – who are “Gog & Magog”?  Is this a reference to the battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38?  Scholars differ on this point.  Gog is a leader in the land of Magog mentioned in Eze 38-39, that comes out to war against Israel (along with a host of allied enemies) riding from the north looking to destroy Israel in the latter days (Eze 38:15-16).  God supernaturally intervenes in battle & utterly destroys the enemy armies, so decimating them that it takes 7 months to complete all the burials (Eze 39:12).  Although there are many similarities between the battle of Eze 38 & Rev 20, there are many differences as well.  The battle in Ezekiel comes from the north; the battle in Rev comes from all sides.  The battle in Ezekiel takes place in the latter days; the battle in Rev comes at the end of the Millennium.  The battle in Ezekiel takes 7 months to bury the dead; the battle in Rev is immediately followed with the resurrection to condemnation.  Again, scholars disagree but it seems best to see these as two very similar, but different battles.  The reference to “Gog & Magog” in Rev 20 seems to be a reference to going out to the far reaches of the earth to gather the enemies of God together – which is an obvious tie to the events of Ezekiel 38-39 (perhaps even a dual fulfillment of some prophecies).

 

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

  1. The battle of Gog & Magog in Satan’s rebellion is no sooner introduced as it ends.  The multitudes of those in rebellion against Christ surround the city of Jerusalem (which is populated by those who remained faithful to Christ)…and that’s all the war they can muster.  Not even a single shot or arrow is mentioned before fire comes down from God & wipes them out.  How complete is the destruction?  The fire “devoured” them.  The Greek word doesn’t speak of death; it speaks of total consumption.  Apparently there aren’t even any bodies left to bury!  (Much less to take 7 months to do it…)
  2. The Devil may have an opportunity to deceive those who are outside of Christ, but he can’t lay a finger on those who belong to Christ!  His entire army surrounds Jerusalem & “the camp of the saints,” but ultimately he is powerless against them.  At this point, God doesn’t merely defeat the Devil, God completely overwhelms the Devil with an infinite show of supernatural force as a torrent of heavenly fire falls in consumption.
    1. Understand that neither God nor the Devil will have changed at that point.  God is still infinitely stronger than the Devil RIGHT NOW.  God is absolutely supreme over the Devil right now.

 

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

  1. Not only is Satan defeated, Satan is judged.  Prior to the Millennium, the Devil was locked into the bottomless pit, unable to get out until the moment of God’s release.  Now, the Devil joins his evil companions in the lake of fire & brimstone (burning sulfur) where he will stay for age upon age into eternity.
    1. This is the moment that countless people have looked forward to for so long!  The moment of our enemy’s ultimate defeat & destruction.  No longer will there be an opportunity for Satan to deceive; his deceptions and lies will have finally come to an end, and God will exact His righteous judgment upon him forever!
    2. Note: Satan doesn’t rule over Hell; he will be an inhabitant of it.
  2. Note that this lasts “forever and ever.”  In the lake of fire of Hell, there will never be a moment when the torment stops – there will never be a time when the inhabitants simply cease to exist (as in annihilation).  It will go on & endure forever & ever.  Antichrist & the false prophet are already there – they had been cast in 1000 years earlier, and yet they are still in the lake of fire, and Satan will join them in their punishment.  As understandable as the desire may be to wish that Hell will one day end & people will simply cease to exist there, that’s not the picture that the Bible paints of it.  Those who inhabit the lake of fire will alwaysinhabit the lake of fire, and their torment of Hell will last as long as the bliss of Heaven…forever.
    1. If that doesn’t motivate you to pray for the lost & share the gospel, nothing much else will.

 

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

  1. From the ultimate evil being to the ultimate good God, the scene changes to a great white throne.  This does not seem to be the same throne seen back in Rev 4, which was described on a sea of glass & surrounded by the 24 thrones of the elders.  This throne seems to be set apart – perhaps reserved for this very moment of judgment.
  2. Obviously the One seated on the throne is of far more importance than the throne itself!  God is there.  Some scholars are uncertain whether this is a reference to God the Father, or God the Son.  From the context of the judgment, this seems more probable to be a reference to Christ Jesus in His appointed role as the judge.  John 5:22–23 “(22) For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, (23) that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”[]  Seated upon the great white throne, Jesus in all of His glory is prepared to judge the dead. Objection: “But wait a minute?!  I thought Jesus was the loving one!?”  Some people have the misconception that God the Father is mean & vindictive while God the Son is loving & merciful.  Two huge errors in that thinking:
    1. There is one God, eternally revealed in three persons.  It’s not so easy to split up God the Father & God the Son as if they are two separate Gods…they aren’t.  They are distinct Persons, but they are only ONE God.  What is true about the nature of the Father is true about the nature of the Son.  Jesus said when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9); Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).  When we see Jesus as incredibly loving & merciful, we know the same is true about the Father.  When we see God as incredibly holy & exacting righteous vengeance, the same is true about the Son.
    2. To understand that God is absolutely holy & shows forth wrath & vengeance is completely different than calling Him “mean & vindictive.” In our culture, we tend to judge a person’s character by how politely they act.  A politician can be an absolute snake, but because he’s got a winsome personality, people put up with a lot.  The Almighty God has no need to condescend Himself to our cultural boundaries of “politeness” or “political correctness”…after all, He’s GOD.  To witness the awesome power and wrath of God in judgment is to witness His utter holiness.  As His created beings, we have no right to pass judgment upon our Creator, it is enough that we have been granted to grace to simply witness Him.
  3. Just how awesome IS Christ Jesus in all of His glory?  So much so that the physical heavens and earth flee from His presence.  This seems to be the moment when all of creation changes, as things transform from Millennial kingdom to the eternal state.  Peter seemed to write of this time: 2 Peter 3:10 “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.” []  As God prepares the new heavens & new earth for His saints, the creation that had been corrupted in the fall will be done away with & remade.  The new heavens & new earth will be seen in Ch 21, but for now we see the old heavens & earth retreating – melting away in the all-consuming fire of the holiness of Christ Jesus.

 

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

  1. Note that the dead are physically standing before God on the throne.  At this point, they’ve been resurrected from the dead in what Jesus referred to as the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5:29).  In vs. 5 we’ve already seen the 1st resurrection – that was the resurrection that began with Christ Jesus, included those raised at the rapture, and then culminated in all the saints of God who were martyred during the time of the Great Tribulation.  Now we see the 2nd resurrection, when those who had died outside of Christ are raised for their judgment.  Until this moment, the souls of the unregenerate dead had been in “Death and Hades” (two words for the same place – referencing both the Hebrew concept of “Sheol/the grave” and the Greek concept of Hades).  This had surely been a place of torment (as illustrated in the parable of the rich man & Lazarus – Lk 16), but it was not fully what we think of as “Hell” (i.e. the lake of fire).  At this point, those people are physically raised being given a resurrection body – not for eternal paradise, but in preparation for eternal judgment.
  2. How does God judge them? By their deeds – “each one according to his works.”  Note the various books that are there.  Apparently there is only one Book of Life, but many other books were opened.  It seems that those other books are the records of every single thing done in life – a full accounting of the deeds of every man & woman.  The records were checked, the works were reviewed – and judgment was made.
    1. Objection: “Wait a second!!  I thought that no one could be saved by works?!”  Absolutely correct…no one can be saved by his/her deeds.  Every single one of us has broken the righteous law of God – all of us have fallen woefully short of God’s perfect standard – even our best works outside of Christ are equivalent to bloody unclean rags in the sight of God.  No one is saved by works; but they will be judged according to them.  To those who face Christ Jesus on this day at the Great White Throne (all those who had rejected the salvation He graciously offered them), the records will be pulled of every idolatrous act, every blasphemous thought, every dishonoring of their parent, every hatred of their brother…even every idle word will be accounted for on the day of judgment (Mt 12:36).  The deeds men do will never save them, but they will be man’s cause for his condemnation.
    2. Not even the deeds people do in the NAME of Christ will be cause for salvation!  Jesus spoke of those who would claim that they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and done wonders in His name – but yet He still never knew them.  Their names had not been written in the Book of Life & they were ultimately workers of lawlessness. (Matt 7:21-23)  The question is not what have you done, but have you received of what Christ has done for you?
  3. At this point, we need to emphasize that the Great White Throne judgment is NOT a judgment for believers in Jesus Christ.  Scholars do differ on this point, but it seems clear that the only humans present in verses 11-15 are the unregenerate (those who had rejected the salvation of Jesus Christ & persisted in rebellion against Him).  There is no mention of the saints here.  Born-again believers WILL be judged by Christ, but our judgment will have taken place at an earlier time as a judgment for reward; the judgment in Rev 20 is a judgment of condemnation.  We can say with absolute confidence that every single human being WILL one day stand before Jesus Christ in judgment, but the judgment you face depends entirely upon whether or not you have received the grace of Christ by having your sins forgiven. (Have you received it?)

 

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

  1. Not only did the heavens & the earth forever change, but also Death & Hades changed as well.  At this point, no longer will there be an abode of the dead from which people await the final judgment, the final judgment has ended & Death itself will die – cast into the lake of fire.
    1. This is one more argument against annihilationism.  If death itself is cast into the lake of fire, how would people already in the lake of fire “die” by ceasing to exist?  The very concept of death is gone.  There is no more death.

 

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

  1. Verse 15 have to be some of the saddest words in the whole of the Scripture.  This is the moment when every single human being who persisted in their rejection of Christ their entire lives receives the reward of their rejection: they are themselves rejected by God & they go into the lake of fire.  There, they join Satan, Antichrist, the false prophet, and likely a multitude of demons as they begin an endless age of torment and misery.  It’s the place where there is outer darkness & weeping & gnashing of teeth.  It’s the place where the worm never dies & the fire is never quenched.  It was the place created specifically for Satan, and yet men & women created in the very image of God will join him there in utter torment.
  2. Why were they sent there?  Because their names were “not found written in the Book of Life.”  Their sinful deeds written in the other books left them condemned, but the only avenue of salvation would have been to have their name written in the Book of Life.  People are condemned by their deeds, but we are saved solely because of the grace of Jesus Christ & His work upon the cross!  It would not have mattered what was written in the other books if their name had but been found in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Their inclusion in the Book of Life would have cancelled out every sin & given them true Godly righteousness in abundance.  Yet because their names were not found there, the only record that was left was their rejection of Christ – and thus they truly condemned themselves to eternal judgment.

 

Conclusion:

Truly the most important question anyone could ever answer is simply this: is your name written in the Book of Life?  If Jesus were to read from that book today, would you wait with excitement to hear your name called – or would you tremble with dread knowing that you would never hear it?

We WILL face the righteous judgment of God.  1st Satan will be judged after a final battle & final attempt at rebellion.  His defeat will be so overwhelming & swift that he can’t even get off a single shot.  Yet Satan will be judged.  If our grand enemy who has desired the death of mankind from the very beginning will be judged, surely those who were blessed to be created in the very image of God will be judged as well…and we will.  The judgment of mankind is assured; the only question is what the verdict will be.

If you’re already a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, the application is simple: you’ve got a job to do.  You’ve got a Great Commission to help fulfill.  God has told us exactly what will happen to those who reject Christ; we’ve got no time to waste when it comes to telling others about it.

If you’re not yet a believer in Christ, then what can you possibly be waiting for?  Know this: God has made salvation available to the entire world!  There is not a single person in all of the universe whom God will not save if they repent from their sins & surrender themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord.  The Bible tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and then God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30).  It tells us that Jesus specifically came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (Jn 3:17).  It tells us that if we confess Jesus as Lord & believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead that we will be saved. (Rom 10:9).

You can do that right now in prayer.  Respond to Jesus in faith – go to Him in prayer, confessing your sins, asking for His forgiveness, believing that He is God in the flesh who died for your sins & rose again, surrendering everything you are to Him alone as the Lord of your life.  If you do that, you will find that your name has indeed been written in the Book of Life & you will rejoice in the presence of your Lord & God forever!

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