Un-Dead – Revelation 20:11-15 07/11/21

Un-Dead – Revelation 20:11-15 07/11/21


In our text today the Final Judgment before the Great White Throne of God at the end of human history introduced.[1] We open with One sitting on a great white throne in majesty and power, but John doesn’t specify who it is that’s seated on the throne.[2] Maybe in his mind it was obvious, or maybe he simply didn’t know, or maybe he didn’t consider it important.


The judgment that’s about to take place before the throne of our holy God is not just to punish sin, there will also be vindication for His persecuted people.[3] Now, I understand that many biblical interpreters believe that only the unsaved will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment. I get that, but I think it’s incorrect. As we saw last week, Revelation 19:4-5 indicates there are two resurrections. First is the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints, and then at the end of the Millennial Kingdom will be the general resurrection of the dead. Everyone else. This will, apparently, include saints and sinners. They will be resurrected in order to be judged.


This judgment is the Final Judgment.[4] There will be no further judgments coming, and there will be no recalls or appeals. Because of this, if we do not pass the judgment, it is referred to as “the second death”[5] in Revelation 2:11. The point being made is that everyone, with the exception of those who were a part of the first resurrection, are resurrected and will stand before the Judge[6] at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.


John sees “the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” [7] This assumes that the general resurrection of the dead has taken place.[8] That was pointed to in Revelation 20:5a. This same event is referenced in Daniel 12:2. This is reiterated by Jesus in John 5:28-29.


Now, the question of who will be saved has already been determined through the choices we make on earth.[9] Did we respond in faith and accept the free gift of salvation, or not? That is the only choice that really matters, and it will have already been made… by everyone.


This judgment will be comprehensive, reviewing and weighing all that we have done, both good and bad. There is an interesting allusion to a record of all that we’ve done in Revelation 20:12-13. Now, I need to tell you, if your hope of heaven is based on these books you’re going to be in serious trouble. Paul makes this case in Romans, specifically for our purposes Romans 3:20. This tells us that there is no human effort, not even the effort of keeping the Law, which will make us acceptable to God. The reason for this is the standard that has to be met. One failure is all that’s needed to disqualify us. All you need is one simple little lie to be disqualified from heaven.


All will fall short of the divine standard. This will serve to emphasize the wisdom and mercy of God. None will pass muster based on “the books,” but those with faith in Jesus Christ will find refuge from judgment. Their faith in Jesus results in their names being included in the “Book of Life.” [10] This book is mentioned several times in Revelation, in fact six separate times, 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12 and 15; and 21:17.[11] This book is very good news; Revelation 20:12.


What John’s vision does is give us the assurance that there is both final judgment and redemption coming.[12] It tells us there is justice in the universe and that things are not just random. This event will be the culmination of judgment already set in motion, as well as the culmination of our redemption by Christ’s death and resurrection.[13]


With that, we find this final sobering statement in Revelation 20:15 ~


15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.[14]


Now, the “Lake of Fire” deserves some attention. It is an extremely unpopular teaching and, honestly, if it does not make you uncomfortable you haven’t spent enough time considering its implications. This Lake of Fire is unending conscious punishment.[15] It’s also called “the second death.” [16] The first death, what we call the death of the body, is only a shadow of true death.[17] Physical death separates us from our loved ones and brings grief for those who are left behind. As bad, as horrible, as that is to experience, true death, is the final and complete separation from God, the source of all that is good.[18]


And this will happen in a specific place, the Lake of Fire, which is challenging to understand. Satan is cast into it, but he’s not a physical being, he’s a spirit being.[19] This place was prepared specifically for him; Matthew 25:41. This strongly suggests that the suffering in this place is likely primarily spiritual in nature.[20] It is eternal and absolute separation from God.[21] Even so, the description of burning forever unavoidably brings to mind visions of physical pain and suffering. It should be enough for us to know it is not someplace we want to be.


The doctrine of eternal punishment has, rightly, always been a problem for Christians.[22] We enjoy the grace of God, and the love of God expressed through our salvation in Christ Jesus.[23] Although this doctrine is not as black and white as we analytical types might like, with euphemisms often employed, the overwhelming evidence is that the punishment of those who do not belong to Jesus is eternal.[24] Between the Old and New Testaments there are 150 direct allusions to the reality of hell.[25] This is confirmed in Revelation 20:10 where the Beast and the False Prophet are shown to still be in the Lake of Fire even after the thousand years of Christ’s millennial reign.[26] Based on Scripture, there are only two possible eternal fates for humanity.[27] One is to be with the Lord, and the other is to be forever separated from Him.[28]


Now, remember, we have been reading Revelation through the lens of God’s love. I find myself speculating, might eternal separation from God be an expression of divine love and mercy? Think about it, what would it be like to be in the presence of a holy God while still in your sin? I cannot help but wonder if that would be worse than the Lake of Fire. However, this is only speculation…


Now, if we’re motivated by the love of God, how might that play out? It should motivate us to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth, regardless of the cost.[29] We should be doing everything possible tell people about the love and mercy of God, and to warn them of the coming judgment for those who reject that mercy.[30] It seems to me that we should be telling people about this.

[1] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 982. [2] David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22, vol. 52C, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 1100. [3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1032. [4] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1032. [5] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1032. [6] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1033–1034. [7] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1032. [8] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1032. [9] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 982. [10] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1034. [11] David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22, vol. 52C, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 1102.