biggest difficulty is reconciling time and eternity, and we will make
some suggestions as we proceed. Perhaps more than any other chapter,
the Summary-Conclusions at the end is the all-important part although
you cannot have it without the explanations of the content of the
The Day of the Lord
there are references throughout the whole Bible to such a day, those
within the Old Testament naturally have a bent towards Israel and
so we will limit this short section to the more general New Testament
references to a coming time of winding up present existence and judging
what has gone before. We will lay out the first set of verses in a
way to make more clear their contents:
But the day of the
Lord will come like a thief.
The heavens will
disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and
the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to
be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to
the day of God and speed its coming.
That day will bring
about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will
melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking
forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
the characteristics mentioned here:
will come as a surprise,
will be a cataclysmic destruction of all present existence,
will clearly be a moral accounting that should impact how we live
will usher in a new heaven and a new earth, a new possibility of
a new life with God for those who are deemed righteous (see the
next chapter for that definition).
Cor 1:8 He
will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on
the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
is a day involving the Son of God
is a day when Christians are still on the earth
is a moral accounting implied here
Phil 1:6,10, 2:16,
will be a surprise – 1 Thess 5:2
not specifically put together in the New Testament apart from the
2 Peter verses above, the fact of a judgment as part of ‘the Day'
is clearly implied:
is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment
17:31 F or
he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the
man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising
him from the dead."
will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "As
surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' " So then, each of us will
give an account of himself to God
Cor 5:10 For
we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one
may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body,
whether good or bad.
we see that on God's agenda for the world there is a time when everything
as we know it in the present, will be wound up and there will be a
time of reckoning before God for how we, human beings with free will,
have handled ourselves in the brief period of our individual lifetimes.
The Return of Jesus
Order of Events
is perhaps important to note the order of the events that run up to
this judgement which we might summarise as follows, the things noted
in the previous chapter that appear in the book of Revelation:
Return of the conquering King of
Jesus, the Son of God (19:11-21),
bound for a thousand years (20:1-3), but those who followed
the Lamb will now be in authority (20:4-6). Satan is subsequently
released, deceives nations, and is overthrown (20:7-10)
The Final Judgement before the throne of God (20:11-15)
The Creation of the new heaven, new earth and new city of
will consider these as four parts of the overall winding up of the
Conquering King deals with the two evil spirits
the above breakdown, in Part 1, with the coming of
the conquering king, the first step is to deal with the two rebellious
spirits leading the rebellious humans, who are defeated and dealt
with. Because of what we will consider later, I want us to note some
distinctions in the way God deals with the different parties involved
in this time. For ease of identifying what happens, we will again
split up the layout:
“Then I saw the
beast and the kings of the earth and their armies
gathered together to make war against the rider on the
horse and his army. (Rebellious
beast was captured, and with him the false prophet
who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.
With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark
of the beast and worshiped his image. (Defeated)
The two of them
were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Eternal
fire for spirit leaders)
The rest of them
were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider
on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
(Death for people)
in the previous chapters in Revelation, the 'Beast' and the ‘False
Prophet' are almost certainly human figures but, we might suggest,
human figures that carry demonic powers (see Rev 11:7 - in the same
way, we might say, that the body of Jesus Christ carried the eternal
Son of God from heaven). That needs bearing in mind in what follows.
is a distinction in the verse above between these two demonic beings
and their followers:
These two beings were
thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur,
while their followers were
killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the
rider on the horse
which indicates the demonic spirits went into
the fire continuing to live, while the people died.
we note these two spirits (only) are cast into a place of prison or
torment that goes on for ever and ever.
Conquering King deals with Satan
Part 2 of our breakdown, we see in what follows,
the conquering King defeats the rebels and takes control. Satan
is cast into “the Abyss” – an underworld prison
for spirits, mentioned eight times in Revelation
where he is kept captive and restricted
for a thousand years
until he is released for a short period (v.3)
to deceive those who can be deceived (v.7-9)
until he is again defeated and those
with him killed (v.9,10). Observe:
gather …for battle…. and surrounded the camp of God's people, the
city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and
devoured them . And the devil , who deceived
thrown into the lake of burning sulfur , where
the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will
be tormented day and night for ever and ever .”
we note the distinction between what happens now to Satan and then
to his human followers:
his followers were killed by fire
he was cast into the fiery lake to join the
other two evil spirits, for eternal punishment.
will come back to this later but for the moment note these descriptions:
lake of fire is the second death .
fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death ."
all of this is an apparent run-up to the Final Judgment. At this point
all of time-space history can be summed up as concluded with
the vast majority of people in history have
come and gone, i.e. lived and died
the three demonic spirits are in the lake of
some believers are still alive on the earth
Why the Second Coming?
a question I don't think I have ever heard asked or answered, is why
is Jesus coming again. If Revelation is in chronological order then
it comes some time after a lot of things, bad things, have gone on
in the world and one could have asked, if he is coming why didn't
he come long before all these bad things happened? From our considerations
earlier in this book, I suggest two reasons:
Grace allows Sin
and again – especially in the study of the kings of the northern and
southern kingdoms – we have seen that so often the Lord seems to sit
back without intervening and allow sin to continue and get worse and
worse. Why? Because He declares in both the Old and New Testaments
that He longs for people to repent and come to salvation. Terminal
judgments are, we have said, judgments of the last resort. The apostle
Peter saw it most clearly, speaking of his return and the Day of Judgment:
Pet 3:6-9 the
present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the
day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget
this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand
years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in
keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with
you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to
that says it all! He is holding back – even though such a day of Judgment
WILL come – to allow us to come to repentance and be saved. Once people
are dead, it is too late!
It is so bad, He must act
you read through the middle chapters of Revelation we see talk of
a third of the earth being burned up (8:7), a third of mankind were
killed (9:15,18), and they worshipped the beast and the dragon (12:3,4,8)
and a second beast leads the earth even further astray (13:11-17).
Despite all these judgments, sinners of the earth refuse to repent
(9:20,21 & 16:9,11).
ago, when I was young, people used to wonder how these massive destructions
seen in Revelation could ever come about. No longer. Today we know
that we have ‘weapons of mass destruction' that could wipe out the
entire population of the earth ten times over. Included within this,
we have nuclear weapons, germ warfare or chemical weapon capabilities
that could all equally do the same. Today we might suggest that these
large numbers being wiped out are as a result of the Lord lifting
off His hand of restraint over the nations and the destructions will,
in fact, come by the hands of man.
said earlier in the book that God's terminal judgments are judgments
of last resort, i.e. there is nothing left to do; the only way to
save the situation is destroy the offenders. The suggestion we make,
in the light of all these things seen in Revelation, is that Jesus
returns a second time as a conquering king, not because he thinks
it is a good idea but simply because, to generalize an expression
given to Abram, “ the sin of the
Amorites has (not yet) reached its full measure."
(Gen 15;16) i.e. the Lord knows when the earth cannot cope with any
more sin. To let it continue means it will move into total self-destruction,
and all will be lost. The Lord always seeks to save a remnant in these
times. For this reason, we suggest, the coming of Jesus as seen in
Revelation 19, is to halt the self-destruction and deal with those
we've seen in the previous section who have been working towards that.
The Final Judgment itself
we move into Part 3 of our breakdown above and will
note what happens – who are judged and on what basis. For the moment,
we will only cover the actual event and will leave going into detail
to the next chapter.
an assessment of each person and then
the sentence passed on them.
of the nature of the sentence and questions that are so often asked,
we will postpone dealing with the ‘sentence' until the next chapter.
For now, let's simply note that God assesses the entirety of mankind
who now stand before Him accountable for their lives.
Assessment before the Throne
the verses and then the basic details:
I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and
sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I
saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books
were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The
dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the
books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death
and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person
was judged according to what he had done.”
let's look at those verses, piece by piece: