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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-6

CHAPTERS 19-20:6

The Manifestation of the King and the Millennium

1. Heavenly hallelujahs and the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:1-6)

2. Heaven opened and His visible manifestation (Revelation 19:11-16)

3. The battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:17-21)

4. The binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3)

5. The thousand-year reign (Revelation 20:4-6)

Revelation 19:1-10.

Once more we find the significant phrase “after these things” (Revelation 4:1; Revelation 7:1; Revelation 18:1). “After these things”--the things which are described in chapters 17 and 18, the fall of Babylon and the complete destruction of the whore and the system over which she presided and domineered, after these things, voices in heaven are heard again. We were first introduced to the heavens in this book in the fourth chapter.

In Revelation 18:20 we heard the words addressed to heaven, “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her.” And now we see heaven rejoicing. “I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven saying, “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah means “Praise ye Jehovah.” This Hebrew word is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Four times this word of praise is found in the beginning of this chapter; the Hallelujah times for heaven and earth are imminent. The book of Psalms closes with many hallelujahs; the blessed time which the Psalms so often anticipate, when the earth is judged in righteousness and the glory of the Lord is manifested, is now at hand. The praise here is on account of the righteousness of God exhibited in the judgment of the great whore “which did corrupt the earth with her fornication” and because the blood of God’s servants shed by her is now avenged. The great multitude whose Hallelujah is heard first must be the company of martyrs who died during the tribulation. The souls under the altar and their brethren which were slain later utter this praise now. They are seen as a distinct company from the twenty-four elders. A second hallelujah is uttered by them, while the smoke of the destroyed city goes up forever and ever.

The whole redeemed company, Old and New Testament saints, add their amen and hallelujah to the outburst of praise on account of the execution of the righteous judgment. And they worship God, for it is of the righteousness which accomplished the destruction of the great whore. In the midst of this wonderful and impressive worship-scene the throne begins to be heard. A voice from the throne said: “Give Praise unto God all ye His servants and ye that fear Him both small and great.” And the command is at once obeyed. John hears the fourth hallelujah and it is the greatest, the most magnificent. It is the great hallelujah-chorus of heaven. Like the voice of many roaring waters, like the voice of mighty thunderings, a great multitude saith, “Hallelujah for the Lord our God Omnipotent reigneth.”

Who is this great multitude? In the first verse we heard the Hallelujah of the martyred companies. The twenty-four elders and four living creatures did not join in this first hallelujah. Their hallelujah followed. And now the great outburst of a great multitude. This multitude includes all the redeemed in glory. And they rejoice and give glory for an additional reason which is made known for the first time in this book. The marriage of the Lamb is about to be consummated. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife has made herself ready.” The harlot, which claimed to be the bride, being judged, the true bride of Christ is seen in glory. And it is the marriage of the Lamb. His joy is now filled full for He receives her, who is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. The second Man, the last Adam, is joined to her who is to rule and reign with Him.

But who is the bride about to become the Lamb’s wife? Some teach that it is Israel to be united with the Lord in the closest bonds. But these expositors forget that the scene is a heavenly one. This marriage does not take place on earth where the faithful remnant looks up, expecting Him to appear for their deliverance, but this marriage is in glory. It is true such relationship is declared to be Israel’s in the Old Testament. She was married to Jehovah in a legal covenant and on account of her faithless condition, because Jerusalem played the harlot (Ezekiel 16:35), she was put away. For a time Israel was the wife of Jehovah (Is. 54:1) and then on account of her wickedness became divorced. She will be taken back in the day of her national repentance when the Lord comes. But as one who had been divorced she cannot be a bride again. The bride of Christ to become the Lamb’s wife is the Church of the New Testament.

All who accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord since the day of Pentecost constitute the bride of Christ. The Church began on Pentecost and her completion will be the translation to glory (1 Thessalonians 4:17). She is both the body of Christ and the bride of Christ, as Eve was of the body of Adam and also his bride. The Church is the nearest and the most beloved object of His loving heart.

But how has she made herself ready? And what does it mean, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white for the linen is the righteousness of the saints”? The grace of God has supplied the robe and the precious blood is her title to glory. In this respect she was ready. But the words here refer us to the judgment seat of Christ, that award seat before which we must appear. Then the hidden things are brought to light and the wood and the hay and stubble are burned (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Then “every man shall have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5) and what grace accomplished in each one and through each will be manifested. And the clean white linen “is the righteousness of the saints.” The word “righteousness” is in the plural. It means more than the righteousness which we are in Christ or the faith in Him which is counted for righteousness (Romans 4:3). It includes all the blessed results in life and service produced by the Holy Spirit, the practical righteousness of the saints. And yet even these need the washing in that precious blood without which all is unclean and unholy.

And so it is grace after all, as indicated by the word “given” (Revised Version); “it was given to her to be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure.” He himself has made her ready and removed every spot, every wrinkle and every blemish. God grant that we His people may daily meditate on this coming glorious event, the marriage of the Lamb, and walk worthy of such a Lord and such a calling. Once more John is commissioned to write: “Write, Blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And who can estimate the blessedness of being in His ever blessed presence, at His table, at the marriage supper of the Lamb!

Revelation 19:11-16.

And now we reach the great event so often mentioned in the Old Testament, the event for which this world is waiting, the visible manifestation of Him, whom the heavens received, who returns to judge the earth, to receive the promised kingdom and rule over the earth for a thousand years. We have reached the great climax in the Revelation. His own words are now to be fulfilled. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30).

Impressive words--”And I saw heaven opened.” Heaven was opened unto Him when He came out of Jordan at His baptism. While His baptism foreshadowed His death in the sinner s place, His resurrection and ascension are foreshadowed in coming out of the waters and the open heaven. In heaven at the right hand of God He has been ever since, unseen by human eyes. At last the time has come when God is to make His enemies as the footstool of His feet. Heaven is opened so that He might be revealed in His glorious majesty. And out of the opened heavens He comes forth. He comes as the mighty Victor to judge in righteousness and to make war. “And behold a white horse; and He that sat thereon was called Faithful and True and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.” The white horse is symbolical of victorious warfare and glorious conquest. When, seven years before the first seal had been opened (6:1), a rider appeared upon a white horse achieving great conquest, it was the false king who was then seen in vision. He is as the beast on earth with the King and their armies to make war with the coming King who comes out of the opened heaven. Glorious sight! He is coming to conquer and to claim His inheritance. The appointed day has come in which God “will judge the world in righteousness by that man, whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Upon His head are many diadems. The saints wear crowns, but He to whom belongs all power in heaven and on earth wears many diadems, encircling His head in dazzling splendor.

“And He had a name written, that no man knew but Himself.” And again it is written, “His Name is called the Word of God.” And on His vesture and on His thigh there is a name written, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” The unknown Name is the name of His essential deity. No human name can express what He is in Himself “No man knoweth the Son but the Father.” His Name “the Word of God” refers us to the Gospel of John. As the Word He is the express image of God, that is, He makes God visible. He is the expression of God in His character, His thoughts and counsels. And the third name mentioned, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” expresses what He is in relation to the earth.

“And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood”--”And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron, and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The blood-dipped vesture has nothing to do with His work on the cross. He is described in Isaiah 63:1-4 as the One who has the day of vengeance in His heart, and this passage in Isaiah is here being fulfilled. The two-edged sword refers us to Isaiah 11:4 : “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.”

But He is not alone. The armies of heaven follow the great King. They are, like Him, upon white horses and are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. These armies are not angels. It is true, angels will be with Him as He comes, for it is written, then He shall be revealed with His holy angels. Angels will be the reapers in the judgment (Matthew 13:41) when the age ends and they will be used in the regathering of Israel (Matthew 24:31). But the armies here are not angels. They are the glorified saints; the fine linen, white and clean, identifies them fully. In faith and blessed assurance, you, dear reader, and the writer can say, we shall be in that company with Himself as leader. The Son brings His many sons unto glory (Hebrews 2:10). What a sight that will be for the earth-dwellers! Each in that company bears His own image; each reflects His own glory.

Revelation 19:17-21.

And what a sublime vision comes next! An angel is beheld by the Seer standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he summons the birds that fly in mid-heaven to gather themselves to the great supper of God to eat the flesh of the slain. The birds of prey are summoned in anticipation of the battle of Armageddon which is then imminent. And now the hour of judgment has come. An angel, standing in the sun, the place of supreme authority, gives the invitation to the birds of prey to be ready for the feast which a holy and righteous God will have for them. The day of wrath has come. The slain of the Lord shall be many (Isaiah 66:16).

And down on earth there is the greatest gathering of armies the world has ever seen. The beast, the head of the revived Roman Empire, is the commander-in-chief The kings of the earth are with him. Vast armies camp on all sides. The great valley on the plains of Esdraelon is filled with soldiers. The hills and mountains swarm with armed men. Satan’s power has gathered and blinded this vast multitude to the utmost. The unclean spirits, the demons working miracles, have brought them together to the battle of that day. And the hordes from the north, under the Prince of Rosh are coming later. These vast multitudes from the north and beyond Euphrates are described in Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29. And in that Old Testament prophecy we find a statement which reminds us of the great supper of God in Revelation. “Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, assemble yourselves and come; gather yourselves on every side to My sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood” (Ezekiel 39:17). “Thus shall ye be filled at My table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God” (Revelation 19:20).

Zechariah 14:2 is now being fulfilled. While the vast armies are covering valleys and hills, the objective will be Jerusalem. All nations are gathered against her. “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” And now as these armies are massed together the great battle of Armageddon takes place. They are ready to make war against Him, who comes through heaven’s portals. “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations” (Zechariah 14:3). The battle does not consume much time. Sennacherib’s army was suddenly smitten and they all perished, and here are armies in comparison with which Sennacherib’s forces were insignificant. One mighty blow from above, one flash of glory and all their strength and power is gone. The stone has fallen (Daniel 2:1-49). With one blow the dominion and misrule of the Gentiles is at an end.

The kings of the present day might profitably listen to Nebuchadnezzar’s letter in Daniel 4:1-37. He began at the times of the Gentiles, and has left this letter to be read by his successors. The words our Lord spoke while on earth “on whom this stone falls it shall grind him to powder” have been fulfilled (Matthew 21:44). Such is the awful fate which “Christian civilization” (?) and “Kultur” (!) and a Christless Christendom is rapidly approaching. And while the armies perish as to the body and God’s wrath sweeps the earth clean of the mass of apostates, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel, the beast (the head of the empire) and the false prophet (the second beast of chapter 13), that is the false Messiah, the Antichrist, are cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. They were not annihilated, for a thousand years later we still find them there (20:10); and still they are in existence and will ever be as individuals in that place of eternal punishment. And those that were slain as to the body will be raised after the millennium and also share the place with the two, whom they followed and worshipped.

Revelation 20:1-3.

And now Satan, who was cast out of heaven three and one-half years before the visible and glorious coming of the Lord, and who has been on earth in person, though not beheld by human eyes, is seized to be put into his prison for a thousand years. And the demons, who were liberated by Satan (chapter 9) are likewise shut up in the bottomless pit, though this is not mentioned because it is self-evident. The terms “key” and “great chain” are of course figurative. He is mentioned in all his infamous titles. He is called dragon on account of his horrible cruelty and vileness, the old serpent on account of his maliciousness, guile and deception; he is the devil, the arch-tempter of man, and Satan because he is the accuser of the brethren, the one who opposed Christ and His people. He is now dethroned as the god of this age, completely stripped of his power; and his dethronement means the complete enthronement of our Lord Jesus Christ. And here is the important statement that this being, the once glorious Lucifer, the Son of the morning and light-bearer, who fell through pride, has been the deceiver of the nations.

Revelation 20:4-6.

Thrones are seen next by the Seer. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them.” Daniel also saw thrones in connection with the judgment of the beast, but nothing is said of those occupying the thrones in Daniel’s vision. Here we have the complete revelation, and several times the blessed statement is made that Christ and His saints shall reign with Him for a thousand years. The new age in which all things are put in subjection under His feet, the personal reign of Christ, in which all His redeemed people have a share, begins. It will last a thousand years. Six times we read of the thousand years in this chapter. Because this coming age will last a thousand years it has been called by the Latin word “millennium.” Not a few have made the astonishing declaration that such a period of time during which Christ and His saints reign over the earth has but little foundation in the Scripture.

It is quite true that the only place in which the duration of such an age is given is this great final book of Revelation. And that should be sufficient for any Christian to believe in such an age of a thousand years. However, this age of unspeakable blessing and glory for this earth is revealed throughout the entire Bible. The Old Testament contains hundreds of unfulfilled promises of blessing for Israel, the nations of the earth and even for all creation, which have never seen even a partial fulfillment. Isaiah is full of such promises. In the New Testament there are also passages which clearly teach and point to such an age of glory for this earth. Read Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-23; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:9-11. What awfully disheartening pessimism it would be if we had to believe that the terrible conditions prevailing on the earth now, conditions which have steadily become worse, were to continue and that man’s work is to remedy them and produce something better. This earth has a bright and glorious future. Nations will some day no longer turn, as they do now, their plowshares into swords, but change their swords into plowshares. Righteousness and peace will surely kiss each other and creation’s curse and travail pains will end. Mercy and truth meet together.

But when? Never as long as the great unfoldings of this book, which we have briefly followed, have not come to pass. There can be no better day for the earth as long as He is absent and not on the throne which belongs to Him. But when He comes, when He has appeared in glory and in majesty, then the earth will find her rest and groaning creation will be delivered. As we do not write on the great blessings and glories to come when He comes, we must refrain from following these things. Here in our book the revelation is given that Christ shall reign for a thousand years and His Saints shall reign with Him.

Let us notice briefly the different classes mentioned who are associated with Christ in His personal reign. The entire company of the redeemed, as we saw them under the symbolical figure of the twenty-four elders, occupying thrones and wearing crowns, are undoubtedly meant by the first statement, “they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them.” They judge with Him. This is the raptured company whom we saw first in glory in chapters 4 and 5; and we, dear fellow-believer, belong to this company. Then follow the martyrs, whom we saw under the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11): “And I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded on account of the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God.” Then we have a third company. “And I saw those who had not worshiped the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark on their forehead, or in their hands.” These are the other martyrs who were slain during the great tribulation, when the beast set up the image and demanded its worship (Revelation 6:13). They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The first resurrection is passed and all who have part in it reign with Christ, are priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Oh! wonderful grace which has saved us! Grace which has saved us in Christ and through His ever precious blood delivered us from eternal perdition! Grace which saved us from Satan’s power, from sin and all its curse! Grace which has lifted into such heights of glory and has made us the sons of God and the joint-heirs of the Lord Jesus Christ! And how little after all we enter into all these things, which ought to be our daily joy and delight. How little we know of the power of the coming glory of being with Christ and reigning with Him!


Verses 7-15

CHAPTERS 20:7-22:5

After the Thousand Years and the New Jerusalem

1. Satan’s last revolt (Revelation 20:7-10)

2. The great white throne (Revelation 20:11-15)

3. The eternal state (Revelation 21:1-8)

4. The vision of the holy city (Revelation 21:9-27)

5. The glories of the redeemed (Revelation 22:1-5)

Revelation 20:7-10.

Satan who was put into the abyss a thousand years before, is now loosed out of his prison. God permits him to come forth once more. Who would have ever thought of such a thing! The archenemy who had done his vile and wicked work among the human race, for a thousand years put at least into the place of perfect restraint, and now loosed once more to continue, for a brief season, his work! And he finds nations ready for his deception, not a few, but a number “as the sand of the sea.” God permits Satan to come out of his prison, so that the absolute corruption of man might be demonstrated. Man has been tried and tested under every possible condition. He has failed in every age. He failed under the law and he failed even more in the grace-dispensation; and now, under the most glorious conditions, during the millennium, when the Lord Himself is known in all the earth and reigns in righteousness, when want and nearly all the sorrows of a ruined creation are banished, when there is peace on earth, man also fails and does not fully respond to a gracious Lord.

But here is a difficulty which many have. Many a sincere post-Millennialist, who has studied the pre-millennial coming of our Lord, has asked this question, “If the whole world is converted during the millennium, how is it then that Satan finds nations ready to side with him after the thousand-year reign of Christ and then leads them on to destructions?” The difficulty is far from being as great as it is generally made. In fact it is easily explained. As far as Israel is concerned, the “all Israel” living, when He comes, the trusting remnant of Israel, they will constitute the blessed nation in possession of all her promised blessings. They are not mentioned as siding with Satan. No more backsliding for that nation. Isaiah 59:20-21 vouches for this.

And the Gentile nations in the beginning of the millennium will also be converted. However, the human conditions of the earth will continue. The nations are not in a glorified state. Marriage will continue. Children will be born during the millennium. Indeed the earth will be populated as never before. Billions of human beings can be sustained upon our planet and they will come into existence by natural generation during the golden age of glory. Wars will be unknown. No longer will the flower of manhood be cruelly murdered by human passion in that legalized horrible thing called war. Earthquakes will no longer sweep thousands upon thousands into an untimely grave, nor can famines and pestilences claim their millions. Nor will there be the great infant mortality. Physical death will no longer be the universal rule, but rather an exception (see Isaiah 65:20).

Now every child born during the millennium of the converted nations comes into the world the same as the children in the present age, it is still true, conceived and born in sin. And it is equally true, they must be born again.

As many children of pious, godly parents in this age are gospel-hardened and live on in sin, though they hear the gospel and see its power, so in the millennium, an enormous multitude will see the glory, live under the best and most glorious conditions the earth has seen since before the fall of man, and yet they will be glory-hardened and only submit to the righteousness of that age and yield obedience through fear, for disobedience to the governing laws of the kingdom on earth, will mean sudden and certain judgment. It is not the obedience produced by a believing, trusting heart, but only a feigned obedience. Three prophetic Psalms which speak of these millennial conditions make this clear, if we consider the marginal reading. “As soon as they hear of Me, they shall obey Me, the strangers shall yield feigned obedience unto Me” (Psalms 18:44). “Say unto God, How terrible art Thou in Thy works! Through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies yield feigned obedience unto Thee” (Psalms 66:3). “The haters of the Lord yield feigned obedience unto Him, but their time might have endured forever” (Psalms 81:15). Study these Psalms in their millennial bearing. Thus many nations submit while sin is in their heart and in their blindness they long and hope for the day when they may cast off the restraint. And that day comes when Satan is loosed out of the prison to deceive these nations again.

It was the final attempt of the dethroned usurper to regain his lost dominion. For thousands of years, in the all-wise purposes of God, he was permitted to be the prince of the power of the air and the god of this age. We have followed his history in this book and seen how he was cast out of heaven upon the earth where he caused the great tribulation. Then we beheld him stripped of all his power. The kingdoms of the world became the kingdom of Christ and the old serpent was cast unto the abyss where he remained a thousand years. Loosed for a little season he tried once more to become earth’s master. And fire out of heaven devoured the nations who had revolted.

The devil receives his final doom. He is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. He goes to a fixed place, a locality where unspeakable and eternal torment is his portion. This place is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). And all the wicked will share that place. And he finds others there. The first beings who were cast into this final abode were the beast (the emperor of the Roman empire, the little horn of Daniel 7:1-28), and the false prophet (the personal Antichrist, the second beast of chapter 13). They were put there a thousand years before, and as they are there as persons it shows they were not annihilated. And they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever--for the ages of ages--never ending--for all eternity. What a solemn truth this is! Yet men meddle with it and deny future, conscious and eternal punishment. Besides these three persons, the nations who were judged and condemned in the beginning of the millennium, when the Son of Man sat upon the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31), are also in the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:11-15.

And now we reach the last great judgment scene of God’s holy Word. Much confusion prevails among Christians about this judgment. There is no such thing in the Word of God as a universal judgment, nor is there a universal resurrection. Every human being that has died will be raised at some time. Our Lord spoke (John 5:28) of two resurrections, a resurrection unto life and a resurrection unto judgment. The Revelation speaks of the first resurrection. “This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). And previously the apostle wrote of a resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:11). The first resurrection was finished in the beginning of the millennium. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” The rest of the dead come now into view and they are of necessity the wicked dead, who died in their sins, and whose is the resurrection unto judgment.

Some, like “Pastor” Russell, who echoes the evil teachings of others, have invented a third resurrection, a resurrection of the unsaved for a second chance. In the light of this final Bible book there is no room whatever for such a resurrection, which would give the lost another opportunity. Nor does the rest of the Bible mention such a third resurrection. And this great judgment is not a universal judgment. It is taught that the entire human race, the living and the dead, will appear before this great throne. But this is incorrect, for it saith, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.” No living people are there at all. Again the judgment-scene in Matthew 25:31, etc., is spoken of as being the universal judgment and identical with the judgment here in Revelation. But this is another error. In the judgment of Matthew 25:1-46 the dead are not there, but living nations are judged in the beginning of the millennium. And these nations are judged on account of the treatment of the Jewish preachers of the gospel of the kingdom heralded by them during the last seven years of the age. They did not accept the last offer of mercy and that is why they treated the messengers as they did.

Furthermore, the throne which the Son of Man occupies in Matthew 25:1-46 is upon the earth; the throne in Revelation 20:11 comes into view after earth and heaven fled away. The Church and the saints of God are not concerned at all in the judgment of Matthew 25:1-46, nor in the great white throne judgment. They are at that time in His own presence glorified. Every Christian should have these things clearly defined and know that for him, as in Christ, there is no more judgment or condemnation (John 5:24; Romans 8:1). The judgment seat of Christ before which believers have to appear (2 Corinthians 5:10) does not concern their eternal salvation, but their works and rewards.

Who is the occupant of this great white throne? Not God the Father, but God the Son. “The Father judgeth no man but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). The earth and heaven fled from His face. Sin-stained and defiled as they were they flee away from the face of the Holy One. The great conflagration of 2 Peter 3:7-12 takes place. (See Annotations on 2 Peter 3:1-18.) Fire of judgment swept the earth before the millennium, the day of the Lord, began; but the all consuming fire comes after the millennium. out of that great conflagration there arises a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

But what about the millions of saved Israelites and Gentiles who are on the millennial earth? Where are they during this great conflagration? What becomes of them? That they share the eternal blessings and glories in the eternal state is certain. But their abode between the burning of the earth and the calling into existence of the new heaven and the new earth is unrevealed. Speculation on it would be wrong. We should accept the silences of Scripture as much in faith as we accept the promises of God.

And John sees the dead standing before the throne. Books were opened and another book was opened, the book of life. “And the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.” The books are symbolical; conscience and memory will speak loudly. Twice we read that they are judged according to their works. And in the “book of life” none of their names were written, or they would not have been in that company. “All this would seem to show that, though a millennium has passed since the first resurrection, yet no righteous dead can stand among this throng. The suggestion of the ‘book of life’ has seemed to many to imply that there are such; but it is not said that there are, and the words ‘whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ may be simply a solemn declaration (now affirmed by the result) that grace is man’s only possible escape from the judgment” (Numerical Bible).

The second resurrection takes place. The sea gives up the dead and death and Hades give up the dead. Hades gives up the soul, and death, used here for the grave, gives up the bodies. Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. Both had come into existence because man had sinned, and, therefore, they are cast into the place where all belongs which is contrary to the holiness and righteousness of God. And then that solemn word! “And whosoever was not found written in the Book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” It corresponds to that other solemn statement in John 3:36. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” To be written in the “book of life” means to have life in Christ. Not our works, not our character, not our religiousness, not our tears, our prayers or our service can put our names in the “book of life.” Grace alone can do it, and grace does it, as we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Reader! is your name written there?

The saints of God are in eternal glory; the wicked dead, the lost, are in an eternal lake of fire and suffer conscious, eternal punishment. And how man, blind, presumptuous man, yea, even such who know God, rise up against this solemn truth, the eternal punishment of the wicked. They accuse God of injustice, as if the judge of all the earth would not do right. That the suffering of the lost differs is obvious. It is eternal, because the evil condition remains unchanged. There is no repentance, no faith, no new birth in hell. As there are different rewards for the faithful service of the saints, so are there different degrees of punishment for the unsaved (Luke 12:47-48). This is the second death, not blotting out of existence, but endless in a separation from God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/revelation-20.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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