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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-15

The First and Last Resurrections

Revelation 20:1-15

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

Perhaps we had better take up briefly the various judgments as preparatory for the study of the first and last resurrections. These resurrections are indissolubly linked to two judgments.

1. The judgment of the believers in life. Hebrews 12:1-29 tells us: "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," Again it says, "And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." We have had fathers in the flesh who chastened us for our good: shall we not expect our Heavenly Father to chasten us?

In all of this judgment during life, we should remember that God is dealing with us as sons; that He is chastening us in order to child-train us; therefore, while no chastening for the present time seemeth joyous, it finally works out for us the peaceable fruits of righteousness, when we are exercised thereby.

2. The judgment of believers at the Judgment seat of Christ. This will be after the resurrection, for we are to receive for the things which we have done in the body whether good or bad. This judgment has to do with our lives after we are saved. It covers the record of our works, our fidelity to the faith once delivered, and our daily walk.

The judgment of works has nothing to do with our past lives when we reveled in all unrighteousness. When we accepted Christ, our sins were placed under the Blood, and they are not on us. There is now therefore no judgment to those who are in Christ Jesus,

3. The judgment of the wicked dead. This will be discussed in this chapter later, so we will mention it only briefly. Some have thought that the wicked will merely be judged as sinners, and have the same judgment, even that of being cast into the lake of fire. True, all sinners will be cast into the lake of fire; however, in addition to that, every unsaved man will be judged for his works.

4. The judgment of the nations. When Christ comes down to the earth riding on the white horse, He will slay the antichrist and the false prophet with the breath of His lips, and with the brightness of His Coming. However, the armies of the nations, as representatives of their nations, will be gathered into the valley of Jehoshaphat and judged as to whether they fought with or against His chosen people.

The result of the judgment of nations will be that the ones who lined up with antichrist, as against the Jews, will be slain. The other nations will enter into the Millennial Kingdom, with the Lord Jesus as their King and Lord.

5. The judgment of the inhabited earth. Our Lord will judge the earth in righteousness. He will execute judgment in the land. He will hear the prayer of the poor, and of the oppressed; He will know all things, and can, therefore, rightly judge with equity.

I. SATAN MEETS HIS FINAL DOOM (Revelation 20:1-3 )

1. The ancient history of Satan is unique. It begins away back somewhere before Adam was created. At that time Satan was created perfect in beauty and in wisdom, and with mighty power vested in his hands. His fall is recorded in the Word like this: "How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" These words may refer to Satan's final overthrow which we are now considering; however they also go back to that time when "Thou hast said in. thine heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: * * I will be like the Most High."

2. The record of Satan during man's life on the earth. Of this the Bible gives us many an accurate statement. He entered the Garden of Eden and led Eve, and then Adam, by his subtleties, into his snare. He entered into Cain, and became a murderer from the beginning of man's history. He inveigled the whole world into corruption by the time of the Flood. He wrought against Abraham and the Patriarchs, then against David and the kingly line, seeking to make impossible the birth of the Seed, even Jesus Christ.

During the earth life of the Lord he sought to kill Him, and to undo all that God had sent Christ to accomplish. When the Church was born, Satan began a systematic attack against the saints, which continues unto this day. Daring the period following the rapture of the Church Satan will invent a devilish trinity: the antichrist, the false prophet, and himself, and put on his final and greatest strategy against God and men.

3. Satan's chaining and casting down. In our opening verses of chapter 20 we read, "And I saw an angel come down from Heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years."

Then the angel cast him down into the pit of the abyss, and shut him up for a thousand years. During the last thousand years of man's sojourn upon this earth as it now stands, and during the simultaneous time of the reign of Christ among men, Satan will be bound and man will be free from his ravages and subtleties. Amen!

II. THE RESURRECTION OF TRIBULATION MARTYRS (Revelation 20:4 )

1. The designation of those who were raised. To place the raised ones of our verse is not difficult, for the language is plain: Here it is:

(1) Those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus. This is a start, at least. All of the raised ones are martyrs. There have been many martyrs during the ages, and there are martyrs at this very hour, who are giving their blood for Christ. The martyrs now before us, however, have a time placing , as we will observe in a moment. They died as witnesses for Christ and for His Word .

(2) Those who worshiped not the beast, nor his image, neither did they receive his mark on their foreheads. Now we can place the martyrs definitely, for the beast and his image and his mark belong only to that period known as the Great Tribulation which covers the reign of the antichrist.

2. The reward of the martyred ones.

(1) They lived and they reigned with Christ a thousand years. They are in the line of the eleventh-hour laborers who went out to work for the Lord. They were not in the Rapture. However, they came to Christ afterward, and they too reign with Christ.

(2) On them the second death has no power. They died as martyrs, and paid for their new faith by their blood; they were, therefore, untouched by the second death. The other world inhabitants, who saved their lives from martyrdom by wearing the mark and number of the beast, will taste of the second death,

(3) They shall be priests of God and of Christ. Thank God that they too are given such riches of grace and glory. Their ministry for the One who saved them was limited on earth, but they shall minister to Him after their resurrection, in His Kingdom.

III. THE SECOND RESURRECTION (Revelation 20:5-6 )

1. There is one thousand years between the First and Second Resurrections. Mark these words: "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished."

The words above clearly settle the fact of two resurrections. This is, however, the message of more than one portion of Scripture.

The great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 , speaking of the resurrection, says, "But every man in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming, Then cometh the end"; etc.

We read of "the resurrection of the just," without any reference to the wicked dead being raised at that time. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 of the Lord coming with a shout, and of the resurrection of the righteous, and Rapture of the living saints with them, etc., without one word of a simultaneous resurrection of the wicked.

2. The first resurrection set forth. Some one will ask, "If the resurrection of the martyrs slain during the seven years of Tribulation is the first resurrection, what about the resurrection of those in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ? Shall we not place them in with the resurrection in Revelation 20:4 ?"

That cannot be done, because in Revelation 20:4 , only the martyred dead appear; only those who worshiped not the beast, etc. What then?

The Spirit is discussing the first resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 when He says, "Christ the Firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming ." As we see it the first resurrection, therefore, has two phases, and includes those who are raised and caught up, as set forth in First Thessalonians; however, the resurrection is not completed until the martyrs who are slain, afterward, are raised. With the martyrs raised, the first resurrection is completed; and the rest of the dead are not raised until after the thousand years are expired.

IV. SATAN TURNED LOOSE (Revelation 20:7-10 )

1. God's best age among men still leaves many men sinners. Think of the privileges of the Kingdom! There are, in Christ's Kingdom, so many things which will be conducive to faith and holiness. Let us suggest some of these things:

(1) The devil bound and in the pit of the abyss. This alone should make for righteousness. Some people, however, forget that there arc other tempters besides Satan, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

(2) The presence of the Lord Jesus, Himself, among men; manifesting both His grace and glory, and ruling in righteousness and truth. That should be enough, it seems, to cultivate and make easy an unwavering and indomitable faith.

(3) No wild beasts to fear, no dire poverty, but every physical blessing and comfort, including perfect health, and physical perfectness. All of this should make holiness easy.

(4) No bitter persecutions, no martyrs for the faith; and no obstacles to hinder confession. This should make salvation easy.

2. The presence of sinners on earth in the midst of God's best age does not mean that God is a failure. It only speaks of the wickedness of the human heart, under the best that God can give.

3. At the close of the thousand years, Satan is loosed for a little season. His loosing is to bring into display the heart of myriads among men who never truly knew or loved the Lord Jesus. They may have outwardly submitted to His reign, but the King knew that they did not inwardly trust and serve Him.

The result of Satan's loosing is that he shall go forth to deceive the nations in the four quarters of the earth, and gather them together to battle against the Lord. This will present a tremendous array of power as a multitude, in number as the sand of the sea, comes forth to surround the Holy City.

Christ allows them to gather, and then, without any fighting at all, the great host is destroyed by fire which comes down from God out of Heaven.

V. THE DEVIL'S FINAL ABODE (Revelation 20:10 )

1. The devil's true character remains the same unto the end. He is "the devil that deceived them." He began his work of deception in the Garden of Eden, and has continued unto this hour. Thus it is that Revelation 20:10 opens with the significant words, "The devil that deceived them."

After having been shut up in the pit of the abyss for 1000 years, we need not marvel that Satan is ready to do all in his power against the Lord,

2. The devil cast into the lake of fire. So herein was the Word of God about to be fulfilled; even as it is written: He, Christ, "must reign, until He hath put all enemies under His feet." Now the devil who deceived them is being finally dealt with, and is cast into his final abode, from whence there is no escape.

3. Where the beast and the false prophet are. Mark the tense of the verb. It is present, and not past; it is "are" and not "were." Thus we are told that the false prophet and the beast who had been cast into the lake of fire 1,000 years before, are still there.

VI. THE GREAT WHITE THRONE OF JUDGMENT (Revelation 20:11-12 )

1. The fleeing away of the earth. Here is most graphic language. "And I saw a Great White Throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them."

The Holy Spirit has told us in Peter's Second Epistle: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

2. The resurrection of the wicked dead has come. The thousand years of the Millennial Kingdom are past. The fulfillment of the words, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished," has now arrived.

We must also remember the words in Corinthians, "Every man in his own order ." "Then cometh the end," "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (This verse speaks of resurrection.) Yes, the wicked dead shall also live. There will be none left in their graves. No bodies will fail to be raised. Cremating does not make resurrection impossible with God. Being swallowed up at sea does not hinder resurrection.

3. The Great White Throne. As the wicked dead came forth, they came only to behold, on the one hand, the heaven fleeing away; while before them, on the other hand, the Great White Throne stood in solemn array.

Upon the throne sat One who was to judge them. That One must have been the Lord Jesus Christ, for all judgment is committed unto the Son.

VII. ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS (Revelation 20:13-15 )

1. The wicked were judged according to their works. Here is a potent factor in the judgment of the wicked before the Great White Throne. There are too many who vainly imagine that they can live as they list, and that it does not matter. It does matter. Going to hell is not all that awaits the wicked. Being cast into the lake of fire is not all. They are to suffer according to that which they have done.

We cannot but remember how Christ once said to Capernaum, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." Nor are we forgetful of the words to Chorazin and Bethsaida, "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you."

2. Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. One thing was common to all of the wicked, to all whose names were not found in the Book of Life they were cast into the lake of fire, It was their individual deeds which determined the extent of their woes in that lake of fire.

Why, in addition to the Book of Life, are there "the books" spoken about in Revelation 20:12 ? It was from the records recorded in the books that they were to be judged according to their works.

3. The lake of fire. Here is a death from which there is no resurrection, and no chance of the new life which is in Christ Jesus, Into the place prepared for the devil and his angels, where the beast and the false prophet are, they also are cast. Sinner beware! Repent, while yet you may.

AN ILLUSTRATION

When we think of the resurrection of the righteous and their bliss, and of the wicked and their misery we are reminded of the following:

Eight miles from the city of Worcester, England, where the writer lived for many years, stands a fine old cathedral. Within may be seen, among other items of interest, an ancient slab upon which some hand, long centuries ago, carved the word Miserrimus "most miserable." Who can tell why that word, so expressive, was chosen by the unnamed dead?

"Poor, wretched, miserable," was the dying wail of another, in this country, who had amassed enormous wealth, had lived sumptuously every day and at last lay dying amidst splendid luxury. Two words can explain that comfortless deathbed, without Christ. Everything that money could possibly procure was in the death-chamber, but that which is offered freely was unknown. Oh, the folly of man's ambition: a few years of struggling for wealth, and then to go out alone upon the pitiless sea of eternal doom.

Another stone, far removed from the ancient city of Worcester made famous by the "Wars of the Roses," lies in the vast underground burial place of the early Christians. In the catacombs of Rome, carved on a stone embedded in the walls, is the word Felicissimus "most happy." No speculation is needed here to know the reason. Banished from home, hunted and hated, these faithful followers of the Lord found refuge underground where hundreds lived, died, and were buried. Were they miserable in their poverty and trial? Ah, no! They had learned, like Paul, to say in circumstances of trial, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philemon 4:11 ). The. secret of true happiness was known to those early Christians so sadly persecuted, Christ was everything to them. J. W. H. Nichols.

 


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Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/revelation-20.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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