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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

Capture of the real antichristSatan, and his thousand year imprisonment, Revelation 20:1-3.

1. And—See last note. Of course, no intelligent reader imagines that an angel with real metallic chain lays corporeal hand upon Satan’s body. The angel is the going forth of divine power energizing the moral and spiritual forces repressive of sin and Satan.

Chain—The decisive check upon infernal agencies over man.


Verse 2

2. Laid hold on—Doubtless a true restraining force on the very person of Satan.

Dragon… Satan—Same accumulation of epithets to identify the world’s great villain as in Revelation 12:9.

Bound him—A release of men from all demoniac temptation or instigation.


Verse 3

3. Bottomless pit—See note on Revelation 9:1. Why are the beast and false prophet (Revelation 19:20) said to be cast into the lake of fire, the final doom of all the wicked, and Satan only into the “bottomless pit?”

The reason we would suggest is this: The former two are not real personages, but only principles or organisms which arise in human history, (really originating from that bottomless pit, see notes on chap. ix,) and so are consigned to their finality; whereas, the latter is a real being, whose life-history commences before the creation of man, who procures the human fall, and is, therefore, destined by the divine order to receive his finality when the period of human history is closed at the final judgment.

Set a seal upon—So that he cannot break out without breaking the seal.

Deceive the nations no more—Hence, the nations are still in existence, and blessedly exempt from all infernal influences. The bottomless pit of chapter 9 is closed up, and the demon-locusts fly no more. The prince of the power of the air no longer works in the hearts of men, rendering them children of disobedience. A blessed negation of evil forces—an abolition of depraving influences—is now established. So that whereas a Christian civilization of an impure kind has heretofore been extending itself over the world, that Christian civilization is itself now becoming purer and far holier. This is, however, to a great degree of a negative character. Great oppressions, injustices, impurities, falsities, and corruptions, are disappearing. But there are needed yet the positive blessed influences of the reign of Jesus and his paradise over the earth to kindle the heart of the world with the glow of a sublime piety. Those come in the next paragraph.

Must be loosed—It is the divine order that he be permitted to show himself worthy of his final doom.


Verse 4

RESULT OF OVERTHROWS—THE THOUSAND-YEAR REPOSE OF VICTORY AND REIGN—THE MILLENNIUM, Revelation 20:4-6.

4. I saw thrones—An inauguration of a new and better regimen over the world. The infernals being cast out, the celestials, with benign influences, are crowned as kings. Where John saw the thrones he does not say; but, apparently, they should be in the firmamental heaven, where once (chap. xii) the dragon reigned. And this would represent the place of spiritual natures. Notes on Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 4:9.

And they sat upon them— Namely, those who reigned in the latter part of the verse, the souls of the martyred in the battles with antichrist.

Judgment—The authority to judge, or, according to Scripture sense, to rule, was given them. Herein is more completely fulfilled the symbolic promise to the twelve that they should sit on twelve thrones, judging, that is, ruling, the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28. But we see no judging of angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, where see note) here.

The souls—Not bodies. As it was antichristic spiritual beings who have been dethroned, so it is Christic spiritual beings who are now enthroned. Satan and his angels have heretofore ruled; Christ and his saints shall rule now. In both cases the rulers are spiritual, in the spiritual region, that is, in the spiritual atmosphere overlying the earth, and ruling its populations with spiritual influences and sway.

It was these same martyred souls whom the seer beheld, under the fifth seal, (Revelation 6:9,) lying under the altar, in sad suppression beneath the despotism of the persecutor, calling for retribution and bidden to wait awhile. They have waited; their number is fulfilled, and their regal time has come. This exaltation is the glorious reversal of that humiliation. They were victims then—they are kings now. The order of strata is reversed; those who were then underlying are now overlying. But in both cases they are souls, not bodies. In other cases, where the soul signifies the whole person, the idea of disembodied soul is excluded by the narrative, as in Acts 27:37. But here, and in Revelation 6:9, they are the souls of dead men; of persons beheaded with the axe. And the Greek word for beheaded is not in the aorist tense, which would imply that the fact was transient, but the perfect, which implies the continuance of the dead condition of the body. Whatever the soul of a living man may be, the soul of a dead man must be a disembodied soul.

We trace the souls under the altar of Revelation 6:9, through their history to this verse. We find them among the hosts on Mount Zion with the Lamb, in Revelation 14:1-4, where they are in the Lamb’s retinue, following him wherever he goeth, chanting a future victory over Babylon, but not yet reigning. We find them in the armies of heaven, Revelation 19:14, (where see note,) who fight the great battle. We find them here, the exalted, inaugurated trophy of that victory, reigning with the Great Victor.

They lived—They were endowed with the element of glorified vitality; by which they surmount and overcome the power of the second death, Revelation 20:6. This is the true resurrection of souls. What is the nature of this life? It is the same life as occurs constantly in these last chapters of Revelation in the phrases book of life, tree of life, water of life, river of life, word of life, eternal life, life. It is the paradisiac life; by which, over and above the mere conscious existence of the soul, or even its regenerate life in this world, it glows with bliss, and expands into an immortal growth and beauty; the principle of celestial life implanted by Christ in the glorified spirit.

The primal sentence, thou shall surely die, included the fulness of death upon the whole man, and upon his everlasting being. That “die” manifests itself, indeed, in the body, by decay and dissolution, which is the first death; it manifests itself in the soul by spiritual depravity and eternal destruction in the world to come, which is the second death. By Christ both these deaths may be reversed; first, by a revival of the soul to a prospective celestial life here, to be exalted and continued in a glorified spiritual state hereafter, which is the first resurrection; and by a revival and reorganization of the body to an eternal union with the soul, which is the second resurrection. Thus, the first resurrection is a resurrection of souls, the second a resurrection of bodies.

Nor are we quite alone in this interpretation. Grotius, in his commentary upon the passage, says, “The souls which are in hades are not all said ( ζην) to live; but those only which are translated to beneath the throne of glory, as the Jews say; for so they call the perfected state of souls before the universal resurrection.” Upon the words ουκ εζησαν, they lived not, he remarks, “That is, they remained in hades in that state which was according to the life which they had lived on earth.”

That the blessed souls were said by the Jews to live this paradisiac life in this intermediate state (located by them as under the throne of glory) the following beautiful passages from eminent doctors of the Jewish Church will show, for which we are indebted to Schoettgen’s Horae Hebraicae.

Midrasch Coheleth, (fol. 90:4,) commenting upon the biblical words, “for the living know that they must die,” says: “They are meant who, even in death, are called living. ‘But the dead know not any thing.’ The impious are meant, who, even while active in life, are called dead. Whence we prove this: that the just, even in death, are called living.” Jalkut Simeoni, (part ii, fol. 109:3:) “No difference is there between the just, living or dead, except that they differ in name.” Synopsis Sohar, (p. 138, n. vii:) “Jacob our father, and Moses our teacher, upon whom be peace, are not dead; and so all who are in their perfected state, because the true life consists of this. Although it is written of them that they are dead, this is to be understood in respect to us, not to them.”

That the blessed intermediate state is called under the throne of glory appears as follows: Schoettgen, upon Revelation 6:9, “Souls under the Altar,” quotes Sohar Chadasch, (fol. 22, 1.) Said Rabbi Jacob, “All the souls are taken from under the throne of the glory of God, that they may (at the resurrection) resume their body, as a father takes his child.”

The same upon Sol. Song of Solomon 8:1 : “By vine is meant the righteous soul, which in heaven is planted under the throne of glory.” In another place, “How loved by God is that soul which is taken from under the throne of God’s glory—from the holy place—the land of the living.”

Schoettgen also shows that the same throne of glory was the place of the Messiah in his exaltation. “Messiah was to be descended from the fathers, and in human flesh to redeem us; then he was in the same to occupy the throne of glory.”—Vol. ii, p. 439.

From these extracts the meaning of this language from an ancient Jew is plain. The disembodied spirits of the saints, being in the perfected state, are said, in contradistinction to the wicked, to LIVE, and to live with the glorified (Christ) Messiah. This is the same with the abode of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom; the same as the “being absent from the body” and the “being present with the Lord” of St. Paul; the same as the being in paradise with Christ of the penitent thief; and the same as the life and reign of souls of St. John.

Reigned—Became the overlying, controlling, spiritual power over the nations of the earth, as Satan and his angels once were.

With Christ— Yet all their victory and reign is in unification with the Redeemer. As they fought his last battle through his one sword, so they reign through his one sceptre.

This picture of living and reigning souls, however, is given (like the mountains of Revelation 17:9) as a double symbol, or more properly, as a symbol and a specimen. As a symbol the souls stand to represent the victory over antichrist. Hence only those who are martyred in that war seem to be made visible. As a specimen they serve to show the true nature of the first resurrection; that is, the glorified triumphant state of the imparadised disembodied spirits, in the glorified side of hades, who have won the battle of life, and await in bliss, incomplete yet wonderful, for the second resurrection. Hence, as a specimen of the nature of the first resurrection, though these alone are in the foreground and visible, yet all the spirits of the departed just, though in the background, are by right and just implication there. Hence, we look to this passage as describing the blessedness of all our departed brethren who have passed through the portals of death to the land of blessed spirits. It is to this blood-washed throng that we hope to go from our death-bed in Christ. See our article, on “The Millennium of Revelation 20,” in the “Methodist Quarterly Review” for January, 1843, for a full discussion of this whole subject.


Verse 5

5. The rest of the deadThe rest are those who live not in this first resurrection life.

Lived not again—The word again must be stricken out as a false reading. It is unquestionably spurious. We have then only the rest of the dead lived not.

This—The Greek for this grammatically agrees with resurrection. So that, literally, we have: this (resurrection) is the first resurrection. Or, (as Alford,) making this the predicate, the first resurrection is this (resurrection.) In either case this resurrection refers to the living of the souls. This imparadised life is the life of the first resurrection. This circumscribes and fixes the meaning of the word lived. It was not merely the soul’s regenerate life in this world, or the soul’s life of the dead, who are not in this first resurrection. It is the soul’s first-resurrection life. The life of souls is the first resurrection; the added life of bodies is the second.

Until the thousand years were finished— This does not imply that the rest of the dead did live after the close of the thousand years. The Greek words αχρι and μεχρι both signify until, but with a difference. The latter would determine that the not living (or any other affirmed condition) ceased at the end of the period. The former only affirms that the said condition lasted for so long, without affirming whether it lasted longer or not. It is the former that is used here. The not living of the rest lasted for a thousand years; and then—he will tell us what happened. Namely, they were put into a condition by which they never could attain the first resurrection life, but did remain under the power, and finally sink into the condition of, the second death.

There are numerous instances of this use of the word until. Psalms 90:1 : “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” and then sit there forever. 1 Samuel 15:35 : “Samuel came no more until the day of his death,” and no more after that. Romans 15:13 : “Until the law sin was in the world,” and after the law also. And so, the rest lived not until the millennium ended; nor then either.

Our note here thus far assumes the genuineness of the sentence. But the rest… finished; but Glasgow shows that the entire sentence is spurious. For, 1. It is wanting in the oldest New Testament manuscript, the Sinaitic, and in the Syrian version, dated from commencement of sixth century. 2. There is a suspicious number of variations in copies containing the sentence. There are three variations in the Greek of the words but the rest; three variations of the word for lived; two for until. These indicate that the words were interpolated in the copies containing the sentence, not wrongly omitted in those not containing it. 3. The sentence, like an interpolation, interrupts the current of the style. It breaks in between the next word, this, and the antecedent to which its affirmation refers. The sentence reads like an explanatory note by some copyist, which has been wrought into the text, and that in a very awkward position. We may add, that until the discovery of the Sinaitic Codex, this sentence has been considered by the corporeal interpreters of the lived of Revelation 20:5, as their stronghold. But no sound biblical scholar will now consider it worthy reliance as a main proof of so stupendous a theory.


Verse 6

6. Our seer now specifies the nature of the life of this first resurrection. Over that high and unique vitality the second death hath no power. By the first resurrection we are raised from beneath the power of the second death to above the power of the second death. This is initiated at our earthly regeneration, but it is not completed until the glorification of our spirits. Our souls pass through as true and literal a resurrection as our bodies; and it is by that resurrection of our souls that they become a fitting unity with our resurrection bodies. We might, perhaps, more truly say that it is by the resurrection and glorification of the body that it becomes fit for unification with the resurrect soul. Or, stronger still, it is by its own first resurrection that the blessed soul brings the raised body to a fitting unity with itself. It is the soul that glorifies the body. And thus soul and body both pass through each its literal resurrection to the final glorious unification. The first resurrection is, therefore, a resurrection of souls; the second, of bodies.

A thousand years—As we are here still in the land of symbol, there is ample reason for applying the symbolic interpretation to this number. We have the number of universality, ten, raised to a cube, and producing, on the year-day principle, 360,000 years. The 1260 years of antichristic rule dwindle thereby to an insignificant extent in comparison with the earthly reign of Christ. Glasgow well says, “Against the hypothesis of the contracted millennium there lies this startling objection: that it assigns to antichrist a more extended reign than to Christ. But, if the reign of Jesus be 360,000 years, and the end of antichrist or heathenism be speedily approaching, their duration is of no moment, being, at most, about 7,000 out of 360,000, or one-five-hundredth part.” We are then only in the morning dawn of human history. Progress is the law, not only in nature and in history but in the Messianic kingdom. It is not only the few that are finally saved. Entirely correct is the inference drawn from the doctrine of the millennium by Dr. Bellamy, that the number of the lost in comparison to the saved may finally be as the number of malefactors now hung to the rest of society. See our work on The Will, p. 359.

Alford, on the passage, in insisting that this resurrection of souls is a bodily resurrection, makes two points. 1. If the first resurrection is “spiritual,” so must be the second. To which we answer, If the first is not a “spiritual” resurrection, it certainly is a soul-resurrection: and a soul-resurrection is not a body-resurrection. It does not follow that if a soul-resurrection is spiritual, therefore a body-resurrection must, also, be spiritual. Professed “literalists” must render souls literally, and not figuratively, as bodies. 2. “Those who lived next to the apostles,” says Alford, “and the whole Church for 300 years understood them in the plain, literal sense;” that is, forsooth, understood souls to mean bodies! And that is a very queer “literal sense!” This argument, based on the authority of the post-apostolic Church, comes with a bad grace from Alford, who persistently maintains, in his Commentary, that the apostles themselves, even in their inspired writings, made the sad mistake of expecting the second advent to take place in their own day. And we call the attention of our readers to this special point: That this very mistake of expecting the advent in their own day is identical with the mistake of placing the advent before the millenium. Many of “those who lived next the apostles” did make this mistake. Bringing the advent into their own day, they, of course, thereby cut off the millennium, and placed it beyond the advent, and hence arose the errors of ancient Chiliasm, or pre-millennialism. This error was not held by “the whole Church for 300 years;” but, probably, by a decided majority of the post-apostolic Church. See the whole question of ancient Chiliasm discussed in our article on “Millennial Traditions,” in the Methodist Quarterly Review for July, 1843.

In his commentary on the Apocalypse, Mr. Glasgow has some ingenious methods of disproving the danger of millennial over-population. The fear of some is, that in 360,000 years of peace and prosperity the earth would be over-stocked with inhabitants. Glasgow first quotes many beautiful texts to prove the future increased fertility of the earth. “The wilderness shall be a fruitful field.” “I will plant in the wilderness the shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree.” “He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her deserts like the garden of the Lord.” “Break forth into joy, ye waste places.” “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

The mountains, deserts, and morasses, may be, he thinks, rendered a fertile plain, and the earth become a garden by geological changes, by a better distribution of waters, and a diffusion, truly possible, of warmth over the Arctic regions. Nay, there are supposable methods by which the orb of the earth may be enlarged and furnish a larger area of life. In all which, he professedly and carefully states what may, and, for aught science can show can, be; not what certainly will be. The latest conclusion of science seems to be that the area of land is continually gaining upon the ocean.

But the most valid solution of this difficulty lies in what are now the known laws of population. In the animal creation it is found, largely, that low life is enormously prolific, and high life chary of over-population. The fishes spawn and the insects breed in trillions while the lion and elephant are generating a score. So also among mankind the poor, ignorant, and miserable are prolific, while the higher classes, the rich, the aristocratic, and the intellectually and morally cultured classes tend to sterility. The nobility of England would die out were it not replenished from the commons. People who have few resources for enjoyment fall back upon the animal and domestic gratifications within their reach. As the higher faculties find full play in a variety of directions, these enjoyments are often deserted. As the passions of mankind become regulated, fecundity becomes moderate, and a perfectly balanced race would never over-populate the earth.


Verse 7

The new rebellion of Satanclosed by his destruction, Revelation 20:7-10.

7. Are expired—It is interesting to note how the seer bridges us over the period of the thousand years in less than an hour. His own position remains the same as in Revelation 19:4, in presence of the royal state of Revelation 4:11. In describing the millennium, he repeatedly changes the tense; sometimes predicting in the future, and sometimes describing or narrating as in the past.

Shall beWill be; the simple future, as also in next verse. Why is Satan loosed? We might, also, ask, Why was he first permitted to enter Eden? Which resolves itself into the general question, Why is evil allowed in the universe? Why the possibility of, or the agent’s freedom to, sin? Why allow free agency, tried virtue, penalty for guilt, or reward for virtue? Because a system of free-agents, a moral system, a probationary system, is superior to and better than a system of pure moral machines. But, in the present case, doubtless, an age had arrived when the free tendencies to apostasy called for Satan, as apostate Israel called for a king, whom God granted in his wrath. And if it be asked how so pure an age could apostatize, we may ask in reply, How could the first angels rebel? and how could our first parents fall? The most perfect free-agent in a scene of temptation is one with whom it is easy to keep right with care. Hence we cannot be sure that in the millennium there will be no exceptions to the general rule of holiness.


Verse 8

8. Go out—The last revelation of antichrist. It is the revelation that precedes the second advent.

Deceive the nations—Note on Revelation 14:5. Probably by taking a religious form, and erecting a hierarchy and becoming a pontiff, thus reviving the pre-millennial POPERY. Yet, as we are informed in 2 Peter 3, one form of the deception will be a denial of the reality of a second advent, based on an infidel scepticism. And yet, while infidel to Christ and his second advent, the nations may be faithful to the renewed pontificate and spiritual empire of the dragon, who emphatically deceives them into a belief of his Messiahship. And here it may be noted, that the prefix anti signifies not only opposition but instead of; so that antichrist signifies not merely an opponent to Christ, but a substitute Christ; just as anti-pope signifies a false claimant to be pope. The result will be apostasy, persecution, irreligion, vice, and misery.

Four quarters of the earth—The symbolic Jerusalem—the beloved city of next verse—is assumed as the centre; and from all the four points of the compass the hostile forces are seen advancing. That is, the true Church of the period will find itself in the midst of a growing scepticism, vice, and persecution, rising in all parts of the world, and bearing down upon herself.

Gog and Magog—An invasion shadowed by that described by Ezekiel xxxviii and 39. That invasion was led by Gog and Magog from the north countries, but it received cooperation from all quarters; from Persia on the east, from Ethiopia and Libya south, and from Gomer, west. In the tenth chapter of Genesis Magog is classed among the sons of Japhet, and, therefore, represents here the Japhetites, (Caucasians,) or Gentiles. And as in the apocalypse the Jews represent true Christians—as Jerusalem here represents the true Church—so Gentiles are antichristic, and assailants of the righteous cause. Gog, according to Ezekiel, is “prince” of Magog.

St. John here uses imagery known to the old Jewish doctors. Thus the Jerusalem Targum upon Numbers 11:27, says: “At the close of the last days Gog and Magog and their armies shall go up to Jerusalem, and shall fall by the hands of Messiah, and seven years shall the children of Israel burn their arms.” And Avoda Sara, i: “When they shall see the war of Gog and Magog, the Messiah shall say unto them, For what have you come hither? They will reply, Against the Lord and his Messiah.”

Sand of the sea—Wonderful it is how numerous are the devotees of infidelity in trying times.


Verse 9

9. Went up—These hosts from all parts of the earth are concentrating upon Jerusalem.

Breadth of the earth—The earth visible to the seer is a vast surface, with four corners, or compass points, and over the plain the armies from every point are making themselves visible.

Camp—The heroic body of champions and defenders of the faith.

The beloved city—Not the “New Jerusalem,” for that is yet to come down “out of heaven,”

Revelation 21:2; nor the old Hebrew capital; but the mystic Jerusalem, the true Church, the antithesis of the mystic Babylon. She is at this period the earth’s centre, and upon her are gathering from all the horizon the hosts of Satan.

Fire… devoured them—As it once did Sodom. And now is fulfilled St. Paul’s wonderful prediction of the Man of Sin. See our notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:6-9. This is the final parousia of Satan preceding the second advent. As before the millennium antichrist was consumed “by the breath of his mouth,” so here he is destroyed by “the brightness of his coming”—blazing forth in devouring fire. Even Romanistic interpreters admit this future antichrist. Just before the great white throne appears antichrist is consigned to gehenna. There was no need of trial and sentence for him.


Verse 10

10. Beast and false prophet—Of this antichristic triad two are allegorical persons, and the third only a literal. It might seem that their fate must be literal cessation of existence, and no consciousness of torment. The for ever and ever, literally taken, can only signify that for them there should never be reversal of their doom. Yet, as figurative persons, they are figuratively held to suffer, as truly as to be slain, in the last chapter; and so their doom is ideally held to be eternal.

Day and night—Figuratively representing ceaselessness, even after day and night have forever ceased.


Verse 11

11. I saw—From what standpoint did the seer behold the throne? See note Revelation 21:5.

Great white throne”Great,” says Bishop Newton, “to show the largeness and extent, and white to show the justice and equity, of the judgment.”

Him that sat on it—”None other,” says Newton, “than the Son of God, for (John 5:22) the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” And this entire passage is to be identified with Matthew 25:31-46. The great white throne here, is the throne of his glory there. And each entire passage supplements the other. This excludes the great pre-millennial error of imagining Revelation 19:11-21, to be the judgment-advent.

From whose face—Homer’s image of Jupiter sitting upon his throne, nodding with his ambrosial curls, and shaking all Olympus with his nod, has been admired for its sublimity. But how small its imagery compared with this enthroned One, from before whose face creation flees!

Earth… fled—Hence, a new heaven and a new earth appears at Revelation 21:1.

No place for them—The apparent meaning is, not that the face of the earth is changed and renewed; but that the very solid globe itself vacates its place and disappears. This implies not annihilation, but removal and departure of the old, and substitution of the new. And this seems to coincide with 2 Peter 3:10, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise.” See note there.


Verse 11-12

THE FINAL JUDGMENT AND AWARDS, Revelation 20:11 to Revelation 22:5.

1. The throne, the resurrection, and vanishing earth, Revelation 20:11-12.

As we approach the great finalities a change seems to be made in the mode of representation from the symbolical to the more exactly pictorial. Truths are exhibited less by representative images and more by literal presentation. But, 1. This is rather a difference of degree than of kind. A symbol is selected, usually, for some resemblance by which it suggests the symbolized object. A picture, therefore, is only a symbol with an increased amount of resemblance, even until it becomes an exact pictorial likeness of the object. 2. When we come to the last events, symbols grow difficult to comprehend, and direct picture becomes necessary. Even then the picture becomes the best representation of the fact for us, in our present earthly state. What obliges the interpreter to view this exhibition of last things as approaching so near to an exact likeness as to be essentially a literal description of supernal events and objects is the correspondence with other passages of Scripture, which are to be held literal, unless we would lose all certainty of interpretation. John’s pictures of the finality, while more symmetrically pictorial, agree with those of Christ, (John 5:25-29; Matthew 25:31-46;) Paul, (1 Corinthians 15:22-28; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10;) Peter, (2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12-13;) John, (Revelation 6:12-17;) and James (James 5:3; James 5:7).


Verse 12

12. Dead… stand—Not that they were dead and standing at the same time. Just so it is said, Matthew 11:5, “the lame walk, the deaf hear;” not that they were deaf and hearing at the same time: but the previously deaf now hear; and so the previously dead now stand. This presupposes the one universal resurrection (see Revelation 20:13) declared by the Lord’s mouth, as related by this same John in his Gospel, John 5:28-29. The dead implies the universal dead; small and great implies every individual.

Before God—True reading before the throne; identical with “the throne of glory” of the “Son of man,” in Matthew 25:31. But the received reading God would not contradict the idea that it was visibly God the Son, to whom, indeed, the office of judging is committed.

The books—The volumes both of the human and of the divine memory. These form a perfect universal human history, read by the eye of omniscience by the light of a blazing world, in the ears of the human race. Physiological facts render it probable that the human soul never truly forgets any idea once impressed upon its memory. So Byron:—

“Each fainter trace that memory holds

So darkly of departed years,

In one broad glance the soul beholds,

And all that was, at once appears.”

Besides the record-books of the facts of human histories—the universal particular biographies—there is another book. There is a “double-entry;” one of facts condemning or justifying; the other a register of the true citizens of the New Jerusalem. The record of the name in the book of life decides the case, but that record is verified and sustained by the books of memory.

Judged—Their eternal destiny decided.

Works—The deeds done in the body. For there is a truth in the doctrine that we are justified by works.


Verse 13

2. The final penal awardthe lake of fire, Revelation 20:13-15.

13. The sea gave up—Even while the heaven and earth are fleeing in flames before the throne, the sea surrenders the myriads who have perished in its waves. Death and hell (hades)—From three sources do the dead, body and soul, come forth. From the sea and from death (by land) come their bodies; from hell or hades, (the intermediate state of disembodied spirits,) come their souls. How unhappy here the term hell is for hades is illustrated by the fact that it was the abode of the blessed as well as of the unholy souls. It included Paradise as well as Tartarus.

Judged—Solemn and emphatic repetition of closing clause of last verse.


Verse 14

14. Death and hades—Not personification, but the submergence of the two conditions in the dark finality is expressed. Condemnation of both is implied; for both are the results of the fall; since without the fall man would have passed into the glorified state without death or an intermediate state. Death is a disorganization of the man into two parts; and hades is a continuation of that separation and a detention from full final bliss.

Lake of fire—The most awful thought that can occupy the human mind.

This is the second death—Alford well says, “As there is a second and higher life, so there is also a second and deeper death. And as after that life there is no more death, (Revelation 21:4,) so after that death there is no more life. Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41.” There is a deathless life, and a resurrectionless death.


Verse 15

15. Book of life—There was no book of death. Heaven has a glorious citizenship, and a glorious census-book of its citizens. But gehenna is an anarchy, without record and without citizenship.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-20.html. 1874-1909.

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