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Bible Commentaries

William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation
Revelation 20

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

IV. Satan Bound for a Thousand Years

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan,

and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished:

after this he must be loosed for a little time.

This imprisonment of the great enemy is the closing scene connected with the Day of Wrath; and, we may say, the opening scene of the coming age-the Millennium.

1. How completely God has removed the enormous power of this fallen head of the cherubim (Ezekiel 28:14) is seen in the fact that "an angel" chains him-not even Michael, the archangel, is needed, but simply "an angel." What humiliation! The host of fallen angels, together with the demons and the world of men, during the preceding three and one-half years, had bowed to Satan; now "an angel" lays hold on him and fastens upon him a great chain! Again, as in Revelation 12:9 -four names are designated: "the dragon"-that is, his hideous, murderous character before God; "the old serpent"-the ancient deceiver of angels first, and later of men; "the Devil"-the slanderer (diabolos), the accuser of the saints; and "Satan"-the great adversary of God, His Son and all His people.

2. He is bound for a thousand years, sentenced for this definite period-which, of course, will be the Millennium: we must remember that his presence and influence upon the earth will not in any sense be felt during that one thousand years! Praise God!

3. He is cast into the abyss; that is, the pit in the heart of the earth. Compare Matthew 12:40 with Romans 10:7; also with our notes on Revelation 9:1-2. Afterwards he will be cast into the lake of fire, which is outside this earth entirely, when the present heaven and earth shall have passed away. The "shaft" to the abyss spoken of in Revelation 9:1 is sealed. He is shut within it-shut in his prison; giving relief to earth, release from all his deceits!

1. The fact that he must be loosed "for a little time after the one thousand years" should give us no surprise-for God would give the human race a final chance after Christ's reign, to choose! One thousand years with Christ and His saints over them in peace; then the decision: will they have this Man to rule over them? or will they choose the great enemy again? We shall see.


Verses 4-10

Chapter 17: Satan Bound, The Millennium

The Thousand Years' Reign

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

I. What the Thousand Years' Reign Is?

The thousand years' reign is the direct administration of divine government on earth for one thousand years by our Lord and His saints. Its earthly center will be Jerusalem and the nation Israel, though Christ and His saints will rule in heavenly resurrection bodies in the New Jerusalem and will take the place now occupied by angels (Hebrews 2:5-8). Satan, as we have seen, will be in the abyss during the thousand years; and his "host of the high ones on high" will be "prisoners gathered in the pit, and shut up in the prison" during that time (Isaiah 24:21-23).

Just as the affairs of the world at present are directly, though unconsciously, controlled by Satan and his host (under the permission of God, but interfered with from time to time by holy angels sent of God, as in Daniel 10:1-21), so Christ and His saints will rule during the thou- sand years; generally, doubtless, invisible to the eyes of men whom they control. Yet the glory of the Lord will be seen by all flesh (Isaiah 40:5) and most wondrously and constantly over the temple at Jerusalem (Isaiah 4:5).

II. Object of the Thousand Years' Reign

1. Looked at from, God the Father's side:

a. It will be the public earthly honoring of His Son just where men dishonored Him on this earth and at Jerusalem. It will be part of the literal fulfilling of such passages as Philippians 2:6-11 : Christ became "obedient even unto death … wherefore also God highly exalted him … that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow."

b. It will be the carrying out of God's promises to His Son, and the prophecies concerning Him, to "give unto him the throne of his father David"-in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32). "Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." "Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy foot-stool. Jehovah will send forth the sceptre of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" (Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 110:1-7). It will be God's setting His King (Christ) upon His holy hill of Zion, in restored Jerusalem.

c. It is the final divine trial of sinful man on this earth before the earth is destroyed. The trial of man began in Eden; it continued from the fall to the flood; it proceeded at the Babel dispersion; it was continued publicly, though on a limited platform, in Israel under the law; upon Israel's breakdown, power was given to the Gentiles, from Nebuchadnezzar on. Gentile rule having been abolished at Christ's second coming, Satan and his host being imprisoned, the trial of humanity continues for a thousand years, the question being, Does man desire God's righteous rule? God would have all eternity know that the human race, whose head was Adam the First, not only did not in themselves achieve a righteous and benevolent rule or government of themselves, but did not desire such a rule, when executed in all honor and glory under Christ the Last Adam's direction! Men claim that they are seeking, evermore, a "perfect form of government"; but that they are not at all seeking such a government, but that they actually hate it, will be evidenced by their instant revolt to Satan's banner when he is loosed for a "little season" after the Millennium. For we shall find the hordes of mankind rushing up to overthrow the righteous and benevolent reign of Christ at Jerusalem! The deepest sentiment of the natural heart is enmity against God; and this fact God will have brought out so thoroughly that there will never be a question again concerning the wisdom of taking governmental affairs out of unregenerate man's hands, and placing them absolutely in Christ's, who shares it with His saints.

d. It will be God's answer (so far as is possible before the new earth) of the prayers of His saints: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The Millennium will, of course, be a mixed state of things, in that, although curtailed greatly, both sin and death will be on earth (Isaiah 65:20).

2. Looked at from Christ's side:

a. He receives, after long patience, the kingdom of this world which He has been constantly "expecting," there at God's right hand (Hebrews 10:12-13). And He will reign in that righteousness which He has loved (Psalms 45:6-7).

b. At last He will be able to confer upon the meek of the earth the place and inheritance He ever loved to promise them! They shall "inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalms 37:11; Matthew 5:5).

c. He will share, with that infinite generosity and gladness to which His infinitely gracious heart moves Him, all His kingly honors with His saints!

3. Looked at from the saints' side:

a. The Millennium brings the three classes of saints, (named in Paragraph III following) and also earthly Israel, into a state of indescribable blessedness! That iniquity is at last put down; righteousness enthroned, and a beloved Redeemer reigning-this fills the cup of joy for Christ's own!

b. The very physical changes made in the earth-the razing of the mountains, the elevation of the valleys, the changes in Palestine (Zechariah 14:9-10), the blossoming of the desert (Isa_35:17); the specially built "highway," and the way, called the "way of holiness," traveled only by earth's redeemed (Isaiah 35:8-10), all these reveal a little of the loving care God will have taken for the comforts and joys of His earthly saints at that blessed time!

4. Looked at from the side of the nations, the peoples of the earth:

a. It will be a thousand years under an iron-rod scepter. Unregenerate man, having proved wholly unfit for "liberty," will find it forever removed from him.

b. Yet there will be peace at last among the nations-enforced certainly, but real. The one who rode into Jerusalem at the triumphal entry "shall speak peace unto the nations: and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:9-11). This "Ruler," born in Bethlehem, shall be "great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be our peace" (Micah 5:2-5). This "child born," this "Son given"-"the government shall be upon his shoulder … his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government, and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom…. The zeal of Jehovah of host will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).

c. All nations will be compelled to go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. Most of the people of the earth will be yet unregenerated: for, time after time, in the book of Psalms, we read that because of the greatness of His power, His enemies shall yield "feigned obedience" (Hebrew, lie) unto Him. The prophetic- portions of the book of Psalms will then be fulfilled: for the Psalms are millennial, and primarily concern Israel and their Messiah-King.

For example, see the King coming (Psalms 45:1-17) with His Bride and His mighty ones; the remnant of Israel trusting through all the upheavals of mountains, islands, and seas of the tribulation time until the King comes to make "wars to cease" (Psalms 46:1-11); the jubilation of Israel over the arrival of the "great King over all the earth" to whom "the princes of the peoples are gathered together to be the people of the God of Abraham" (Psalms 47:1-9); and the glorious establishment of the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem delighted in by Israel, and wondered at by the nations (Psalms 48:1-14). (Compare Isaiah 2:2-4.)

5. Looked at from the side of "creation":

a. The creation was "subjected to vanity, not of its own will," but through Adam's sin, which involved even the ground in a curse (Genesis 3:1-24). It was God who thus subjected it, looking forward to the day "the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-22).

b. At the "revealing of the sons of God," at Christ's coming back to earth, this deliverance will be effected. The whole land of Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile, will be completely delivered: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah" (Isaiah 65:25). Indeed, the following passage seems to indicate that all the earth will be delivered: "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). What a marvelous prospect! Habakkuk 2:14 tells us that it will be "the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah" that will thus fill the earth. Man, with his littleness, will at last be nothing; "Jehovah alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:12-22)-a passage that should be read often in these bragging days of puny man!

6. The Millennium will be the time predicted by our Lord in Matthew 5:18 : "Till heaven and earth pass away, (which they do at the end of the 1000 years) one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things are accomplished." All those infinitely wise, just, and kind provisions set forth in the ordinances, statutes, precepts, and judgments of the law given by Moses, will be put into effect. Israel, then an "all righteous" nation (Isaiah 60:21), will have the law in their hearts-loving it, and in their minds-remembering it.

III. The Order of the Thousand Years

1. Christ will be here in person-King over all the earth. He will sit "a priest upon his throne" (Zechariah 6:13). This is the fulfilment of the Melchizedek priesthood. Howbeit, it must be remembered that our Lord has a glorified body, while the saved remnant of Israel, and also, as I see it, the faithful Israelites raised when our Lord returns, will all have flesh and blood bodies-as earthly people.

2. While Christ Himself, as Israel's Messiah, will thus be King over all the earth, and be seen "in his beauty" at Jerusalem in the millennial temple (Isaiah 33:17; Isaiah 33:22), yet it will be on the Sabbaths (after the "six working days") and on special feast days that He will thus be seen by Israel (Ezekiel 43:7; Ezekiel 44:2; Ezekiel 46:1-3): but David himself will be the prince whom God will raise up from the dead for this high honor (Ezekiel 37:24-25; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5). We must not confuse in our minds this situation. We must believe the plain words of God. David is not the Son of David. Christ, as Son of David, will be King; and David, His father after the flesh, will be prince, during the Millennium. See Ezekiel 46:4-12 -the special worship and walk of the prince.

3. The Church will reign with Christ in glorified bodies like His (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). The Church, evidently, is the first class of the three mentioned in Revelation 20:4 : "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them." There is no account of resurrection; for they were caught up at the end of chapter 3 of Revelation. (We do not believe that they are the twenty-four elders who are seen only in connection with the heavenly throne and the four living ones.) It will be remembered that the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones "judging" the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-29). They will, it seems, in a beautiful way, be the connecting link between the heavenly Church and the earthly Israel!

The Church, in heavenly bodies (real bodies, of course, like Christ's), will not interfere with the earthly order of Israel any more than God's angels interfered with the Davidic kingdom in former days. Judgment, and not the mere execution of it, will belong to-be "given to"-the Church.

4. The second class seen in Revelation 20:4, is, "the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God." These are, evidently, the martyrs under the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9. They are not the Church. They are, we believe, the martyrs coming after the rapture of the Church and before the class last noticed. Also, the word "beheaded" indicates the revival of the Roman Empire method of execution. These martyrs now receive their resurrection bodies, for the words "they live," [Alford truly says, "If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned-where certain souls lived, at first, and the ‘rest of the dead' lived only at the end of a specified period, after that first-the ‘first resurrection' may be understood to mean a ‘spiritual' rising with Christ, while the second means a literal rising from the grave, then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second,-but if the second is literal, then so is the first, which, with the whole primitive church, I do maintain."

Stuart says, "‘They lived' means they revived, came to life, returned to a life like the former one, vie., a return to a union of soul and body."] must refer to bodily resurrection and to that only.

5. The third class who reign with Christ are "such as worshipped not the beast," which plainly identifies them as saints from The Great Tribulation time. They either pass through those awful three and one-half years, or are martyred. They receive resurrection bodies now to reign with Christ the thousand years.

Thus we are prepared for the great unfolding of Revelation 20:5 : "The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished." "The rest of the dead" are the lost, whose spirits are imprisoned in Hades, in the earth's center, till after the thousand years.

IV. The First Resurrection

1. We have been constantly told by our Lord and His apostles, as well as in Daniel 12:1-13, that there will be two resurrections of absolutely different character-one "of the just," and the other "of the unjust." Unto this glorious consummation-this "out-resurrection from among the dead"-Paul's whole spirit was eagerly, striving. And it should be the daily, hourly anticipation of every Christian heart (Philippians 3:8-11).

2. Those partaking in the first resurrection are called "blessed"-which denotes their state of grace from God; and also "holy"-which sets forth their separate character and walk when on earth. Over such, the second death is declared to have no authority (exousia). The believer is not subject to judgment in the sense of endangering his eternity (John 5:24; John 3:18).

Their reign partakes of the Melchizedek character of Christ's throne. The expression "of God and of Christ" is remarkable. Perhaps light is shed upon it by Revelation 1:6 : "He (Christ) made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father." It is the business of priests to carry on for others "the things pertaining to God" (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 5:1). This opens a wonderful subject!

And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Here we see the Devil loosed after the thousand years of imprisonment, and immediately rushing back to his old task of deluding earth's inhabitants to that "war" against God, to which the "enmity against God" of the "mind of the flesh" was ever prone, but for which, during the thousand years, leadership was lacking.

"Over the breadth of the earth" the Satan-led hosts come against "the camp of the saints" (the Church above Jerusalem) and the beloved city-Jerusalem itself.

Now at last, the patience of God being exhausted, and the malignity of man fully demonstrated, fire from God descends and devours earth's wicked hosts: thus ending forever the sinning human race!

Then we see the execution of the long prophesied doom of the damned. Antichrist and his lieutenant will have been in this fearful literal lake of fire and brimstone alive (i.e. in a human body) for 1,000 years (Revelation 19:20). They are seen, yet in torment. Now the Devil, the great deceiver, is cast into this same literal lake, into that "eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels," of which our Lord warned in Matthew 25:41.

It is, therefore, most fitting, indeed necessary, that this revelation of the appalling doom of Satan and his two chief human agents should immediately precede the account of the casting into that same lake of fire of those responsible creatures who reject their God-of all choosing sin as their portion.


Verses 11-15

The Great White Throne Judgment

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

1. The great white throne is not dispensational or governmental in any sense, but a final, personal, eternal assize.

This is evident from the fact that the whole present creation completely disappears before the Sitter upon this throne! It is also abundantly confirmed by the silence of those judged. They are not actors in any sense. Finally, the sentence from this throne is eternal.

Let us distinguish therefore the Great White Throne judgment from all those dealings with His enemies which God has heretofore had; as for instance, at Armageddon. Hitherto God's enemies, though vanquished, have been permitted the opportunity to oppose Him, even after such an iron-rod order as the Millennium. Eternal, final action has not been taken against those who remained unregenerate upon earth.

2. The Great White Throne judgment is not what we upon earth call a trial. Not one of the judged is asked a single question, for the facts are all in! And the "works," (upon which judgment must be based always) are all written in the "books." Thoughts also are known-even "the secrets of men," all have been recorded.

3. Only one inquiry is made-Is the name in "the book of life"? Judgment indeed proceeds: the "dead" are judged "out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works": for there are degrees of guilt. But The Determining Question In Every Case Will Be, Is The Name In "The Book Of Life?" We cannot emphasize too strongly that this judgment is Not At All A Trial; but a Great Public MANIFESTATION of Facts Settled Beforehand, and Recorded.

Let us now proceed to examine this brief but truly stupendous account of the last judgment.

A Great White Throne.

Distinguish this from all other aspects of the divine throne; whether of Revelation 4:1-11 and Daniel 7:1-28, or of Isaiah 6:1-13, Ezekiel 1:1-28, 1 Kings 22:19, or Exodus 24:9-11.

Weigh each word: Great,-it is the Infinite before whom the finite must stand; White,-it is the unveiled, undimmed blaze of the divine holiness and purity and justice; Throne,-it is majesty unlimited, in which inheres utter right to dispose of the destiny of creatures. Before such a throne, creatures cannot stand; but they shall stand-even the lost!

Him that sat upon it.

We must, in view of John 5:22; John 5:27 believe that Christ, the Son, to whom all judgment and the execution thereof has been committed, is the Sitter on this awful throne. But we cannot avoid the feeling that all the Persons of the Godhead are there! It is God as He is, in infinite, holy and eternal majesty; although unto Christ, because He is the Son of man, the actual judging and execution of judgment has been committed by the Father. The simplicity of the description makes the scene indescribably awful. Eternity is involved therein! The thought is appalling-to face the unapproachable LIGHT of God's presence-UNFORGIVEN!

From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away;

and there was found no place for them.

It is no place here for impotent unbelief in its tearfulness to begin to plead that these plain words indicate merely a purging of the earth by fire. Peter declares, "The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." Our Lord plainly says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away." Paul declares, "The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." And again, "Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only but also the heaven. And this word, "Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace." The "kingdom" referred to, does not include the old material earth and the heavens, which pass away, but our new bodies like Christ's, and such dispensation of all things new which God shall create after the old has forever passed away!

To hold on to this old earth when God says it will "flee away" and "no place be found for it," is to become first cousin of the pagan who holds the eternity of matter in the past, and also is of one piece with the legality that professes to be justified by faith but must hold on to Moses as "a rule of life." The Reformation theology will not consent that our history was ended at Calvary, thus freeing us from the "bond that was against us" forever. In like manner this same theology is afraid to face eternity with no earth to stand upon and no heavens to look to, but only the throne of God left! It is thus unprepared for "the all things new"-even the "all" of the material as well as the spiritual existence of the new creation of Revelation 21:1-27. The Lord Jesus came and "stood in the midst, the doors being shut," and said, "See my hands and my feet … handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having… . Have ye here anything to eat?" Only faith looks with joy (though mixed with astonishment) on such a scene. Only faith can receive such words as, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away." It is unbelief which says that the earth remains, although "its characteristics are changed by fire."

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.

These, we believe, are all unsaved people:

1. In Revelation 20:6, we find (by implication) that the second death has authority (R. V. margin) over those not in the first resurrection: which would surely put them in jeopardy.

2. Our Lord definitely declares (John 5:24) that those hearing His words and believing Him that sent Him, have eternal life, and are not coming into judgment, but have passed out of death into life. "He that believeth on him, is not judged" (John 3:18).

3. With regard to eternal destiny, only two resurrections are known in Scripture. "The resurrection of life; and the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:29, Acts 24:15, Daniel 12:2).

That these "dead" have received their bodies when they stand before the Great White Throne is evident from Revelation 20:5. For we know, from other Scriptures, that their spirits were existing in Hades all this time. And the words, "they lived" can then be applied to them only as to their bodies; just as the same words are spoken of the martyrs of Revelation 20:4, "They lived, and reigned with Christ." We know that certain of these martyrs' souls were seen under the altar at the opening of the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9-11 where they not only were conscious, but knew what was going on the earth; but had not yet received their bodies.

And books were opened.

If judgment of any creature is to proceed, it must be according to what he has done-his "works." The works of those judged are evidently fully recorded. God will have a record even of the thoughts of every creature, whether its nature is clear to us or not-it will extend to the utmost particulars. At least, it will be in accord with the memory of the creature. It is a well-attested fact that every action and thought is recorded in the memory of man, however unable he may be to "recollect" a matter at will. In that day, God judges "the secrets of men," and men will know those secrets to be theirs, their very own (Romans 2:16).

And another book was opened, which is the book of life.

The question arises, "What book is this?" Is it the "Lamb's book of life" of 21:27; 13:8 and 17:8? The answer is that only those who belong to Christ, given by the Father to Him, are saved. Only such are in that book!

Christ is seen in charge of this book in Revelation 3:5. If there are false professors who have "escaped the defilements of the world through the acquaintanceship (epignosis) of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," who having known "the way of righteousness, turn back"; or rocky-ground hearers who "receive the word with joy" but have "no root," who "for awhile believe, and, in time of temptation fall away"; who "taste (but do not drink), the heavenly gift" (eternal life), and then "fall away"; then the thought of being blotted out of the "book of life," (seen also in Exodus 32:32-33, Psalms 69:28), should not be in any wise a stumbling-block. Judas Iscariot was "numbered" among the twelve apostles, but "he fell away and went to his own place."

In Psalms 69:25-28, which Peter quotes in Acts 1:20 as referring to Judas, (and which the context shows includes those wicked in Israel who joined then in hating Christ): "Let them be blotted out of the book of life, and not be written with the righteous." In these awful words we see that though Christ "gave himself a ransom for all," and "tasted death for every man,"-thus giving to the whole race of mankind a potential place in the book of life: yet this fact does not constitute them "written with the righteous" eternally. In fact there is both the "blotting certain out" from connection with "the book of life," and the refusal to write them with "the righteous." They had refused Him who is "the propitiation for the sins of the whole world": so that they lose that potential ransom-benefit all men had; and will never be "written unto life." (See Isaiah 4:3 and Daniel 12:1.) It seems plain that "the Lamb's book of life" contains only elect names,-"Those found written in grace's book."

There is the mystery of the sin of man which chooses to apostatize, but there is also the mystery of the grace of God which preserves the elect.

God does not want any true believer to lack assurance of eternal safety. Christ said: "I give my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish." But let us insist on that other mark of Christ's sheep: "They follow me." If we are going on in our own way, then what right have we to assurance? Remember the "seal" of the "foundation of God," in 2 Timothy 2:19 : "The Lord knoweth them that are his: and, Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness."

And the sea gave up the dead that were in it;

and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them.

Now Death holds the bodies and Hades the spirits of the lost of the human race. Those drowned at sea are not different from those dying in any other manner. Death holds their bodies and Hades their spirits if they are unsaved. Therefore, the dead who are in the sea appear not to be human dead. Satan, whose doom is described in Revelation 20:10, was not a man, but was the anointed one of the cherubim (Ezekiel 28:1-26). In the following passage from the prophet, we find two classes of beings and also two distinct points of time: "In that day, (at Christ's coming to earth) Jehovah will punish the host of the ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited" (Isaiah 24:21-22). This passage seems to teach plainly that Satan's host will be judged at the great white throne judgment-after the "many days" of the Millennium. Part of his host is the demons, who seem to be the disembodied spirits of a former creation. It has been believed by many excellent students of God's Word that the sea is connected with Satan's host. (See Pember's "Earth's Earliest Ages.")

And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.

This is a literal fulfilment of the prophecy in Hosea 13:14, "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol: I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues: O Sheol, I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." Death is personified because it has a personal character. We have elsewhere remarked that Death is more than mere dissolution, more than the separation of spirit and body. Because Death in Revelation 20:14 is said to be "cast into the lake of fire," it does not for a moment permit us to consider this awful lake as unreal. This monster, this first Death, is, together with that horrible jail, Hades, cast as things hateful to God into a place of eternal wrath. It is a guarantee to all holy beings that sin will never be allowed to invade God's new creation. (This passage is difficult. I know I have not sounded its depths. I would be thankful for further light upon it.) Of one thing I am certain: It is that this lake of fire and brimstone does not and cannot lose in the least, its terrific literality, from this or from any other passage!

They were judged everyone (Greek, ekastos, each) according to their works.

To translate this "every man" is to interpret, not translate. God said "each": which may apply to any, and must apply to every being who stands before that awful throne that day, whether man, angel or demon.

This is the second death, even the lake of fire.

The very brevity of this verse is one of the elements of its awfulness. The finality and eternity of this unspeakable doom-how they should be preached and cried aloud these days! It is not love, or faithfulness, to avoid them because they are such terrible facts. God described creation itself (Genesis 1:1) in seven Hebrew words. Here is described in ten Greek words, a doom that will never end!

For, inasmuch as this is the "fire … prepared for the devil and his angels," we need only to refer to Revelation 20:10 to see the state of those who will be cast into that lake of fire:

1. They are "tormented." This is consciousness and anguish.

2. It is "day and night"; that is God's description of ceaselessness.

3. It is "unto the ages of the ages," God's technical term (from Galatians 1:5 on), for unendingness, whether of God's own existence or the blessed reign and glorified state of His saints (Revelation 22:5); or the punishment of the wicked.

And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

Let us mark certain facts here:

1. It is not the absence of good works in the book that dooms a person. It is the absence of his name. Only names, not works, are in that book!

2. It is not the fact of evil works. Many of earth's greatest sinners have their names in the Book of Life.

3. All whose names do not appear in the Book are cast into the lake of fire.

4. All names there found in that day, will have been written before that day. There is no record of anyone's name being written into the Book of Life upon that day, but rather the opposite: "If any was not found written." How overwhelmingly solemn is this!

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Revelation 20:4". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wnc/revelation-20.html. 1938.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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