Revelation 20:7-10 was the subject of our last study. In summary, it covered the release of Satan from the Abyss after the Millennium, the worldwide rebellion that he stirs up against the Jews and the Lord, the destruction of the rebelling army at the hand of the Lord, and the casting of Satan into the Lake of Fire.
The next five verses, Revelation 20:11-15, opens to the awesome reality of the Great White Throne Judgment:
11. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who
sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12. 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 from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14. Then
death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire.
Immediately after Satan's not too gentle escort into the Lake of Fire - he was thrown into the lake of
fire and brimstone (20:10) - verse 11 opens to the spellbinding scene of the Great White Throne Judgment - and spellbinding it ought to be due to the utter finality and seriousness
of what will transpire there. Its solemnity and gravity is captured in verse 11:
I. Earth and Heaven Fled Away?
Does this refer to the literal earth and heaven? ? To the inhabitants of earth and heaven? What does it mean?
The sequence of events should clarify the matter. In 20:11, earth and heaven fled away. From 20:12-15, we envision the Great White Throne. Then, in the very next verse, 21:1, we read, Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
Now it makes sense. Our present, literal earth and heaven were obliterated to make way for the new heaven and new earth of 21:1. This is affirmed by a quote from the highly regarded Dr. John Walvoord as presented in Dr. J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible series.
Dr. McGee begins: "This is the Great White Throne, and the holiness of this throne is revealed in the reaction of heaven and earth to it: 'from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.' Of this, John F. Walvoord, in his book The Revelation of Jesus Christ, comments:
'The most natural interpretation of the fact that earth and heaven flee away is that the present earth and heaven are destroyed and will be replaced by the new heaven and new earth. This is also confirmed by the additional statement in Rev_21:1 where John sees a new heaven and a new earth replacing the first heaven and the first earth which have passed away.'"
That very phenomenon is prophesied in 2 Peter 3:10-13:
10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12. looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Preliminarily, we have seen that Satan will be judged between the Millennium and prior to the White Throne Judgment, and that his fallen angels will likely be
judged along with him (see The Final Rebellion and the Return of the Kingdom); but who will be judged at the Great White Throne?
According to Revelation 20:11-15, the unsaved of all ages will be judged. This refers to all unsaved humanity except for the Beast (Anti-Christ) and the false prophet who will already have been thrown in the Lake immediately following the Lord's Return:
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. (Revelation 19:11-20)
Revelation 20:10 declares this, as well: And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
To be sure, eternal condemnation will already have been rendered on unbelievers. Jesus said in John 3:18, He who believes in [the Son] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; but here, at the White Throne, their condemnation will be declared to them and carried out; and just as after the Rapture each believer in the body will receive rewards according to the quality of each man's work (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), here, at the Great White Throne, degrees of punishment will be declared to the condemned, every one of them according to their deeds (Revelation 20:13).
If They Are Dead, How Will They Get to the White Throne?
Vast billions of impenitent sinners since creation will be dead by the time of the Judgment; but if they will be dead, how will they stand before the throne?
Daniel 12:2: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
John 5:28-29: 28. for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29. and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Revelation 20:13: And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged.
Daniel 12:2 says that they will awake; John 5:28-29 says that there will be a resurrection of judgment. The sea and death of Revelation 20:13 refer to the bodies of the unsaved deceased, and Hades is the place where their spirits are now imprisoned. The bodies and souls of the impenitent dead will be called up by God and reunited by Him to stand alive, body and soul, before Him in judgment. They will get to the Throne by means of resurrection.
A. The Identity of the Throne-Sitter
Who will sit on the throne of judgment? Although He is not named, it is hardly necessary to point out that the throne-sitter will be divine: from whose presence earth and heaven fled away; and who but a member of the Godhead could qualify to pronounce eternal condemnation on an innumerable number of fallen angels and billions of people, and their degrees of punishment, with unfailing fairness and accuracy? Furthermore, the throne is described as white, a symbol of holiness throughout Scripture.
But who, among the Godhead, will He be? Though many writers speak in terms of probability, it is conclusive to this writer that it will be Yeshua. After His resurrection, He declared, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Though the passage is in the context of the work of the body of Messiah, He did say, All authority. Even more to the point, in John 5, He declared, 22. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son . . . . 27. and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. These are definitive statements. In the John passage, the Father is explicitly excluded as Judge, and the Son is named twice, once as having authority to execute judgment, and once as having been given all judgment. Consistent with this, it is He who will judge the members of His body after the Rapture for rewards (2 Corinthians 5:10); it is He who declared, while He yet walked the earth, that He would pronounce the eternal condemnation of the goat Gentiles when the Son of Man comes in His glory (Matthew 25:46), which will be a thousand years before the White Throne Judgment; and it is He who is presented as the Judge of the seven churches in the same Book as the passage we are reviewing (Revelation 1-3). Jesus will be the Throne-sitter.
B. The Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 6:2-3: 2. Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . . 3. Do you not know that we will judge angels?
Paul is affirming that the saints will not only judge the unbelievers, those associated with the world system, but angels also. The saints, those who comprise the body of Christ, believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, will sit in judgment along with the Lord.
1. The Basis for the Judgment of Fallen
The basis for the judgment of the fallen angels will be whether or not they remained faithful to God when Satan tempted them to join him in his initial rebellion against God (Ezekiel 28:11-19; Revelation 12:3-4a). That third of the angels who chose to join Satan will be judged at the Great White Throne.
2. The Basis for the Judgment of Unsaved
The basis for the judgment of unsaved humanity will be rejection of belief in the Messiah.
18. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been
judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the
darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
~ John 3:18-19 ~
What of those who were born prior to Jesus' advent or never heard of Him while or after He walked the earth?
In every age and in every place, God did not leave Himself without witness whether in nature (Psalm 8:3, 19:1; Acts 14:17; Romans 1) or by special revelation about Messiah, though the latter be as rudimentary as that declared in Genesis 3:15 in the hearing of Adam and Eve. Those who are exposed to the greater light of special revelation and reject it will be condemned. Those who reject the light of the existence of God in nature would surely reject the greater light of special revelation whether they are exposed to it or not, and will likewise be condemned (Romans 1:18-20).
It will be those who rejected the light offered whose names will not be found in the Book of Life in Revelation 20:15: And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
3. No Second Chance
There will be no second chance for fallen angels or human unbelievers. Scripture gives no indication that either angels who chose to follow Satan, or Satan himself, will be given a chance to repent. Neither will unbelievers be given a chance to repent after they die: It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
28. for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear
His voice, 29. and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
~ John 5:28-29 ~
Those in the tombs will be resurrected and judged on the basis of what they did while alive. No second chance. Death seals the fate of people, whether it will be Heaven and their degree of reward, or the Lake of Fire and their degree of punishment.
A. The Lake of Fire
1. Hell and the Lake of Fire Are Not the Same
Though the Lake of Fire is commonly referred to as Hell, the two are not the same in Scripture.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes,
The English word "Hell" comes from a Teutonic root which means "to hide" or "to cover." There is no special Hebrew
or Greek term for the word "Hell" in Scripture. . . . The concept of Hell is included in some of the concepts of Sheol and Hades, and are totally found in the concepts of Abbadon
and the pit. So while the Scriptures do not actually use a special term for "Hell," the concepts of Hell are definitely biblical. What people call "Hell" is what the Old Testament
calls Abbadon or the pit, the unrighteous side of Sheol or Hades.
Based upon what has already been stated about the unrighteous side of Sheol or Hades, and what has been stated about Abbadon or the pit, this Hell contains unsaved humans only. It does not include fallen angels, because fallen angels are in two other places, the abyss or Tartarus. While Hell contains certain concepts of Sheol or Hades and totally the concepts of Abbadon and the pit, it excludes the concepts of the abyss and Tartarus, for these places are for fallen angels only. (4)
Consider the different translations of Revelation 20:14, Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (NASB). Of the thirty-five translations I checked, eighteen render Hades as Hades (Greek), two render it as Sheol (Hebrew), and twelve render it as Hell. All the translators who used an English translation of the word - a third of them - used the word Hell; and if Hell is thrown into the Lake of Fire, they must be certainly be two different places.
In this matter we see another example of the need for precise terminology: Though the souls of unsaved deceased people are in Hell (Sheol or Hades), no fallen angel is; but all will be present in the Lake of Fire.
(Before Jesus' ascension, Sheol or Hades contained a paradisical section for the saints and a place of torment for unsaved humanity [see Luke 16:19-31]; but upon His ascension, He cleared Sheol or Hades of its saints [see Ephesians 4:8-10], leaving the souls of its unsaved residents in its place of torment, Abbadon or the pit, to be cast into the Lake on the Day of Judgment.)
13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up
the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. 15. And if anyone's name
was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The sea and death refer to the bodies of the unsaved deceased, and Hades refers to their souls. Unsaved people will be thrown body and soul into the Lake of Fire.
3. The Sequence of Entry into the Lake
Preliminary to stating the sequence, we must address the issue of the goat Gentiles of Matthew 25:41-46, those who will demonstrate their unsaved state by refusing to render aid to the persecuted Jews of the Tribulation.
While Jesus yet walked the earth, He declared to His disciples what He will say to the goat Gentiles upon His return (Joel 3:1): Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). I consulted many translations and looked into the Greek; and the plain meaning is that He will command them to enter the eternal fire at the time of His commandment to them. The torment section of Sheol or Hades is described as a place of flame (Luke 16:24) and will itself be cast into the Lake, yet it is only the Lake of Fire that is explicitly named as being prepared for the devil and his angels, and that is where the goat Gentiles will depart to.
This, then, will be the sequence: first, the anti-Christ, false prophet and goat Gentiles will be thrown into the Lake in the brief interval between the Tribulation and the Kingdom (Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 19:20); then, a thousand years later, at the end of the Millennium and prior to the White Throne Judgment, Satan and his fallen angels will be cast in (Revelation 20:10). Finally, after the Judgment, all unsaved people will be cast in.
All fallen angels and impenitent people will be condemned to the Lake; however, degrees of punishment will be meted out to each condemned angel and person.
Scripture is very explicit in the fact that there are degrees of sinfulness and corresponding punishment for unsaved people, but it seems that it is not stated explicitly, only implied, concerning fallen angels.
There are principles by which God will judge degrees of punishment for unsaved humanity, and these principles can readily be applied to angels. For example, one principle is that judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God, and Satan was more intimate with God before his fall than were the other angels (Ezekiel 28:14). Also, as has been shown, Paul told the Corinthian believers that they will judge demons. Since their condemnation to the Lake of Fire is common to all fallen angels, what Paul must be saying is that members of the body will judge the degree of punishment that individual demons will receive in the Lake.
Just as greater or lesser rewards will be bestowed upon the members of the body of Messiah at the Judgment Seat of Messiah (1 Corinthians 3:8-15), greater or lesser punishments will be meted out to fallen angels as well as unsaved humanity at the White Throne Judgment.
2. Principles of Judgment and Degrees
This section addresses two concepts: 1. Principles of Judgment and 2. Degrees of Punishment. Because the passages shedding light on both are virtually the same, we will treat them together.
3. Foundational Principle
Proverbs 26:2: A curse without a cause does not alight.
An application of this is found in Jeremiah 30:15: Why do you cry out over your injury? Your pain is incurable. Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous, I have done these things to you.
4. Other Principles
We will observe some representative passages and note the principles of judgment each reveals:
Amos 3:2: You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God.
James 3:1: Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. Judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God and degree of responsibility.
Matthew 10:15: Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. Judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God and revelation received.
Matthew 11: 21. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. Judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God and revelation received.
Mark 12:38-40: 38. In His teaching He was saying: "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39. and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40. who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation. Judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God, degree of responsibility, and the objective odiousness of the sin; in this case, hypocrisy and taking advantage of the vulnerable.
Luke 12: 47. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48. but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Judgment will be in proportion to revelation received.
Luke 23:34: But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. A particular sin may be forgiven if the doer of the sin does not realize it is a sin - not forgiveness in the salvation sense, but in degree of punishment.
John 9:41: Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your
sin remains." Denial of spiritual blindness is a sin that will not be forgiven. (This was spoken in the salvation sense, but has
application to degrees of punishment.)
John 15:22-24: 22. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin . . . . 24. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. Punishment will be in proportion to revelation received.
John 19:11: Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." There are degrees of sin, and punishment will be in proportion to revelation received.
Romans 2:9: There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. Punishment will be in proportion to intimacy with God and revelation received.
James 4:17: Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. Punishment will be in proportion to revelation received.
2 Peter 2:4: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment. (Also Jude 1:4. See Genesis 6:1-4) (4). Certain sins are more odious than others, and punishment will be in proportion to the odiousness of the sin.
Revelation 20:12b: and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. There will be degrees of punishment, and they will be based on deeds done while the sinner was yet alive.
A curse without a cause does not alight. The principles of judgment and degrees of punishment will be based on deeds done while the sinner was alive. Degrees of punishment will be in proportion to the objective odiousness of the sin, intimacy with God, revelation received, and degree of responsibility; and a particular sin may be forgiven if the doer did not realize it was a sin, but denial of spiritual blindness to a sin when one ought to see it is a sin that will not be forgiven.
A peculiar title, but those in the Lake will be very much alive.
Daniel 12:2: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 25:41: Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
John 5:28:29: 28. for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29. and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Revelation 14:10-11: 10. he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11. and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.
Revelation 20:14: Then death [bodies] and Hades [souls] were thrown into the lake of fire.
Contrary to those who hold that the Lake of Fire is a temporary place and that those thrown into it will be instantly annihilated, these passages and others like it show that the Lake of Fire will be eternal, and that it's inhabitant will live forever in a conscious state, having no rest day and night, and experiencing disgrace, contempt, the wrath of God and torment in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus].
Who has not shaken their heads at the severity of the eternal punishment depicted in Scripture? Who of us can bear to dwell on the thought of unsaved loved ones in the Lake of Fire? We who have been born with the sin nature into a sin-saturated world can hardly begin to fathom the depths of the sinfulness of sin. However, Scripture does give us some benchmarks:
1. The Depth of the Fall
The depth of the Fall is an indication of how profoundly sinful sin is.
Adam and Eve dwelt in idyllic peace and bliss in the Garden, experiencing fellowship with God unmitigated and undiluted by sin (Genesis 2:21-25). Compare that with a world of injuries, sickness, agonizing pain, death, swearing, cursing, sin on every hand and ceaseless wars - and all this by reason of but one sin in the Garden.
2. The Difference Between Heaven
and the Lake of Fire
Can we even begin to grasp the vast difference between life in Heaven and life in the Lake of Fire? We can barely begin to fathom the reality of each. Yet, what we know of each from Scripture hints at the difference between a holy, joyful eternity in the presence of God and an eternity of the wrath of God in the torment of fire. This, too, is an indication of the gruesome sinfulness of sin.
3. The Crucified Son of God
And last, but not least, the crucifixion of the Holy Lamb of God, who voluntarily came from Heaven, took on a mortal body, suffered thirst, hunger and crucifixion, experienced utter separation from His Father for three hours while on the cross for the first time in eternity, and experienced the agonizing throes of death - for a death He did not deserve; but did it for us. Perhaps this is the ultimate indicator of the utter sinfulness of sin.
Being limited in our perception of the sinfulness of sin, we must trust Him who is omniscient and all-loving.
Genesis 18:25: Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?
Deuteronomy 32:4: The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
Job 34:12: Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Isaiah 61:8: For I, the LORD, love justice.
Jeremiah 17:10: I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.
Perhaps you have not yet placed your trust in the Lord for salvation, and desire to be saved from the power, the destructiveness and the punishment of the sinfulness that is binding you and hanging over you. God has made a way.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel . . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
16. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
Do you believe? If so, declare it to the Lord now and thank Him for your salvation.
If you'd like to read my story, please visit About the Author.
1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. The best exposition of Genesis 6:1-6 that I know of appears in Dr. Fruchtenbaum's The Book of Genesis. See Recommended Reading, below.
3. The basis for the judgment of humanity, whether for eternal salvation or condemnation, is examined in detail in the following studies: Salvation Is by Faith in Yeshua, The Narrow Way and Eternal Security.
4. Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 107: The Place of the Dead. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries,1992, 2005. p. 10. See Recommended Reading, below.
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
1. The Book of Genesis.
2. The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events. Many consider Footsteps a landmark work in the piecing together of end-time prophecy.
3. Messianic Bible Study 001: The Six Abodes of Satan
4. Messianic Bible Study 002: The Jews and the Tribulation
5. Messianic Bible Study 107: The Place of the Dead
6. Messianic Bible Study 019: The Darkness of Demonism
7. Messianic Bible Study 045: After the Kingdom
8. Messianic Bible Study 077: Satanology: The Doctrine of Satan
9. Messianic Bible Study 082: Demonology: The Doctrine of Demons
10. Messianic Bible Study 091: The Biblical View of Death
11. Messianic Bible Study 107: The Place of the Dead
12. Messianic Bible Study 156: The Fall of Satan According to Ezekiel 28:11-19
All of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's publications are available at Ariel Ministries in various formats, many for free listening.
Dr. David L. Cooper
Cooper, D. L. (1951, July). Biblical Research Society: Dr. David L. Cooper. Retrieved from http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc.htm. (See "The Millennial Reign of Christ" and "The Eternal Order" sections of the AMC's What We Believe.)
Thomas Paul Simmons
Simmons/Providence Baptist Ministries, T. P. (2010). Chapter 43, The Final State of the Righteous and the Wicked. http://www.pbministries.org/Theology/Simmons/chapter43.htm.