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Daniel and Revelation
Revelation 20:9-21:8 ----
The New Heavens
Revelation 20:9 through the end of the chapter is about those who do not mature in Christ as a result of Christ’s reign. Inwardly they are an enemy of Christ. Satan must be released in order to tempt them into openly and publicly becoming an enemy of Christ. This causes their names to be blotted from the Lamb’s Book of Life. They fall from being foolish and become outwardly wicked. Or you might argue that in their hearts they were already wicked. For them, Christ’s reign does not result in righteousness and holiness. So they are turned over to Satan.
Revelation 20:9-10 They went up over the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. Fire came down out of heaven from God, and devoured them. (10) The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The term “day and night” seems to be an expression for intensity and duration. The devil, beast, and the false prophet will be tormented day and night. The four living creatures praise God without rest day and night (Revelation 4:8). The countless number in white robes, who come out of the great tribulation, stand before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple (Revelation 7:15). Our accuser stands before God accusing us day and night (Revelation 12:10). Those who worship the beast and take the mark are tormented. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever with no rest day and night (Revelation 14:11).
This verse in Revelation 14:11 is very similar to the one here in Revelation 20:10. Refer back to section 28.4 to see a full discussion of the torment for those who take the mark of the beast. The smoke of their torment goes up forever. As discussed, I do not believe the torment itself continues eternally. The evidence of their torment is eternal. The smoke of their torment is eternal. And they are eternally condemned to death, not to be resurrected. In section 28.4, this was argued by looking at the passage in Isaiah that also refers a day of vengeance, burning in sulfur, day and night, it not being quenched, and the smoke going up forever. That section also made reference to what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28. Jesus tells us, "Don't be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."
Isaiah 34:8-10 ESV For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (9) And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch . (10) Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever.
The verse in Revelation 14:11 was about the smoke of their torment going up forever. It’s obviously an allusion to this verse in Isaiah. This verse in 20:10, on the other hand, seems to be saying the torment lasts forever. But here we are talking specifically about the devil, the beast, and the false prophet.
Revelation 20:10 The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The punishment seems to be much more severe for these three. They are the leaders of the enemies of God. Are these three literally tormented for all eternity? The Greek words used in “forever and ever” is literally “ages of the ages.” Some have argued that “ages of ages” is not eternal because an age is not eternal. But this same phrase is also used for how long God lives and for the duration of his kingdom (Revelation 1:6, 4:9, 4:10, 5:13, 7:12, 10:6, 11:15, 15:7, and 22:5). So naturally speaking, these three will be tormented for all eternity. But it might be that after countless ages God’s wrath will subdue and he will relent and allow these three souls to also be destroyed. But their sentence certainly seems to be that of eternity.
Revelation 20:11-15 I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. (12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. (13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. (14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
These verses (Revelation 20:11-15) should all be taken together in one small context. God sits on the great white throne in order to judge the enemies of His Son. The earth and heaven flees way from God’s face. This is not to be taken literally. It is Isaiah-like poetry for saying everything and everyone will fear God because God is the Judge of all things and all people.
At this time, everyone who will receive eternal life will have done so by this time. The wise and the foolish are raised to life at the start of the millennium. The wicked, who are enemies of God, are not resurrected. Of the foolish, many will become wise and receive eternal life as a result of Christ’s reign and as a result of the teaching of the wise. They will bring many to righteousness. The others, however, will eventually become enemies of Christ, especially after Satan is released at the end of the millennium. So everyone at this time who is dead and in Hades (the Grave) is an enemy of God.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. Those who are dead are asleep. The sea would not have to give up its dead if they were already in heaven or hell. Hades simply means the grave. The dead may be awakened for a time if God allows it. For example Samuel was awakened from his sleep when Saul went to the medium after Samuel’s death. But in general, the dead to not experience time. From their perspective, they awake up being judged by God at the great white throne of judgment.
They are judged by their works. This are both good works and bad works. In other words, they are judged by what they have done. Some will receive a lighter sentence of torment. Others will receive a stronger sentence of torment.
Some people ask why God doesn’t just go ahead and destroy the souls of all the wicked. They lose their salvation because they do not repent and they become an enemy of Christ. But they are judged by their works, both good and bad. In other words, justice requires that they be tormented because of what they have done to other people.
Romans 12:19-21 Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord." (20) Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head." (21) Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If God were to allow people to live lives of cruelty, then simply die and stay unaware forever, where would be the vengeance? For example, think of all the horrible things that are done to innocent children. They are sold as sex slaves. Where is the justice for these children if there is no torment in the lake of fire? On the other hand, if anyone repents and truly turns to Christ for forgiveness of their sins, they are welcomed by all of us, no matter what they have done, because we have all sinned. We can all forgive when there is true repentance. But without repentance, justice for sins against the innocence requires torment after death. That’s why they are judged by their works. They are judged by what they have done, either good or bad, to others.
Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Many have interpreted these verses to say there is a second resurrection after the thousand years. They are resurrected in order to be judged. Then they die a second death. Some have even said that not everyone will be condemned at this judgment, because they are judged by their works. Some people’s good works would out-weigh their bad works. A righteous judge may take into account some good works in considering his sentence. But good works do not eradicate sins. Only the blood of Christ can atone for sins. Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Thus, everyone who is dead is thrown into the lake of fire. The only issue for judgment is the amount of torment each is to receive.
The text mentions the first resurrection at the start of the millennium. But the text does not mention a second resurrection. To be resurrected is to come alive and in order to live again. They are awakened to be judged, just as Samuel was awakened by the medium. But Samuel did not get a new body. He was not resurrected at that time. Instead, the second resurrection is a resurrection for the foolish and takes place at the start of the millennium. Those resurrected in the second resurrection will have mortal bodies. Thus, they can die a second death.
Each of the seven letters to the seven churches includes a reward for those who overcome sin. We are given this reward when Christ returns and at the time of the resurrection. One of these rewards is that the second death will have no power over us. Those who are raised with spiritual bodies have eternal life.
Revelation 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years.
Revelation 21:7-8 He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. (8) But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
The foolish, who are resurrected with mortal bodies, will die a second death if they do not find righteousness as a result of Christ’s millennial reign. For them, their destination is the lake of fire. But there are also the wicked who take the mark of the beast. Others become wicked who know the truth about God perhaps because they see the miracles, and yet they still become enemies of God. They are not resurrected. None of God’s enemies are resurrected. Some become his enemies before the time of the resurrection and others after the resurrection. The destination for all of God’s enemies is the lake of fire. So this is considered to be the second death, even if they have only really died once.
If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire. Will any of these being judged be found in the book of life? I think not. Salvation is not by works. These are being judged by their works. Salvation comes only by living a life of faith in Jesus Christ whereby we overcome all our sinful habits. I think the point being made here is that everyone being judged and thrown into the lake of fire made themselves into an enemy of God and/or his Son Jesus Christ during the course of his lifetime.
Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Everyone was originally in the book of life. Those who become enemies of Christ are blotted from the book. Those who overcome all their sinful habits will not be blotted. During the course of Christ’s millennial reign, everyone will wind up either overcoming all their sinful habits, or becoming one of Christ’s enemies and will march against Jerusalem when Satan is released.
Revelation 21:1-2 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. (2) I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.
The term “new heavens and a new earth” originally comes from Isaiah. But this seems to be a time of some sin and some death. Isaiah is a book of poetry. Isaiah is talking about a new age. But the purpose of the Messianic reign is for Christ to reign until the last enemy (death) is destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Then all things will be truly new. Revelation 21:1-2 says the first earth will have passed away, and the sea is no more. This confirms the literal nature of the new heavens and the new earth after the millennial reign.
Isaiah 65:17-20 "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (18) But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (19) I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. (20) "There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man who has not filled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
Isaiah 66:20-24 They shall bring all your brothers out of all the nations for an offering to Yahweh, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says Yahweh, as the children of Israel bring their offering in a clean vessel into the house of Yahweh. (21) Of them also will I take for priests and for Levites," says Yahweh. (22) " For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me," says Yahweh, "so your seed and your name shall remain. (23) It shall happen, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me," says Yahweh. (24) " They shall go forth, and look on the dead bodies of the men who have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they will be loathsome to all mankind."
I do not believe God intends to destroy all of heaven and create a new heaven. I believe the original creation story in Genesis 1 is about the formation of the solar system. Thus, the destruction of the present heavens and earth would be the destruction of the solar system. The sun could become a red giant and engulf the inner planets, including the earth. It would later become a white dwarf. Thus, the smoke (evidence) of their torment would remain forever and ever (ages upon ages). Those of us who receive eternal life through living for Christ would eventually go to a new earth, which would be a plant in orbit around another star. Apparently this planet will not have seas like that of our present earth.
This then, is what is known as the eternal state. The last enemy will be destroyed. Sin and death will be no more in God’s people. There will be no more mourning because of death. There will be no more crying because of death. There will be no more pain because of death. The first things will have passed away. There will be no more tears.
Revelation 21:3-4 I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away."
At this point, John begins to transition back to the time when Christ will return. When Christ returns, his purpose in reigning is to make all things new. This will climax with the new heavens and the new earth. But it will begin with the appearance of the New Jerusalem. All things are being made new for God’s people. But all things are not being made new for those who choose to remain in their sins and thus become enemies of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 21:5-8 He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." He said, " Write, for these words of God are faithful and true." (6) He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. (7) He who overcomes , I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. (8) But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."