The Millennium and the Imprisonment of Satan (Part 15)
The Thousand Years (20:1-3)
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while”.
Revelation 19 ends with the kings of the earth being defeated, crushed to death by the Word of God, their corpses litter the battle field, food for the vultures. The defeated Antichrist and False Prophet are captured alive, and are the first two to be cast into the Lake of Fire. Man’s rebellion against God comes to an abrupt and dramatic end, but what of Satan, the author of all rebellion against God, the chief protagonist in every act of evil since his fall from grace? (Isaiah 14:12–15). Satan is not thrown in the Lake of Fire with the Antichrist and False Prophet, but is placed in chains and cast into the bottomless pit – the abyss. The identity of the angel that is given the authority to place the powerful fallen archangel into captivity is not revealed, and John gives no indication that he recognises the angel from previous sightings. The archangel Michael is the only angel powerful enough to fulfill this duty, but if this angel is Michael, the warrior archangel, John would surely have said so. The defeated Satan may well recognise his time is up, the authority to rule over the kingdoms of the earth has been stripped from him by the returning King, he is a defeated foe, so, there is no point in resisting the angel sent by his conqueror.
In Revelation chapter 9, the Fifth Trumpet judgement is the release of the demonic horde from the “bottomless pit,” that is to torment mankind for 5 months. In the study of chapter 9 the possible explanation for the term “bottomless pit” was discussed as being at the centre of the earth, with the earth tilted on its axis and rotating, the centre of the earth would never have a “bottom”. The Apostle Peter in his second letter, seems to indicate that hell/sheol and the bottomless pit/abyss are the same place:
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
Moses confirms that Sheol is under the earth when he records that the rebellious Korah and his family “went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them” (Numbers 16:33). Then there is Paul’s letter to the Romans where he explains the path of Jesus as descending from heaven to earth, dying on the cross, descending into the abyss, and then being raised to heaven (Romans 10:7 [NKJV]). So, Paul clearly equates the abyss with Sheol.
So, Scripture indicates that Satan will be imprisoned in Sheol, which is the place of the unrighteous dead, who await the day when they will stand before the White Throne of Judgement, and also the place where demons deemed too dangerous to be amongst mankind are imprisoned. Sheol is the obvious place for the incarceration of Satan, as he is complicit in every unlawful and morally corrupt activity of all who are kept captive there. For Satan to be bound in chains seems to be an unnecessary precaution, as not only would the angel ensure he uses the key to lock the entry to the bottomless pit, but the entrance is also “sealed over” Satan. Satan is bound under God’s authority, God is ensuring that Satan is not merely restricted; he is made inactive. Satan will no longer be a threat as either the deceiving serpent or the murderous dragon.
The reason Satan is bound and cast into the bottomless pit, is that the Son of David has returned to earth to claim His throne, and establish His Kingdom – a millennial rule of peace. If Satan were to be allowed to remain on earth, he would continue to be antagonistic to the reign of Jesus – a rebel in utopia cannot be allowed. Remember that although it is only Satan who is mentioned, the incarceration must also include all demonic powers that served him on earth, there cannot be a demonic presence on earth during the rule of the Great King – every defeated fallen angel will be cast into the abyss to await judgement.
Mankind has continually sought the utopian ideals of a perfect society in which everyone is happy and living in peace, with none of the ills of man such as war, crime, hatred, poverty and illness. Unfortunately, sinful man is incapable of such a feat, and has continually failed to attain the goal, only Jesus on the throne of David, the King of Peace ruling from the City of Peace, will bring this to a reality. Satan, chained and in captivity in the abyss, will not be on the earth to harass the millennial population until the 1000-year reign of Jesus is over. This makes the universal peace and tranquility of the millennium possible.
Replacement Theology and Amillennialism
There is much debate amongst theologians as to whether the Millennium Kingdom is a literal Kingdom or a spiritual Kingdom. The core of the problem lies squarely in Replacement Theology, which has birthed a number of false End Times’ theories, all which reject a literal Millennial Kingdom. Replacement Theology (also called Supersessionism) is the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in the eyes of God. They state that the Mosaic Covenant was exclusively for the nation of Israel, so, with the completion of the work of Jesus, the New Covenant superseded the Old, and then was made available to all. The Church then has become the new Israel, and all the promises of God now belong to the Church. The first End Times’ theory to be birthed by Replacement Theology was Amillennialism, the belief that the Kingdom is spiritual, and that there will not be a literal thousand-year rule by Jesus.
It was Augustine (354-430), who was to become known as the ‘Father of Amillennialism,’ he was strongly influenced by Origen, a Church father from Alexandria. Alexandria was the centre of philosophical debate and the sharing of ideas, consequently the church of Alexandria fell into the trap of mixing man’s philosophies with God’s Word – syncretism. Following Origen’s example, Augustine became a Neo-Platonic and accepted Plato’s dualism into his theology: Augustine perceived the spirit as being good, and the body as evil. It was Augustine that pushed for the celibacy of priests and nuns in the Roman Church, as he saw sex as sinful. Augustine could therefore not tolerate the idea of a Millennial Kingdom where believers had earthly pleasures, the flesh after all was evil! The Platonic influence led Augustine to establishing Amillennialism as one of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. With the Roman Church believing that the Pope was the Vicar of Christ, replacing Jesus on earth, Amillennialism fitted nicely into the belief that the Roman Catholic Church was God’s kingdom on earth. Unfortunately, Reformation leaders such as Martin Luther were anti-Semitic, and therefore held onto the doctrine of Replacement Theology, which meant that Protestant churches still kept the End Times’ theory of Amillennialism.
Through the variety of End Times’ theories introduced by Replacement Theology, Satan has effectively muddied the waters of eschatology, with many evangelical churches choosing to avoid the study of End Times because of this. The focus of the Church should be discipleship – teaching the full Gospel message – which includes not only salvation through Jesus, but also His return to establish what is rightfully His – a Millennial Kingdom. Jesus is both the Son of David and the Son of God. Therefore, He must have an earthly rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem, and an eternal rule from the New Jerusalem. As Pre-millennialism is the only End Times’ theory that holds to a Millennial Kingdom, it is the only theory that focuses on the hypostatic nature of Jesus, and therefore logically it is the true, and accurate interpretation of the End Times.
Revelation 20 and Amillennialism
Amillennialists will deny that Revelation 20 is referring to a literal thousand-year period of time, they ignore the following evidence to the contrary:
- Six times John records that there will be a literal thousand-year period (20:2,3,4,5,6, & 7). Just as the 3½ year Great Tribulation time period is repeatedly confirmed in Revelation, being referred to as 42 months (Rev. 11:2; 13:5) and 1260 days (using a 30-day month from the Jewish calendar [Rev. 12:6]). Then also in Revelation 12:2, the 3 ½ years is referred to as “time, and times, and half a time”. So, if there is a repeated confirmation of a literal 3½ year time period, the 1 000 years will also be literal.
- For Jesus to rule with His Saints during a time of peace, Satan needs to be dealt with. Chapter 19:1-2 explains that Satan will be bound for the length of one thousand years, only to be released at the end of that time period (vs.7-8), thus freeing the world of the attacks of the enemy for a thousand years.
- Revelation 20:4 reveals to us how the believers who refuse to worship the abomination of desolation in Revelation 13:15 will be slain: ‘I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus”. John then goes on to reveal what will happen to these Tribulation saints – they will reign with Jesus for a thousand years – the Millennial Kingdom!
- Now, because John does not say that the saints will reign with Jesus on earth, Amillennialists will claim that that, means that there is no Millennial Kingdom. They conveniently forget the covenant promise of the Messiah ruling on earth (2 Samuel 7:13). Jesus reaffirmed this promise when he said to the disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Matthew is the Gospel written to the Jews, how else would this be interpreted, but a Kingdom reign by the Messiah on earth, with the disciples reigning with Jesus over the restored twelve tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel being defined by the land promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, which extends from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, which becomes a promise that will only find its fulfilment in the Millennium Kingdom.
Also, no number in the book of Revelation, is verifiably a symbolic number, being creatively used as Amillennialists would have people believe. On the contrary there is ample evidence that the numbers are to be taken literally:
- The repeated use of 1 260 days, 42 months and 3½ years (all the same period of time), in both Daniel and Revelation, requires a non-symbolic understanding of the numbers.
- The record of 12 apostles and 12 tribes in Revelation 21:12-14, are literally to be understood as 12.
- The 144 000 witnesses of Revelation 7:4-8, is not an isolated number, it is reached by the multiplication of 12 000 by the 12 tribes. The calculation supports a literal interpretation.
- The 7 letters are 7 literal letters, written to 7 literal Churches.
- The 2 witnesses of Revelation 11:1-14, are also referred to as 2 olive trees, 2 lampstands and 2 prophets, so there is definitely 2 people.
- The 7 seals, 7 trumpets and 7 bowls are each followed by a list describing 7 events.
Another popular End Times theory that developed out of Amillennialism is Post-millennialism, which put a positive spin on End Times events. While Pre-millennialist pessimistically view the world as descending into apostacy and rebellion against God, which will result in the seven years of Tribulation and the rule of the Antichrist, Post-millennialists believe that things will get better, and that a powerful move of the Holy Spirit will result in the Church evangelising the whole world and introducing an utopian period. This period of unprecedented peace will last for a thousand years, at which time Jesus will return to earth and create the New Heaven and New Earth. Postmillennialism is in error because it rejects Israel as being key to the understanding of End Times theology, and it places an over emphasise on the work of the Holy Spirit, falling into the trap of the hyper charismatic movement.
The Satan is Bound Debate (20:2)
Amillennialists believe that Satan has already been bound, and explain the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 as being symbolic, representing the authority the Church has over Satan and his demon through the work of Jesus. The evidence suggests otherwise:
- Firstly, one has just to open any daily Newspaper and see the events that have been recorded of man’s inhumanity to man. As some wag has said “if Satan has been bound, who keeps letting him go?” To believe that Satan is bound with the rampant evil we have in our societies is, to put it bluntly, ludicrous, bordering on the idiotic. If Satan could be bound through the prayers of the Saints, there would be little to no evil on the earth.
- Satan, the serpent, continues to deceive mankind and the false apostate Church is gaining momentum. Also, Satan the dragon continues to have believers put to death every day around the world, for their faith in Jesus as their Lord. Peter warned the Church saying that Satan was free to roam the earth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
- Revelation 12 records the joy in heaven when Satan is banished from the Throne room of God at the start of the Tribulation: “… for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (12:10b). Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and Revelation makes it clear that he does so continuously, how is this possible if Satan is bound?
Scripture points to the reality of an earthly Kingdom rule of Israel by the Messiah:
- Psalm 72 is a Psalm written by Solomon, not about his father David, but about the Messiah – the King of Kings and the Son of David, who will rule Israel.
- Jesus will establish His rule in Jerusalem, the city of God, during the Millennium. Israel is the centre of the world, Jerusalem is the centre of Israel, and the Temple is the centre of Jerusalem. All nations will make their way up to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Tabernacles (Isaiah 2:1-3; Zechariah 14:16).
- Jesus will fulfill the covenant promise, restoring the nation of Israel under the Messiah, bringing righteousness not only to Israel, but to the world: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
- Isaiah writes of a time of unprecedented peace under the rule of the Messiah, there will be no more conflicts, nations will acknowledge the Lordship of the Son of David: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (cf. Isaiah 2:2-5).
- Even creation will be at peace, the way animals relate with each other and with humans will be transformed: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (cf. Isaiah 11:4-9).
The New Testament:
- The angel Gabriel promised Mary that the son that she was going to bear would fulfill the covenant promise to David of an earthly Kingdom by the Messiah: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
- In the parable of the servants and the talents, Jesus states that the faithful servants receive authority over cities as their reward (Luke 19:12-27), an indicator of the rewards that will be awarded during the Millennium.
The Covenant Promises pointing to the reality of an earthly Kingdom rule of Israel by the Messiah
The Abrahamic Covenant
The unconditional nature of Genesis 12:2-3 cannot be emphasized enough. Five times in Genesis 12, as God is giving the Abrahamic Covenant, He says, “I will,” thereby stressing that the onus of keeping the covenant is His. Prophecy indicates that there is a time in the not-too-distant future when, Israel will repent, be forgiven, and be restored to God’s favour (Zechariah 12:10–14; Romans 11:25–27). The Messiah King will rule from Jerusalem and, the nation of Israel will possess the entire territory promised to them. Under the righteous rule of Jesus, the whole world will be blessed with an abundance of peace, pleasure, and prosperity; John then explains in Revelation 20, that it will be for 1 000 years!
The Land Covenant
God makes it clear to the nation of Israel that the Land Covenant is conditional to their obedience to the Mosaic law, their obedience would see the nation being blessed abundantly. However, God warned them that disobedience to the Law would result in His cursing the nation” (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The Land covenant reaffirms to Israel their title deed to the Promise Land.
The people will be dispersed as a consequence of their disobedience but, God promised that He would gather the scattered Israelites from all over the world and restore the land He had promised to their ancestors (Deuteronomy 28:63-68; 30:3-5).
- There will be a future repentance of Israel, (Deuteronomy 28:63-68; 30:1-3).
- God promised to regenerate the Israelites of that time, and their descendants, by circumcising their hearts so that they would love Him totally (Deuteronomy 30:6). There will be a full repentance of the nation in the future.
- This repentance would result in God bringing all the Jews back to the Promised Land of Israel (Deuteronomy 30:5).
- God will put curses upon Israel’s enemies and they will be judged (Deuteronomy 30:7).
- The nation will then receive her full blessing, God promised that if the Israelites would be obedient that God would prosper them (Deuteronomy 30:8-9).
These promises reveal that the land will belong to the Jews forever, unconditionally. Also, the promises will only see their complete fulfilment on the return of the Messiah to establish the Millennial Kingdom.
The Davidic Covenant
Jesus as the Son of David must return to earth to rule over Israel and introduce an unprecedented time of world peace, as was the covenant promise of God to King David, which is made clear in 2 Samuel 7:8-16:
- A House: “11b Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house”.
- A Descendant: “12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men”
- A Kingdom: “13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”.
The First Resurrection (20:4:6)
“4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years”.
John’s attention moves away from the incarceration of Satan to judges seated on thrones, as to who they are we are not informed, they are most likely the twenty-four elders representing the Church (Revelation 4:4). John then moves on to write about two very distinctly different groups:
- The first group are the saints who have come out of the Tribulation, who suffered the persecution for refusing to acknowledge the Antichrist as God and rejecting the mark of the beast. As this group of saints are not a part of the Bride of Christ and were not in the rapture, they do reign with Jesus, but they are resurrected (“come to life”), and Revelation 7:15 indicates they will serve Jesus during the Millennial Kingdom: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple,” If they are to serve day and night in the heavenly Temple, this would logically include the Millennium Kingdom Temple, before the Throne of Jesus. Their persecutor, the Antichrist, is in the Lake of Fire, and now they will return to earth, to Jerusalem, where instead of the statue of the Antichrist on the Temple Mount, they will find the Throne of the true God Man, the Great King Jesus.
- The second group are the rest of the people who died during the Tribulation – the unsaved, they will wait till the end of the millennium, then they will be judged along with all the others who have been kept captive in sheol since the time of Adam.
It is important to define what John means when he writes “This is the first resurrection” (Vs.5b). The word ‘first’ that John uses in “first resurrection” is the Greek word protos which does not necessarily mean first in a sequence of events, but rather first in rank or position, a superior resurrection. John is making a contrast between two different types of resurrection. One is a resurrection of the righteous (the superior resurrection), for all those who will rule with Jesus during the Millennium. The other (the second, inferior resurrection), is a resurrection of those who will be required to stand before the White Throne of Judgement. Because those of the second resurrection do not have forgiveness of sin, they are judged “according to what [they] had done (their sins)” (Rev. 20:11-15). They have rejected the grace of God and have the shame of attempting to justify themselves according to their own self-righteousness before a holy God. Ultimately, those of the second resurrection are condemned to the Lake of Fire.
Who will populate the Millennium Kingdom?
We have discussed what will happen to those that die during the Tribulation, but what about those who live through the Tribulation, what will happen to them? Despite the great loss of life during the Great Tribulation, many people will survive, so the question then is, what will happen to these survivors? A major focus of the Tribulation is God’s dealing with the Jews, Jeremiah called the Tribulation “the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7); it will be during this time of testing that the nation will be restored in relationship with God. With the restoration complete, the Messiah then returns to establish His earthly Kingdom, with Israel at its centre. Just as God judged the nations for their treatment of Israel, so too will the Gentiles of the Tribulation then be judged for their treatment of the Jews.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25), Jesus indicates that there will be a judgement of individual Gentiles for their treatment of those Jesus calls “brethren” – Jesus is a Jew; His brethren are the Jews. These Gentiles will not be able to blame their poor treatment of the Jews on oppressive governments, as each person has free will and is able to make a choice, and God always holds us accountable for the choices we make. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me”. This judgement will occur at the time of Jesus’ return to earth to set up His kingdom, and all nations will be judged on how they have treated the Jews during the seven-year Tribulation.
There are three categories of people in the parable of the sheep and the goats:
- The Gentile “sheep” will be blessed under the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, for their care of the Jews during the Tribulation, and they will go on to live during the Millennial period, repopulating the earth.
- The Gentile goats will be put to death, and go on to Sheol (place of departed spirits) to await the Great White Throne of eternal judgement, which will result in their being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Mt. 25:33; 41).
- The Tribulation period is a time of sifting for the Jews, and those that reject the Antichrist after he claims godhood, will realise that Yeshua is their true Messiah. Those Jews who continue in worship of the Antichrist will die during the judgements of the last months of the Tribulation. Jesus’ brethren (believing Jews), are restored to their Messiah at the return of Yeshua to earth (Romans 11:26).
The Defeat of Satan (20:7-10)
“7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”.
In verse 3 of chapter 20, John records that after the thousand years has come to an end, Satan is “released for a little while,” this release will include the demonic hordes that has been imprisoned with him. As to how long “a little while” will be, we are not informed, but it will be long enough for Satan to deceive the nations, and for them to march on Jerusalem.
John continues the narrative in verse 7, explaining that on his release Satan covers the “four corners of the earth,” a term meaning the whole earth, searching for those who will join his rebellion against God. Why would God allow the evil that so infected earth from the time of Adam, to once again be free to deceive and destroy? Relatively few people would have died during the Millennium Kingdom, life spans would once more be as in the days before Noah with people living to nine hundred years old, Isaiah writes that a person dying at a hundred years old during the Millennium will be considered a baby (Isaiah 65:20). God always tests the hearts of mankind, and those living during the Millennium are no exception, mankind will still have a sin nature. When Satan is loosed, he provides the leadership needed to bring the latent sin and rebellion to the surface of those unrepentant sinners, their obedience to Jesus has been an untested, feigned submission. The perfect environment of a Millennial Kingdom cannot manufacture a perfect heart.
The army that Satan forms is referred to as “Gog and Magog,” this is not a link to the people that made up the mighty army of Ezekiel 38-39. John uses the term to engender the understanding that this rebellion is of the same type as Ezekiel’s Gog of Magog attack on Israel. The army of Ezekiel 38 is identified as Russia:
- Genesis 10:2-3 records that Gomer, Magog, Tubal, and Meshech were all sons of Japheth, and all four were involved in the invasion of Israel recorded by Ezekiel, descending from where they had settled in the North.
- Japhet’s son Gog settled in the region of modern-day Russia, the land of Magog. So, when Ezekiel prophesied of an invasion by Russia of the land of Israel, he used the original name for the region, Magog.
- A confirmation that Ezekiel is referring to Russia is that he states: “you will come from your place in the far North” (Ezekiel 38:15). Jerusalem is virtually on the same line of longitude as Moscow.
So, John is not saying that Satan is once more able to stir up the Russians to rebel against God, rather he is using the Ezekiel 38 as a comparison to the vast army traversing across the land towards Israel. There is the same rebellious mindset against God, the same target – Jerusalem, and the same goal, the annihilation of the Jews. The use of the term “Gog and Magog,” by John should conjures up the detailed description of Ezekiel 38 in the mind of the Bible student. While Ezekiel’s army descended from the north, the millennial rebellion will draw people from all four corners of the earth.
In just a thousand years the population of the earth will have increased dramatically, from the few souls that survived the Tribulation to a number that measures more than the “sand on a sea”. This is very feasible as when Joseph sent for Jacob a total of 70 people arrived in Egypt, a little over 400 years later there were over 2 million people who God lead out of Egypt.
The army described as “Gog and Magog” surrounds the city of Jerusalem, targeting the heart of the nation of Israel, the city of God, where Jesus reigns. Obviously a thousand years has dimmed the collective memory of mankind, this army believes they can make war against the King of Kings, who reduced the armies of the world to a banquet for carrion eaters, with just the words of His mouth. There is no battle, not a shot fired in anger, the army’s long protracted march to Jerusalem ends abruptly, fire flows down from heaven and consumes the rebellious army – this end deprives the vultures of a meal.
Finally, the road of the great serpent Satan has run its course, the disgraced archangel, the adversary of every believer, is cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever and ever – along with his co-conspirators from the Tribulation – the Antichrist and the False Prophet. I do not believe the sentence is immediate, I feel that Satan along with all the demons will have to face the ire of judgement. Paul indicates that believers will take part in the judgement of fallen angels, when on writing to the Corinthians he says: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Satan and his minions will be called to account.
The last words of verse 10 are very sobering, just as our elevation to heaven will be “forever and ever,” so too will those condemned to the Lake of Fire be tormented “forever and ever”. The respected theologian John Walvoord writes: “There would be no way possible in the Greek language to state more emphatically the everlasting punishment of the lost than here in mentioning both day and night and the expression ‘forever and ever,’ literally ‘to the ages of ages’”.
The Great White Throne Judgment (20:11-15)
“11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 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”.
The White Throne Judgement must not be confused with the Bema rewards judgement for believers; the dead that stand before the throne are the spiritually dead. Before the Great Throne, those that have rejected God’s provision for salvation will have no place to hide, all will be brought before the Judgement seat of Jesus (Matt. 19:28; John 5:22-30; Acts 17:31). At the feet of Jesus, every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10-11), they will face the saviour, whose provision for their salvation they scorned and rejected.
The judge sitting on the throne is Jesus: “the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgements to the son” (John 5:22; Acts 17:31). The throne is referred to as the “Great White Throne”: it is great because of who sits upon it, and what He did to attain that status, then also because of the extent of power and authority of the Son of God. The Throne is also considered great because all people throughout history will be judged, and their eternal destiny determined. The Throne is white because it symbolises the infinite purity and righteousness of Jesus. Then finally, it is a Throne because a majestic King sits upon it!
Scriptures linking to Revelation 20:11-15:
“God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5-6).
“Books were opened”
John indicates that as each person is brought before the throne, books are opened as part of the judgement, the books John refers to as being opened at the judgement seat are most likely:
- The Bible, God’s Word for mankind: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
- The book documenting the person’s life – every detail, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 12:3)”.
- The Book of Life with the names of those who are believers and heaven bound. “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
The Lake of Fire is the second death – all who stand before the White Throne of Judgement will be in resurrected bodies, so when the person is cast into the Lake of Fire the body is burnt away, leaving the tormented spirit of the person – born twice die once, born once die twice.
Jesus indicates that there are degrees of punishment in Hades, so each sinner will receive what is due to them: “And you, Capernaum… You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24). Jesus, by giving this insight, also confirms that the Lake of Fire is a reality, it is a witness to the righteous character of God. It is not God that sends people to Gehenna, ultimately, they send themselves by their rejection of Jesus as their Saviour (Matthew 25:41).
Further clues regarding degrees of punishment are that apostate disciple, Judas, is said to be in “his own place” (Acts 1:25), and the converts of the Pharisees are said to be “twice the son of Hell” as their mentors (Matthew 23: 15). Then in the parable of the unfaithful servants in Luke 12: 42–48, the consequences for poor service is dependent on awareness of error. The servant who wilfully rebels is sentenced to “many blows,” while the servant who sinned without knowing, is punished with a mere “few blows”. These Scriptures indicate that there will be degrees of punishment which will be based on the amount of knowledge of God’s Word each person possesses. The extent of the punishment is not based on the degree of the sin, but rather the depth of Truth possessed by the individual.