Can Change the World Again.
The Revelation of John - Chapter XX
Commentaries on the Entire Bible
New scenes open. Nothing is said to indicate how near in time these scenes are to those of chapters 12-19, which give us judgments on the first beast and the second, and upon the harlot city, and also the consequent joy among the holy in heaven and the anticipated triumph of King Emmanuel over all his foes. The only obvious connection of this chapter with those is logical, not chronologicala connection of thought, not of time. This immediately foregoing series of events, commencing with chapter 12 opens with bringing to view the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan. He is shown to be the prime mover and arch instigator of all the persecutions under which the church suffers. He bears a mortal hatred toward the Zion-mother and her heaven-born Son (chap: 12); he "gives to the first beast his power, his seat and great authority;" (13: 2); he perpetually plies his old vocationa liar and a deceiver from the beginning (Jn. 8: 44, and 1 Jn. 3: 8); sending forth "unclean spirits of devils" to deceive the kings of the earth (16: 13, 14). So these chapters present him. If we can not say that he fills the foreground of the picture, we can at least see that he pulls the wires and works the machinery; his agencies underlie every movement of the hostile army arrayed against heaven's king and people. And now in this chapter he appears again, to receive his righteous doom. The beast and the false prophet have gone to their own place (19: 20); it remains only to finish in like manner the history of "the great red dragon." This chapter gives it in three distinct stages: (1.) He is bound, cast into the abyss, shut up and a great seal put upon his prison gate that he go forth to deceive the nations no more for a thousand years. (2.) Then he is loosed for a little season and resumes his old work of deceiving the nations, with the result of gathering them for one grand assault upon the beloved city to their own sudden and utter destruction. Then (3.) he is hurled down to his own placethe lake of fire and brimstoneto his destiny of woe eternal. This closes the history of this arch tempter of our racethis fell hater of God and of all goodness.The chapter before us touches upon three other grand points in the great programme of the world's history, viz., the joy of the martyred saints during the thousand years (vs. 4-6); the deceiving of the remote nations and their mustering to the last grand assault upon the holy city (vs. 7-9); and the final judgment-scene of our race (vs. 11-15). These momentous acts in the history of our world are touched with extreme brevity, yet with words of thrilling power.
1. And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
The words, "and I saw," are in constant use to indicate a new scene in the great moving panorama. See vs. 4, 11, 12, and 21: 1, etc.This angel had a key with which to open and also to shut the abyss, and a great chain for binding the serpent. Obviously the conception of a chain corresponds to the idea of a serpentnot of a spiritual agent, "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Hence we must accept this as symbol, intended simply to give us the idea of restraint, confinementby what precise agencies we can not know as yetagencies, however, that are adequate to their purpose of shutting him off for a thousand years from his satanic work of deceiving men into sin and ruin.The view given here of the agencies of Satan upon the minds of men follows that which appears throughout the preceding chapters"deceiveth the whole world" (12: 9); "working" [pretended] "miracles" to deceive the kings of the earth and gather them to the great conflict against Almighty God (16: 13-16); the great instigator to idolatry and to bloody persecution of the saints. It is essentially the same view which the apostle has put in the words, "The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2: 2), giving prominence however to those aspects of his work which stand in the foreground in this bookidolatry and persecution.This restraint upon Satan is limited in durationa thousand years. The reader will not need to be told that this chapter has given us the word "Millennium," which means a period of a thousand years. By "the Millennium" is meant precisely this period during which Satan is bound and shall not deceive the nations.Will it be literally one thousand years, or shall it be taken as an indefinitely long period?The evidence for deciding this question must come from two sources:(1.) The scripture usage of this phrase; (2.) The light of other scripture concerning the duration of this period.(l.) The phrase "a thousand years" occurs three times. The Psalmist says (90: 4), "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past"meaning not precisely twice five hundred, but a long, indefinite duration. Peter (2 Eps. 3: 8) has the words, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day"which certainly must be taken in the long, indefinite sense. Solomon (in Eccl. 6: 6) has the same usage: "Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told," etc.I scarcely need refer to the fact that the word "thousand" is spoken of other things beside years in the same indefinite sense: "A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand;" "The cattle on a thousand hills;" "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand," etc. The usage of scripture seems therefore to be decisive for the indefinite sense.(2.) So also is the doctrine of prophecy in regard to the duration of this period of the ultimate prosperity and triumph of Zion. On this point we have a single passage which seems to be explicit and decisive. Isaiah (54: 7, 8) puts in contrast the period in which Zion has been afflicted and not comforted (in the large sense) with this period of her joyful prosperity; thus, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid myself from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I gather thee." Here the "small moment" in which Zion has been comparatively, relatively, forsaken stretches through the long ages before Christ came, not to say also through the Christian centuries down to this era of the binding of Satan and the joy of the saints therein; while the everlasting kindness, spanning the long ages of God's mercy, are put into this thousand years. Is it then possible that these thousand yearsare to be cut sharply down to ten centuries? Can ten centuries suffice for the display of "everlasting kindness" over against six or seven thousand years of "forsaking," which relatively to this thousand years are only "a small moment?" Mathematically put, if six thousand years means "a small moment," how many years must be required for the manifestation of "everlasting kindness?"For aught that appears it must be admitted that the everlasting kindness of God's mercy to his Zion is precisely this Millennium of John. Who shall cut it down to precisely ten hundred common years?It ought to be added that the standard doctrine of Old Testament prophecy is firmly of this sort: "His [Messiah's] name shall endure forever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed" (Ps. 72: 17). "The Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." "They shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands," etc. (Isa. 60: 20, 21). See also Jer. 31: 40, and Dan. 7: 14, 27, and Mic. 4: 7. I must therefore consider it certain that this thousand years should be taken as indefinite and very long.Other questions respecting the state of the world during this period; the prevalence of gospel light; the standard of piety; the type of Christian civilization; the longevity and general happiness of the race, will best be considered after the subsequent verses shall have come fully before us.
4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Note that the "thrones" are put in the foreground, the first thing seen.Who are they that sit upon them? Undoubtedly the souls of the martyrs immediately after describedthe same who "reigned with Christ a thousand years." Their exaltation and blessedness are therefore the prominent features in this scene. "Judgment is given unto them;" but what judgment and in what sense? The words taken in themselves might mean and have been thought by some to mean that they are made associate judges with Christ, sitting and reigning with him in the proper literal sense.But this view must be rejected for three reasons; (1) The natural improbability, not to say impossibility, of their performing this function; (2) The fact that "reigning with Christ," as we shall soon see, has in the Scriptures a very different sense from this, viz., the sense of rejoicing in his joy, of being fully blessed and highly exalted in and with him; (3.) The very vital fact that these souls, here seen in vision, are identically the same that were seen under the altar at the opening of the fifth seal (6: 9-11), and that this scene is closely correlated to that. There the revelator hears them cry, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?" etc. Here he sees their prayer answered; the judgment they prayed for is given them. Their blood has been judged most justly and avenged most fearfully upon their guilty murderers.The reader will note carefully that these souls according to their description must be the same as those seen "under the altar" (6: 9-11);here "beheaded;" there "slain:" here, "for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God;" there, "for the word of God and for the witness" ["marturian" as here] which they held [without faltering]. The additional points here"had not worshiped the beast," etc., had not come up at the opening of the fifth seal, but came in at a later stage of the book and are here only to show that these martyrs include all those who suffered, whether from persecuting Jews or from persecuting Romans."Blessed and holy is he that hath part, etc. In what sense "holy?" Does this mean merely that he is a good man, a saint in the common significance of this word? Or rather in the original sense of the wordone set apart and distinguished from all others, so that the clause means, pre-eminently blessed is he, distinctively above all others?I accept the latter sense.
We may now give attention to the important points in this passagein the following order:
1. Who are these "souls?"
2. In what sense do they "live and reign with Christ?"
3. What is meant by this "first resurrection?"
4. What moral effect was sought by this strong and striking representation of the joy of the martyrs during this thousand years?
1. Who are these "souls?"As said above, the description accords so perfectly with that of the souls seen under the altar (6: 9-11) as to leave no room for doubt that these are the same. Moreover, nothing could be more natural or more appropriate than to bring them to view again here to show that their prayer is now gloriously answered; their sorrow turned to joy; their blood most signally avenged; that the "judgment" they implored is given them. This book of Revelation would have been incomplete without this final view of the souls seen first under the altar.Yet again, it is entirely in harmony with the genius of this book that the glories of the Millennium should be set forth as seen in the joy of the martyrs and the co-ordinate joy of Christ their Lord. Note how the glorious results of the fall of Judaism and of its representative city are shown (11: 15-18) in the songs of heaven; and in like manner, the results of the fall of Babylon, in the Alleluias that come down as the voice of many waters and the voice of mighty thunderings because "the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth" (19: 1-7). The same style of poetic conception rules in this passage. We are shown the blessedness of the Millennium in the ineffable bliss and glory of the martyred saints exulting with their glorious Lord and King.
2. In what sense do they "live and reign with Christ?"In my view "live" and "reign" serve to fill out one common idea. The words help to explain each other. The state here tacitly antithetic to "life"out of which they come when they begin to livewas not non-existence, but was suffering, trialthe state of the praying and struggling martyred souls as shown (6: 9-11). And this is the common usage of the word "live," taken figuratively. "Now we live [i. e., in real life and blessedness] if ye stand fast in the Lord" (1 Thess. 3: 8). "Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live"be richly blessed by means of our affliction yielding the peaceful fruit of righteousness? (Heb. 12: 9.) So the "eternal life" of the righteous is by no means a mere eternal existence. The tree of life is not so called because it barely prolongs existence. If this were its only significance, the devil himself and all the damned might eat of it. A little attention will show that this usage of the words "live," "life," prevails throughout the Bible and indeed in universal language.Reigning, being a king, has been in every age one of the chief objects of man's ambition. Hence it is naturally put for what men most aspire after and most loveany supposed or real blessedness. So Paul uses it (1 Cor. 4: 8); "Now ye are full; now ye are rich; ye have reigned as kings without us." Observe that the glory and blessedness promised to God's people and especially made prominent during the ages of persecution in promise to those who suffer with enduring patience, is often presented as here;"They shall be kings and priests of God and of Christ." With slight variations in the phraseology, this figurative language abounds throughout the New Testament. This book of Revelation opens with it; "Hath made us kings and priests unto God" (1: 6); and in the same words (5: 10) with the additional clause"and we shall reign on the earth." Peter combines both ideasking and priestfrom Ex. 19: 5; "a royal priesthood," i. e., kingly priests and priestly kingsan honor which blends the distinctive qualities of both the king and the priest. But Paul (Rpm. 8: 17) gives us the precise idea: "If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him that we may be glorified together." The exaltation to a glory like Christ's and a glory co-ordinate with Christ's seems to be the precise idea so often presented in the Scriptures in words or at least in general thought like this before us. See also 1 Pet 4: 13.Now there is not the least occasion to strain this language so as to include the responsible functions of king in the universe of God. Such a sense is simply impossible because the thing itself is so. Jesus Christ is Lord alone. None other than he has the capabilities; none but he has the right: let none but him have this supreme glory.The sense of our passage therefore is that the martyrs are ineffably blessed in their joy with Christ over the binding of Satan and the "filling of the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" [Jesus] "as the waters cover the sea." The rest of even the righteous dead come short of such a lifeat least, of a life so full of blessedness at this particular time and because of these special events. None else can appreciate and drink in this joy as those martyrs do. Others will have their blessedness in its time; but the pre-eminent joy over the binding of Satan and these victories of Jesus is the lot of those only who have suffered and prayed as did those martyrs seen under the altar.The wicked dead come not into this account.
3. What is meant by this "first resurrection?"I am well aware of the difficulties that invest this question. These difficulties I feel the more deeply because I see what seem to me strong reasons in support of the figurative sense of "resurrection;" and yet so far as I know, the literal sense is adopted by most if not all of the best critics. Hence it behooves me to present my views modestly, yet none the less fully and clearly. Whether my views are well sustained let the reader judge.
The choice lies between the literal sensethe raising of the dead body to life; and the figurative, viz., joy after sorrow; the passing from agony, despondency hard by despair, into high fruition and blessednessthe change from a quasi death to real life. We may call the latter the symbolic sense of the word "resurrection."
In favor of this usage of the word here, I adduce the following considerations:(l.) The almost universally symbolic strain of this book. Not going beyond this chapter we have symbols in the "great chain," the "old serpent," the "seal" put upon him, the "thrones," the "second death," the "camp of the saints," the "beloved city," etc., etc. It is therefore with and not against the analogy of the book to account this resurrection symbolic.
(2.) John found this symbolic usage of "resurrection" and of its idea, in the old prophets; particularly in Isa. 26: 14, 19, and Ezek. 37: 1-14, and Hos. 13: 14. [See my notes on those passages.]The argument here is that since John follows the usage of the Old Testament prophets almost if not quite invariably, it is fair to assume that he follows it here. Seeing their usage of this idea of resurrection, he naturally adopts it himself. This, as we have continually seen, is remarkably the law of this whole book. (3.) Another remarkable fact deserves careful consideration. Twice in his gospel (viz., 5: 24-29, and 11: 23-26) our author touches the subject of resurrection and in both cases he has two resurrections before his mind, viz., (1) the raising of souls from death in sin to real and blessed life in God; and (2) the raising of bodies from their graves. Note the order of his thought. "He that heareth my words and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." [This is the first resurrection.] The second and other is put thus: "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth." Beyond all question this second is the literal resurrection of the bodies of all the dead. Equally beyond question is it that the former is a spiritual resurrection; i. e., the resurrection is made a figure or symbol for that more wondrous and far more glorious change which comes over human souls when they pass from death in sin to everlasting life and peace in God.The resurrection of Lazarus gives us the other case referred to. And here too the first and leading thought is that higher, grander and more comprehensive one"I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." As the infinite fountain of all life and of all resurrection-power, I first evince it by raising dead souls to the life of peace and love and blessedness in Godeven the souls of all who believe in me; and next I do the subordinate and very inferior thing of raising their mortal bodies to life. The first resurrection is the spiritual. This is the natural order in which the mind of Jesus and consequently the mind of John arranges the grand ideas connected with resurrection. Should it therefore surprise us that having followed this order in every case where he touches the resurrection in his gospel, he should follow it here also?
(4.) The strong, decisive points which set forth a literal resurrection are lacking here. Nothing is said of bodies, much less of bodies coming up out of their graves. Indeed it is quite plain that John saw no bodies but only "souls." He uses precisely the same language here as in chap. 6: 9-11 where beyond all question the souls seen were disembodied, being in the state intermediate between death and the resurrection. Of these "souls" he does not say that they are restored to their bodies or their bodies to them; but only that they "lived"lived and reigned with Christ as kings and prieststhe sense of which we have already discussed. How John speaks of a real resurrection of bodies any one may see in the closing verses of this chapter: "The dead, small and great, stand before God;" "the sea gave up the dead [bodies] that were in it," etc.
(5.) The description here compared with that in 6: 9-11 demands nothing more than thisthat souls seen first in the agony of prayer and solicitude are now seen emerging from that state, or rather, fully emerged into glorious exaltation and blessedness with Christ, luxuriating in his triumphs, exulting in the fall of Satan, in the victories of Zion's King, in the peace and blessedness of men over all this wide earth, and the consummation of the divine glory in the grand scheme of salvation! Is not such a transition worthy to be called a resurrection unto life?
(6.) This view of the meaning harmonizes perfectly with the moral purpose of the whole book. This can not be said with equal pertinence of the other interpretation.The martyred dead emerging from their agony of solicitude and prayer under the altar to ineffable joy and triumph with Christ as if on thrones of honor, would be a most impressive scene to the still imperiled and suffering saints to whom these visions were sent. Nothing could be more inspiring. How it would lift their souls from all depression and fire them with zeal for even martyrdom itself since it stands associated with such rewards!But it is by no means clear that a literal resurrection of those martyrs in advance of all other saints could be, in itself considered, in any measure so inspiring. If you take out of these words the sense of ineffable joy and glorious exaltation, and leave only the literal ideathe raising of their bodies from their graveshave you not robbed them chiefly of their inspiring power?
(7.) A literal resurrection in this passage is opposed by the uniform testimony of all other scripture to the effect that there is but one resurrection and that one not only general but universalof all the dead; not only all the righteous but all the wicked"all that are in their graves" (John 5: 28). See this subject discussed in my "Jeremiah;" pp. 406-409.I grant that such language [of universality] may be supposed to admit slight exceptions, like that recorded in Matt. 27: 52, 53. But if this resurrection in John be that of bodies, it becomes not a slight but a great exception, so great as essentially to break down the rule. For consider how many will be embraced under it. Can we limit it to the martyrs of John's agethose who fell before the malignity of the Jews or the cruelty of Nero? If we extend it to all martyrs of all Christian ages, the number becomes a hostall too many to come in as an exception to statements so strong and so comprehensive as those which affirm one resurrection only of all the human race.
(8.) The first resurrection is correlated here, not distinctly with a second resurrection of bodies, but with the "second death." Now since this second death is certainly symbolic, i. e., is not a second severing of soul from body, but simply a state full of awful terror and indefinite anguish which no other symbol but that of death can adequately express, therefore we may naturally suppose that the first resurrection, correlated to it, is also symbolicused in an analogous sense, of what is indefinitely blessed.These considerations are modestly submitted as the grounds which incline me strongly to the view of a figurative as opposed to the precisely literal sense of this "first resurrection."
4. The moral effect sought by this strong and striking presentation of the blessedness of the martyrs has been brought out incidentally during my argument, and can not fail to be readily seen. It harmonizes perfectly with the great moral purpose which pervades the whole book, viz., to inspire the utmost Christian heroism and patient endurance under the fear or the present pressure of bloody persecution.
The Millennium so far as revealed by John is now before us. The reader will see that the description is very limited, making only three leading points, viz., the binding of Satan; the duration of this restraint; and the joy of the martyrs with Christ over the glorious event. If we ask for the agencies which are to introduce and produce this millennial age, these visions give no answer beyond what is comprehended in the one factSatan bound. If we ask what John has taught us respecting the state of the world during this Millennium, we are left to infer it from these two factsthe withdrawing of Satan's influence, and the joy of the martyrs and of Jesus over the victory of his cause, the triumph of his reign.We may however turn back to Old Testament prophecy and there find many of the most important questions fully answered. For example, if we ask for the political, moral, and religious state of the world, we learn that wars will cease; crime disappear; that hate will die out of human bosoms and love reign in its stead; the idols will utterly perish; one God only shall be worshiped and obeyed from the rising to the setting sun. If we ask, What agencies are to work this wondrous change? we are promptly answered"For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord [Jesus] as the waters cover the sea." The light of the gospel shall go forth to every land, shall reach every eye, and through attending grace transform every heart. Not Satan but Jesus shall reign. Satan deceives no longer; the truth of God in his gospel leads men in the paths of righteousness and peace.These long ages form the grand theater for manifesting the transforming power of the gospel of salvationredemption by the cross of Jesus. It is the consummation of the gospel age, in which the inherent power of God's Spirit with his truth, borne in the willing hands and loving hearts of his people, will have free course and be glorified.Moreover, it will afford an opportunity never enjoyed before of estimating the amount of malign influence exerted by Satan upon our race to instigate crime, intensify depravity, draw men away from God to idols, and in general to withstand God and his truth and people. During this thousand years it may be seen how much opposing force is subtracted and how much yet remains to be encountered and overcome.But most affecting and sublime of all is the conception given us in this millennial age of the magnificent results of the gospel upon human well-being. Men will see as never before that the gospel is indeed "the power of God unto salvation"a salvation that really saves from the miseries of sin. Think of the limitless sweep and range of this power; think how the blessedness of each saved soul is augmented by the known blessedness of all; think how the joyous present will be the more enjoyed for its contrast with the troubled, the sinning and the suffering past; and finally, conceive with what ineffable joy the saints will repose in the assurance of a long, long reign of truth and righteousness and peace over a world in which Satan has held sway so cruelly and so long. Will it not be joyous to know that the reign of Jesus Messiah will be indefinitely longer?
7. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
The words and figures used here are easily traced to Ezek. 38 and 39, where we have a like account of the mustering of remote northern nations; the very names, Gog and Magog; the vast number of their hosts; their vain attempt to besiege and destroy the holy city, and the fearful judgments of the Almighty which blasted their efforts and swept their hosts with fell destruction. In Ezekiel the agencies employed in their destruction are more various; here they seem concentrated in the one most terrible of allfire from God out of heaven.The conception of the saints as "encamped" and of "the beloved city" is altogether Jewish in its origin, for it locates the scenes in Palestine. The word "earth" ["breadth of the earth"] should rather be the landthat of the ancient Jews.There is no occasion to infer that these events are identical with those referred to by Ezekiel. It is the usage of John throughout this book to borrow his terms and figures from the old prophets, and then describe with them events analogous but not at all the same. Judging from its place in the prophetic series, the great conflict of Ezek. 38 and 39 precedes the millennial age which stands in the closing chapters (40-48); while here in John it certainly follows the Millennium.
This account of the loosing of Satan and its results is most remarkable. I am not aware that any allusion to it appears elsewhere in the Scriptures. Indeed the tenor of all the Old Testament prophecies of the millennial age represents it as not only indefinitely long, but as stretching onward to the very end of time. At least there is no hint of an abrupt termination and a marked reverse like what appears here. The Old Testament prophets do not locate the resurrection and the final judgment as related to the millennial age, but rather seem to make the glorious blessedness of the Millennium merge into the eternal heaven. We can not however say that their testimony stands in direct collision with this. The fact is rather that their testimony is negative; this is positive. They fail to say any thing about this reverse; John definitely affirms it. It is in vain to ask why they omitted it, supposing it to be true. God did not give prophecy on the principle of revealing all truth to every prophet. We must rest on the ground that he would not have said these things to John, and through him to us, if they had not been true.Assuming their truth, therefore, it is obvious that one part of God's design in permitting this last development of Satan in our world may have been to exhibit his agency before our race and before the moral universe with far more distinctness and prominence than ever before. After the long ages of Christ's peaceful and triumphant reign, the very name of Satan, and much more his pernicious agencies, may have been almost forgotten from the human mind, not to say from angelic minds as well. One more exhibition of satanic hate and revenge and power will not be amiss for the moral instruction of the universe. Coming at this stage, in the strongest possible contrast with the beneficent reign of the Great Messiah, it will stand out most signally before the universe as the moral ground of his eternal doom. Who can then fail to see that he is indeed a devil and a Satan, infinitely deserving his destiny of torment in the lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever!It is noticeable that here as in Ezekiel 38 and 39 there is no intimation that the people of God joined battle with the hostile invaders. It rather seems that they "stood still to see the salvation of God"and not in vain! The scene is shaped, perhaps purposely, to reveal the blazing right arm of the Almighty in judgment on his foes! It will avail little for us to define God's methods in a case like this; general views and results are all that he has been pleased to give us.
10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.
This is his final doom.The clause, "that deceived them," indicates his damning crimecruelly and falsely alluring them on to their ruin; reckless of their welfare; maliciously bent on with standing God and his people, and upon destroying the peace of the universe to the utmost extent of his power. Oh, how richly does he deserve his doom!The question will arise whether this "lake" is or is not the same with the abyss [abussos] translated, "the bottomless pit."The fact of different names almost demands a difference in the things to which the names are applied. Else how could we account for the two distinct names? Moreover, the abyss seems to be a place of duress, confinement, only or at least chiefly; but this "lake" is pointedly described as "a place of torment." The same distinction between the present and the remotely future condition of lost angelsthe legions of Satanis elsewhere indicated:"Into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mat. 25: 41); "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Mat. 8: 29.)"The beast" and "the false prophet," i. e., the guilty persecutors of whom these are the representative characters, have the same destiny, as had been said before (19: 20).The moral bearing of these great facts upon the persecuted saints of John's age will be readily seen.
11. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
I see no reason to doubt that these verses describe the scenes of the final judgment. For aught that appears this judgment will follow closely upon the events of the verses immediately preceding.The grandeur and majesty of this final judgment as here depicted are unrivaled. "A great white throne"white being significant of purity and righteousness. No farther attempt is made to describe the face of him that sat upon it save to say that before its sublime presence, the earth and heaven fled away as if they could not bear it! They fled, but found no place to hide! Shall we sayThey sink into annihilation before his dread majesty?Then I saw the dead, small and great, young and old, of all timestand before the throne [so the best authorities give the text, instead of before God];"and the books were opened"following the human conception of books of record in which the deeds of every human life have been registered against this dread day of final account!One special book is there and is opened "the book of life"showing that the righteous, all redeemed souls [shall we say also unsinning infants?] have their names. And all the deadthe long succession of human generations since the world began, are judged out of those books of record, each and all according to their works. Such also is the view given of the final judgment in various other scriptures; and such a transaction is manifestly demanded for the purpose of revealing to all the intelligent minds of the universe the righteousness of God's final decisions upon human destiny. It naturally precedes the last award of endless blessedness to the righteous; of equally endless woe to the wicked. So Christ has taught us, Mat. 25: 31-46.
13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The question, Whence came these "dead?" is here answered. The sea gives up the myriads who found their graves there. In the terms, "Death" and "hell" [Thanatos and Hades], we seem to have the King of the under-world [Thanatos] and his dominions [Hades] where the dead have been received and kept, and whence their bodies come up in this great resurrection day. It is remarkable that the "sea" should be thought of as holding a part of the dead, and the graves on land as having another part.In v. 14 the sense seems to be that Death and Hell, personified, are destroyed. Having fulfilled their mission, they are no more. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15. 26).The Sinaitic and Alexandrine manuscripts with which the best modern editors concur, add to this v. 14 the words, "the lake of fire."v. 15 shows that the whole race falls into two classes only; those who are written in the book of life, and those who are not. All the latter are cast into the lake of fire. The destiny of the former is not specially spoken of here, but is given in full in the two remaining chapters.