Living Word Christian Magazine

Free Bible Study Magazine

Revelation 20 – Events at the End of the World

In Revelation 19 we saw the Lord Jesus Christ returning to earth with his saints to destroy those who had gathered to fight against him in the battle of Armageddon. The battle over, chapter 20 starts with the immediate ushering in of the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, a period of time known as the Millennium. This great age of God’s glory being manifested on earth commences with the removal of that evil influence that misled the nations to rebel against God, Satan. An angel is sent with God given authority to bind the devil, and cast him into prison – a place called the abyss or bottomless pit, where he will be sealed up for the duration of Christ’s earthly reign. As Derek Williams points out, no literal bars and chains are meant here, for ‘The devil is securely bound with the chain of God’s authority and purpose’. Since God has purposed to shut Satan in his prison, the power of his will and word are sufficient to keep him there. The absence of Satan alone will lead to a tremendous period of freedom for the earth. It is a time when, as an old hymn puts it: ‘Jesus shall reign, where ere the sun, doth its successive journeys run.’ However, as we shall see, God still has a purpose for which he sets the devil free for a season once the thousand years are over.

Christ’s people will reign with him over all the nations of the earth. You will recall from our earlier studies that those who had died in Christ were caught up together to meet him in the clouds, an event known as the rapture, which takes place before the Lord’s returning with his saints to earth. These saints will rejoice with the Lord in the air, clothed with their resurrection bodies, fitted for eternity. With them are those saints who were alive at the Lord’s coming for his people. They were caught up too and clothed with their resurrection bodies to meet the Lord in the air. Now in chapter 20 we are told that those who gave their lives for Christ during the period of tribulation are permitted to join them as a permanent part of the church. This series of events is called the first resurrection simply because it has to do with believers being raised to eternal life whilst the second resurrection concerns only unbelievers, who will be raised to eternal judgment. The resurrection of believers is completed prior to the millennium, whilst the second resurrection, for unbelievers, takes place after the 1000 years has finished.

Those who reign with Christ are blessed and holy, for they have previously received Him as their Lord and Saviour. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3)

They are made holy by his sacrifice, to stand forever perfect before the throne of God. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Heb. 10:14)

Jude tells us that Christ will present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24)

To Christ’s redeemed people, God will give the position of judges during the Millennial reign. The word judgment in v4 refers not to eternal judgment, but to the judiciary, or the law courts. Christ’s people will decide the matters of life and law in His millennial kingdom. It seems clear from this chapter that there will be those left alive of the unsaved nations who will be permitted to live on the earth during the reign of Christ. So whilst the earthly kingdom of Christ will be wonderful we should remember that it is not a perfect paradise, nor will it be a permanent residence for God on earth.

Yet we should not underestimate it’s vital purpose. Since Christ’s sufferings for our sin were real and literal, so his entering into glory will be real and literal, and it will begin with his earthly reign. The scripture says He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. (Luke 1:32)
This will literally be fulfilled during the millennial reign of Christ, as he shall reign over the nations from Jerusalem itself. It will be a golden age, for during it, the prophecy of Habakkuk will be fulfilled, For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea. ( Hab. 2:14)

This glory will be nothing less than God’s immediate presence with us on earth in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a time of peace, when Isaiah says He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; 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. (Isa. 2:4)

Even the animal kingdom will be affected by our Lord’s kingly rule, for the curse shall be lifted. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea.( Isa. 11:6-9)

Daniel foresaw this golden age in a vision, for he saw all the kingdoms and rulers of the earth portrayed as a statue. Then he saw a stone cut without human hands which struck the statue and destroyed it and the stone became a mountain which filled the whole earth. That stone was Christ, and his rule will bring the reign of peace.

However, this will be a divinely enforced peace. Christ will rule the nations with a rod of iron, putting down all rebellion to bring about obedience by compunction. We might have thought that men would want a king like this to reign over them forever, sadly such will not be the case. For whilst Christ’s millennial reign will demonstrate His power and ability to rule, and what the world can be like when he does rule, not even that will be enough to persuade unregenerate hearts to willingly submit to him. Hence even though, as Derek Williams puts it, ‘For a thousand years the earth will be free from all strife and enjoy the blessings of God’, yet to quote Frederick Tatford, ‘amid all the tokens of God’s goodness, amid prosperity and fruitfulness, human nature will remain unchanged’.

This is the reason why, at the end of 1,000 years, God permits Satan to be released from his prison. The devil wastes no time in raising an army of millions (Gog and Magog, the number as the sand of the sea) from among the still unchanged, rebellious nations. They all, without exception, gather to destroy the camp of the saints in Jerusalem. Yet the saints have no need to defend themselves, as God’s fire descends from heaven and consumes their enemies. This event will be the final episode of the end of the world and even of the universe. The devil is taken by force and thrown into the lake of fire, an irreparable separation from God where in God’s plan of things he can do no more harm.

Immediately after this event, John sees the Great White Throne of God, and before the face of him who sat on it, heaven and earth fled away and there was found no place for them. Peter speaks of this event, when he says, 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. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 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? (2 Peter 3:10-12)
What do you think will be the time and place of the final judgment? Time will have ceased to be. There will be no specific place, for the universe has passed away and our ideas of time and space will hold no more meaning. We can identify the place only as being before the throne of God. His throne is described as great and white as a symbol of his absolute holiness and unswerving justice; for justice rather than mercy will decide the judgment. The picture of God on His great white thrown brings to my mind a judge wearing a black cap, for however merciful the judge may be, his duty is not to pardon the guilty but to condemn them.
We have already noted that the unbelieving dead shall be raised (in their corruptible bodies (Matt. 10:28) to stand before God. Whether they were buried or cremated or buried at sea will make no difference. There is no way to hide or escape from this last great judgment. The great books (or records) of God were opened. Did you know that God has a book on every individual and that each book contains a record of every one of your sins – your whole life story, for nothing is hidden from God’s eyes? Everything we have ever said, thought or done is recorded in those books. The dead were judged according to what was written in these books.
As the tragedy unfolds, another book was opened, the book of life. Its opening reveals the woeful state of the lost, for it is opened only to show that their names are not in it. They had the chance to accept Christ as Saviour during their lives, but had failed to do so. All hope is now gone, for no further opportunity will be given. What remorse they will feel, as an awful doom awaits them. The day of grace is over, and they are cast, quite rightly, where the devil has already gone, into the lake of fire. The words ‘second death’ are clarified, to show that they do not refer to annihilation. At no time will the unbelieving ever cease to exist. They will remain in conscious torment forever, the unspeakable torment of a soul banished from the presence of God.
But perhaps John ends the chapter with a more joyful thought, for text of verse 14 is very significant for believers. When death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, no one will ever die again and no one will ever be separated from God again. God’s strange work of judgment has been accomplished and now the eternal age of blessedness begins, as the very first words of Rev 21 indicate ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth… God himself shall be with them and be their God.’ How wonderful that will be, greater than the millennium, for it will never be spoiled nor interrupted forever.

The challenge which chapter 20 brings to you, the reader, must be to ask where you would stand, if you were summoned tonight to appear before God, would your name be written in the Lamb’s book of life because you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Or would it be your fate to spend eternity forever separated from God? The truth which must be applied to your heart today is this: you have the chance offered to you by God to receive Christ today. Do not put it off, tomorrow may be too late, for there is no opportunity after death.

Where will you spend eternity?
This question comes to you and me!
Tell me, what shall your answer be?
Where will you spend eternity?
Eternity! Eternity!
Where will you spend eternity?

Many are choosing Christ today,
Turning from all their sins away;
Heav’n shall their happy portion be;
Where will you spend eternity?
Eternity! Eternity!
Where will you spend eternity?

Leaving the straight and narrow way,
Going the downward road today,
Sad will their final ending be,
Lost thro’ a long eternity!
Eternity! Eternity!
Lost thro’ a long eternity!

Repent, believe, this very hour,
Trust in the Saviour’s grace and power,
Then will your joyous answer be,
Saved thro’ a long eternity!
Eternity! Eternity!
Saved thro’ a long eternity!

Elisha Hoffman (d. 1929)

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