The Resurrection and Judgment
“Why is it considered incredible among you that God should raise dead men to life?” asked the Apostle Paul of the unbelieving King Agrippa and his entourage (Acts 26:8, NEB). Paul did not think it incredible. He believed in the resurrection with all his heart. He knew it had happened. Not only had he been told that Christ had been raised from the dead but the risen Christ had appeared to him. Since that experience on the Damascus Road, the resurrection had been his hope and the theme of his preaching. It was the hope of the Apostolic Church, and it has been the hope of every true Christian from that time forward.
In this lesson we will discuss the following:
* How many resurrections are there to be? Who will be raised?
* Who will do the resurrecting and when?
* Do they come forth from the grave immortal?
* Who will stand before the Judgment seat of Christ?
* What is the purpose of the Judgment?
Resurrection means “the state of one risen from the dead,” or in other words, a return from the state of death to the state of living. Theology has attached a meaning to Resurrection that differs from that of the dictionary. To the majority in Christendom, resurrection means a “reunion of the soul and body after their separation in death”—a necessary step if indeed we do have a soul that leaves the body at death.
Widespread belief in an “immortal soul” has led to this accepted resurrection theory. But according to the Bible:
* There is no consciousness in death. “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing.” No part of our life, being, or personality survives death.
* There is no work or knowledge in death. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Eccles. 9:5, 10).
* There is no thought-process in death. “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts] perish” (Psalm 146:3-4).
* The dead cannot praise God. “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17).
In Bible terminology, souls are the whole, living person. We do not have a soul; we are souls. The soul is the living being. In the Bible, “sixteen” children were called “sixteen souls” (Gen. 46:18). Seventy “souls” came with Jacob into Egypt (Gen. 46:26). When they attacked a town, they “smote all the souls” there (Josh. 11:11). The concept of a soul as separate from the body and “immortal” or “undying” is not found in the Bible.
But there is evidence in history that the concept existed among even very primitive people. Most ancient civilizations believed in some type of afterlife. In general it was thought of as a survival of the soul or spirit of the human being (believed to be one’s personality or some mysterious life-principle), coupled with a blissful existence.
According to the Bible, there is no consciousness in death. When the body processes cease, the person is dead. And the only possibility of future life is through a restoration of life, or a physical resurrection.
Resurrection in the Bible
The word “resurrection” is used more than three dozen times in the New Testament. It was, in fact, the basis of the Apostles’ preaching. The Apostles themselves were living witnesses of the risen Christ. They testified boldly of it: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,… And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:20, 33).
In Jesus’ time, the subject was a point of contention between two rival sects of the Jews, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The latter held to the belief in a resurrection, while the Sadducees denied it. Jesus sought to settle the argument, telling them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” and explaining to them the glorified state of immortals (Matt. 22:29; Luke 20:27-38).
Only a few years later the Sadducees were instrumental in bringing Peter and John before the council because “they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).
Paul was called in question before the Roman officers for his hope in the Resurrection. He stood before Felix the governor, then before Festus his successor and still later before King Agrippa.
Defending himself before Felix, Paul said, “I have hope in God, just as these men do, that he will raise both the righteous and the ungodly. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and everyone else. … I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 24:15-16, 21 NLT).
Writing from his Roman prison, Paul again spoke buoyantly of his hope: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10–11). “If by any means”—Paul was willing to suffer the loss of all things if he could but be sure being resurrected in the last Day!
We as Christians share this same hope. Some living may never have to die; but not knowing the day nor the hour our life might end, we must use all our means to be worthy of a resurrection, for there is no other avenue of escape from death. Our hope is every bit as real to us who have but the written Word as it was to those who had witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ. Without it we would have no hope of a future life.
Why do we need a resurrection? If the commonly accepted belief were true, that at death the soul wings its way to glory, what need for a resurrection? If the souls of the departed were rejoicing around the throne of God, why call them back to an earthly body?
But the belief of a “reunion of soul and body” cannot be found in the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible states that all hope of a future life depends on a physical resurrection of the body. Said the Apostle Paul, “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen, And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.…Then also those who have fallen asleep [in death] in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.…But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.…But each one in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (vs. 12-14; 18-20, 23).
When in the death state, a person knows nothing. The Psalmist states it well: “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (146:4). The only thing that leaves the body at death is the breath, and until that breath is restored, that person sleeps in death. Without a resurrection, the grave will be his eternal resting place. Any future life is dependent upon a restoration of life to the body.
The Resurrection of Christ was the seal of God Almighty on His promise of a future life. Because Christ has been raised from the grave, the believer who lives the Christ-life can know absolutely that he will be raised from the sleep of death.
When will the dead be raised? Paul discusses the subject in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus….For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:13-14, 16-17).
In this passage, the apostle Paul makes some important points concerning death and the resurrection.
1) “Concerning those who have fallen asleep.” Paul wanted to make sure they understood the state of the dead. They are asleep in the grave. There is no indication here of a “reunion of soul and body” at Christ’s coming, with the soul in heaven and the body in the grave. Such a belief was no part of the Christian Church.
2) “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus.” Jesus died and God raised Him from the dead. Just so, the covenant-makers, those who “sleep in Jesus,” will God return to life.
To the believers in an immortal soul and a “reunion of soul and body,” this verse pictures Jesus bringing the souls from heaven to unite them with the bodies from the grave. Such an interpretation is not possible, for it is against the whole teaching of the Bible. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Souls die; they do not go to heaven (Ezek. 18:20). It is but the breath that returns to God who gave it: “If He [God] should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14-15). If God takes away a man’s breath, he dies.
God Himself will not return to earth, but will send His son, Jesus, whose name Emmanuel means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). This is God’s assurance that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, covenant-makers of other ages will likewise be raised at His coming.
The rendering of this verse in the New English Bible clarifies the meaning: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again; and so it will be for those who died as Christians; God will bring them to life with Jesus.” God who gives life and creates life can restore it.
3) “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise.” These words pinpoint the time of the resurrection as being at the time Christ returns from heaven. The “voice of the archangel” that calls the dead from the grave gives a clue to who does the resurrecting.
The Greek word translated “angel” also carries the meaning of “messenger. The archangel refers to the “chief” angel or messenger. Malachi 4:5-6 tells us that the prophet Elijah will come before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord,” and Jesus Himself taught the same in Matthew 17:11, saying “Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.” Restoring all things includes restoring the covenant-makers to life, and Elijah the prophet is this “chief messenger” (1 Thess. 4:16), sounding the trumpet of God to call them from their graves.
From Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 concerning His Second Advent, we learn that the angels also have a part in this task: “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (v.31). Again, to gather them “from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” does not mean that they are literally in heaven as some would conclude, but it is figurative language to describe bringing together the band of covenant-makers from all parts of the earth. This would be a gigantic undertaking, beyond the power of man.
4) “And the dead in Christ will rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
This statement, indicating that all covenant-makers of the 6000-year Day of Salvation (the living together with the resurrected dead) meet the Lord in the air, implies that they must have been resurrected and gathered together by superhuman means prior to the Lord’s appearance.
The fact that the “dead in Christ shall rise first” does not suggest two separate resurrections, one for the faithful and one for the unfaithful, for both classes must be raised together if they would appear together before the Judgment seat of Christ to be separated (see Matt. 25:32). The “dead in Christ” rising “first” indicates that living believers will not precede or go before those who have died. The “dead in Christ” will be resurrected, brought to the level of the living, and together they will rise to “meet the Lord in the air.” The “dead in Christ” includes both faithful and unfaithful covenant-makers, those who have in their lifetimes agreed to serve God and adhere to His laws. Whether or not they are faithful has yet to be determined; at this point they are only restored to the status of the living.
Who Will Be Resurrected?
“What a gathering that will be!” Picture the glory of that meeting in the air when the resurrected dead, together with the living covenant-makers, meet Christ and His angels at His return!
Who will be there? We have alluded to the fact that the group consists of the covenant-makers of all the 6000 years. Who compose the throng? How many are there? Let us go to the Bible to determine who will be there-and who will not.
Who shall rise from the grave? Some would answer, “All who ever lived and died on this earth.” Others would say, “Only the righteous will be raised at Christ’s coming; the wicked wait in the grave for 1000 years.”
Which answer is correct? Neither! God never promised to restore to life all who ever lived on the earth, nor did He say that He would raise the righteous and wicked at two separate resurrections 1000 years apart. For only the righteous to be raised would require a judgment at death or while in the death state-an idea contrary to Scripture.
Who will not rise?
We learn from the Bible that there is a class of people who never knew God, hence never promised to serve Him, and who will not be required to answer to Him for their deeds or misdeeds. This includes the great masses of mankind throughout the ages. We identify them as the ungodly or heathen class. They are spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah as those that “shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake” (Jer. 51:57). The Psalmist identifies them as being “like the beasts that perish … they shall go to the generation of his [their] fathers; they shall never see light” (Ps. 49:20, 19), and Obadiah says that they shall “be as though they had never been” (v. 16).
Paul also wrote of this same class who never knew God or His law: “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law…” (Rom. 2:12). Those who lived and died without knowing the law of God will not be resurrected since they are not amenable to judgment. They will not be held responsible for a law they never knew. They will be among those who “sleep a perpetual sleep,” who are “like the beasts that perish,” who disappear “like a vision of the night,” and will “be as though they had not been.”
Who will rise?
When Jesus met Martha at the time of the death of Lazarus, He comforted her with the words: “Thy brother will rise again.” Martha answered. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24). Martha knew that there was to be a resurrection at the last Day and she knew that her brother would be among those who would rise. Jesus used the death of Lazarus to show the power of God to raise the dead. Lazarus was restored to mortal life, but not being immortal, he died at some later time and will indeed stand in the resurrection at the last Day.
All the “dead in Christ,” those who have covenanted to serve God will be raised at the Resurrection. This will include faithful and unfaithful servants. Because their status has not been determined before death. they must stand at the Judgment. In Jesus’ parable of the nobleman going into a far country, it was his servants who were called to give account when the nobleman returned (Luke 19:12-15).
No Universal Resurrection
Many religious groups believe that all who ever lived upon the earth will share in the resurrection. But this is not according to Scripture. Only those who have heard and learned God’s law and then agreed to live by—it will be judged by that law.
The prophet Daniel foresaw a time when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” some faithful and some unfaithful (Dan. 12:2). Many, not all, will awake in the resurrection. Paul before Felix testified that there “will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). Those who never knew God’s law could not be judged by it. But both righteous and wicked, faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust will be resurrected and stand together at the Judgment. (This subject will be covered in a later section of this study.)
Isaiah said (Isa. 26:19), “Thy dead men shall live,” not all dead men, but those recognized by God as having agreed to serve Him.
The Resurrected—How Do They Come Forth?
If you were to ask a member of the clergy concerning the state of those resurrected, the most likely answer would be that they come from the grave immortal, incorruptible. Paul’s statement, “The dead will be raised incorruptible” (1 Cor. 15:52), would probably be offered as proof.
This is the generally accepted belief: All those who died believing in Christ will be raised from the grave immortal at His coming. But it is a belief read into the Scriptures-not read out of the Scriptures.
According to the Scriptures, the resurrected covenant-makers are simply restored to mortal life in order that they may stand at the Judgment. To say that they come from the grave immortal is to say that they have been judged while in the death state and found faithful, something entirely foreign to the Scriptures. It also negates the Judgment, for if they have already been judged faithful before the resurrection, what need would there be for a Judgment? How could the Judge divide them “as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” if only sheep stood before Him?
Mortal, Not Immortal
Wide acceptance does not automatically render a doctrine true. Just because the majority of those who profess belief in a resurrection also believe that the body comes from the grave immortal does not make it so. As before stated, this belief is contrary to Scripture. Man is mortal when he goes to the grave and mortal when resurrected. The resurrection simply restores him to the level of the living.
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed….For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51, 53). No one could “put on” something he already had on. Both living and resurrected believers must undergo this change to immortality. If it were their present state at that time, it could not be said to be a change. It is not a possession of the living, nor is it bestowed in the grave. Not until Christ comes and men are resurrected and judged will they be made immortal. At the present time Christ only has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16).
The prophecy of Daniel concerning the resurrection may have contributed to this misunderstanding. The prophecy reads: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). The majority of people assume from reading these words that the prophet meant that all would come from the grave immortal, some to live eternally in heaven with the Father, while others suffer eternal punishment in shame for their evil doing.
This is another case of a belief being read into and not out of the Scriptures. It was not God’s plan that men’s status should be pre-determined, but that all should stand before the Judge together. The resurrection must necessarily precede the judgment, restoring to life both faithful and unfaithful servants. Whether they are worthy of everlasting life or everlasting death rests with the Judge.
Flesh, Not Spirit
There are some who picture those resurrected as mere phantoms or spirits, immaterial beings as opposed to material beings. They say that Jesus was raised from the dead as a spirit, but with the power to assume a material body. Such a belief savors of the immortal soul theory, which is totally unsound and unscriptural; for what would an invisible spirit be more than an invisible soul?
The Bible is definite with respect to the resurrected body; it is physically functional and recognizable as the person that died. During His ministry, Jesus restored mortal life to three people: the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. Some time after Lazarus was raised, Jesus returned to Lazarus’ home and “they made Him a supper,” and “Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him” (John 12:2). After the little girl was raised, Jesus “commanded that she be given something to eat” (Luke 8:55), and to the widow’s son, He said, “Young man, I say to you, Arise. So he who was dead sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:14–15). All were able to function as normal people. These individuals were raised to mortal life only; they now sleep in the grave, awaiting the resurrection.
The Scriptures are very clear concerning Jesus’ physical state after His Resurrection and before His glorification. He was recognized as a man by the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:15, 31); Mary mistook Him for the gardener near the tomb (John 20:15); He prepared a meal for the fishermen and ate with them (John 21:9–13); He invited them to touch Him, saying “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” He asked for food, “so they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And he took it and ate in their presence” (Luke 24:39–43). He was the same Jesus that had died and had been placed in the tomb only a short time before.
Others that stand in the resurrection will likewise be recognizable. Jesus spoke of seeing “Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28), indicating that they would be known at sight. The ancient prophet Job expected to see his Redeemer: “For I know that my redeemer lives, and He shall stand at the last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25–27).
What About … ?
When we study a Bible subject, we often find texts that on surface reading seem to contradict another verse. When this happens, it is important that we compare the text which seems not to harmonize with the clear teachings of the Bible, to achieve harmony and not disharmony.
There are some verses on the resurrection that would fall into the category of “hard to be understood,” which we will discuss in order to get a better understanding.
m “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).
This text is frequently used to prove that only the just or good people rise in the resurrection at Christ’s coming. But that is only assumption, for both just and unjust must stand at the Judgment to be divided. The verse simply refers to the resurrection, as the rendering in the Phillips Bible suggests: “They have no means of repaying you, but you will be repaid when good men are rewarded-at the resurrection.” Rewards are determined after good and evil servants are separated.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28–29).
This verse is greatly misunderstood. It is used to prove both a universal resurrection and two separate resurrections (one for the good and one for the evil).
The Bible does not support the widely accepted view of a general resurrection, as discussed earlier in this lesson. Rather, it is specifically stated that “the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,…but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Ps. 1:5-6). The only reward of the ungodly, those who never knew God or promised to serve Him, is this present life.
The misunderstanding of the verse arises from the phrase “all that are in the graves.” Theology takes the broad view that “all” in the graves includes all people who ever lived upon this earth. Such a view is not supported by general Bible teaching. What did Jesus mean?
The problem lies in a misunderstanding of Greek grammar. The Greek language had no indefinite article such as “a” or “an.” The article “the” is much used, but it is a definite article. According to Essentials of New Testament Greek, by Ray Summers (Broadman Press, 1950), this makes a tremendous difference in the interpretation of the New Testament. In all probability the definite article was originally a demonstrative pronoun. It retains that force frequently in the New Testament. The basic function of the article is to “identify” the noun, hence when we read “all…in the graves” it has reference to some particular graves, meaning some specific graves. The graves referred to in the text in question would be the graves of all those who had heard and learned of God and agreed to serve Him during their natural lifetime-the covenant-makers—not every primitive, heathen, Asian or Caucasian that ever lived upon the earth.
All covenant-makers will be restored to mortal life to face the Judgment, where the Judge will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you”—the “resurrection of life”; and “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me”—the “resurrection of damnation” (Matt. 25:34, 41). Both good and evil stand together at the Judgment. Nowhere is there any evidence of a separate resurrection for good and evil servants.
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:1-4).
In 2 Corinthians 5 immortality is described as a heavenly possession. Theology has read into this text the idea that believers go to heaven to claim this prize. But let us examine the text: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven: if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (vs. 1–4).
The wording indicates clearly that our “house” from heaven is immortality. We “groan,” or yearn for it, that we might be no longer mortal. We long for the better life, but we do not go to heaven to get it. The prize of immortality, or eternal life, is said to be “eternal in the heavens,” but it is not eternally or forever to remain in heaven, nor do mortals go to heaven to obtain it. The New English Bible renders the phrase, “We possess a building which God has provided—a house not made by human hands, eternal, and in heaven.” It is eternal and it is in heaven until Christ returns to bring it to us. “For our [citizenship] is in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our [lowly] body, that it may be fashioned like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21, Scofield). “Behold, I am coming quickly; and My reward is with Me…” (Rev. 22:12). The reward that comes with Christ is immortality, eternal life, from God the Father in heaven.
A judgment is a decision, a discernment, an opinion. When an individual stands before a court of law, he is judged either guilty or innocent, according to the evidence presented. Just so will it be with every individual who stands before the Great Tribunal: He will be judged according to the evidence, “according to his work” (Rev. 22:12).
But the judgments of God are of a vastly more serious nature than those of any earthly court of law—the Judgment of God will determine our eternal destiny. And the verdict will be final; from it there is no appeal. The Judgment of the covenant-makers is the final separating of the righteous and wicked.
The idea of judgment is not popular in our modern world. God is looked upon generally as a loving and doting parent who fails to restrain His children, rather than a stern disciplinarian who will one day call men to account for what they have done. Jesus is remembered more as the baby in the manger than as the King and Judge who will return with power.
For many years God has been longsuffering, but His long-suffering has its limit. And it will end when His silence is broken, when “He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you: before whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:20-21).
When Christ, “whom [God] has appointed heir of all things,” returns (Heb. 1:2), the Judgment of the covenant-makers will be the first order of business; the Judgment of the nations will follow.
The Judgment of the Covenant-makers
According to His plan, God began calling workers into His vineyard early in the morning with the call of Adam. He called again in the third hour (Noah’s day), and again in the sixth hour, and again in the ninth. Now in the eleventh hour, our day, He is still calling.
Those who have responded have been those who had faith in the promises He set before them. Seeing these promises in the distant future by the eye of faith, “Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice” than Cain, “which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Enoch left the testimony “that he pleased God”; Noah “prepared an ark for the saving of his household.” Abraham journeyed to a strange land, “for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Sarah believed to bear a son in her old age. These, and many whose names we never knew, responded to the call of God and agreed to serve Him. And when their term of service was done, they went the way of all mortals—to the grave—to await the resurrection and Judgment at the time of Christ’s Second Advent.
This was the plan, that all should be judged and rewarded together “that they should not be made perfect apart from us [immortal]” (Heb. 11:40). And when that time arrives, those who sleep in Christ will be resurrected and gathered together with the living covenant-makers to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). And the next event will be the Judgment.
What Is the Judgment?
The Judgment is the time of separation, when all of God’s servants will be assembled and separated according to what they have done: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory, [out of] All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31–33).
John the Baptist compared the Judgment to the separating of wheat from chaff, after which the wheat would be gathered into His granary and the chaff would be destroyed (Luke 3:17).
Who Will Be Judged?
The initial Judgment does not include all the nations literally, but only those who have made a covenant to serve Him. As in the parable of the Talents the man upon his return dealt only with “his own servants” (Matt. 25:14), so Christ will reckon only with those who agreed to serve Him. “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12).
All who have covenanted to serve God during their lifetime must stand before Christ as Judge: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”; “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12). Paul included himself among those who would be judged; it was “we … all” and “us.” Paul is one of “the dead in Christ” that will rise to meet Christ and be judged and rewarded.
Daniel the prophet saw in vision the Judgment scene: “I watched till thrones were put in place [seats were placed], and the Ancient of days was seated;…A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:9–10).
The picture is majestic: “thousand thousands” ministering unto Him, and “ten thousand times ten thousand” before him–it is a scene set in solemn splendor, while for those who have agreed to serve God “the judgment is set and the books are opened.”
Who Is the Judge?
The Bible plainly identifies who will be the Judge: Christ. “It is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). “… He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). There is no question who will be the judge.
Jesus Himself said that God would delegate that authority to Him: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:22-23).
As Judge, Christ will be fully qualified. In present-day courts of law, opposing lawyers present whatever evidence they can gather in favor of their client in an effort to obtain a verdict in his favor. There will be no such proceedings at Christ’s Judgment. It was said of Christ when He was on earth that He “had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). As future Judge, He will possess the same power, but in even greater measure, having spent these many years at the Father’s right hand. His judgment will be as the Father’s: “without partiality judges according to each one’s work” (1 Pet. 1:17).
Righteousness and justice are two of the prime attributes of God, and they will be attributes of the appointed Judge as well. “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice”; “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (Ps. 72:1-2: 89:14, Scofield Bible). “With righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the eart;….Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist” (Isa. 11:4-5).
What Are the Rewards?
Rewards at Judgment will be entirely on the basis of merit: to “every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:12).
To the Faithful: Eternal Life
Those who have given the full measure of service and faithful obedience will receive the full reward, even eternal life. And so they will be judged: “To those who by patient continuance in doing good” have sought for “glory, honor, and immortality” will be given “eternal life” (Rom. 2:7) with the measureless blessings that shall accompany it. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
The number who will receive the full reward, who will reign with Christ, is revealed in Revelation 14:1. The Judgment is past, and the Lamb [Christ] is seen standing on Mt. Zion, and “with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” The “Father’s name written on their foreheads” signifies the Word of God written in the mind so indelibly that it is expressed in the life of the individual. They are further described as “who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.… redeemed from among men….without fault before the throne of God” (Rev. 14:4-5).
The 144,000 are the select of the covenant-makers from the time of Adam to the Lord’s return. By “patient continuance in doing good” (Rom. 2:7) they gained this high honor. They are the inheritors of the promises of God, the greatest of which is eternal life. Because they overcame their old natures, they have the high privilege of sharing with Christ the rulership of the nations (Rev. 3:21); they have been made “kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
To the Unfaithful: Eternal Death
The apostle Paul described the final recompence in these words: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
But because the reward is according to each one’s work, and because there are varying degrees of unfaithfulness, there will be varying degrees of punishment. Such as Cain, Solomon, Judas and others who turned willfully against the Lord will be subject to greater punishment than those who never entirely departed from the faith but who served God only halfheartedly and never completed the work they began for Him. Sin is sin in God’s sight; He can have none of it in His eternal Kingdom; hence all who have any sin remaining in their lives will have to be eliminated.
Because everyone shall be rewarded according to his works, and because John exhorts us to work for the “full reward,” we are confident that there will be a partial reward for partial service. The Lord may do this by granting extended life to such during a portion of the Millennium; some may be permitted to live a hundred years, or several hundred, depending on what their service to God merited. But all such rewards must end before the beginning of the eternal day, for beyond that time there will be no death.
To those who prove unfaithful, those in whom some sin still remained at the close of their day of probation, the Lord cannot grant eternal life; the tomb will be their eternal home.
The Judgment of the Nations:
Armageddon. The word has been the subject of much speculation over the years. Some would claim it is past, relating it to the conflict between the early Church and its persecutors, while others see it as the age-old clash between good and evil. But the Bible is specific: Armageddon is an event in itself, and it is yet future.
The word “Armageddon” appears but once in the Bible. It is used to locate the great and final conflict upon earth: “And they gathered them together to the place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). It is the place of “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (v. 14), the battle that will truly be “the war to end wars.”
Though not identified by name, Armageddon was seen in prophecy centuries before Christ. The second Psalm provides a graphic description: “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed,…Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, `I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’…`Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear,…lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:1–2, 5, 8–12, RSV).
The prophet Daniel saw the Battle of Armageddon as a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (12:1). Yet Armageddon is necessary; only a small minority of mankind, left to their own desires, would not follow the ways of the Lord. Only “when Your judgments are in the earth, [will] the inhabitants of the world…learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).
The timing of the Battle of Armageddon will be determined by the return of Christ and the saints to Mt. Zion following the Judgment of His servants. The opening of this scene is described by the Revelator following his vision of Christ and the 144,000 standing on Mt. Zion. He says, “I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:6–7).
The ultimatum will be delivered worldwide. All will be given an opportunity to submit to the new Ruler and His government. Those who willingly turn and conform to the laws of God will be protected from the “time of trouble” as described by the prophet Joel: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said” (2:32).
The Scriptures describe Christ as earth’s “Redeemer,” or “Saviour.” Why must He fight to assume the role He was promised before His birth, the kingship of the whole earth? Should not the earth, presently in such turmoil, welcome a righteous Ruler?
Our first thought would be that He would be welcomed with open arms. But human nature has changed little from the beginning of the Biblical record. Adam and Eve in the garden did not want to be told what they could and could not do. Those living in the days of Noah were unbelieving until the flood came; the Sodomites refused to hear that their city would be destroyed. The new and better order must be literally forced upon mankind, for “As it was in the days of Noah,…and Lot…even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30). In both cases, the wicked were forcefully removed.
Armageddon, or “Har Megiddo,” the location of the start of the great battle, is about sixty miles north of Jerusalem, better known as the Mount of Megiddo, a crossroads between the Orient and Middle East. Its strategic location makes it a
logical place for the battle of God Almighty to begin. Zechariah prophesied that the Lord would “gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem” (14:2), but that is not to say that all battles must be fought at Jerusalem. It will begin there and spread throughout the earth until all the forces of evil are brought under the control of Christ and the saints.
Armageddon-The Lord’s Army
When Christ goes forth “conquering and to conquer” He must have an army in order to succeed. Who are they?
They will be drawn from the large number of unfaithful servants, those who broke their covenant with Him and were turned to the left at the Judgment of the covenant-makers. We identify them as the “sword of the Lord.” “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” (Rev. 19:15). The fact that it goes “out of His mouth” indicates His complete control over His army.
The prophet Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s army and His Judgments: “I will not destroy the whole nation,…my chosen shall inherit them and my servants shall live there…But you that forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain,…I will deliver you to your fate, to execution, and you shall all bend the neck to the sword, because I called and you did not answer, I spoke and you did not listen; and you did what was wrong in my eyes and you chose what was against my will…and the Lord God shall give you over to death” (Isa. 65:8-15, NEB).
Because the unfaithful refused to serve Him during their lifetime. they will be compelled to serve in His army in the great task of cleaning up the earth and making it a fit place for God’s Kingdom. Because they rejected His discipline in their lifetime, they must wear a “yoke of iron” (Deut. 28:48) and as the sword of the Lord be used to conquer the rebellious nations of earth.
Any suffering they experience will not be physical but mental. These unfaithful servants must be reminded of “all their ungodly deeds, which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 15). They must work for the Lord under compulsion, knowing that when their work is done they must reap their own punishment, eternal destruction. They will not be permitted to share in the glories of the Kingdom they have helped to shape, but “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
The “lake which burneth with fire” is not a literal lake burning with literal fire but death, penal death (or the second death), the punishment stated for them “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…[They] shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:8-9). A righteous God would not cruelly torture or torment even the most abominable. They will simply perish (Isa. 60:12).
Armageddon: The Opposition
In any conflict, the first question usually asked is: Who started it? Surely Christ, the righteous King, would not start a war if there were no opposition to His rule. But when He calls on all to join the one nation that will include the whole earth, they will fight to retain their sovereignty.
From the Revelator we learn that the opposition includes both the political and ecclesiastical powers. “The kings of the earth,” the representatives of the governments of the nations, join with the “beast,” the titular head of the ecclesiastical or religious powers of earth, to resist the new Ruler. The Revelator (chapter 19) paints a vivid picture:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.…Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.…And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army” (vs. 11, 15-16, 19).
These verses picture a joining of the civil and religious powers of earth to resist the King of kings. Established religion, which regards its sovereignty as highly as any nation, sees its only hope in joining with the national powers in the struggle to resist the new order. The new King with His high ideals will be looked upon as a would-be dictator, an intruder, for we cannot believe that if the people of the world truly recognized Him they would fight against Him.
Armageddon, A Righteous War
Armageddon, the last war to be fought on this earth, will be different from any other war that has been fought during the history of the world. It will be a righteous war, under the command of a righteous King. “In righteousness He [Christ] judges and makes war” (Rev. 19:11).
A “righteous war” would preclude all the horrors of war such as we have known in this century, ruling out the possibility of death marches, torture, maiming, concentration camps and the like. And there will be no innocent victims. Death will be the instrument for the elimination of the evil element, but it will be without lingering suffering. There will be no army hospitals filled with wounded and dying soldiers. A righteous King will not inflict human suffering.
A “righteous war” likewise removes all possibility of error. Every living person will be given an opportunity to submit to the new King and His government. We need not fear that any will be cut off who would do God’s will, nor will any evil escape. Right will triumph.
Many Bible prophecies, descriptive of the judgments of God, indicate that His army moves with great speed in conquering the forces of evil. The use of force will be employed as an instrument of justice; none shall perish except the sinners who refuse to hearken to His summons and reform. “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge…in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:8-9).
Armageddon: The outcome
Armageddon will differ from other wars in this respect. Because it is God’s doing, the end result is known in advance. Christ and His army will be victorious, but the benefits resulting will justify the destruction involved. Evil will be wiped from the earth.
The outcome is made known by the prophecy of Revelation 19:19 and 17:14:
“And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army….and the Lamb [Christ] will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful [the 144,000].”
The opposing armies do not stand a chance from the start. The Lord’s army possesses super-power; they are men whom the sword cannot wound (Joel 2:7-8). Modern weapons of warfare will be ineffective when used against them. Nevertheless, they will fight to the end to save their system, their pleasures and their power. But their defeat is pre-determined. For “the Lord shall be King over all the earth,” fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 14:9.
The eliminating of all the evil element that oppose the new order will result in a destruction of two-thirds of earth’s populace. As the prophet Zechariah tells us, “it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it” (Zech. 13:8). The third remaining will be those who submit to the new regime, and these will form the nucleus of the new world. Two-thirds will stubbornly resist the orders of the new King, even unto death. The thought is sobering, but not unreasonable, because to spare any of the rebellious would invite a return to present conditions in the Kingdom. All evil must be eliminated; He will have only those who will obey Him.
Results of Armageddon
The immediate result of Armageddon will be freedom from the menace of war; freedom from the devastating results of alcohol, tobacco and drugs; freedom from sin and debasing pleasures.
Babylon falls. Babylon’s fall signifies the end of the human order of government and the beginning of the Millennium. “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen” cried the angel, seeing in his mind’s eye the cry of the “merchants of the earth [who] have become rich through the abundance of her luxury” (Rev. 18:2-3).
Babylon is used in the Bible in a symbolic sense to denote all wickedness, confusion and error. God’s people are warned by the prophet: “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; He shall recompense her” (Jer. 51:6). The Revelator issued a similar warning: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Rev. 18:4-5).
God long ago promised vengeance upon all sin and evil. Babylon will be destroyed and those who do not separate themselves from it will be destroyed with it.
Babylon’s fall is not without grief to some; those who profited by illicit means, by trafficking in pornography, by the manufacture and sale of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, by indecent moving pictures-all who profited in any way from evil are included in those who bewail her demise. “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her; for no one buys their merchandise anymore:…The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you,…and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her [Babylon], will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing….saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come” (Rev. 18:11, 14-15, 10).
Part of the confusion signified by Babylon is seen in the tangled affairs in the world today: racial strife, labor strife, strained relations between nations, as well as strife within nations. All these will be relegated to the forgotten past when Armageddon ends and the whole world is one nation under God and Christ is King.
Protection for the righteous. Where are the faithful, the 144,000, during this great time of trouble? Surely, they will not be in the line of fire; God has provided better things for them. The prophets Isaiah and Joel both had much to say about God’s judgments and both mention God’s care for His chosen ones.
From Isaiah we read: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation [judgments] is past. For…the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (26:20-21).
The prophet Joel, after picturing the “great and the terrible day of the Lord,” says that “it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls” (Joel 2:32). God will provide refuge and protection for all among the populace who will submit and serve Him. None who will be worthy of salvation will suffer.
The prophet Daniel also speaks of this time of Armageddon, and of the protection which will be given the righteous; it is the “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” and the time when; “your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). Special protection will be given those worthy of it. After describing the day “that shall burn as an oven” in which “all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly, shall be stubble,” the prophet Malachi voices this assurance: “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:1-2).
Each of us may be there; let us be sure we are on the right side, where there will be protection.
AFTER THE JUDGMENT
Educating the Nations
Education is the strong support of our modern culture and the source of many a blessing to all of us. Better health, better means of transportation, better nutrition, better living conditions have all become possible because of better education. But education has failed to bring about the “fabulous future” some have envisioned. In the realms of science and technology, men have come a long way; but failing to educate in morals as well as in mind has led to a moral decline that threatens the basic structure of our society. The present system is not the ultimate in education.
After the Battle of Armageddon, a vast educational program will be inaugurated. Those who survive the battle will have consented to submit to the new King. But before they can serve Him, they will have to learn His ways. However, this educational program will be different from those of the present age. No longer will God’s Word be misinterpreted and scorned. No longer will classroom prayer be protested or forbidden. Discipline, morality and respect will be the core of the process; God will not have a morally delinquent race to inhabit His Kingdom.
The third who survive Armageddon (Zech. 13:8) will form the first “class” to be educated. One third of earth’s inhabitants (according to today’s population figures) would number more than one billion-a gargantuan class to educate. But they will have to learn, for they will be the parents of the new generation that will multiply and fill the earth. All these people will be mortal, hence will have to learn by methods probably comparable to those used in schools today. Schools there will be, and teachers and texts.
One characteristic will distinguish these students from those of today: all will want to learn. No longer will it be necessary to beg someone to read the Word of God and learn of His plan; all will be seeking the knowledge that will give life. We read: “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us continue to go and to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts….Yes, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 8:21-22). Realizing that they have in time past followed blind leaders, they will come “from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things” (Jer. 16:19).
Christ and the 144,000 will be in charge of the educational process, but to reach students in all parts of the world will require a great many teachers. We learn from the prophet Isaiah that missionaries [or teachers] will be chosen from among the survivors of the nations: “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isa. 66:18-19, RSV).
Where are “Tarshish, Put, and Lud,. . . Tubal and Javan”? Many have speculated, but the actual meaning is not known. It seems possible that the names are symbolic, representing all nations of the earth.
Teaching will be rewarding during the Millennium. Today’s teachers are often faced with students who have no desire to learn, who are unruly, sometimes hostile, sometimes violent. The Word of God and the law of faith and obedience will be taught openly. The words of the Prophet will be fulfilled: “He who teaches you shall no longer be hidden out of sight, but with your own eyes you shall see him always” (Isa. 30:20, NEB). Help for the teachers will be available at all times, for “if you stray from the road to right or left you shall hear with your own ears a voice behind you saying, This is the way; follow it” (Isa. 30:21, NEB).
Jerusalem, the Center of Knowledge
The prophets long ago saw in vision the time when Jerusalem would be the religious capital of the world, the center for the dispensing of knowledge: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us of His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people: They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:2-4).
Knowledge will be dispensed from the Jerusalem headquarters. Men will learn to live in peace and harmony; war will be outlawed. The turning of implements of war to implements of agriculture foreshadows the time when “He [God] makes wars cease to the end of the earth” (Ps. 46:9). Parents will learn to rear their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” They cannot be expected to teach their children until they are first taught themselves.
The thousand-year rule of Christ over the nations of earth will be one steadily onward progression that nothing can hinder. The overcomers, the 144,000 who rule with Him, will be given “power over the nations—He shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:26-27). Ruling with a “rod of iron” suggests an unbreakable rule, but never cruel or inhuman. However, no wrongdoing will be tolerated. All will have to learn and obey God’s law.
Long before the thousand-year period is ended, education will have progressed to the point that peace and tranquility will fill the land. It will be the Millennium, that long-looked-for Utopia. (For a detailed discussion of this subject, see our booklet, Millennium Superworld. ) Old things will have passed away; all things will have become new.
When the educational process is complete, the one third will have been refined as silver and tried as gold; then “they will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is my people: and each one will say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:9). Then it will be that “no more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
All will know the Lord; all will be under covenant to serve Him. The situation compared to that of today will be a near paradise-but even then it will not be the finished product. The education of the people, the elimination of the dens of iniquity, and the subjugation of sinners, will produce a heavenly state; but before that state can be permanent, one more earthshaking event will take place:
The Second Resurrection and Judgment
During the Millennium, people will enjoy a longer life span, but being still mortal, they will still be subject to death. “No more shall an infant there live but a few days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isa. 65:20). Because “the inhabitant will not say, I am sick” (Isa. 33:24), there will be no untimely deaths; people will simply fall asleep when their time is fulfilled.
Because all have been taught in the ways of the Lord during the Millennium, all will be under covenant and amenable to judgment. To bring all of these together for judgment at the end of the Millennium will require a second resurrection.
The Second Resurrection
The placement of this verse may prove confusing. However, we must remember that all Scripture is not in chronological order. The statement concerning the “rest of the dead” is set off by parentheses in some translations, showing that it is out of position. Reading verses 4-6 and omitting the first sentence of verse 5, we find the whole passage referring to the first resurrection and judgment and the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints. Reading verse 5 after verse 6 places the events in their proper order with the second resurrection and the rebellion following the Millennium.
It may be difficult for us to imagine a rebellion against Christ and His righteous rule after a thousand years of peaceful, quiet living, but such a rebellion is forecast by the Revelator.
During the Millennium, the devil (sin and all sinners) has been bound, but men being mortal and still possessing their human natures, have been allowed to harbor evil desires in their hearts. Many, especially during the early years of the Millennium, died with this evil still in their heart. Restored to life in the resurrection at the end of the Millennium, they will be as they died. It would seem reasonable to believe that the rebellion will be generated by this group rather than those who have lived later in the period.
We read in Revelation 20:7-9: “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan [representing evil and evil workers] will be released from of his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth,…to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city: And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”
Given an opportunity, men are quick to return to their old ways. The voice that said, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” is silent. Like the children of Israel of old who soon forgot the miracles that saved them from the Egyptians, so men forget the manifold blessings of the new heavens and earth and attempt to overthrow the rule of Christ and the saints. The words “as the sand of the sea” would indicate a great multitude of rebels, an unrevealed number.
The Last Judgment
One final judgment at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ marks the final separation of the righteous and the wicked. All living and all resurrected ones at this time must stand in this judgment because all have come under covenant.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books,” (Rev. 20:12). The books are symbolic; records kept by angels possessing the power of God need not be written in books. The use of the books points to the fact that the deeds of men are recorded and by that record they will stand or fall.
The decision of the Judge is final: the righteous receive the crown of immortality and become the glorified populace of the Kingdom of God. The wicked are destroyed at a stroke of the hand of God: “Fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Rev. 20:9). “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
The “lake of fire and brimstone” represents complete destruction (2 Thess. 1:9), not literal hell-fire. A burning hell is a product of men’s minds, not a teaching of Scripture. Neither can we accept the torment literally. It would not be possible to torment anyone “day and night for ever and ever” for we are told by the Revelator that there shall be no night in the Kingdom (Rev. 21:25): “…there shall be no night there.”
“Then Death and Hades [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Rev. 20:14). Death, the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), is destroyed. Never again will there be death on the earth; there will be no need for graves. The Kingdom is come!
Can You Answer These?
l. What is the origin of the theory that we possess an immortal soul?
2. How important was the Resurrection of Christ to the apostles? Upon what facts do you base your answer?
3. Why do we need a resurrection?
4. Who are the “dead in Christ” who will rise (1 Thess. 4:16)? Will they all be faithful?
5. When the covenant-makers come forth from among the dead, will they be mortal or immortal? Give evidence for your answer.
6. Explain: “And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain” (1 Cor. 15:37).
7. What is the meaning of the term “Armageddon”? What will make the Battle of Armageddon different from all previous battles on this earth?
8. What will be the attitude of the world when Christ returns?
9. What is the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”?
10. What will be the outcome of the battle of Armageddon?
11. Where will the 144,000 saints be during the battle of Armageddon?
12. What is the purpose of the second resurrection and judgment, and when will it take place?
13. What is the meaning of this text: “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27)?
14. Who will be resurrected when Christ comes? Who will be resurrected at the end of the thousand years? Give Scriptural support for your answer.
(If you need assistance in answering these questions, refer to your Bible and to the pages of this lesson.)