Monday, December 28 –
We are near the end of our readings – three more to go. The book of Revelation is how we are finishing our reading thru the New Testament in a year, and this morning we continue in Revelation 20:11 – 21:8. Please read the passage first, and then come back that we might look at it again.
Hell is not a topic we often think about, nor want to. There are some who teach that the lost who are thrown into the lake of fire, hell, will be annihilated, burnt up – that certainly is possible. Others teach that only Satan, the Beast, and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. What John now saw is the resurrection of all who had not put their faith in Christ.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:11-15).
John had begun this with what he “saw”. John sees the second resurrection of the dead – those who had not believed, the lost. All of this takes place before “the great white throne and Him who sat upon it”. God brings all before him to give true judgment and justice. When John writes, “the earth and sky flee from his presence, and no place was found for them” (20:11), he is speaking that nothing is hidden, and there is no place for someone to flee from Him – “the dead come before the throne, and books are opened” (20:12). The “book of life” is God’s record of those who have trusted in Christ alone (Luke 20:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23). Jesus said, “no one can come to the Father except by me”. The saved do not come in their own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ –
“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24).
No one whose name is written in the “book of life”, comes to God in their own works, or their own righteousness. They come redeemed by the “blood of the lamb” (1 Peter 2:18-19; Ephesians 1:7). What John “saw” had to do with those who were not written in the “book of life” – the unsaved lost. The “books are opened” because those not in the book of life face God’s justice. The dead are judged by the books – the Law, the Scripture, the record of their own living. Hell, according to the Scriptures is real, and those who enter it do so because they would not come to Christ by faith in Him. No one in Scripture taught more about hell than Jesus. Hell witnesses the love and justice of God together. It magnifies the glory and holiness of God, as well as His hatred for sin. Choosing to not believe something that is real does not change its reality. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
Now John’s vision shifts again. The creation is cleansed and now John sees the world made new. The “new heaven and new earth” reminds us of the Hope we have in Christ’s redemption. All of the ruin of the Fall is now erased –
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:1-4).
God’s dwelling is now with his redeemed and the word is uncontaminated by sin. Before this, God’s dwelling was always shrouded behind a veil in the sanctuary and temple because of the sinfulness of humanity. Now, all sin is gone, and we are remade in the image of Christ –
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
The effects of sin are no longer present which is why “every tear is wiped away”, for there is no death, no mourning over loved ones dying, no crying, no pain, all of the old consequences of sin are removed.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (21:5-8).
John hears God speak into the renewed creation, “making all things new”. Our world is filled with news every day of tragedy, disease, corruption, and more, but it will all be gone as God speaks of a renewed creation. Can we believe it? John wants to make sure we know that God said: “the words are trustworthy and true.” Then, in almost a way that is like a benediction, John hears the invitation “to the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment…I will be his God and he will be my son.” Who is it that has this reassurance? “The one who conquers will have this heritage”. John had heard this before and wrote it down in his first letter – “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5).
God is the author and sovereign Lord of all time and eternity. He was there “in the beginning” and will be there “in the end”. He is the “alpha” (the letter A), and the “omega” (the last letter of the alphabet) – the first and the last. God is not controlled by the circumstances of history – he controls them. The final warning is written for our sake. They remind us to think and act with obedience to God. The list of those that do not remind us of who is it that will suffer the judgment and justice of God. The new creation changes everything and takes away the sources of evil that affect our lives, but we are not yet there. Now we face the reality of living in a world that is still sinful, and we have to make the right choices. Now we are called to be “overcomers”.
After the great Chicago fire of 1871, evangelist Dwight L. Moody went back to survey the ruins of his house. A friend came by and said to Moody, "I hear you lost everything." "Well," said Moody, "you understood wrong. I have a good deal more left than I lost." "What do you mean?" the inquisitive friend asked. "I didn't know you were that rich." Moody then opened his Bible and read to him Revelation 21:7—"He that overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God and he will be my son."
I’ll ask it again – do you have the assurance of the forgiveness of sins because you have put your faith in Christ alone? I pray you do.