28/10/18 Revelation 20:11-15 “The book of life or the lake of fire?”
Revelation 20:11 – 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.
white – leukos (white; bright; brilliant (from whiteness); dazzling white)
Note 1 Timothy 6:16a – Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see:
Who sits upon this mega-brilliantly-white throne? We know that both the Father and the Son are on the throne…..
Revelation 3:21 – To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
but who is “him” in Vs 1 above? Clearly it is God but is it the Father or Christ?
In the following it appears to be the Father on the throne.
Revelation 6:16 – And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
And the following suggests that it is the one who raised Christ from the dead who sits in judgment.
Acts 17:30-31 – 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given assurance unto all [men], in that he hath raised him from the dead.
But the father has given all judgment into the hands of the Son.
John 5:22; 27 – 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
It is clear that it is God on the great brilliantly-white throne who judges man here. Many have assumed that it is Christ here, to whom the Father has committed all judgment, but Romans 2:16 does appear to teach that it is by God the Father’s authority that Christ the Son judges.
Romans 2:16 – In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Therefore it is reasonable to assume that it is indeed Christ on the throne judging according to the full authority and wisdom granted to Him in this judgment by the Father.
the earth and the heaven fled away – does it relate to the new heavens and new earth of the next chapter? I don’t think so. It does however strongly suggest that the sight of God was a terrifying event. Who can stand in God’s sight?
Psalm 76:7-9 – 7 Thou, [even] thou, [art] to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? 8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, 9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.
there was found no place for them – they could find no place to hide from the face of God on the throne. Note whither shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalm 139:7-11)
Revelation 20:12 – 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.
were judged – krino (to separate; put asunder; to pick out; approve; prefer; have an opinion; determine; resolve; decree; judge; pronounce judgment; rule; govern)
The dead that John saw were of all kinds of mankind, both small (mikros) and great (megas). They all stood before God, but not necessarily all at the same time, although there is no logical reason why God couldn’t judge all at the same time if He chose to do so. Each person is judged individually according to his works, and particularly whether or not his name is written in the book of life.
The first action of the Judge is apparently to determine whether the person is recorded in the book of life. This does suggest that this judgment is not just for the wicked, but that it is the general resurrection as mentioned by Jesus in
John 5:25-29 – 25 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. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
All, both good and bad, will be raised to stand before Christ the judge, some for life, and the others to condemnation. For this reason I believe that the resurrection of Revelation 20:12 includes the Church (which doesn’t seem to be part of the 1st resurrection of Revelation 20:5). The Church, however, wouldn’t be judged on works here because their names will be found written in the book of life. They will still face a judgment (also works-based) but not for salvation; rather it will be for reward or lack thereof.
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.
Revelation 22:12 – And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Also note Matthew 6:19-21: laying up treasures in heaven.
Note that the dead in Revelation 20:12 will be judged according to their works. All the dead will be judged at some time and place; but only those not written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. There is no place at all in the Bible that teaches that we go to hell to pay for our sins; instead it is consistently taught that we go to hell because of our works (or rather, lack of them!). Romans also notes that those whose names are in the book of life are those who do not work but rely upon faith in Christ for their righteousness. Thus we are elect (chosen) according to the foreknowledge of God – 1 Peter 1:2a.
Romans 4:4-5 – 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
The judgment is on works, and such a judgment will always find those who trust in their works for salvation to be in debt. The only escape clause is for those recorded in the book of life.
Revelation 20:13 – 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.
Put simply, all these dead are resurrected for the purpose of this judgment. The context does strongly suggest that these are the ungodly dead, for they are to be judged according to their works, without mention this time of the book of life. These people are to be judged according to their works. This is something those in the book of life will escape; instead righteousness will be their judgment regarding life or death.
That isn’t to say that the righteous won’t have their works scrutinised at some point in time; see notes under Revelation 20:12. But their works will be more than balanced by the fact that their names are written in the book of life.
The next verse appears to continue on from the above verse, in that both mention death and hell (actually hades or the grave), one as the source of the dead, and then as a label for the dead.
The sea is used at times to symbolise those of the nations of the world, often being associated with the restless nature of the sinful.
Isaiah 57:20-21 – 20 But the wicked [are] like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 [There is] no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
I think that while Vs 12 deals with all the resurrected, those who are written in the book of life will be quickly dealt with, as their judgment has been dealt with elsewhere because of their faith. The major part of the great white throne judgment therefore deals with the wicked, those whose names are not written in the book of life, those who will be judged on their works and found in debt as per Romans 4:4.
Revelation 20:14 – And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And those who were not written in the book of life will be judged guilty, and will be sent to the lake of fire, that everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels (probably from the beginning of time).
Matthew 25:41 – Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
This is the 2nd death, the spiritual death that only God may deliver.
Matthew 10:28 – And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Those written in the book of life will escape the 2nd death; they go into life eternal. Only the wicked (those not written in the book of life) will die the second death reserved for those who have refused God’s pardon for their sins.
This passage today does appear to focus on the judgment of the wicked, so much so that it is easy to assume that the great white throne judgment will only be for the wicked. But, if that were so, then when is the judgment of the righteous? If not here, then it is either with the 1st resurrection (which does appear to be only for tribulation martyrs) or not actually written about, merely assumed to be taking place somewhere sometime, but not recorded as such. The latter is most likely.
The lake of fire is not just something that burns for now, and extinguished one day. Matthew 25:41 says that it is “everlasting”, where “everlasting” is the word aionios which can also be translated “eternal”. John 3:15 translates aionios as “eternal” (life) yet John 3:16 translates it as “everlasting” (life). Likewise, it is translated “everlasting” (life) in Acts 13:46, and “eternal” (life) in Acts 13:48. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reasoning behind translating aionios differently in each case.
aionios – without beginning and end; eternal; that which always has been and always will be; without beginning; without end; never to cease; everlasting.
We are told that the smoke from the burning of Babylon rises up (present active tense) for aion and aion. That is, it doesn’t just burn until it is consumed, for that which is burning continues to be consumed for ever and ever. The smoke rising up is always in the present active tense – it never ceases, ever.
And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. (Revelation 19:3)
Thus we may safely assume that the same applies to this lake of fire.
Mark 9:45-46 – 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
that shall never be quenched – asbestos (unquenched; unquenchable; of eternal hell fire to punish the damned)
not – ou (no, not; in direct questions expecting an affirmative answer)
quenched – sbennumi (to extinguish, quench; of fire or things on fire)
There will be no end to the torment of this fire, ever!
Revelation 20:15 – And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
And (here is the emphasis upon just who we have been talking about for the past two verses) those who will be cast into the lake of fire will be whoever was not written in the book of life. The emphasis is upon the difference of judgment between these two groups, life eternal, or eternal condemnation, depending simply upon one single fact: whether or not their names have been written in the book of life.
Book of life – mentioned 7 times in the Bible, once in Philippians 4:3 and the rest in Revelation (3:5; 13:8 (the book of life of the Lamb); 17:8; 20:15; 21:27 (where it is called the Lamb’s book of life); 22:19) It is also called the book of the living in Psalm 69:28 (Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.) In all but Revelation 22:19 the book of life is a record of the names of the righteous.
Revelation 22:19a says – And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life – This also clearly applies to the listing (that is, his name, his identification with the book) of that person being removed from this book.
The book of life is therefore the same as the list of the election, those chosen by God for salvation. If your name is in this book, then you will be predestinated for salvation. I realise that this sounds like calvinism, but in actual fact it’s totally different. The calvinists make a great song and dance about the election, often claiming that non-calvinists do not believe in the election of God’s people to salvation. But, it’s not the election itself that is the problem, for it is clearly taught, and the calvinists know this.
That’s why they often ask the question: “Do you believe in the election?” It’s really a trick of theirs to try to get you to see that they might be right. For if you say “No”, then they’ll prove to you from the Bible that it does exist. (And because the election itself is a Biblical doctrine, then that’s not so hard.) And if you say, “Yes!”, then they will use this agreement as a basis for further discussion. That is, find a common ground of agreement and build your heresy upon that.
But that’s really a red herring, because it’s not whether there’s an election or not, for there certainly is an election, but it is really how God chooses His elect people. And this is what the calvinists try to avoid, for it brings in the topic of foreknowledge which they cannot prove wrong, so they instead try to muddy the waters by irrelevant issues, trying to get your attention focused on other than the real foreknowledge of the Bible. They reason with you that if they were proved to be right on the existence of the election, then you’ll be tempted to think them right when they tell their election lie: that the election is unconditional on anything you might decide for yourself, that is, your free will. Then they’ll use this misleading tactic to “prove” to you that free will is irrelevant, after all.
But calvinists aren’t interested in the truth; they’re only interested in winning the argument. Truth is an inconvenience, yet not an insurmountable inconvenience. Truth is useful, but only if it supports their argument. So, establish a little bit of truth in their favour and they will then try to attach the lie to it! Churchill once said: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.”
The Bible says very clearly: we are Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Peter 1:2). It’s very difficult for calvinists to get around this one. They will often use Romans 8:30 to demonstrate that God’s calling follows His predestination. They teach that it follows the order: “predestinated”, then “called”, then “justified”, then “glorified”. But they conveniently ignore that in the previous verse it says: “foreknew”, then “predestinated”. That is, the process commences with God’s foreknowledge.
Also, this calling of Romans 8:30 means to call by name, get a person’s attention, call out to someone, or for someone to come by calling his name (kaleo). It is used in Matthew 1:21 – thou shalt call his name (kaleo) Jesus. It is not the calling of a person to service or ministry (or salvation) that is signified by the word “called” in Romans 8:28 (kletos). The word “called” is a different Greek word in each case.
By the way, “shall call upon” in Romans 10:13 (For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.) is the word epikaleomai which is derived from epi (upon) and kaleo (call), which is also the word used for “called” (kaleo) in Romans 8:30.
They can establish the fact of the election (that list of those predestinated for salvation), but they refuse to acknowledge any free will of mankind to be able to choose to be saved. Free will, especially in matters of salvation, is something the calvinist just will not accept. Even if the Bible said it on every page, they wouldn’t accept it, for the mere acceptance of free will in salvation would destroy calvinist doctrine, stop it dead in its tracks.
So, what is the book of life? It’s simply a list of those whom God has recorded from the beginning of time for the purposes of bringing them to full salvation. But, it is based upon an election conditional upon the foreknowledge of God to determine just who had accepted the gift of salvation from God (as per Romans 10:13). If you asked a calvinist, “Is it possible for God to use His foreknowledge to determine any free will decision to be saved, and record it in a book from before the foundation of the world?” he would have to answer, “Yes!” Otherwise he would be limiting the power and authority of sovereign God, and the calvinist can’t afford to be seen to do that. After all, he makes too much of a song and dance about his God’s sovereignty to admit to something that would show his God to be less than truly sovereign! So the calvinist can then only try to reword the definition of foreknowledge, hoping that you might not check him out too seriously by reading what the Bible says on the matter. (Or he can declare it to be a mystery, or even just ignore you and hope that you, like a bad smell, might go away soon.)
The calvinist might try to steer you in another direction, though. He might just tell you that because you don’t have any free will decision in your salvation, then what’s the point of the foreknowledge of God, anyway. Piper says, “God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren't any such free decisions to know.” (from “What we believe about the 5 points of calvinism”)
Many, in an effort to divert your attention, will say that making a free will decision to be saved is a work of that salvation, and therefore leads toward an imperfect salvation. Although salvation is described as a free gift in the Bible, the calvinist stubbornly maintains that even choosing to receive it is a work of that salvation. However, if we look at the definition of a gift, we note the following:
(a) A gift must be freely given without any requirement on behalf of the donee to provide anything of value in order to receive it. Any requirement may be seen as work, which then prevents it from being a gift. That is, a gift may not involve any work at all on behalf of the donee.
(b) A gift must be available in order to be a gift. You may not offer something as a gift if it is not available to give. You may not promise a gift if you have no gift to promise.
(c) The donee must receive the gift willingly; it may not be forced upon the donee. A gift forced upon a donee renders it a requirement for some purpose and not a gift. You cannot force a person to receive a gift; it must be willingly received.
It is abundantly clear that if salvation is a gift of God, then merely receiving it cannot cause the donee to do any work for it. It is indeed a gift! And if God says to call upon His name to be saved, then that’s what you do. It’s not whether it’s a work or not, but that it’s what you must do to be saved. Who will dispute with God concerning this requirement?
Finally, can you remain on that list? Psalm 69:28 says to let the wicked be blotted out from the book of the living. However, this, being a prayer request of David, cannot be used to prove that names can be removed from this book. But Revelation 3:5 (He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.) is a statement from Christ that He will not blot out the name of the one that overcomes. A name must be there first before it may be blotted out.
But, say some, it is a symbolic way of saying that he won’t be saved. Then why doesn’t it say just that?
Hal Lindsey (There’s a New World Coming) says on P 48 “This Book contains the names of all the individuals ever born. If a person does not receive Jesus Christ as Savior by the time he dies, his name is blotted out of the Book of Life.”
But why wait until the person dies to blot his name out? This viewpoint seems to assume that God cannot know whether a person is saved or not until he dies!
However, the logical explanation is that when a person is saved, God (through His foreknowledge) places that person on the list of the elect (in the book of life) which is recorded from the foundation of the world. If and when that person falls away (as per Hebrews 6:4-6) then his name is blotted out of this book. Some argue that God wouldn’t put that person’s name on the list in the first place because He would know that this person would fall away. This does sound reasonable, but there must also be some reason why having your name blotted out is different from not being recorded there in the first place. And, yes, there is! Those whose names are not recorded may still repent and be saved, but those who are blotted out “cannot be renewed again unto repentance.” (Hebrews 6:6) Being blotted out is worse than not being recorded in the first place.
2 Peter 2:20-21 – 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.