Editor’s Note

As with all of the studies that I have edited, it is my ongoing privilege to compile this study online from my friend and mentor Bob Conway.  The book of Revelation is fascinating as it is the best glimpse of what still lay ahead for us as Christians as well as the the future of all of humanity.  It is my experience that every time a disaster occurs in the world that there is a renewed interest in Bible prophecy.  In uncertain times people seek out the certainty that can only be found in God.  I believe that it is a very safe bet that this will only continue with the passage of time.

Revelation is broken into three parts – what has happened, what is now, and what will take place.  While most of the book focuses on the future, I have divided things up into these three sections.  With most of the pages of this study focused on the future (and rightfully so), the format that I have used for most of Bob’s Bible studies doesn’t work as well.  Instead, if you click on the links at the top of this page you’ll find an outline of each section with appropriate links to that material.  If you just follow the posts below, you’ll actually read the study backwards.

What you’ll find in this study is an extensive look at the imagery of Revelation as well as possibly explanations of what the apostle John saw.  While some allegorize the images of Revelation which can be used to twist the images into meaning almost anything, this study uses as literal of an interpretation as possible.  Where there is clear historic reasoning for interpreting an image in a certain way, the explanation is given.

Perhaps the most important section of this study is not in giving the meaning of various events and images but instead it is found in the introductory section.  We are all implored to be like like the Bereans of Acts 17.  Rather than just accept Paul’s word on what scripture said, they studied it for themselves and verified it to be true.  The introduction to Revelation will give a student of the Bible the tools to interpret the book on their own instead of just giving one interpretation of Revelation.

One last note: There are some words in the text that may look like gibberish.  These are Greek and Hebrew words that don’t translate properly to an online format.  Where it makes sense to remove them I have but occasionally you’ll see words that just look like random letters.  Unless you read Greek or Hebrew it probably doesn’t matter what language the gibberish is in. :)

Begin Unsealing Revelation

The Coming of Christ

THE EPILOGUE is the final parenthesis of this book. It looks backward in the chronology of what John saw while looking towards the Rapture and Parousia for its readers. The Book of Revelation begins with Christ’s promise that He will come soon and it ends with Him giving the same promise three times. The book ends as it began with the voices of the angel, Jesus, the Spirit, the Bride and finally John.

WHAT MUST SOON TAKE PLACE (22:6). The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” This involves the entire Revelation of Jesus Christ.

BEHOLD, I AM COMING SOON (22:7a, 12, 20). Three times in this section, Jesus announces that He is coming soon (tacu, denoting swiftness or rapidness). The Rapture will occur “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Christ’s announcement may have reference to His coming to work out “what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1), or He may be referring to His final coming, which is not far away according to God’s time.

THE PROMISE FOR OBEDIENCE (22:7b). As the prophecy began with the promise of blessing for those who read it and heed it (1:3), it now closes with a similar blessing. This is the sixth beatitude of Revelation.

WORSHIP GOD (22:8-9). John fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing him these things. But the angel said to him, “Do not do it! I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

THE LAST COMMAND (20:10-11). The angel told John, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Daniel’s prophecy is sealed until the time of the end (Daniel 8:26; 12:4-10).

The angel’s second command: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy” is similar to the words in Daniel 12:10:

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

The vile and wicked will continue in their lost condition, but the wise are made righteous and are exhorted to continue to understand prophecy and be holy. Understanding prophecy is a primary motivation for holy living.

THE LAST DECLARATIONS OF THE DEITY OF CHRIST (22:12-16). Jesus identifies Himself with three sets of titles in this passage that declare His deity:

He is the Eternal One: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 1:4, 8, 17; 2:8; 21:6).

He is the King of kings: “I am the Root and the Offspring of David.” Jesus is both the source and culmination of the Davidic line (Acts 2:25-36; 17:28; Matthew 1:1; 22:41-45; Isaiah 11:1; Revelation 5:5).

He is Lord of lords: “[I am] the Bright Morning Star (Numbers 24:17; Malachi 4:1-3; Luke 1:78; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28). The morning star is the brightest star announcing the arrival of day. When Christ comes, He will shatter man’s night!

THE LAST BEATITUDE (22:14-15). Again, the saved and the lost are contrasted. Blessed are those who have access to the Holy City and the Tree of Life. Those outside the city are described in filthy robes of unrighteousness; they have not washed their robes in the blood of Christ. If they had, their sins would be washed away and they would have received imputed righteousness. God’s righteousness comes from Him through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:23-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). This seventh and last beatitude is evangelistic and appropriately followed by the Bible’s last invitation.

THE LAST INVITATION (22:17): During this present age, the Holy Spirit through the Bride, the Church, invites whoever hears the Gospel to come and drink freely of God’s gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. Everyone who rejects Christ is called “dogs,” a term applied by the Jews to Gentiles and ceremonially impure people.

THE LAST WARNING (22:18-19). Here is a solemn warning against tampering with the prophecies of this book.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).

It is not error in judgment or interpretation that is condemned but the deliberate falsification or misinterpretation. There can be no additions or subtractions to this book. Why? Many will read these prophecies in the last days and come to Christ as they see the predictions fulfilled. Even the smallest change destroys the credibility of God’s Word; and therefore, keeps people out of the Kingdom of God.

THE LAST PROMISE AND PRAYER (22:20-21). The last words of Jesus recorded in Scripture is a promise: “Yes, I am coming soon.”

At end of the Eucharist liturgy, the Early Church prayed the last prayer of the Bible in expectation of Christ’s imminent return: “Amen, Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).

Since the first century, the Church has been praying for the fulfillment of all of the prophecies of Revelation in the prayer He taught His disciples:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
[For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
Amen.] (Matthew 6:9-13, KJV).

The Holy City, The New Jerusalem

There are seventeen things revealed in this passage about the Holy City, the New Jerusalem:

1. Its names, 21:1
2. Its source and origin, 21:2, 10
3. Its preparation, 21:2
4. Its eternal location, 21:2, 9-10, 24-26; 22:1-5
5. Its outward appearance, 21:11-25
6. Its walls, gates, and foundations, 21:12-14
7. Its measurements, 21:15-17
8. Its materials, 21:10-21
9. Its street, 21:21
10. Its buildings, 21:12
11. Its lighting system, 21:23; 22:5
12. Its water system, 22:1
13. Its inhabitants, 21:2-5, 9; 22:3-4
14. Its traffic, 21:24-27
15. Its food, 22:2
16. Its restrictions, 21:8, 27; 22:8-15
17. Its servant-rulers, 22:3-5

THE NEW JERUSALEM (21:2-23). “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Human history began in the Garden of Eden and ends in the Holy City. The language of Revelation 21:10 suggests the Holy City is called “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” because the Church dwells with Christ in it. Jesus assured His disciples in John 14:1-3:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

In addition, the OT saints will dwell in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, for they looked forward to this city:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Paul and the writer of Hebrews identify this city existing now:

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother (Galatians 4:24-26).

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven (Hebrews 12:22-23).

Consequently, John sees the New Jerusalem, which already exists, coming down out of heaven from God. It is not part of the new creation. Some believe this city is suspended in the first heaven during the Millennial Kingdom like a satellite city, to which the resurrected saints travel back and forth. Others believe it will remain in orbit, somewhat like the moon, above the new earth for eternity.

DWELLING OF GOD (21:3-5). Here God will dwell throughout eternity along with His people. The curse is completely removed and God makes everything new. During the Millennial Kingdom the curse is only partially lifted since death still occurs (Isaiah 65:20). God dwelling among His people is the fulfillment of God’s plan for man, which Adam and Eve forfeited by rebelling and Israel lost by apostasy.

From the throne, Christ tells John to write this down since these things are faithful and true. This includes all that went before. The apostle again seems to have ceased writing, being overcome with ecstasy.

IT IS DONE (21:6) signifies that God’s eternal kingdom has arrived on earth. All of God’s predictions and promises are fulfilled. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” attests Jesus, who has fulfilled everything God planned from the beginning (Ephesians 3:8-11). The end is a new beginning!

RESIDENTS OF THE CITY (21:6-8). All overcomers inherit all this as sons of God. Everyone else has his or her place in the Lake of Fire. What a contrast of two eternal destinies! “The spring of the water of life” is the Holy Spirit Jesus spoke about to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (cf. John 4:6-15; 7:37-39). Those who drink of this water and remain loyal to Christ have overcome the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Some think its unscriptural to speak of any one company of redeemed as being the exclusive bride of Christ. If the city, the New Jerusalem, is the bride, then all who go to live in the Holy City make up the bride and not just a part of them. Every resident (OT, NT or Tribulation Saint) is saved because of Christ’s redemption.

The abundant and eternal life will be experienced fully: (1) satisfaction from the spring of the water of life; (2) full inheritance as sons; and (3) true fellowship with God the Father. Cowards, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars will be excluded. These eight traits are representative of those who have their place in the Lake of Fire.

IN THE SPIRIT (21:9-10). This is the fourth vision where John is “in the Spirit.” One of the angels with the seven bowls carries the prophet to a mountain great and high to see the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. The Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (Matthew 4:8). That was a pittance compared to what John was shown.

THE SPLENDOR OF THE NEW JERUSALEM (21:11-14). This city with beautiful walls and gates has no temple—for it is all a temple; a city that needs no light—for God is its light; a city into which nothing impure ever enters; a city filled with trees, and streams, and fountains, and fruits—its the Paradise of God! The city was like a precious jewel in which the glory of God shines in all its brilliance. It is like a jasper, clear as crystal. Jasper is a transliteration rather than a translation. This refers to a completely clear diamond, signifying the city is translucent—nothing is hidden from view!

It had a great, high wall with twelve gates and with twelve angels at the gates. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were driven of the Garden of Eden so they could not eat of the Tree of Life. After God drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Symbolically, the twelve angels keep the unsaved from entering into the city to eat of the Tree of Life.

On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 48:31-34). There are three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. This indicates that saints from all twelve tribes of the nation of Israel enter into the Holy City. Additionally, the twelve gates suggest entering and leaving this city. Now, we are bound by time and space. Our own galaxy, one of millions, is so large that a space ship traveling at the speed of light (187 thousand miles per second) would take over one hundred thousand years to cross it. Once we receive our resurrection bodies we will be able to travel as fast as the angels—possibly the speed of thought! It is hard to imagine that we will not have access to God’s vast creation.

The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb pictures the completion of the Bride as the Temple:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Notice that the angels, Israel and Church remain distinct in the Eternal State.

THE MEASUREMENT OF THE CITY, ITS GATES AND WALLS (21:15-17). Some commentators think the city is shaped like a pyramid; others believe it is a cube with each side measuring 12,000 stadia, or about 1,400 or 1,500 miles.

newjerusalemTHE HOLY CITY, THE NEW JERUSALEM

The Most Holy Place in the Temple, where the Shekinah Glory dwelt, was a cube (1 Kings 6:20). Some refer to the New Jerusalem as “the City Foursquare.”

The size of New Jerusalem would stretch from the Eastern Seaboard of the United States to the Mississippi River on the one side and from the Canadian Border to the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. We now live on the outside of this sphere, but perhaps we will live on the inside of the sphere of the new earth. The diameter of the moon is 2,160 miles and possibly the exact size of the New Jerusalem. The walls of 144 cubits, about two hundred feet, could be the outer surface. We will know for sure when we get there!

THE SPLENDOR OF THE WALLS, FOUNDATION AND GATES (21:18-20). The wall was made of jasper, and the city and street of pure gold, as pure as glass; therefore, everything is constructed of transparent materials. John describes the foundations and walls as being decorated with every kind of precious stone. The named stones John used are diversely interpreted. They are said to refer to (1) the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20; (2) the jewels adorning the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13); and (3) the signs of the Zodiac. The exact colors of some of these stones remain uncertain, however. It seems best to understand them as adding to the beauty of the city. The city is aglow with the radiance of color as the glory of God and the Lamb shine through its translucent materials.

THE TEMPLE OF THE CITY (22-23). There is no temple building because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple. The city does not need illumination from the sun or moon since God’s glory gives it light.

The name of the city from this time forward will be: THE LORD IS THERE (Ezekiel 48:30-43).

THE NEW NATIONS (21:24-27). Apparently, there will be nations in the Eternal State. Now, mankind and the spiritual realm are organized and there is no reason to think God will not have organization in His eternal kingdom. The fact that the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it highly suggests that the city orbits the new earth.

The gates are never shut since there is no night in the Holy City. Those who love the darkness and hate the light would detest this city for it is ablaze with light! Nothing impure nor anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful will ever enter the New Jerusalem; this sets it apart from the city of the Millennial Kingdom. Only those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will have access to this city. There is no hope beyond the grave for the lost.

THE RIVER OF LIFE (22:1-2a). Chapter twenty-two focuses on the splendor of the inner life of the city rather than its physical beauty. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. This river is unlike any on the present earth since its source is not a hydrological cycle but God’s throne. Its continual flow symbolizes eternal life.

Inside the city is a Garden—the Paradise of God. Through the center of it flows the river of life. Four rivers flowed from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14). A river will flow from the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8). Psalm 46:4 speaks of the river of the Eternal State:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.

THE TREE OF LIFE (22:2b-3a). “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.”

Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God resulted in man living under God’s curse and exclusion from the tree of life. This exclusion and the curse are removed in the Eternal State. The twelve fruits and leaves symbolize the abundant life in heaven. Somehow, this tree’s fruit and leaves enrich life, making it full and satisfying.

Together, the River of Life and the Tree of Life speak of abundant life and eternal life. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). His promise will be fully realized in the Eternal State.

THE THRONE OF GOD (22:3b-5). “The Throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads,” indicating they belong to Yahweh.

The LORD told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Once the curse of death is removed, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, who lives in unapproachable light will be seen face to face.

It is reiterated that there will be no more night. The residents of the city will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.

“And his servants will serve Him” . . . “and they will reign for ever and ever” invites two questions: (1) How will they serve Him? (2) Over whom will they reign? The vastness of the Universe might offer numerous opportunities for service and reigning!

NON-LITERALISTS. Some Historicists, Preterists and Idealists spiritualize the whole vision in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two as applying to a nonmaterial state of existence in heaven. Others who do not take Revelation literally say the New Heaven and the New Earth represent what Paul called “a new creation” in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Hence, the New Jerusalem represents the Church. The Old Covenant has passed away and the New Covenant has come. The present heaven and earth go on forever!

The Eternal State

CHAPTERS TWENTY-ONE and TWENTY-TWO reveal the new heaven and the new earth along with the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. Here is described the eternal and consummated kingdom of God and the saints on the new earth.

After John witnessed the Lamb’s wrath and judgment through a manifold series of visions consisting of conflict, evil, judgment and doom, Christ reveals a dazzling vision of the Eternal State, the new order of things. From the smoke, the eternal day dawns clear and sparkling like a diamond.

Death will cease when the Millennial Kingdom merges into the Eternal State and God the Son hands over the kingdom to God the Father.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet”. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

There are seven new things and the passing of seven old things revealed in these two chapters:

THE NEW THINGS
1. A New Heaven, 21:1 1.
2. A New Earth, 21:1 2.
3. A New Jerusalem, 21:2 3.
4. Everything New, 21:5 4.
5. A New Paradise, 21:1-5 5.
6. A New Source of Light, 22:5 6.
7. A New Place for God’s Throne, 22:3 7.

THE OLD THINGS
1. No More Sea, 21:1
2. No More Death, 21:4
3. o More Sorrow, 21:4
4. No More Crying, 21:4
5. No More Old Order, 21:4
6. No More Sun, Moon, Night, 21:23: 22:5
7. No More Curse, 22:3

Contrasts between the City of Babylon and the Holy City, the New Jerusalem:

BABYLON THE GREAT
1. The climax of human rebellion
2. The fall of the Dragon, and Beasts
3. The doom of the Prostitute
4. Going down with the earth
5. Weeping and fear of man
6. End of the old creation

THE NEW JERUSALEM
1. The fulfillment of divine purpose
2. The triumph of God and the Lamb
3. The crowning of the Bride
4. Coming down out of heaven
5. Peace and fellowship with God
6. Beginning of the new creation

Chapter twenty-one may be divided into three parts:

1. Visions of a new heaven, earth and city, 1-4
2. God’s promises and warnings, 5-8
3. Visions of the New Jerusalem, 9-27
a. Its splendor, 9-14
b. Its measurements and its foundation, 15-21
c. Its glory and purity, 22-27

These final visions of the apostle John detail what the LORD promised through the prophet Isaiah.

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more (Isaiah 65:17-19).

Since nothing of the former things will be remembered nor come to mind, there must be nothing left of the original creation!

THE NEW HEAVEN (21:1). This chapter opens with a kai, which is usually translated “and,” but modern translations have “then.” The idea is that these visions follow the thousand-year reign of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment. John is saying after these things, I saw ouranon kainon (a heaven new, or a new heaven).

The Greek term kainon does not denote “new” in time, but “new” as to form or quality, of different nature from what is contrasted as old. When used of form and substance it means “recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn, of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, or unheard of.” Isaiah 65:17 employs the Hebrew word vdx (chadash), which denotes a fresh new thing that has recently come into existence. Hence, the new creation is not something new in time (neov) or restoration (diorywsiv) but something entirely new.

The Hebrew term for heaven (Mymv) is always plural but the Greek word (ouranov) can be singular or plural. Here the singular is used. What heaven is new? Paul was caught up to the third heaven, the Paradise of God (2 Corinthians 12:2); the second heaven is universe; and the first heaven is what surrounds the earth. It is most unlikely, John saw a newly created heaven surrounding the earth and the other two remained as originally created.

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded (Psalm 102:25-26 quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12).

THE NEW EARTH (21:1). Obviously, all the saints are removed from the present earth to the third heaven before it is destroyed by fire and a new earth is created by God. It seems more than likely that all the saints and holy angels will be witnesses of the Great White Throne Judgment in heaven as the present heaven and earth flee from Christ’s presence.

There are seven stages to this present earth:

1. The Original Earth, Genesis 1-2
2. The Cursed Earth, Genesis 3
3. The Flooded Earth, Genesis 7:4
4. The Post-Flood Earth, Genesis 8:13 -Revelation 6
5. The Tribulation Earth, Revelation 6-19
6. The Millennial Earth, Revelation 20
7. The Earth Destroyed by Fire, 2 Peter 3:10

NO LONGER ANY SEA refers to the world system under the control of Satan, not a body or bodies of water that cover approximately one-third of the face of the earth. Symbolically, the term sea denotes danger, storms, separation, and barriers as well as the nations. None of these things, except nations, exists on the new earth. The Eternal State is entirely different from the Millennial Kingdom. Some commentators take sea literally. But what body of water: all seas, or the Mediterranean Sea?

Romans has its “much mores” (5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20; 9:22; 11:12, 24); while Revelation has its “no mores.”

The Last of the Unrighteous

THE LAST OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS (20:12-15). Many have convinced themselves that death ends all and there is no final justice. Others often ponder over the fact that evil deeds appear to go unpunished in this life while righteous men often have trouble all their days. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, furnishes insight into these deliberations:

When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God (Ecclesiastes 8:11-12).

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The time of final judgment has arrived in Apocalypse. Here John witnesses the second resurrection along with the second death. “The dead” refers to those who are spiritually dead at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. As with Armageddon, there will be survivors, after the Battle of Gog and Magog, who hate Christ. They will be judged first.

The only ones not judged at the Great White Throne will be the righteous, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the unsaved survivors after Armageddon, who had been separated as “goats” in the judgment as described in Matthew 25. Postmillennialists behold this separation as taking place at the Great White Throne since they do not believe Christ will return to earth to reign.

Several books are used for this judgment. One is the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27); a second would be the Bible; and a third would be a book where every individual’s words and deeds are recorded since the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. In addition, the books might include the books of memory, conscience, character and nature.

This judgment will be just and righteous!

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13; cf. Matthew 25:41ff; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Next, the dead of all ages are resurrected and judged by Christ. Multitudes that sleep in the dust of the earth awake to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). The sea gave up the dead that were in it, death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Christ holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).

Many people speak as though the unsaved immediately go to Hell once they die. They go to the side of Sheol/Hades known as a place of torment (Luke 16:22-24), to await the final resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment. The residents of the temporary abode of Sheol/Hades are now cast into the Lake of Fire, which is Hell (geenna, Gehenna), where the fire never goes out according to Jesus:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43).

Hell is the second death, where separation from God is made permanent.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Hell is a place of everlasting punishment and destruction.

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:47-48).

Hell is a place of darkness and gnashing of teeth.

And throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50).

Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:13).

Hell is a place of everlasting torment and unrest.

He will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name (Revelation 14:10-11).

holdingplace

Many perceive that the souls of all believers and non-believers will appear together at one final judgment before the Great White Throne to determine who goes to Hell and who goes to Heaven. However, the Bible does not teach this concept.

Many perceive that all unrepentant sinners will experience an identical degree of punishment in Hell. However, the Bible reveals that a holy and just God will judge every individual sinner according to the deeds of his life and will punish him in Hell according to his works (Jude 13). Jesus taught degrees of punishment:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2).

Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market-places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely (Mark 12:38-40).

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:47-48).

There is an old adage: “Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Are you born again?

The Wicked and Dead

THE LAST JUDGMENT (20:11). Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. This person can be none other than Jesus Christ, since He affirmed, “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). White stands for righteousness, purity, triumph, and glory. Justice and righteous are yardsticks of this judgment. Those who rejected Christ will find their works will not save them.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

There is only one-way to escape the Great White Throne Judgment—imputed righteousness by faith.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7; cf. James 2:17-26 on faith without works is dead).

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22-24).

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

THE LAST OF THE FIRST CREATION (20:11) “Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them” describes the disappearance of the present heaven and earth predicted in 2 Peter 3:10-13:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare [burned up]. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

A key phrase in Peter’s description is stoiceia (elements) kausoumena (burn up with heat) luyhsontai (shall be loosed). This describes what happens when every atom is split. Now Christ holds all things together (Colossians 2:17).

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).

Creation as we know it will cease, when Jesus says by His powerful word, “Be loose atoms!” Every atom will split; the heavens and earth explode into fire and melt in the heat — not laid bare but katakahsetai (be consumed by fire). God’s Word and salvation last forever, but not heaven and earth, according to Isaiah and Jesus:

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last for ever, my righteousness will never fail. (Isaiah 51:6).

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).

The Chaining of Satan

MAN’S ENEMY CAPTURED, BOUND AND INCARCERATED (20:1-3). Since the Archangel Michael defeated Satan, he could be the one who incarcerates the Devil. The imprisonment of the Dragon coincides with the reign of Christ. The names used of man’s archenemy reveal the cessation of cruelty (the dragon); cunning deception (that ancient serpent); malicious slander (the devil) and adversary (Satan).

Only Satan is mentioned here, but it’s likely that the rest of the demons also were bound and thrown into the Abyss, the place of incarceration pending their final sentencing to the Lake of Fire (cf. Matthew 25:41).

In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously (Isaiah 24:21-23).

Chapter thirty-three of Second Enoch speaks of the history of the world comprising seven thousand years. The first six thousand correspond to the six days of creation; the last thousand form the Sabbath. Other Intertestamental Jewish literature speaks of angels seizing and binding demons in the depths of the underworld. John’s readers of the first century would have understood this imprisonment literally. The destructive influence of the demonic in all areas of human thought and life will be removed. Temptations of the world and Devil will cease for a thousand years; however, the flesh still will have some sway.

At the end of the thousand years, Satan must be set free for a short time. Why? So that God can bring an end of sin prior to His creating the new heaven and earth. All who survive the Tribulation and enter the kingdom in natural bodies are believers. However, despite that and the personal presence of the rule of Christ, many of their descendants will refuse to trust in Him under Paradise-like conditions.

Those who believe Satan is presently bound and that the thousand years indicates present Church history are hard-pressed to prove their point since other passages teach that he blinds unbelievers and attempts to hinder believers (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Timothy 2:26).

Additionally, 1 Peter 5:8 warns:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The Reign of the Saints

REIGN OF THE SAINTS (20:4-6). The thrones John saw might recall Daniel 7:9. Tribulation saints beheaded for their testimony are certainly in view. Abel was the first martyred because of the Word of God (Genesis 4:1-10); possibly, OT saints are in view also. Every Christian who overcomes will reign with Christ on the earth as His bride as well.

TWO RESURRECTIONS are mentioned: (1) to life and (2) to death. It appears that all saints of every dispensation will be resurrected by the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. This is the fifth beatitude of Revelation. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. Is Job’s assurance, your hope?

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27).

Amillennialists view the first resurrection as the life of the departed saints in heaven or the privileges of the saints living on earth. Clearly, Job was not an amillennialists; he anticipated resurrection and a life on earth with his Redeemer.

The Release of Satan

THE LAST TEMPTATION (20:7). When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison. Apparently, the angel unlocks the Abyss and chains that bind the Devil. Satan had no change of heart after a thousand years of captivity. He still hates God; so it will be with everyone who awaits the final judgment.

The reign of righteousness (Law) will not change the hearts of many born during the Millennium, who will rebel against Christ. The heart that rejects Christ continues to harden; whether in the torment of Sheol/Hades or living in Paradise. Like Adam and Eve, those born into the restored Paradise of the Millennial Kingdom will be tempted by the Serpent. They must choose to trust the Lord or reject Him.

The Battle of Gog and Magog

THE LAST INSURRECTION (20:8-9). Through this final test, God will demonstrate that even under Paradise conditions, man harbors rebellious resentment in their hearts. Satan will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. The size of the rebellion against Christ is staggering. In number, they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves, which is Jerusalem.

Many commentators incorrectly identify this battle as the one described in Ezekiel 38-39. Some expositors place Ezekiel’s so-called Gog and Magog prior to the Rapture of the Church, at the middle of the Tribulation, or at end of Tribulation as Armageddon.

Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog cannot come after the Millennium since the clean up period after the battle takes seven years and the dead will be buried over a period of seven months (Ezekiel 39:9-13). At the final battle, there will be no bodies to bury since fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

The End of Satan

THE LAST OF SATAN (20:10). No prophetic world would be complete without a word about the destiny of man’s archenemy. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Hell is a place of eternal punishment. Most likely, the demons are judged at this time and thrown into the Lake of Fire, which is “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

What the Millennium is Like

WHAT THE MILLENNIUM IS LIKE. Isaiah 65:20-25 is a brief description of the Millennial Kingdom in which there will be longevity but also death. One who will die at one hundred years will be considered still in one’s youth. Note that the curse of death is not removed in the age to come. Rebellion is still possible. In fact, the new heavens and new earth will be created after the final rebellion, the resurrection of unsaved and the Great White Throne Judgment according to Revelation 20:7-15.

During the thousand-year reign of Christ, the earth returns to conditions prior to the Fall. Animals and nature will have been redeemed as well as man. It will be a time of great joy and rejoicing and deliverance for the people of God, but death and sin will still be present. Christ will “rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 12:5), suggesting that all rebellion will be squashed immediately.

The greatness of Christ’s Kingdom will be characterized by universal change in the structure and operation of society in seven areas:

SPIRITUAL IN NATURE. God’s laws will be written on the hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit as the New Covenant is realized in the areas of forgiveness, righteousness, spiritual cleansing, regeneration, and direct knowledge of God (Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27).

ETHICAL CONDUCT. Spiritual orientation will bear fruit of ethical conduct. There will be a proper recognition of moral values. The vile person will be recognized for what he is (Isaiah 32:5), and good men and things will be approved. The adjustment of life’s inequalities will occur (Isaiah 40:4; Psalm 73) and retribution for sin will become wholly an individual matter (Jeremiah 31:28-30).

SOCIAL RELATIONS. Christ’s Kingdom will restore perfect social relations. In this society war will be eliminated (Zechariah 9:10) and an era of peace will be ushered in that will last forever (Isaiah 9:7). The arts and industries of war will be turned to uses for the blessing of mankind (Isaiah 2:4). The antipoverty program will work (Isaiah 65:21-23).

PHYSICAL WHOLENESS. Not only spiritual healing will occur, but tangible effects on the physical will be experienced also. There will be the healing of physical ills (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5-6), restoration of long life (Isaiah 65:20, 22), elimination of physical hazards (Isaiah 65;23; Ezekiel 34:23-31), great geological changes from the Tribulation along with changes of climate (Isaiah 32:15-16; 35:7), increased fertility (Isaiah 35:1-2; Amos 9:13), and changes in the animal world (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25). All creation fell with man and will be restored to Garden of Eden like conditions at the return of Christ (Romans 8:19-22).

POLITICAL CHANGE. The form of government will be a theocracy. God Himself will rule over the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. There will be a central authority for the settlement of international disputes (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). National security will be assured (Isaiah 32:18). Israelites will be restored permanently to the Promised Land (Amos 9:14-15), resulting in the reestablishment and unification of the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37), and the place of priority among the nations (Isaiah 60:10-14). It will be a government of peace, tranquility and blessedness, but on the other hand, it is instant destruction of the insubordinate or rebellious (Isaiah 11:1-4).

RELIGIOUS PURIFICATION. The Ruler of this realm will be both King and Priest (Psalm 110). A central sanctuary will be established in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 37:27-28). The Shekinah glory will return to the Temple (Ezekiel 43:1-7). Israelites will become the leaders and teachers in religious matters (Isaiah 61:6). There will be universal worship of Yahweh (Isaiah 66:23), and this worship of the true God will be compulsory (Zechariah 14:16-19).

EXTENT OF RULE. “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and His name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9). His Kingdom will include all nations of mankind (Psalm 72:8-11). It will last until it merges into the eternal state and goes on forever (Micah 4:7; Psalm 45:6; Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 22:1-5).

Other Characteristics of the Millennial Kingdom

Blessed Kingdom
Psalm 72;6; Isaiah 2:5-6; 30:23-26; 32:2; 61:3, 7; Ezekiel 34:26-27, 29; Joel 2:23; Micah 5:7
Growing Kingdom
Isaiah 9:3; Hosea 1:10; Micah 2:12
Joyous Kingdom
Isaiah 9:3; 42:10-12; 61:3, 7
Peaceful Kingdom
Psalm 72:2, 7; Isaiah 9:5-7; 49:13; Ezekiel 34:25; Micah 5:10-11; Haggai 2:9; Zech 3:10; 9:10
Priestly Kingdom
Isaiah 61:6
Prosperous Kingdom
Isaiah 4:1; 30:23-26; 35:1-2; 62:8-9; 65:21-23; Jeremiah 31:5, 12; Ezekiel 34:26
Purified Kingdom
Isaiah 32:3-8; Ezekiel 37:23; Micah 5:12-14
Redeemed Kingdom
Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; Ezekiel 34:27-28
Restored Kingdom
Isaiah 61:4
Safe Kingdom
Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; Ezekiel 34:27-28; Micah 5:4-5
Spiritual Kingdom
Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27
Unified Kingdom
Ezekiel 37:21-22, 24; Micah 2:12

The Millennial Kingdom

CHAPTER TWENTY is the most controversial as far as interpretation. Today, three schools of interpretation take over—amillennial, postmillennial, and premillennial at this point. The four interpretive approaches of the previous chapters fade as no approach adheres to a single method of interpretation of the last three chapters. Since the first century, Christians have agreed that Christ is coming again—and there agreement ends! The exposition of these final chapters is arguably the chief controversy in eschatological studies. The student who desires to explore the Scriptures and doctrines on this subject will find valuable The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views edited by Robert G. Clouse.

Historic Premillennial also known as Chiliasm (from the Greek word for a “thousand years”) was the view of most of the early Christians. Perhaps Papias (A.D. 60-120) was the first post-biblical author to describe the thousand-year visible Kingdom of Christ. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) shared Papias’ millennial expectation in his Dialogue with Thrypo, when he affirmed his expectation that the faithful departed would rise from the dead and reign with Christ for a thousand years in a rebuilt Jerusalem. In his book, Against all Heresies, Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 130-200) maintained that when the faithful departed are raised, they would reign with Christ for a thousand years of bliss. Jerusalem would be rebuilt, famine would be unknown, and animals would live in harmony with each other and with man. He expected this to happen after the coming of the Antichrist and the second coming of Christ.

Amillennialists believe there is no thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Augustine of Hippo, who was converted in A.D. 386, changed his views during his forty-five year writing career. He previously followed the view of most of the earlier Christians, which was known as “Chiliasm,” which he translated into Latin as “Millenarianism.”

In City of God, Augustine viewed the thousand years not as some special future time but “the period beginning with Christ’s first coming,” that is, the age of the Christian Church. Throughout this age, the saints will reign with Christ—not in the fullness of the coming kingdom prepared for those blessed by God the Father, but “in some other and far inferior way.” He said that if God’s people did not now reign with Christ, the church would not now be the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of heaven; however, he did distinguish different meanings for “kingdom” in the Scripture. Because of his newly proclaimed view, the church was viewed as the place where God’s rule was exercised on earth though a papal monarch during the Middle Ages. Augustine’s teaching was so fully accepted that the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 condemned belief in the millennium as superstitious.

Augustine said the “first resurrection “of which John speaks is a spiritual resurrection, and it takes place throughout the church’s history as the spiritually dead hear the voice of the Son of God and pass from death to life.” At the second resurrection, those who have not come to new life in this era will pass into the second death with their bodies.

Hence, the thousand years of chapter twenty became a symbolic term for the preaching of the Gospel and the control of Satan’s power between the first and second coming of Christ. Satan was bound at the Cross, but not entirely. He cannot stop the advancement of the Gospel (Luke 11:17-23; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14). He will be loosed briefly to wreak havoc and to persecute the Church in the end of this present age. The new heavens and new earth will be created immediately after this present age without the reign of Christ on earth. The reign of the departed saints takes place in heaven prior to their resurrection. The older Amillennial view is that of the spiritual reign of believers on earth in the present age (Romans 8:37).

Postmillennialists believe the thousand years (literal or symbolic) immediately precede the return of Christ. Hence, the Gospel will be triumphant in the last thousand years of Church history. Christians, with God’s help, will gradually convert and reform society into a blessed, though not perfect, state. Satan will be bound at some future time when the Gospel reduces the Evil One’s influence to nothing. His final attempt to win the world will fail and a general resurrection and judgment will occur at the coming of Christ. This was the predominated view of most nineteenth century evangelicals and is still held by some Reformed people today. However, with World War I and II, this view lost its popularity among Christians since the world was becoming worse instead of better.

Dispensational Premillennialists believe Christ comes immediately before His thousand-year reign on the earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem. There will be a restoration of the earth. Satan will be bound for this period and his loosing will close the Millennium. A final battle is followed by the resurrection of the dead and judgment of the unrighteous at the Great White Throne. The new heavens and new earth will be created after the Millennium.

HOW LONG IS A THOUSAND YEARS? A thousand years appears three times outside of the Book of Revelation:

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4).

Even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place? (Ecclesiastes 6:6).

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8).

Amillennialists and Postmillennialists say a “thousand years” is never used elsewhere in Scripture for an actual number of years, but only to suggest the idea of a very long time; hence, the entire Church Age.

Premillennialists say a “thousand years” is to be taken as literally as three and one half years, forty-two months, and 1,260 days. No number in Revelation has any evidence, which would cause it to be taken other than literally.

ALMOST HEAVEN ON EARTH. For centuries, people have prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For all practical purposes, this prayer is answered with the return of Christ. He will come to reign, with an iron scepter, on David’s throne in Jerusalem, as King of kings and Lord of lords. Quoting Amos 9:11-12, James assured the Jerusalem Council that when Christ returns He will restore the kingdom of David.

Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” that have been known for ages (Acts 15:14-18; cf. the Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7:8-16).

Prior to Christ’s ascension, the burning question on the mind of the apostles was “Lord, are you at this time going to restore [apokayisthmi = restore to former state] the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). After Pentecost, Peter still looked for this restoration:

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21).

“Times of refreshing” and “restoration of everything” include the theocracy and the perfect state before the Fall of Adam and Eve.

The Great Supper of God

ARMAGEDDON (19:17-21) is the Great Supper of God; the Sixth Bowl Plague (Revelation 16:12-16). No battle is described, just the results!

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:1-6).

Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness! Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:12-14).

The Valley of Jehoshaphat will be called the Valley of Decision because the great deciding issue of life and death for the nations will be determined there. The armies of the world will gather to do battle. At first, they are drawn to do battle against each other, than against Israel, and finally against Christ who suddenly descends from Heaven.

The Great Supper of God contrasts with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (19:9). One denotes the blessed fellowship and glorious destiny of the righteous in heaven. The other symbolizes the destruction of Christ’s enemies on earth.

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather (Matthew 24:27-28).

AN ANGEL STANDING IN THE SUN cried in a loud voice, inviting birds to this supper so they can gorge themselves on flesh. Armageddon will be a vivid demonstration of the sinfulness of the flesh (Romans 7:18); its temporariness (Isaiah 40:6) and shamefulness (Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20). Flesh (sarkav) appears five times in verse 18 — the Bible has nothing good to say about the fallen human nature.

The Beast and the False Prophet

HELL OPENED (19:20). The beast will be captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs, he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them will be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. Hell is still waiting for its first occupants—the king, who is the Antichrist, and its second, the False Prophet.

Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulphur, sets it ablaze (Isaiah 30:33).

“Topheth” (htpt) means “a place of fire.” Topheth was located in the southeast end of the Hinnom Valley of Jerusalem. In Jesus time, this valley was called Gehenna (geenna). It was the receptacle of the refuse of the city, to consume which fires were constantly burning. Hence, Jesus used it to express Hell—the place of darkness, gnashing of teeth, and fire—the Lake of Fire.

But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:22).

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28).

Anti-Christ Nations

DOOM OF THOSE WHO WAR AGAINST CHRIST (19:21). Will there be survivors? Most likely, there will be none at Armageddon. Not all nations will participate in this battle, however. There will be the separation of the survivors of the Tribulation Period when Christ returns.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:31-34).

The purpose of this judgment is to deal justly with the inhabitants of the earth who survive on the earth after Armageddon. Individuals from all nations will be judged by Christ, not national governments. Those on His left will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matthew 25:46). Whether these survivors will be cast into the Lake of Fire or sent to Sheol/Hades to await the Great White Throne Judgment is not clear.

Those who go to eternal life will enter the Millennial Kingdom in natural bodies and repopulate the earth. The Gospel message will have been preached to all nations in the Tribulation and each nation will be represented in the Kingdom.

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).

Nations (probably new ones) and kings will exist in eternity.

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it (Revelation 21:24).

Historicists hold that Christ riding forth on the white horse signifies the victories accomplished by the militant Church through the Word of God, the sharp sword that proceeds from His mouth. The end of the beast and false prophet is the end of Papal power.

Preterists for the most part expect Christ actually to come again, but some do not. They apply Christ on the white horse as the continuing warfare of the Church through the proclamation of the Gospel following the fall of Babylon the Great. They perceive that the preaching of the Word of God will defeat the nations and end with their virtual conversion. Those nations who do not submit to Christ the King will perish.

Idealists view Christ riding on the white horse in His Second Coming, when the persecuting power embodied in the government is directed for the final time against the Church. Armageddon symbolizes the end of the Christian dispensation. Some hold that since the Beast and False Prophet are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire, they are not humans but purely ideal forms since according to them a human individual cannot enter Hell alive. Spiritual death is inflicted upon those who have proved themselves hostile to God. In the end, the nations succumb to the power of Christ either at His Second Coming or gradually through the preaching of the Gospel.

Futurists see Christ coming forth on the white horse with the armies of heaven to establish a literal kingdom on earth for one thousand years. Some hold those who come with Him are only the Church, while others include holy angels, OT saints and Tribulation saints. The only weapon involved in Armageddon is power and authority of the spoken word coming from Christ’s mouth.

The Return of Christ with the Armies of Heaven

HEAVEN STANDING OPEN (19:11-16). Heaven is standing open for the visible return of Christ to earth on the Day of Vengeance.

Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground” (Isaiah 63:1-6; cf. Psalm 145:1-6; Daniel 2:34-35).

Thus, we learn reason why Christ is dressed in a robe dipped in blood from Isaiah and reasons for the Day of Vengeance has been revealed by the Apostle Paul.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

RIDER ON A WHITE HORSE pictures a conqueror. This rider is called “Faithful and True.” For the second time, John sees a rider on a white horse (Revelation 6:2). The first was the Antichrist and the second is Jesus Christ. Both riders are bent on conquest. Ironically, the Antichrist will come in peace, but Christ comes with justice and makes war.

King Jesus rode into Jerusalem the first time, lowly, meek and gentle; the second time, His arrival is fierce, vehement and violent. Notice the changes Matthew made to Zechariah’s prediction, which reflect the rejection of the Messiah at His First Advent. The people rejoiced greatly and shouted, but it was short-lived.

Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:5).

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

His eyes are like blazing fire, signifying His fury and wrath as well as His torrid justice. On his head are many crowns (diadems), denoting His conquest and authority over the earth’s kingdoms.

FOUR NAMES are associated with Christ at His Second Coming: First, He is called Faithful and True, in contrast to the Antichrist who is a counterfeit. He makes good on His promises. Second, He has a name written on him that no one knows but He Himself. So don’t ask! Third, His name is the Word of God, which is His eternal name (John 1:1, 14). Fourth, He has the name KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, denoting His sovereignty over all the earth, whether evil kings He destroys, or saints who will reign with Him in the Millennial Kingdom. This name reiterates that initial identification of “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations (Psalm 2:9). This sword contains all the power of the Word of God (cf. Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 12:4) and authority used by Christ to verbalize all things into existence (Genesis 1; Colossians 1:15-16). He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).

IRON SCEPTER indicates how Christ will rule (poimainw shepherd) the nations. He, who would have shepherded them with a pastoral rod and with the golden scepter of His love, shall dash them in pieces, as obstinate rebels, with “a rod of iron.” During the Millennial Kingdom, most rebellion will be internalized; external rebellion will receive swift justice and punishment. The Father said to the Son:

You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Psalm 2:9).

Isaiah’s prediction of the Messiah reflects not only His incarnation and vicarious death at His First Advent, but also His Second Advent, when He will reign on David’s throne.

[Christmas] For to us a child is born, [Good Friday] to us a son is given, and [Second Advent] the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN were following Christ, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. These riders are legions of holy angels (Matthew 26:53) and thousands upon thousands of His holy ones (Jude 1:14-15), the raptured and resurrected saints are included in Christ’s army also.

The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11).

You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him (Zechariah 14:5).

Since Christ says, “I have trodden the winepress alone” and “no one was with me” in Isaiah 63:1-4, and since the armies of heaven do not have blood on their clothing, they might only be spectators to the final judgment. On the other hand, “alone” might refer to the nations and peoples of the earth being excluded.