The Lamb and Eternal Destiny: Revelation 20:11 to 22: 5
(Also below is The Destiny of the Unredeemed, 20:11-15; 21:8, 27; 22:15)
The last act in the pageant of redemption pictures God's judgment and the final destiny of man.
Just how this was related to the total picture in John's conception, we are not told.
The writers of the New Testament, following the Lord's injunction to " watch,"
expected His second coming and kingdom consummation in their own day.
This is the proper Christian attitude in every age.
Perhaps with this in mind and viewing the triumph of Christ over emperor worship,
John expected the final judgment and the setting up of the eternal order to come
with the victory of Christ over Domitian and his system.
The fact that this was not true does no violence to the integrity of the Scriptures.
The time of the end is a matter for God's sole knowledge and must be hidden
even from those who were inspired of God to write about it.
It will come in God's own time and in accordance with His purpose.
He has not told us when that is to be.
He has told us something of the nature of it.
That is the content of this act in the pageant.
The structure of this vision is in keeping with the message to be given.
When the time of eternal judgment comes, men will stand in two classes; redeemed and unredeemed.
This vision is divided on this basis.
The two are discussed side by side, but there is a broad general division between them.
The earth-stage of the pageant has been closed.
The curtain is drawn on the celestial stage to reveal eternal destinies.
The Destiny Of The Unredeemed, 20:11-15; 21: 8, 27; 22:15
John saw a great white throne and the one who sat upon it.
The white throne symbolizes sovereign and holy justice.
No one can question the verdicts rendered from this judge.
He has all the evidence, He knows how to pronounce a just verdict, and He knows how
to execute the sentence.
In a matter of speaking, He is jury, judge, and sheriff all in one.
John saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne ready to receive their sentence.
No statement is made as to the identity of the small and great as some special group.
It appears that they symbolize the dead generally.
Judgment is measured out on the basis of the records of two books.
First, " books" were opened -- books which contained the works or deeds
of these who are being judged.
The idea of God's keeping a record of the deeds of man is often found in the Scriptures.
It is no doubt a figurative way of saying that God is keeping an accurate record
of the deeds done in the flesh.
None escape His eye, but He does not necessarily have to write them
in a set of books to remember them.
Second, " the book of life" was opened.
This is a " life kind of book" in contrast to the " work kind of books"
The dead were judged according to the things written in the books.
If any man's name was not found in the book of life, the records in the books of works
condemned him and he was cast into the lake of fire.
It is not stated, but seems to be implied in connection with the other New Testament teachings
that if a man's name was found in the book of life, he was safe from condemning judgment
and found his place with a great body of the redeemed discussed in the next chapter.
About the most difficult thing in the New Testament to work into a harmonious system is
the body of Scriptures having to do with death, the interim between death and the resurrection,
the resurrection, and the judgment.
Jesus talked about a " sheep and goat" judgment.
Here John writes about a " great white throne" judgment.
Some New Testament scholars hold that the two are separate judgments
and that one who believes otherwise is a heretic who is untrue
to " plain Scripture teaching."
Other scholars hold that the two are simply different ways of speaking about the same judgment.
In fairness to all the Scripture teachings, this seems to be the better interpretation.
When one sees all the confusion that arises in trying to work out the eschatology
of the New Testament, he is inclined to believe that the Lord has a reason for leaving it that way.
Man needs to know that there is going to be a resurrection, a judgment, and eternal life after death.
It is not necessary to his spiritual progress that he know all the details of those matters.
If it had been, God would surely have revealed it in a plainer way.
It is in line with the economy of God's revelation that He shows to man
what He sees that man needs to know for his spiritual progress.
Other things must be left for God's own knowledge.
There are some things man does not need to know, and he must be satisfied to let it remain
in the knowledge of God alone.
The vision before us was given for the same purpose as the other varied teachings on the judgment:
to warn man of the fact and terror of judgment but to assure him that the terror is erased
for the man whose name is in the book of life -- the man redeemed by the blood of Christ.
This brief paragraph does not exhaust the teaching of the destiny of the wicked.
They appear at other places where a descriptive verse is thrown in by means of contrast
to bring out the blessed condition of the redeemed.
These verses identify those who have their part in the lake of fire: the fearful, the unbelieving,
the abominable, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolators, liars, unclean, dogs,
and " every one that loveth and doeth a lie."
This is not an index to those who find their eternal destiny one of eternal separation and punishment.
It is rather a series describing the quality or character of those who are eternally condemned.
Next: Destiny Of The Redeemed, 21:1 to 22:5