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Revelation: Final Judgment

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
Rev 20:8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
Rev 20:9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Rev 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Why would God permit Satan to be released, even for a short while? We are not told. Perhaps it was to demonstrate that Satan has not repented of his evil, because we see that he will go right back to the same kind of efforts to destroy the church. But as far as is revealed, Satan is not permitted to inflict harm on the church during this time. Apparently, before he actually launches his attack, he and his armies will be destroyed by fire from heaven. And they will be thrown into the lake of fire, utterly destroyed forever.

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
Rev 20:13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
Rev 20:15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The dead are raised and judgment begins! This is a single resurrection of all the dead, as foretold by Jesus himself:

Joh 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
Joh 5:29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

This resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous comes at the end of the thousand years — not a resurrection followed by a thousand year reign, as is often mistakenly taught.

Interestingly, there are two sets of books. One set of books contains record of all the deeds of each person to be judged. The other book, the Book of Life, simply contains names of those who will be permitted to enter into eternal life. The rest will thrown into the lake of fire. As Jesus taught,

Luk 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

We should take note that names that have once been recorded in the Book of Life might be subsequently removed if we are not faithful:

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

This admonition to be faithful would not be meaningful unless the converse were also true — that failing to overcome may lead to the name being blotted out of the Book of Life — a horrific consequence!

Finally, Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire:

Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Death and Hades, of course, are not living beings but nonetheless are counted as enemies of the saints:

1Co 15:24-26 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.

With the final destruction of Death and Hades, no more enemies remain, but only goodness and blessings. Christ then hands over the kingdom to God the Father, and we will be ready to be introduced to our eternal home in Heaven!


Revelation: Binding Satan and the Thousand Years

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
Rev 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Rev 20:3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

The Roman Empire, the great enemy of the early church, had been destroyed. Now God took measures to prevent Satan from raising up another nation to make war on the church.

It was not the first time God had restrained Satan to varying degrees:

Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Job 2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Mat 12:29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

Col 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

1Co 10:13b … And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

There is a mistaken notion that God and Satan are two great powers of near equal strength, in an eternal stalemate between good and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has always held absolute power over Satan, and has limited his evil activities as he saw fit. This time, God sent a single angel to arrest Satan and bind him with a chain. He saw no need to send his legions of angels for the task.

Satan was bound for a thousand years — not a literal time period but representative of a long time. The period began after the destruction of the beast, the Roman Empire. And it lasts until shortly before the final judgment. So we are currently in this period, protected by God from the kind of persecution faced by the early church under Rome.

Meanwhile, during this thousand years, we see another remarkable scene:

Rev 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. 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.

The apostle John reports that he saw the souls of the martyrs reigning with Christ during the thousand years. These same souls were seen under the altar in the throne room of God (Rev 6:9), and again before the throne of God in Rev 7:15, and yet again in Rev 14:3. John saw these souls in his vision, reigning with Christ. Since we are now in the midst of that thousand year period, that reign continues today.

Those reigning with Christ are those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. So it is the martyrs who reign. Nothing is said in the passage of anyone other than the martyrs reigning with Christ for a thousand years.

So, since they reign with Christ, where is Christ?

Mar 16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

Act 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Heb 8:1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
Heb 8:2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Clearly Christ is in heaven at the right hand of God. And what is Christ doing?

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
1Jn 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

So Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of God, serving as our high priest, interceding on our behalf. And since the souls are reigning with Christ they must also be in heaven serving with Christ on our behalf.

Rev 7:15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

The martyrs will continue to reign with Christ until Satan is loosed just before Judgment Day.


Revelation: Chapter 19

July 10, 2011

Rev 19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
Rev 19:2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Rev 19:3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
Rev 19:4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

The wrath of God had been poured out upon the two beasts and the prostitute. The Roman Empire, and its capitol city Rome, stood condemned. The great persecutors of the church were about to be destroyed. Celebration ensued! The saints could now look forward to the wedding feast. As the angel said, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! These are the true words of God.”

Rev 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.

The Faithful and True rider was King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He vanquished the armies of the beast with the sword in his mouth, the Word of God. Destruction was complete. The beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire, and the vultures fed on the bodies of the armies.

So when did this happen? It depends on your definition of terms. Some might say 395 AD, at the death of Theodosius I, which marked the last time the empire was politically unified. Others might name 405 or 406 AD when the Goth’s invaded across the Rhine, or perhaps 410 when the Visigoths sacked Rome. Or perhaps it was at the second sacking of Rome, this time by the Vandals in 455 AD. By any definition, once the final Roman emperor had been deposed in 480 AD, the Roman empire had come to an end. The Roman Empire would never again threaten the church.


What One Must Know to be Saved: Conclusions

May 7, 2011

In an effort to revive my blogging activities, I am going to re-post some “greatest hits” beginning with this series titled “What One Must Know to be Saved.”   This is the tenth article in that series, and was first published in August 2008.

From the preceding discussion, the things a person must know to be saved are obvious. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit has recorded for us numerous examples of the gospel being preached to a variety of people. Some of these people were Jews and well versed in the Old Testament scriptures. Others were Gentiles with no understanding of God. The inspired preachers taught an appropriate message in each situation, always pointing toward the same thing.

To receive the promises of the gospel of Christ, a person had to know that God created the world and everything in it, including all mankind; that man had fallen into sin and rebellion against God; that God commanded them to repent; that He had sent his Son, Jesus, the Messiah, into the world to save us from our sin; that Jesus died for our sins; that Jesus was raised from the dead; and that God appointed Jesus to preside over a final judgment of every person.

The evangelists in the book of Acts started at the level of understanding of their audience, and taught what was missing in order to bring them to a basic understanding of those facts. For many, that happened in a single teaching session. For others, it took days of examining the scriptures. And for some, the message was presented repeatedly over a period of months or years. As Paul told Agrippa, conversion might take a short time or a long time.

Once a person had been taught enough to understand and believe those basic facts, they were baptized into Jesus for forgiveness of sins and were added to the church. Subsequently, the teaching continued as they learned more and more about their new lives in Christ.

It is interesting to note what is not recorded in any of the examples of conversion found in scripture.

First, there was no catechism class, and no comprehensive study of doctrine before conversion. Of course, during the timeframe of Acts there was no ambiguity about which Christian church one should join. But there were doctrinal controversies (see Acts 15). Those were important topics which certainly had to be taught to the church. But they were not part of what was taught during the conversion process. People were converted to Jesus, not to a certain form of worship, nor to a form of church government, nor to a particular hermeneutic, etc.

Second, there was no comprehensive study of all the sin in a person’s life before conversion. There always seems to have been some specific sin from which they were challenged to repent. But they were always called to make Jesus Lord of their lives. That covers all the other bases. As the new convert progressively learned about sin and righteousness, they continued to repent, because Jesus was their Lord.

Third, there was no trial period to prove repentance prior to conversion. Once a person came to faith in Jesus, and made Jesus Lord, they could be baptized. Of course, the example of John the Baptist (Luke 3:7-8) shows us that we should call for repentance and that we should not overlook clear evidence of a lack of repentance. But conversions in Acts typically occurred in a single encounter, and the convert’s commitment to make Jesus Lord was taken at face value.

There is much more that should be taught after conversion. As Thomas Campbell stated in his sixth proposition, there are many things that “belong to the after and progressive edification of the church” which are not meant to be part of the profession of faith given at conversion.

The basic facts taught to potential converts are sufficient to bring them into a saved relationship with God, and to place them in the church. Therefore, the only things required in order for a person to remain in that saved relationship with God, and in the fellowship of the church, is for them to continue in what they began: faith in Jesus, and submission to Jesus as Lord.


What One Must Know to be Saved: Corinth

April 30, 2011

In an effort to revive my blogging activities, I am going to re-post some “greatest hits” beginning with this series titled “What One Must Know to be Saved.”   This is the ninth article in that series, and was first published in August 2008.

Luke records in Acts 18 that Paul entered Corinth and taught them the gospel.

Act 18:4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Act 18:5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Later, Paul summarized his message to the Corinthians:

1Co 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Later in the same letter, Paul further elaborates on the gospel message he delivered in Corinth:

1Co 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
1Co 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
1Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
1Co 15:6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
1Co 15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
1Co 15:8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1Co 15:11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

That is the message on which they “took their stand.” In other words, those are the essential facts upon which their saving faith was based. Paul’s message to the Corinthians was the same as it was to everyone else:

  1. Jesus was the Christ
  2. Christ died “for our sins”
  3. Christ was raised from the dead
  4. Evidence! All this was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and is confirmed by the eyewitness testimony of more than 500 people.

Paul also pointed out that the gospel had a dramatic effect in his own life (a fact they could easily observe). Paul “got it.” When someone understands the gospel message about what Jesus did for us, and why, it has an effect.


What One Must Know to be Saved: Agrippa

April 23, 2011

In an effort to revive my blogging activities, I am going to re-post some “greatest hits” beginning with this series titled “What One Must Know to be Saved.”   This is the eighth article in that series, and was first published in July 2008.

In Acts 26, we have Luke’s account of Paul’s defense before King Agrippa.

King Agrippa was familiar with the Old Testament prophets. It was not necessary in his case to establish the basic facts about God and his past relations with the Jews. So in Paul, in his testimony before Agrippa, simply explained how he, as a Pharisee, had come to believe in Jesus and to devote his life to spreading that message.

Paul told Agrippa of his background as a Jew, and that his recent activities were the result of his hope in the promises God made to the Jews. He explained how he had persecuted the church, and recounted his conversion on the road to Damascus. And he told Agrippa of the instructions he received from Jesus:

Act 26:17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
Act 26:18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

And he testified that in his subsequent activities he was carrying out those instructions.

Act 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.
Act 26:20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

Paul then summarized the gospel message he had been teaching:

Act 26:22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen–
Act 26:23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Paul’s message to Agrippa contained the same elements as we have seen previously:

  1. That Jesus is the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament;
  2. That Jesus suffered and died and rose from the dead;
  3. That Jews and Gentiles alike are called to repent and turn to God;
  4. That forgiveness of sins was offered through faith in Jesus.

Agrippa was not immediately converted by Paul’s testimony:

Act 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Act 26:29 Paul replied, “Short time or long–I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

As Paul indicated, the message sometimes converts in a short time, but in other instances conversion requires a longer time. And in Agrippa’s case, as is too often the case, he apparently never did come to accept the message.


What One Must Know to be Saved: Felix

April 16, 2011

In an effort to revive my blogging activities, I am going to re-post some “greatest hits” beginning with this series titled “What One Must Know to be Saved.”   This is the seventh article in that series, and was first published in July 2008.

Act 24:24-25 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem eventually led to a trial before Felix, governor of Judea. Felix was well acquainted with the Way. But historians tell us that Felix was a man of many vices. As Adam Clarke says:

As bad a governor as Felix most certainly was, he rendered some services to Judea… This was all true; but, notwithstanding this, he is well known from his own historians, and from Josephus, to have been not only a very bad man, but also a very bad governor. He was mercenary, oppressive, and cruel; and of all these the Jews brought proofs to Nero, before whom they accused him; and, had it not been for the interest and influence of his brother Pallas; he had been certainly ruined.

Something of the character of Felix can be seen from the fact that he frequently called for Paul, hoping to receive a bribe.

Despite the fact that Paul was on trial before Felix, and dependent upon the governor for favorable verdict, he boldly chose to preach to him about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come — directly challenging the life and character of the governor. Felix responded with fear, and sent Paul away.

The text does not give us all the details of Paul’s message. But what we do learn is that, in preaching the gospel to a lost man, Paul directly challenged the sin in his life. Righteousness, self control, and the judgment to come were important parts of the message Paul delivered to the lost — so important that Paul did not omit it even when it might cost him his freedom, or his life.