Saturday, September 09, 2006

How it all ends - Revelation 19-20 Part 2

At the end of Revelation 19, we are told the fate of the beasts of Revelation 13 – the Roman Catholic Church and the coming New World Order. Revelation 20 begins by telling us the fate of satan, who has influenced, deceived and directed these beasts:

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 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.” (Revelation 20:1-3)

We are told here that satan is bound for a thousand years after the end of this current age. We are also told that while he is bound, he will not be able to deceive the nations – meaning that he will not be able to influence the world during the thousand years. These thousand years are commonly referred to as the ‘Millennium’. After the thousand years has ended, satan will be allowed influence in the world again ‘for a short time’.

‘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. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 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.” (Revelation 20:4-6)

Verses 4 through 6 give us some very important information. John sees the souls of those who were killed because they remained faithful to Jesus in the face of persecution and death. We are also told that John sees those that were killed ‘because of the word of God’. As I’ve mentioned before, the Lord asks us to stand against our enemy – regardless of what the world throws at us. Some true believers will die because they remained faithful to the Lord and carried out His plans – even if doing so resulted in their deaths. Their love for the Lord exceeded their love of their own lives. This parallels Revelation 12:

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:10-11)

The souls that John sees in Revelation 20 have overcome the world and satan. They have given their lives to the Lord and will receive their reward in heaven for doing so. Many in the world will not understand why they have given their lives. They will consider it foolish to stand against the beasts…which could result in death. This explains why were told the following verses in Revelation 13. Who can stand against the beast? No one without the help of the Lord – no one who does not have faith strengthened by God.

“Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (Revelation 13:4)

“He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” (Revelation 13:15)

Why will people of the world be unable to see and understand? Why will they be deceived? Because they will continue to rely on their own knowledge and understanding. We like to think that we know it all and are truly wise – which is foolish.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Let’s continue with Revelation 20. Verses 4-6 continue by telling us that those that were killed because of their faithfulness did not worship the beast or his image nor did they accept the mark of the beast on their foreheads (in their minds) or on their hands (by their actions). They worshiped and followed the Lord – not the world or anything in the world. They were not deceived by the world because they received true wisdom from the Lord. We also see that these true believers are resurrected and reign with Christ during the thousand years. Those who have died who do not know Christ are not resurrected until the thousand years ends (we’ll discuss this later). We see that those who are resurrected to reign with Christ are truly blessed – and the second death has no power over them. What is this second death? This is a reference to spending eternity in hell. Those who know Christ and have accepted the Lord’s offer of salvation have their sins forgiven and will spend eternity in heaven with Him. Those who have rejected the Lord’s offer of salvation will face eternal punishment for their sins.

At the end of the Millennium, satan is released for a short time and he deceives the nations of the earth once again:

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 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. 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. 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.” (Revelation 20:7-10)

The nations will once again attack the Lord’s people. What is the result? The Lord protects his people and those that are deceived by satan are destroyed. What happens to our spiritual enemy? The Bible is crystal clear – he is thrown into hell for all eternity. Notice who is already in hell – the beast and the false prophet. When things get tough for us here – never forget the final outcome of all of this. Our focus must always be on His kingdom, not the world. We may suffer here for a short time – but we will be with Him for all eternity.

I have read where some scholars believe that this battle of Gog and Magog happens either before or during the ‘tribulation’. They believe this is a reference to some nation(s) attacking Jerusalem (Israel) either before or during a 7 year period of tribulation before the end of this age. This is pure speculation and an incorrect interpretation of prophecy since the Bible is clear on when this takes place – after Christ returns for his faithful followers at the end of this age. This takes place at the end of the Millennium, not at the end of this age.

Chapter 20 concludes with what many scholars refer to as the ‘Great White Throne’ judgment:

“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. 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. 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. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

This conclusion is clear. Each of us will be judged for our lives here. Those that have rejected the Lord’s offer of salvation will suffer a second (and final) death. They will spend eternity apart from God in desolation. Those who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ, those that overcame the world and followed the Lord will have their names written in the book of life. They will spend eternity in the kingdom of heaven with the Lord.

We’ll continue with Revelation chapter 21 in the next posting.

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