VICTORY AND JUDGMENT
Pray these words before you read: “Send forth your light and truth, let them guide me” (Psa. 43:3).
Read REVELATION 20:7-15
The Judgment of Satan
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 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. 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.
The Judgment of the Dead
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 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. 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 they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Create in me a pure heart … Then I will teach transgressors your ways … Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.’1
This fifth vision is one of the most debated and obscure in the book. John uses imagery from Ezekiel 38 and 39, reworking it freely. In Ezekiel, Gog rules over Magog, but here they are two nations; there, the scene of birds feasting on flesh follows the battle; here the order is reversed. The ‘camp of God’s people’ (v 9) recalls the Exodus wanderings, even though the saints have just been reigning; the mention of ‘the city he loves’ (v 9) looks ahead to the new Jerusalem of the next chapter. As someone said, ‘If you are not confused, you don’t know what is going on!’
Yet we can still learn from this text. Once more, God’s victory is instantaneous and without human effort; the ‘fire … from heaven’ (v 9) reminds us of Elijah.2 Despite the overwhelming odds – their number is ‘like the sand on the seashore’ (v 8) – there is no doubt about the outcome; God and Satan are not equal powers. The imperial systems that were Satan’s instruments (the beast and the false prophet) have been destroyed; now the power behind the throne of oppression shares their fate.
In the sixth of these seven visions, God takes his throne to enact judgment over all the world. Through the two (sets of) books (the books of the deeds and the Lamb’s book of life) there is a focus on grace amidst judgment, on the free offer of life in the midst of accountability for how we have lived. God is supreme; when the sea, and ‘death’ and ‘Hades’ (v 13), the traditional abodes of the dead, have given up their inhabitants, they too are destroyed in ‘the lake of fire’ (v 14). Not just the causes, but the consequences of sin and evil are done away with.
Which am I most aware of – God’s grace to me, or the responsibility that he calls me to in living for him? How do these relate to one another?
Heavenly Father, when there is a whole lot of shaking going on around me, my hope in you keeps me stable. All thanks and praise to you.
1 Ps 51:10,13,15 2 1 Kings 18, alluded to in Rev 11:5
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