The white throne and the lake of fire
Revelation 20:10-15
r20o
Text
Comments
.10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.   Comments for verse 10 are linked from the previous table. See just below this table.
  For ever See note.
.11 ¶ And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.   Great white throne See note 11a. Contrast with the white horse See a chiastic pattern.
  Earth and heaven fled Obviously this does not mean that our planet and celestial home will vanish. The same event is pictured in the next chapter re2101. See note 11b.
  No more place The disappearance of heaven (sky) and earth means more the ending of evil than the replacement by a pollution-free home. Compare re1208.
.12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.   Dead ... stand See note 12a.
  Books were opened Not to write but to judge. This judgment is before the destruction of the wicked just as the preadvent judgment was before the coming of Christ a thousand years earlier. Note 12b.
.13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.   Sea gave up Satan's prisoners are free long enough to know that God is fair. This is another view of the second resurrection which we can see because there was a first re2006. It is around the throne that the wicked along with the rest of the universe confess that God is just is4523 although no hearts change.
   An interesting passage may be seen to foresee this time of raising the wicked for the final judgment ps06820-23.
.14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.   Death and hell See note 14.
  Second death The wicked remain dead from the beginning of the thousand years.
.15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.   Not found written ... fire Note 15.
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20:10b
Satan joins his friends forever

    We looked at the concept of the lake of fire as it relates to Satan being cast into it 2010a. Below we consider the meaning of "forever."
    "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. . . . And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:10, 13-15).

Two bodies of water
   The popular concept of hell does not come from the Bible although several texts are used to support it. The description just quoted is one of them. Also see pages r14p and r14q. The wicked will certainly be punished with fire. The lake of fire in Revelation represents that punishment, and the sea of glass which we looked at in chapter 15 is its counterpart.
   "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." (Rev. 15:2) 1501a.Image from Corel.

    I see the lake of fire as the fire that comes down to destroy the wicked. The fact that it is the lake of "fire and brimstone" draws our attention to the story of the destruction of Sodom. The wicked are destroyed by the fire just as the people of Sodom were. For more on symbolic "fire and brimstone [sulfur]" see on the fate of the beast worshippers in chapter 14 1411.
    Does the Bible tell of anyone who stood on a sea? How about Peter's experience of walking on the water? Read Matt. 14:22-33.

Burning for a thousand years?
   In the flow of the text, the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire in Rev. 19:20 1920, then the dragon is chained in the abyss of the chaotic earth. Rev. 20:3c. The devil (dragon) doesn't join his two companions r16-3p until a thousand years later here in 20:10. This raises a question about what is happening during this long wait.
   The beast and false prophet are religio-political systems that have been inspired by Satan 1306b. They will have had people attached to them, but all the wicked alive at that terrible time are slain. This happens at the beginning of the thousand years, just after the two systems meet their fate. The end-time wicked thus join the wicked who have died through the ages in the sleep of the first death 1921re. All the wicked dead come to life at the end of the thousand years (20:4). Then Satan gathers them this time not working through systems of people like the beast and false prophet but directly. Thus the end of the activity of beast and false prophet (religious systems) was at the beginning of the thousand years. At the end of the thousand years, people go into the lake of fire, too. So we have both evil systems (or curses) and evil people in the lake. No one burns literally for a thousand years.
    This idea of both people and systems being burned in the fire is confirmed by the fact that death and hell 0608 go into it in 20:14 and all sinners, in the next verse. The two evil powers end when Christ comes. As we noted, they are symbolically cast into the fire of destruction. They wait for the dragon to join them. Then God will give the wicked of the whole history of our planet a final chance to demonstrate their true character as they try to capture the holy city. Then all involved, including the wicked themselves, will understand that God is just in destroying evil practices and evil people.
    We will see some of these ideas later, but should underline here the thought that a lake burning with fire and brimstone is symbolic. It's the fire represented by the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. Being symbolic, however, does not mean that no literal fire will be involved.
   "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3:7). I believe we will see this literal fire particularly at the end of the thousand years, and also at the time of the killing of the wicked at the coming of Christ.

How does Satan get thrown into the fire?
   The beast and false prophet (church of Rome and political force of the US 1301c) are, through the thousand years, in the fire 1920. To understand how Satan gets into the fire we will see how they got there. We suggested that when the people supporting the structures of the beast and false-prophet systems realized that they had been deceived, the alliance broke up 1618al. When the wicked around the city see that they have been deceived again by Satan himself, we may expect that they will turn on him. His system of deception is no longer accepted. God casts it into the lake of fire. Of course, he goes with it.

Image from Corel.
    "Thou [Satan/Lucifer] hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering. . . . Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth. . . . Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
    "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty. . . . Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." (Ezek. 28:13-19)
    God's fairness in ending the terrible career of hate and evil will be understood by those who have followed him. It is time for God to act. (The picture is of a volcano.)

Contradiction? Is forever forever?
    Let's look at verses 9 and 10 together.
   9  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
  10  And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
    In verse 9 the wicked are devoured. We noted that "devoured" means just that 2009b-no. Verse 13 says that all the wicked are cast into the lake of fire. The two describe the same punishment just in different terms. The fire devours them is2611. Also note is6309 where "forever" is a past action.
   Notice the apparent contradiction. Here in verse 9, the wicked will be gone, finished, nothing left. Now, in verse 10 we see that the fire continues for ever and ever! How can both be right?

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Forever
    "Forever" means something different to us than it does in the Bible. In one sense it is symbolic, drawing our attention to the story of the destruction of Sodom. Abraham came out the next day and saw the smoke going up. See Gen. 19. To him that meant it was all over. Sodom had turned to smoke rising never to return. The fire of Sodom went out. It's not burning today. Jude 7 mentions fire of Sodom as "eternal," but Luke 17:29 says that the people were destroyed and Peter says that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are ashes 2 Peter 2:6.
    Other examples: Samuel was given to the lord "for ever" but in the context, we see that this meant for his lifetime 1sa0122. Jonah was in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights which he refers to as "forever" jon0206. From pre-Christian literature, 1 Enoch 10:4, we come to the same conclusion. Also ex1909.
    Paul explains that the destruction is "everlasting" 2th0109. The wicked will never come to life again.
    Forever, as a metaphor, means permanently. It describes the death of the wicked and the life of the righteous. The term is also explained in connection with Rev. 14:11a. I recommend the linked discussion in case all is not clear. We look at different Bible texts there.
Forever
 To see that "forever" is used in a symbolic sense, compare verses 10 and 15. In verse 10, Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented forever. In verse 14, death and hell are cast into the lake of fire. So, in a sense, hell is cast into itself along with death which is obviously symbolic. We can be sure that the fire will be real because the wicked are completely burned to ashes mal0401 and will never be any more ez2819, ob16.

20:11a
The great white throne

     "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:11, 12)

    In chapter 4 we saw the throne of God. " . . . and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." (Rev. 4: 2, 3).

And I saw
    This scene sets us back in time. It finishes by describing again the lake of fire just mentioned in verses 9 and 10. Since the righteous were judged before they were chosen to reign with Christ during the millennium 0611c, 1407d and since the wicked were judged during that period 2004ju, no cases are left to be examined. It is needed, however, for the wicked themselves to understand that God is fair. The appearance before the great white throne is the final judgment, a summary or review. It is also the executive judgment where punishment is carried out.

Punished again
    God's throne is established for judgment, (Ps. 9:7). The white throne may be compared to the white horse. Here all the wicked are punished. At the time of the white horse, the end-time wicked are punished. This means some get punished twice 1915wi. In fact double punishment is prescribed for Lady Babylon 1806. We know that God is fair. At the end of time just before Jesus returns there will be no middle ground. Every person will be very righteous or very wicked.
    "And they [who fear the Lord] shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. . . . Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." (mal-0317f). The wicked of the massive end-time religious movement will profess to be God's true people 1312ma.

20:11b
Heaven and earth fled
    "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them." (Rev. 20:11).
    This is described, in 21:1, as the old heaven and earth passing away, being replaced by new ones. We don't take this to mean the disappearance of sky and ground but their total renewal. The place where God's children would live is totally new.
    "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. . . . And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts." (Mal. 4:1, 3).
    Listen to Zechariah's description: "And his [the Lord's] feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west. . . . And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. (Zech. 14:4, 9)
    See comments on Zechariah 14 for more parallels with the scenes in Revelation. ze14

No more law? (Optional discussion. Click to jump to next part.)
    Do you remember the words of Jesus? "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:18). Although Jesus apparently referred to the five books of Moses by the word, law, the context points to the specific principles of life in the commandments of God on stone and in the laws wrote out by hand.
    The rules and ceremonies pointing to Christ were fulfilled but nothing is fulfilled or ended about the centerpiece, the ten commandments. Do they lose their validity at the descent of Christ with the New Jerusalem? Perhaps the jots and tittles he mentioned do. A jot is apparently the "iota," the smallest letter of the Aramaic alphabet. Aramaic is very similar to Hebrew. It was the common language of the people. Jesus' point is that even the tiny details would stay. God's law is the eternal principle of love. It is His character. Certainly that will last. One of the commandments tells us that we should not covet, among other things, our neighbor's wife. Jesus explained that, after the resurrection (when we are in heaven), we will be like the angels, not marrying or having children (Mark 12:25). It would not make sense to be concerned about the rule of coveting another person's spouse.
    My conclusion is that the form of the law as it was communicated from Mount Sinai may be different. In fact, Lucifer sinned in heaven (Ezek. 28:15). Paul said that " where no law is, there is no transgression." (Rom. 4;15). So we must conclude that there was a law in heaven. I believe it was implicit simply the way of love. No one ever thought of taking the property or the life of another person. It was simply not God's way. I doubt that it was written down because it was written on the hearts of the people. Of course, we don't know these details.
    Some people take the idea of God's law being general principles to mean that we can make substitutions for God's specific requirements like saying that adultery is okay if by common consent. Or that the Sabbath is no longer important (Ex. 20:8-11). Do you remember Isaiah's prophecy. "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD." (Isa. 66:22, 23).
    Back to the time discussed here in chapter 20. Why would the specific form of the law be dropped at the end of the millennium when heaven and earth passes away and not when Christ came at the beginning of the millennium? It is because God's law is the basis, the standard which applies to the lives of those being judged.

21:12a
Dead ... stand
    How do dead people stand? The "dead" are those who have been dead. They are now around the city where they have come intent on capturing it. Earlier we discussed the "rest of the dead" who stayed dead until the end of the thousand years v5. We saw that they were the wicked who were left in their graves when the "dead in Christ" were raised at the coming of Jesus. Here are all who have been dead during the thousand years, whether having remained dead at Christ's coming or having being slain at that time. They are not being compared to the righteous dead so are simply the "dead."
    During the thousand years, they were judged while dead by Christ and the righteous 2004ju. This judgment around the great white throne would be a review of their lives (as recorded in the books), and it would be the final pronouncement and execution of their sentence.

Small and great
   According to the chronology of the patriarchs, life spans sharply diminished at the time of the flood. Humans have grown weaker. We may expect that some of the wicked would be very tall and others shorter. There will be other differences, too. Some will be great sinners who carry on their hands the blood of millions of people. Others will be on the outside of the city rather than inside for simply neglecting the wonderful gift of salvation (Heb. 2:3), letting the weeds grow in their hearts.
    The term is also used for the righteous (19:5). We may infer that the righteous, too, will not all be alike. Some will have been burned and tortured for their faithfulness to Jesus. Others, who have chosen to keep their hearts pure listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit without ever having heard Jesus' name will be there, too (Rom. 1:19, 20). May you and I be determined to stand among the righteous. What a privilege!

20:12b
The books were opened

      "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:12)

According to their works small and great
    We know that sinners have varying degrees of guilt as Luke described.

And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? (Luke 12:47-49)


Verse 49 seems a little strange. Here is my interpretation based on a literal reading. "I have come to cast fire into the earth and what is my will if it has already been lit?" In the context, He explains that He sends the sword in dividing families. That is, those who reject Him will strongly oppose those who follow Him. That opposition is a sample of the evil which lights the fire of punishment. That is, the reason for the fire is the sin on earth. Lu1249.

    We can see how the principle applies to the final punishment a thousand years later. There will be great and small in degrees of punishment.

The books (or scrolls)
    Two particular books may be seen here. First the book of record, earth's history book which the Lamb was found worthy to open re0501. The second is the book of life where their names will be missing re1308

Basis of judgment
    The record book is opened. The wicked see for themselves the justice of their punishment. According to our text, judgment is according to their works (behavior). The time has come to receive the wages of sin!
    Will the righteous also be judged according to their behavior? ". . . the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" mt1627. This would include the righteous. Compare Rev. 2214. Are they saved by their good works? No, by grace ep0208 -10). But works are an index to the heart. "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18).
    Behavior is an index which we can understand. It reveals the faith connection with Christ. The names of the righteous will remain in the book of life. Their judgment occurred before the thousand years so are not in question here 1407d. Their sins will have been confessed and forgiven.

Will the wicked repent?
    ". . . I am God, and there is none else. . . . unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory [exult]." (Isa. 45:22-25; on "Israel" see 0704b)
    The text says "every knee." When confronted with the evidence, the wicked will acknowledge their guilt and the justice of God. They will not change, however. Their decision to rebel was permanent long before. The confession of the wicked is also seen in chapter 5 0513a. With this recognition, Christ's royalty is now universally recognized. He receives the last of "many crowns" 1912.

Three judgments
    Those claiming entry into the kingdom of heaven are judged before Christ returns 2212. The wicked dead are judged during the thousand years 2004ju. The third judgment is this one. We have looked at many details and don't want to miss the overall picture and purpose of the judgments. On the page with the time sequence chart for this chapter, I discuss the three judgments and their purposes.

 

20:13
Up and into the fire

   "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:13-15).

Why would the dead be held?
    Satan holds his prisoners, Jude 9; 0501ex. Now they are resurrected to show that they are still wicked and to learn the justice of God. So here we return to the time of the resurrection of the wicked dead at the end of the thousand years 2006a.

Where the dead come from
    We saw them raised to surround the city. The episode of the white throne expands on that scene explaining the judgment that came just before their eternal destruction. This judgment clarifies to all, including the wicked themselves, that God's decision to destroy them is right.
    We may understand the "sea" to be the place from where the beast arose from where he found support and existence. Those who worship the church in her apostasy are seen in our passage as being released by the sea. "Death and hell" also release their dead. We identified these as riders of the pale horse of the fourth seal as the first and second deaths the death of sleep and the death, at the end of the millennium, of ceasing to exist ez2819. In the OT, Sheol, the Hebrew equivalent of Hades, is usually translated, "the grave" ge3735, is3818. Neither term is associated with punishment. At the time John wrote the book of Revelation, pagan influences had influenced Jewish thinking. See the discourse by Josephus quoted in connection with the story of the rich man and Lazarus. John did not subscribe to these theories but his use of "hades" as a symbol of the second death may have been drawn from contemporary meaning of the word. That death is going down into the grave or pit never to rise again See ez2814-19 (verse 19 is important). Also hell is discussed at re1411d.
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Power holding
the wicked
Classes of the wicked
Sea Worshippers of the beast from the sea, the end-time wicked slain at the coming of Christ in glory.
Death Those who died without Christ throughout the ages before the beast crisis.
Hades/hell Those who die the second death both classes above.
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How are the wicked standing around the city and around the throne at the same time?
    The Bible doesn't explain this but I have a suggestion for you to consider. The city comes down from heaven, as described in the next chapter. It is the bride and wife of the Lamb 2101. The Lamb who was worthy to open the book would take a position to connect with the eyes and minds of everyone, high and lifted up, above the city is0601. The wicked will understand that God sees their inner soul. They will sense their guilt as they are caused to remember their sins. Like the man without a wedding garment,  they will have nothing to answer mt2211 and will bow in recognition of the divine justice 0513a.

And the wicked angels?
   "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 6, 7)
    Although our attention has been focused on people, the angels would have been judged in connection with their being cast out. Angels who chose to follow Lucifer were cast out with him 1204a. From our point of view, their eternal destiny has already been decided. It will be "death," the death from which none will ever be awakened. So here, around the throne all the wicked are called even the wicked angels. They come from the sea, from the earth and from the hopeless "death."

20:14
Death and Hell
    There will be no more sorrow or death. What a blessing! is5111, 1co1555, re2104. There will be no eternally-burning fire of torment. Each is punished according to behavior. The fire is not quenched but goes out when its work is done.

20:15
None of the wicked will escape
    And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:15).

May you and I choose to be inside the walled city at this time.

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