Judgement Before the Great White Throne

Book of Revelation – a series presented by pastor Michael Walker

Lesson #22 – Revelation, chapter 20

Attention now focuses on the final phase of the Last Judgement that transpires at the close of the Millennium. What will take place during this thousand-year period before that final phase? What purpose will that final phase serve in dealing with the universal sin problem? Why will those who are lost appear before God’s “Great White Throne” before their ultimate destruction? Why does the Bible speak of two resurrections? What is the difference between the first and second death? How will God ensure, without removing our freedom of choice, that sin will not arise a second time? These are all important questions that will be answered in this particular study.

Chapter 20

Having summed up the last Judgement in Revelation 19:17-21, this chapter now goes into the details of this final phase that will transpire over a millennium from the time of Christ’s Second Coming as outlined below: –

The First Resurrection

v. 1

“Bottomless pit” – Greek: abussos which refers to an abyss, a desolation or a void. The term is also used in Luke 8:31 where the demons begged Jesus not to “order them back into the abyss”, which appears to suggest a place where they were kept in isolation. It is, however, not to be taken to refer to a subterranean place of torment because that would be contrary to the teaching of Scripture. The word abussos in Genesis 1:2 is used in the LXX to describe the earth being a “formless void” at the commencement of its creation – in other words, a place of nothingness.

At the Second Coming of Jesus, when He appears in power and glory, this earth will be shaken to its physical foundations (Revelation 16:17-21) and the wicked will run and hide, calling for the rocks and mountains to hide them from His presence (Revelation 6:14-16). The Old Testament prophets also described this fearful event with reference to the battle of Gog and Magog, a reference to the unsaved (Ezekiel 38:1,2 c.f. Revelation 20:7,8; Isaiah 2:19-21; 24:1-3, 17-21; Jeremiah 4:23-27; Ezekiel 28:17-19). At that time the wicked will be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

vs 2,3

“The key” and “a great chain” are symbolic in stating that ultimate control is in the hand of God who restrains and now isolates Satan for 1,000 years by confining him into “the pit” (abussos). This is confirmed by the statement that he would be unable to deceive the nations again until the 1,000 years were ended. It should be noted that: At the Second Advent, the 1st Resurrection will take place when all the dead in Christ will arise first and the living saints will be gathered to join them in the air to be with Jesus for evermore (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). All the wicked will be slain across the face of the desolated earth, while the saints are safely with Christ in Heaven; so, Satan will have no one to tempt nor deceive for the next 1,000 years.

The Millennium

vs 4,5

Those identified here are all the redeemed who are now in Heaven with Jesus during the millennial period. It particularly identifies those who were martyred for their faith as well as those who came through the final Time of Trouble during the last days of earth’s history. No doubt they are highlighted in this description as an assurance to all God’s faithful people who await the time when Christ intervenes at the end of time (c.f. under the 5th Seal: Revelation 6:9-11). These now come to life at the 1st Resurrection when Jesus takes them to Heaven. In contrast, “the rest of the dead” do not come back to life until the end of the Millennium.

v. 6

The blessing of those who are in the 1st Resurrection is that they will never experience the Second Death but will live and reign with Christ, not only for the next 1,000 years but also for eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:17; John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). The Second Death has no power over them because they believe and accept that Jesus tasted that death for us on the Cross (Hebrews 2:9; Matthew 27:46). The Bible frequently refers to the first death as a sleep (e.g.Matthew 9:24; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:59,60). Everyone who experiences that death will eventually come to life again, either to the Resurrection of Life (i.e. the First Resurrection) or the Resurrection of Damnation (i.e. the Second Resurrection): John 5:28,29. The Second Death is never referred to as a sleep in the Bible because those who experience it shall never live again – they will be completely destroyed because it is the eventual outcome of sin (Romans 6:23).

v. 4

During the Millennium, the saints will be involved in Judgement. There are 3 phases of the Judgement – namely:

  • The Investigative Judgement (Pre-advent Phase) which takes place between 1844 until the Close of Probation [c.f. Lesson 10: The Arrival of God’s Last-day Prophetic Movement] (Daniel 7:9-14; 8:14) for the unfallen, onlooking universe to know that God’s judgements are just.
  • The Millennial Phase of Judgement (Revelation 20:4) for the saints to know that God is just.
  • The Executive Judgement before the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15) for the lost to recognize that God has been just.

In each of these phases, God reveals His justice and mercy. He is open and transparent, so that in dealing with the sin problem, the question will never again arise concerning His character. It will be witnessed that God has been completely open and transparent in His dealings with this planet in rebellion to the point that sin will not arise a second time (Nahum1:9). Also, the lost will finally acknowledge the supremacy of God as the rightful Ruler of the universe (Philippians 2:10,11).God’s Word informs us that when the Lord returns, the saints will be engaged in judgement (1 Corinthians 4:5) and He also states that we shall judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2,3); those must surely be the angels that rebelled causing the war in Heaven (c.f. Revelation 12:7-9).

v.s 1-3

While the saints shall be engaged in examining the judgements of God, Satan and his demonic hosts will be without anyone to tempt. He will be waiting on death row to ponder his fate!

“For a thousand years, Satan will wander to and fro in the desolate earth to behold the results of his rebellion against the law of God. During this time his sufferings are intense. Since his fall his life of unceasing activity has banished reflection; but he is now deprived of his power and left to contemplate the part which he has acted since first he rebelled against the       government of heaven, and to look forward with trembling and terror to the dreadful future when he must suffer for all the evil that he has done and be punished for the sins that he has caused to be committed” – E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p.660.

Further to this, he tried to usurp God’s throne and position; but there is a vast difference between his character and the character of God. There at Calvary’s cross, that difference stood in stark contrast as God’s character shone brightly against the darkness of Satan’s malevolent cruelty to our loving God. Eugene Peterson expressed the exposure of Satan’s character thus:

“He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets”

Colossians 2:15, The Message Bible

      What is more, God, the Almighty Creator, is able to create all things, animate and inanimate, by the power of His Word (Psalms 33:9); and He created our planet in just 6 days. God allows Satan the opportunity during the Millennium to demonstrate his ability to create. After all, he wants to be god, so he has the opportunity to prove his ability to create. Whereas the true God created from nothing, Satan has some materials at his disposal and during 1,000 years he is unable to create not even a blade of grass! Satan is a fake if ever there was one!

The Second Resurrection

vs 7,8,11-13

At the end of the Millennium, the wicked will be raised to life once more and Satan in a last, desperate attempt will once again set about deceiving them; but before he is able to embark on his plan, the whole wicked realm will be captivated before the appearance of Christ on His Great White Throne in the final phase of the Last judgement. The books will be opened before them and they will be shown why their names are not in the Book of Life. They will realize that they are forever lost.

“In the day of final judgment, every lost soul will understand the nature of his own rejection of truth. The cross will be presented, and its real bearing will be seen by every mind that has been blinded by transgression. Before the vision of Calvary with its mysterious Victim, sinners will stand condemned. Every lying excuse will be swept away. Human apostasy will appear in its heinous character. Men will see what their choice has been. Every question of truth and error in the long-standing controversy will then have been made plain. In the judgment of the universe, God will stand clear of blame for the existence or continuance of evil. It will be demonstrated that the divine decrees are not accessory to sin. There was no defect in God’s government, no cause for disaffection. When the thoughts of all hearts shall be revealed, both the loyal and the rebellious will unite in declaring, ‘Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? . . . for Thy judgments are made manifest.” Revelation 15:3,4 – E.G. White, The Desire Of Ages, p.58.

Then what the Scripture declares will be fulfilled:

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

Philippians 2:10,11, NKJV.

vs 7-9

 It must be at some point of time during this period that the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is seen descending from God out of Heaven because Satan now rounds up the wicked to surround it in his last effort to win the warfare against Christ. Even though they have acknowledged that God is just and the rightful Ruler of the universe, they remain unrepentant and therefore respond to Satan’s rallying call! The fact is that they will not be able to repent at that time since the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from them at the Close of their Probation. They will behold the saints safely inside the City while unable to enter it themselves (Luke 13:28; Revelation 22:15). Their cry will be: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” Jeremiah 8:20. They will no doubt feel the anguish that Jesus felt when He was separated from His Father as He hung on that cruel cross bearing our sins. Jesus uttered that cry: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”Matthew 27:46 so that we need never utter that forsaken cry. Jesus tasted the wrath of God against sin – i.e. being “given up” (Romans 4:25) – so that we need never be given up. Only those who have rejected His mercy will experience the horror of that anguish as they realize they are forever lost – yes, lost for all eternity!

vs 10,14,15

Then God performs His “strange act” (Isaiah 28:21, KJV) by allowing His lost children to go. This will pain Him very much: no doubt His tears will flow! Hear Him crying out: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … My heart churns within Me” Hosea 11:8.

Sulphurous fire rains down enveloping the entire planet, to cleanse it and destroy everything on it. “Forever and ever” – the terminology signifies perpetuity of its consequences rather than endless burning. The consequences of the fires of destruction will be eternal. Otherwise, if God performed a miracle to keep them alive throughout eternity, it would be a contradiction of what the Judgement has proved Him to be. A Biblical example of its meaning is given regarding Sodom and Gomorrah which are no longer burning today (Jude 7). They will be utterly consumed and turned into ashes: 2 Peter 2:6, c.f. Malachi 4:1-3. The fire will destroy the godless: 2 Peter 3:9 – they will no longer exist (Psalms 37:10,20). This will be the difference between the first and second deaths: from the first death everyone will be raised to face the judgment (Hebrews 9:27) but the second death will be final.

After the universe is forever rid of the presence and effects of sin, God has promised to make a new heaven and a new earth that will be replete with righteousness: 2 Peter 3:10-13.

The full video presentation is available below:

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