JESUS CHRIST AND HIS BRIDE - [2] The end of evil [Revelation 20:7-15]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

Revelation 20:1-6 gave us a brief overview of the victory of Jesus Christ over Satan by his incarnation, death and resurrection, and of the period initiated by that victory during which the Church experiences both kingdom and suffering. In the rest of this chapter John reports yet another vision of the end of evil.

A. SATAN AND HIS FINAL DECEPTION OF THE WORLD – 20:7-9b

In these verses John is again shown the final gathering of the forces of evil against the Church. This has already been mentioned in previous visions.

A.1 Satan released – verses 7,8
Verse 7 states that ‘when the thousand years are over’ [NIV]. In the Greek text the ‘when’ is hotan – which has more the meaning of ‘whenever’, implying a date which from our perspective is unknown and imprecise. This is a further indication that the ‘thousand years’ is a symbol for an undefined period of time, rather than a specific fixed length of calendar time. The ‘are over’ of the NIV translates yet another teleo – a reference to completion, to arriving at and achieving the intended purpose and goal.

This ‘when the thousand years are over’ means when God’s purposes for this age have been fulfilled, completed. Just as the death of Christ brought the fulfilment and completion of God’s eternal purpose of salvation, planned before the creation of the world and predicted throughout the Old Testament, so here, when God’s purpose for this symbolic ‘thousand years’ of the Church taking the word of God and the testimony of Jesus to the world is completed, when it has reached its God-appointed goal, then and only then this ‘thousand years’ ends. God is not dictated to by calendar years. Rather it is God who determines the times and the seasons. When his purpose for this age of witness is accomplished, then Satan is released.

In verse 3 we learned that the reason and purpose of Satan’s being bound and locked was ‘to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended’ [that is, until they were completed (the verb is teleo) in terms of their goal and purpose]. When their purpose is fulfilled, then he is released and ‘will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth’ - verse 8.

This escalation of evil in a brief period immediately prior to the end, and itself an integral part of the end, is taught elsewhere:

In 11:7 we see that when the ‘two witnesses’, symbolic of the redeemed, ‘have finished their testimony’ the ‘beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them’.

Here again we find the verb teleo – when the Church has completed its witness. The end cannot come before this. When the witness of the Church is complete, then ‘the beast from the Abyss’ attacks. This ‘beast’, symbolic of the devil, is first identified in 9:11; at his instigation symbolic ‘locusts’ covered the earth with darkness, impacting everyone who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. In this symbolic vision this period is limited to ‘five months’ [9:5]. This is the first of three final ‘woes’ brought on by the last three trumpets.

In 17:9-14 we read of symbolic ‘kings’ who remain ‘for a little while’ and ‘for one hour’ receive authority. They ‘make war against the Lamb’.

In 2Thessalonians 2:3-11 Paul taught of a period of intense deception immediately prior to the end. In Matthew 24:22 Jesus taught that this period ‘has been cut short’ for the sake of ‘the elect, in the context of deception [verse 24].

A.2 The gathering of the nations – verses 8,9
Satan’s purpose in deceiving the nations is ‘to gather them for battle’. All nations of the earth are included by the symbol of ‘the four corners of the earth’. They are symbolically referred to as ‘Gog and Magog’. This takes us back to Ezekiel 38 and 39, chapters rich in symbolic images, that have already been fulfilled in the history Israel, and are yet to be fulfilled in the whole world in the events referred to in Revelation 20:7-10.

Revelation 20:8,9, just as Ezekiel 38 and 39, portrays the enormous number of those gathered together by Satan. They are ‘like the sand on the seashore’. They ‘marched across the breadth of the earth’.

We have already seen this global ‘army’ in Revelation:

Revelation 16:12-14,16: In this symbolic vision, as a result of the out-pouring of the sixth bowl of God’s wrath, three evil spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, and by performing miraculous signs, gather ‘the kings of the whole world’ for ‘the battle on the great day of the Almighty’, at a place called Armageddon.

Revelation 17:11-13: ‘ten kings’ [the symbolic number of completeness] give their power and authority to ‘they beast’.

Revelation 19:19: ‘the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army’ [The Greek has ‘for the battle’ not ‘to make war’].

A.3 The purpose of this symbolic global gathering
The purpose is ‘the battle’ – the one, final battle.

From Satan’s perspective, the purpose of this symbolic worldwide army is to make war on the saints [verse 9] and thereby to make war against the Lamb [17:14]. He has the whole world poised to rid the world of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Already he has succeeded in this ‘brief’ period of time to thoroughly deceive all those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life and who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Now he intends to totally eradicate the Church and remove all knowledge of God and all knowledge of the Lamb.

From God’s perspective, the purpose is exactly the opposite: to bring Satan and all aligned with him to an end. The release of Satan was determined by God [remember the ‘must’ of verse 5]. His deception of the nations was permitted by God. His gathering of this army was permitted by God. In all of this Satan’s utter evil is exposed. In all of this there is one last opportunity for the people of the world to choose between good and evil, between the Lamb and the dragon, between God and Satan. In this last moment of the world, in this ‘three and a half days’, where the symbolic ‘two witnesses’ lie dead in the streets of the world – when the Church and the testimony of Jesus have been quenched – here the people of the world can see clearly the evil they have done and even here at this last hour when the light is removed and the true nature of evil is exposed they have a choice.

Even as the first of the three final woes sounded out to the nations we heard the angel crying out in a loud voice ‘Fear God and give him glory because the hour of the judgment has come’ [14:7].

Even as the fourth and fifth bowls of God’s final wrath were being poured out there was still room for last minute repentance, ‘but they refused for repent and glorify him … they refused to repent of what they had done’ [16:9,11].

They made their choice. They chose the destroyer rather than the Life-giver. Their darkness became complete. Their end was sealed.

From God’s perspective the purpose is Satan’s destruction [17:11]. God has released him only in order to destroy him completely. His actions during the brief period of release demonstrate the necessity and the justice of that destruction.

That this global gathering and ‘the battle’ are symbolic, and not a real physical battle at a physical place called ‘Armageddon’, is indicated by the use of various symbols:

The ‘thousand years’ – a symbolic number indicating completion.

The concept of Satan being ‘released from his prison’ – ‘prison’ is a symbolic reference to the restriction of his deceptive activities.

‘Gog and Magog’ are a symbolic reference to the nations of the earth and their inhabitants.

‘marched across the breadth of the earth’ – symbolizes the progress of Satan’s deceptions over the whole earth.

‘camp of God’s people’ – a symbolic reference to the entire people of God all over the earth. [The term ‘camp’ is reminiscent of the people of Israel after their redemption from Egypt and their forty years in the wilderness.]

‘the city he loves’ – is a further symbolic reference to the entire people of God all over the earth. Note also the anticipation of Revelation 21:10 where the Church is symbolised as ‘the holy City, Jerusalem’. See also 3:12. [The reference to God’s love for his people sounds an ominous warning to any who are ranged against them. Who would dare to be so arrogant, so defiant of God as to attack those he loves? The exodus from Egypt and the history of Israel warn of the consequences of such ignorant arrogance.]

 

B. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE DEVIL – verses 9b-10

As we have seen in previous visions there is no battle. Satan expects that there will be, but he has grossly underestimated his opposition and misread the situation. But not even the massed powers and adherents of evil can prevail even for a moment when God decides to bring evil to a permanent end.

So brief and predictable is this final ‘battle’ between good and evil, God and Satan, that the vision of the redeemed beyond this battle in 7:9-12 does not even mention it. But it reveals that all evil has been completely removed.

So brief and predictable is this ‘battle’ that the vision of the seventh trumpet also fails to describe it. It simply states that ‘the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ [11:15].

So brief and predictable is this ‘battle’ that 14:19 dismisses it with the words ‘The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath’.

So brief and predictable is this ‘battle’ that 16:17 condenses it to ‘It is done!’

So brief is this ‘battle’, such a non-event in terms of battles, that 19:15 and 21, speaking symbolically, tell us that the enemies were destroyed by ‘the sword’ that came out of the mouth of the Rider whose name is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.

Now in 20:9 we read simply that ‘fire came down from heaven and destroyed them’. There is no explicit mention of the return of Christ either here or anywhere else in this chapter of Revelation – not before the ‘thousand years’ nor here after them. But it is implied here in this statement: in this ‘fire’ that comes from heaven the word of Christ [the sword that comes out of his mouth] and the presence of Christ are symbolised.

In 2Thessalonians 2:8 we read that Jesus will overthrow ‘the lawless one’ ‘with the breath of his mouth and destroy (him) by the splendour of his coming’ [compare Isaiah 11:4]. In this statement we see the two things that in an instant destroy Satan and his gathered armies: Jesus’ word [the breath of his mouth, which parallels the ‘sword that came out of his mouth’ in Revelation 19], and Jesus himself – the glorious Son of Man, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. It is not possible, except by his permission, for evil to exist in his presence. His presence means the exposure and the judgment of evil. [This is why so many times in the Bible visions of the presence of God evoked terror and the expectation of destruction in the hearts of men. This is why even the symbolic presence of God in the Most Holy Place was partitioned off from human access.  That fear of the human sinner in the presence of God is exceedingly valid and that prohibition from the presence of God exceedingly necessary if the sinner is to survive.]

Jesus is the Judge, the Faithful and True, who ‘with justice judges and makes war’ [19:11]. All judgment has been committed to him [John 5:22,27]. Fire is symbolic of judgment. Not only does Revelation symbolize Jesus with the two-edged sword in his mouth, it also symbolizes him with ‘eyes … like blazing fire’ [1:14; 2:18; 19:12].

Jesus is the Light. The darkness cannot survive in his presence, except with his permission, nor can those who have embraced the darkness survive in his presence, except by his grace.

But now Christ returns, gathers up the redeemed from the earth [which is not mentioned here in Revelation 20, but can be assumed from previous visions and from other scriptures – e.g. Matthew 24:30,31], and in an instant brings on and completes the destruction of Satan and his followers. This event has already been reported several times in Revelation as we have seen [1] the immunity and safety of the redeemed in the presence of God and the Lamb [7:1-3, 9-12; 11:12; 14:14-16; 15:1-8], and [2] the destruction as it applied to the inhabitants of the earth [14,16], ‘Babylon’ [18], the beast from the sea and the false prophet [19]. Now we see it from the perspective of its impact on Satan, but including reference to the nations.

Satan, who deceived the nations, ‘was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur’. This is the same destination as the beast and the false prophet [19:20]. This judgment is permanent.   

There are deep mysteries involved here in relation to the whole question of the existence of evil and why God permitted Satan’s initial rebellion and Satan’s original and historic deception of the earth. God could have so easily destroyed Satan and the fallen angels before Genesis 3. Why he did not we are not told. We are told, however, that throughout history Satan has been limited by what God permits him to do. Satan does not reign. Evil does not reign. God reigns.

Another question is why Jesus has not returned and destroyed Satan sooner. This one we can answer with confidence because the scripture gives us several inter-related answers:

The return of Christ will not occur until all nations, peoples, languages and tribes of the earth have heard the Gospel and people from them are added to the redeemed [Matthew 24:14; Revelation 5:9].

The return of Christ will not occur until all the redeemed have been saved [completion is symbolised by ‘144,000’, in Revelation 7:4 and 14:3,4].

The return of Christ has not yet occurred because God is leaving time for more people to repent [2Peter 3].

For those questions that remain unanswered we need to say with Paul ‘I know whom I have believed’ – we know that he is Faithful and True, that he is the Light and the Truth, and in him there is no darkness at all. Those questions that at the moment still puzzle us do not hide some dark evil or some vital ignorance or some weak impotence within God. Whatever the answers are they are not inconsistent with grace and they are not inconsistent with truth. Jesus, the Word of God who is all that God is, is full of grace and truth [John 1:14]. There is no place in him, no room in him for anything contrary to grace and anything contrary to truth. That some questions trouble us is probably largely, if not totally, due to the reality that we, in our sin and in our humanness, are personally deficient in both grace and truth. So deficient that we cannot hold them both together in perfect unity, perfect integrity, perfect synergy. Only God and the Lamb can do that. But since we know that God and the Lamb are utterly trustworthy – Faithful and True – we can, with total peace, leave those answers with them.

 

C. THE FINAL JUDGMENT – verses 11-15

Again we are reading about a symbolic vision.

C.1 The great white throne and him who was seated on it
Again we see the ‘throne’. This is the only place in the Bible where it is called ‘the great white throne’. Of necessity it is ‘great’ – for the King of all creation sits upon it. Of necessity it is ‘white’ – the symbol of purity and justice. The judgments that are about to be given are perfectly pure and perfectly just. There is no lack of integrity and no lack of rightness about these judgments. We humans might cringe in embarrassment when we speak of the judgment day – we have been conditioned by a misunderstanding of Jesus’ ‘judge not’, we have been conditioned by current ‘anti-discrimination’ laws, and we are generally man-centred in our thinking, rather than God-centred. Not so God.

Note John’s characteristic reticence to name the one on the throne – as in earlier visions he refers to God not by name but by the phrase ‘him who was seated on it’ [see 4:2,9,10; 5:1,7,13; 6:16; 7:15; and also 21:5]. John in these visions is so overwhelmed by God that not only does he not describe him, as we saw in Revelation 4, he very often does not even mention his name. In the visions he sees, even the angels are so glorious that John tries to worship them [19:10; 22:8,9]. How much more glorious, how much more overpowering is the one who sits on the throne – indescribably glorious, beyond human words.

But here in this vision there is an added dimension. We know from the rest of Scripture that it is the Christ who exercises and implements the judgment of God; we know that it is the Son of Man who comes in glory to judge the earth.

It is he who establishes and upholds his kingdom with justice and righteousness [Isaiah 9:6].

It is he who judges with righteousness and justice and strikes the earth with the rod of his mouth and slays the wicked with the breath of his mouth [Isaiah 11:3-5].

It is he who comes in his Father’s glory and rewards each person for what he has done [Matthew 16:27].

It is he who comes in the glory of the Son of Man, sits on his throne in heavenly glory, and judges all nations [Matthew 25:31,32].

It is he whom God has appointed as Judge [John 5:22,27; Romans 2:16; 2Timothy 4:1,6].

It is before his judgment throne that we must all appear [2Corinthians 5:10].

Perhaps John’s reticence to name the one on the throne arises from this mystery: that God is the Judge of all the earth, and that Jesus, the Son of Man, is the Judge of all the earth. The Lamb, the one who died to save us from this judgment, is the one who applies the judgment.

And here we are led to an even deeper dimension of this great white throne and him who sits upon it. We have seen before that Jesus Christ and his Gospel means life to those who receive him, but means judgment for those who do not. Here before this great white throne the same applies, as we will see in verses 12-15: this same throne which is always the ‘throne of grace’ for those whose names are in the book of life [Hebrews 4:16], is a throne of judgment for those whose names are not there. The one who sits on the throne is not a threat for those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life.

And we can find here an additional level of assurance for the redeemed: In 5:6 we learned that the ‘seven eyes’ of the Lamb refer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Lamb. That same Holy Spirit with whom the redeemed are sealed for the day of redemption, and by whom they are marked as God’s possession, and through whom their inheritance is guaranteed [Ephesians 1:13,14; 2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5] – this same Holy Spirit exercises judgment together with the Lamb. He, not only the Lamb, protects the redeemed from the judgment. They are written in the Lamb’s book, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit.

We have not yet exhausted the mystery of who it is that is judging here on the Judgment Day. Jesus clearly taught that ‘at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ [Matthew 19:28]. This judging role of the redeemed is affirmed in 1Corinthians 6:2 which states ‘the saints will judge the world … we will judge angels’. Nothing is said of this in Revelation 20:10-15. [It may be that it is a passive judgment – that the dead are judged in relation to two things [1] how they responded to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus taken to them by the saints, and [2] how they treated the saints. That the inhabitants of the earth are judged on the basis of these two actions is clear, as we have seen previously. They are condemned on this basis. We have already seen that Revelation consistently teaches a connection between the mistreatment of the redeemed, the prayers of the redeemed and the preliminary and final judgments poured out on the world.]

In relation to the redeemed ‘judging’ the world and angels Matthew 12:39-42 is instructive. Jesus taught that on the judgement day the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south would rise up in judgment against the unbelieving generation that refused to hear his words. The basis of this was that they repented, but these did not, even though a greater witness was present. The repentance of the former stands in judgment on the non-repentance of the latter.

In confirmation of the presence of the redeemed with Jesus are Paul’s words in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17, which attests the permanent presence of the redeemed with Jesus forever. This is also taught in Colossians 3:3b,4: ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’. There is an indissoluble union between Christ and the redeemed.  Where he is, there also are all the redeemed.

C.2 Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them
Previously John has been overwhelmed by the ‘voice’ that sounded from the throne, and the combined voices of praise that came from the presence of the throne. But now that sense of awe, that awareness of insignificance, is multiplied. Now that feeling of being totally caught up and integrated into the vision and into the reality it symbolises is all but total.  

This vision stands in contrast to the vision of God in Revelation 4 and 5, where the throne and its glorious occupant were surrounded by the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, the ‘thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand’ angels, and ‘every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them’. Here, in this vision, there is, at first, nothing but the great white throne and the one seated on it. Earth and sky have ‘fled from his presence’ – so completely does his throne and his presence fill the vision that there is no room for anything else. Not even a small spot. In the vision it seems that God is all there is. God and this one human observer, John.

As John will soon be shown, there is also here in this disappearance of ‘earth and sky’ the intimation that soon there will be a new heaven and a new earth, as we will see in Revelation 21. With the destruction of the evil one, with the ‘last battle’, the old order has ended. A new order is on the way.  In that new order, that new world, God is indeed all in all [1Corinthians 15:28].

C.3 I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne
But first the judgment must be completed. Up to this point only the beast from the sea, the false prophet and the devil have received their final punishment. Those inhabitants of the earth who chose to follow them and their deceptions and were living when the end came, were physically killed by the final calamities that were poured out upon the earth. Just as the word of Christ created the world, even so the word of Christ has brought the world to its end. Now they too, along with all who have died from the beginning of the world, must be judged.  

Here in this vision ‘the dead’ are judged. Those who had not followed the Lamb now come alive [Revelation 20:5]. These ‘dead’ include ‘great and small’ – human position and status are irrelevant here before the Almighty God. How and where one died is also irrelevant [17:13]. There the dead all stand before the great white throne of judgment. Every human being who has ever lived are standing before the throne.

Note: there is some debate whether or not the believing dead are included. That they are is clearly indicated by the multiple references to the book of life. If only the unbelieving dead are here the mention of the book of life is irrelevant, for none of the unbelieving are in that book.

C.4 … and the books were opened …
In the symbolic images of this vision John sees unnumbered ‘books’ which are opened, and from which the dead are judged ‘according to what they had done as recorded in the books’ [verse 12,13]. The judgment is individual … ‘each person’ … ‘according to what he had done’. It is not a matter of what nation, or what culture, or what denomination, or what organization he belonged to, or what any of those groups had done. It is about each person, and what each person has done.

When we think of this process as it is recorded in the vision it would take an exceedingly long time to  check the records of each individual who has ever lived, then check whether or not they are in the book of life, and on that basis declare the judgment. This is all by way of symbolic vision. In the age of computers we have some idea of how quickly incredible amounts of information can be searched and isolated. That God, in reality, not vision, can in an instant process all the data about all the dead goes without saying. This judgment day is not a matter of everyone hanging around waiting, waiting, waiting for their name to be called and their case to be heard. How terrible such waiting would be for those near the end of the last book!

‘The books’, and what is recorded in them symbolize God’s perfect and complete knowledge of every human being who has ever lived. He knows what we have thought, said and done. Not only does he know in a general way that not one of us is ‘good’ [Romans 3:12], not only does he know in a general way that we have ‘all sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], he also knows the detail of our lives – our actions or lack of actions [Matthew 25:31-45], he knows every word we have spoken [Matthew 12:36], he knows the things done in secret [Matthew 6:4,6,18; Luke 8:17], and he knows the secret things of the heart [1Corinthians 4:5]. He knows it all. He has remembered it all.

About this judgment ‘according to what they had done as recorded in the books’: this sounds like judgment according to works. It sounds like it contradicts the gospel of salvation by grace [although the references to the book of life should defuse that problem.] The Scriptures have a number of things to say about this:

[1] When the Jews asked Jesus ‘what must we do to do the works God requires?’ he answered ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’ [John 6:28,29]. Regardless of how ‘good’ or religious a person is, all that counts for nothing if this one work of believing in the Son is not present. [Compare Paul’s realization of this in Philippians 3:1-9].

[2] Looking from a different perspective, Jesus taught that there are ‘many’ who verbally address him as ‘Lord’ and do all manner of impressive things in his name, yet their failure to live a life consistent with the will of his Father exposes the fake nature of their faith. He himself states that he never knew them – they never were his [Matthew 7:21-23].

[3] This truth that true faith is evidenced by obedience is strongly taught by James, who wrote: ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. … Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do’ [James 2:17,18]. John’s first letter is very strong on this point.
John Calvin put it this way: ‘It is … faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone’. John McArthur put it even more briefly as the title of one of his books - ‘faith works’.

It is a false faith that questions the necessity for works – a faith that has no real knowledge of who Jesus really is and no real understanding of what Jesus was really doing on the cross.

C.5 The other book – the book of life
We have read of this symbolic book on several occasions.

In 3:5 Jesus promised those who overcome that they would be dressed in white, that he would acknowledge their names before his Father and his angels, and that he would never blot their names out of the book of life. Some assume from this the possibility that Christians whose names are already in the book of life can have their names removed. However that is not what Jesus said. The redeemed are those who overcome. If they do not overcome they are not the redeemed. Their names were never in this book. The symbol is not the reality. Putting aside that impossible conclusion, this reference to the book of life assures the redeemed that on the day of judgment Jesus will acknowledge the redeemed before his Father and the angels.

In 13:8 the people whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life are the only ones, from all the inhabitants of the earth, who do not worship the beast.

In 17:8 everyone except those whose names are in the book of life are astonished when they see the beast. This seems to infer that only the redeemed have any real awareness of the power and nature of evil.

Paul in Philippians 4:3 also refers to the names of believers being in the book of life.

The book is ‘the book of life’ – ‘life’ is the Gospel promise to all who believe in Jesus, the Son of God. The book belongs to ‘the Lamb’ – the Lamb who was ‘slain from the creation of the world’, the atoning sacrifice by which we, who are sinners, are redeemed and justified (acquitted) in accordance with the justice of God [Romans 3:22-26].

The Lamb’s book of life contains the names of all who by his death have already been removed and released from the judgment.

C.6 The outcome of the judgment
For those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life the outcome is ‘he was thrown into the lake of fire’ – the same fate as the devil, the beast from the sea, and the false prophet. The same fate as ‘Death and Hades’ [verse 14]. This ‘lake of fire’ is ‘the second death’ [verse 14].

We have already been told that ‘the second death’ has no power over those who have experienced ‘the first resurrection’ [20:6]. Now we see that all of those who escape ‘the second death’ are those whose names are in the book of life [20:15]. [See also 2:13 – where those who overcome are ‘not hurt at all by the second death’].

If we were to look at the names of the redeemed in ‘the books’ we would find there no record of unforgiven sin. The Scripture uses a variety of images to communicate this: for example, Colossians 2:13,14 speaks of the cancellation of all that stood against us. 1John 1:9 speaks of cleansing. Romans 4:8, quoting Psalm 32, speaks of the Lord never counting the sin of the redeemed against them. Psalm 32 talks about sin being covered. All of the sin that was ever written on the pages of the redeemed in ‘the books’ has been paid for. The judgment due to it has already been poured out on Jesus, the Lamb: he bore our sin in his body on the tree [1Peter 2:24]. He died for us [Roman 5:6,8]. The punishment necessary for our peace with God was upon him [Isaiah 53:5]. Our iniquity was laid upon him [Isaiah 53:6].

For those whose names are in his book of life there is simply no punishment left. Justice has already been met. It is as if God ripped out our debit page. And this is indeed the image used in Colossians 2:14 – our offences, our failures to keep the law of God, were nailed to the cross of Christ. For these sins he died – he took the judgment, he bore the wrath. There is no more left.

But all of this is not even mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15, it only mentions the fate of those not in the book of life. This vision assumes that we, the redeemed, know this.

It assumes that we really do believe what we say we believe.

It assumes that we have no fear of this judgment because we already know and fully depend on the love of God demonstrated in the atoning death of his Son, the love of God that casts out all fear of judgment [read 1John 4:9-18].

It assumes that we know without a doubt that we have eternal life in his Son [read 1John 5:9-13] because this confidence is based on the testimony of God himself.

Why would the redeemed fear this judgment? Are they not those who have believed the word of God and the testimony of Jesus? And if they believe these, how can they possibly fear the judgment?