Revelation 20:7-15: An unpopular message.
“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 sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.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.”NIV
There may be much in the detail here that we do not understand, but we can be clear about 2 certainties:
- The eventual, utter and final overthrow of the devil and all evil;
- There will be a day of judgment for No-one will escape. This is not a popular message today, but you would have to disembowel the Bible to avoid it.
In this world, the little people lose out to the big people again and again. The big people can buy anything they want, including justice. But God cannot be bribed. Who can describe the appalling horror of that day for those who do not know Him? There will surely be such burning regret, to know it could all have been different. The author, Dorothy L. Sayers, once said that the essence of Hell is ‘the truth discovered too late.’
You may feel a little confused by the repetition of the idea that people are going to be judged ‘’according to what they had done’’ (12,13). But I remember Jim Packer writing in his outstanding book, ‘Knowing God’, that in the Bible salvation is always by grace, but judgment is always according to works, for it is by our fruits we are known. The works are the indicator, the litmus test, of whether there really is saving faith in the heart (see James 2:14-26).