The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8
v] The final judgmentSynopsis
In this, the next "and I saw" vision, John sees God enthroned in heaven. Before the throne stand "the great and small" of humanity raised from "death and Hades." The books are opened so that each can be "judged according to what they have done." Those whose names are not written in "the book of life" face "the second death", cast into the "lake of fire" with "death and Hades."
The Kingdom of God is at hand; the day of judgment is upon us, and those whose names are not written in the book of life will face annihilation.
i] Context: See 19:11-16.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The final judgment:
The destruction of the universe, v11:
The day of judgment, v12-15;
The judgment of the righteous, v12;
The judgment of the rest, v13-15.
The series of kai eidon, "and I saw" apocalyptic visions covering 19:11-21:8 now reach a climax. The messianic era of the inaugurated kingdom of God, the reign of God in Christ in this present age (the thousand years - an age where Satan is bound so enabling the free and effective proclamation of the gospel) has ended - the enemies of God and his people destroyed. In the passage before us we have an "and I saw" vision of the throne of God, and we witness the universe destroyed in a "cosmic conflagration", Beale, v11. A second "and I saw" vision follows, describing the settling of accounts, v12-15. This is followed by the final "and I saw" vision, the new heavens and new earth, 21:1-8. Beale suggests that these are simultaneous events; the new age begins with the passing away of the old.
The scene for the settling of accounts is the throne room of God. Gathered before the "great white throne" is the whole of resurrected humanity, the "great and small" and there opened before them are account books recording "what they had done." These will serve as evidence for the prosecution and thus the basis for judgment. Along with the account books there is "another book", "the book of life." This book records the names of those who will be saved from "the second death" / judgment, 20:14-15; it is they who will share in the new heavens and new earth, 21:1-8.
It should not be assumed that the names are inscribed in the book as a predetermined act on the part of God. As Smalley puts it, "human choice, for or against the gift of God's love and life, is a consistent reality", cf., 20:15, 22:14-15. Osborne argues that the judgment is universal; "beginning with the saints and finishing with the sinners." All are judged according to what they have done, but the difference for those whose names are inscribed in the book of life is that they will be forgiven and rewarded. When it comes to the sinners, those whose names are not inscribed in the book of life, the lake of fire, with eternal torment (20:10), is their end. As already indicated, apocalyptic imagery should not be treated literally, ie., the imagery is "a pictorial representation of a transcendent reality", Glasson; it is an image of the Last Judgment. The horror John describes entails eternal separation from the source of life.
To emphasize the finality of this sinful age, John not only has those "not found written in the book of life" in "the lake of fire", but also the place of the dead, "Hades", and "death" itself.
Text - 20:11
The destruction of the universe, v11: Drawing on Daniel 7:9, John describes God's throne as dazzling white ("righteousness", Blount, "holiness and vindication", Beale) and large ("the size befits the stature of God as the Almighty", Blount). Before the divine presence "earth and the heavens" flee. This escape probably images the annihilation of the heavens and the earth. Escape is obviously fruitless, but it may image the self-destructive element in the passing away of all things.
kai eidon "Then I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.
ton kaqhmenon (kaqhmai) "him who was seated [on it]" - [a great white throne and] the one sitting [on it]. The participle serves as a substantive, the second accusative object of the verb "I saw." "Then I saw God sitting on a large white throne", TH.
apo + gen. "from [his presence" - from [whose presence fled the earth and the heaven]. Expressing separation; "away from." "Heaven and earth fled from his presence and were seen no more", TEV.
autoiV dat. pro. "for them" - [and a place was not found] to them. Dative of interest, advantage; "for them", as NIV.
The day of judgment, v12-15: i] The judgment of the righteous, v12. If we follow Osborne then the scene is of the general resurrection of the just and unjust (believers and unbelievers), both living and dead, standing before the throne of God for the enacting of judgment on the basis of the deeds recorded in the open books; so also Smalley, Beale, .... Along with the open books is another open book, the book of life, with the names of those who will not have to face the consequence of their deeds. It is they who will share in the new heavens and new earth, 21:1-8. Bauckham argues that this scene is not of the final eschatological judgment, but is a timeless image of salvation / damnation.
kai eidon "And I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.
touV megalouV kai touV mikrouV "[the dead], great and small" - These adjectives serve as substantives, standing in apposition to the accusative object "the dead." The construction is a merism serving to encompass all humanity.
eJstwtaV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing" - The NIV, as with most translations, treats the participle as the complement of the object "the dead" of the verb "to see", standing in a double accusative construction.
enwpion + gen. "before [the throne]" - Local preposition, expressing space, "before"; "standing in front of the throne", Barclay.
thV zwhV (h) "the book of life" - [and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book] of life. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting an assumed "book"; see 3:5. Note the use of the passive verb for "opened". Is John implying that God does the opening, ie., a theological passive? "And the books dealing with them were opened. And another book was opened, the book of life", Cassirer. "The [divine] register of the living", Barclay = the register of those gifted with life through faith in Jesus Christ.
kata + acc. "according to" - [and the dead were judged from/by the things having been written in the books] according to. Expressing a standard, "in accordance with, corresponding to."
ta erga (on) "what [they had] done" - the works [of them]. What deeds are assessed? The works may simply be the totality of a person's behavior, deeds good and bad, which when weighed, condemns . The book of life identifies those with a free Get Out Of Jail card. So we may have here a judged by works but saved by grace model, so Osborne, Blount, ..... Smalley may be right when he states that the deeds relate to "spiritual loyalty, either to God or to the Satan", although he then includes the evidence of such, ie., "personal and corporate behavior." It is very hard to break away from the faith + works model!!! So, the deeds may indeed be loyalty based; is the individual loyal to the Lamb, or to the Beast? Is their faith in Christ, or the secular city? The book of life records the names of those who have faith in Christ.
ek + gen. "as" - from. Here the preposition probably expresses cause, "because of", or more likely means, "by means of / on the ground of" - a means consisting of a source; "the dead were judged by what they had done, as recorded in these books.", REV.
twn gegrammenwn (gegrafw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "recorded" - the things having been written. The participle serves as a substantive.
en "in [the books]" - Local, expressing space.
ii] The judgment of the rest, v13-15. John now presents a resurrection scene which seems to be out of sequence, having just described the "great and the small" awaiting judgment before the throne of God. Charles thinks that the verse is out of order but John is just expanding his vision; raised and then judged "according to what they had done", as v12. The three realms, sea, death and Hades, have a negative connotation, particularly as realms for the powers of darkness, but John is just describing them here as the holding places of the dead, those who, in the last day, rise to face judgment. Given that this age has ended, "death and Hades" will not be needed any more, v14. And just in case the reader missed the point, John reminds us that if we are in the book, we are not in the lake, v15.
touV "that [were in it]" - [and the sea gave the dead] the [in it]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in it" into an attributive adjective limiting "dead"; "the dead which were in the sea", as NIV.
touV "that [were in them]" - [and death and hades gave the dead] the [in them]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, as above. "Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead [that] they held", TEV.
kai "-" - and. Smalley thinks the conjunction carries temporal force here; "And then each one of them was judged ....."
ekastoV adj. "each person [was judged]" - each [was judged]. The adjective serves as a substantive, "each one", subject of the verb "was judged." Note that the adjective is singular, but the verb is plural, such that "each" is distributive.
kata + acc. "according to [what they had done]" - according to [the works of them]. Expressing a standard, "in accordance with, corresponding to." "And each person was judged by the record of what they had done", Barclay. For ta erga, "the works", see above.
tou puroV (r roV) gen. "[death and Hades were thrown into the lake] of fire" - [and death and hades were thrown into the lake] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "the burning lake", the lake of burning sulfur; but see 19:20. Mounce, also Smalley, thinks that "death and Hades" represents the spiritual forces of evil; they are now cast with Satan into the burning lake and destroyed. Sweet argues that "death and Hades" at this point represents the unrepentant dead, raised from their temporary imprisonment in Hades, and now cast into an eternal imprisonment in the burning lake. Koester may be closer to the mark when he states that the image simply illustrates that "the role of Death and Hades is ended", cf., 1Cor.15:26.
ou|toV pro. "[the second death]" - this [the lake of fire is the second death]. The demonstrative pronoun is forward referencing to "the lake of fire", the predicate nominative of the verb to-be, with the nominative "lake [of fire]" standing in apposition to ou|toV, "this"; "this, namely the lake of fire, is the second death." The second death, "the punishment of the wicked after their resurrection at the end of the age", Koester, is represented by the ever-burning fires of Gehenna, the rubbish tip outside Jerusalem. Physical death ends our life in this age, the second death ends our life in the age to come, it ends our relationship with God. As already indicated, there is debate over whether this involves annihilation or eternal punishment. Annihilation best represents "the second death" in that it entails the spiritual death of the unrepentant, but of course remains an issue of debate.
ei + ind. "-" - if, as is the case, [a certain person, having been written in the book of life, was not found] then [he was thrown into the lake of fire]. Introducing a 1st class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true.
gegrammenoV (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "[not found] written" - [a certain person] having been written. The participle serves as the nominative complement of the subject ( tiV, "certain") of the negated verb "was found", standing in a double nominative construction. As Mathewson point out, had the verb been passive it would be a double accusative construction, "I found someone written." "Whoever was not found enrolled in the book of life was flung into the lake of fire", Moffatt.