The end-times in four verses (Isaiah 26:19-27:1)

The prophet Isaiah lived about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and yet the book of his prophecy contains some of the most remarkable predictions and foreshadows of the Messiah’s first and second advents found in the Old Testament. The accuracy of Isaiah’s prophecy about the events of Jesus’ Incarnation are well-known to most Christians, including predictions of Jesus’ virgin birth, His ministry in Galilee, and His work of atonement to take away sins by His death on the cross. What is not as well-known is that Isaiah also had a lot in his prophecy about Jesus’ Second Coming when He returns in power and glory at the end of the age. This article is about one of Isaiah’s end-times passages.

In one short section of four consecutive verses, Isaiah writes about four key events that will occur at the end of the age. In Isaiah 26:19-27:1, the prophet leaps over thousands of years of human history to tell us about the resurrection, the great tribulation, the return of the LORD, and the judgment of Satan, one major event per verse. And what Isaiah wrote in 700 BC agrees with what other biblical writers have penned since. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of future events, and Ezekiel and Daniel and Zephaniah and Jesus Himself and John and Paul and others have confirmed the prophecies Isaiah wrote.

ISAIAH 26:19 – THE RESURRECTION

In this verse, Isaiah gives a crystal-clear prophecy of the general resurrection.

19 Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

   At the end of the age, the dead will live, and their corpses will rise out of the dust. The tomb will become a womb. This is the resurrection, when “those who are Christ’s at His coming (Parousia) (1 Cor. 15:23)” will be made alive. This is what Ezekiel described in the valley of dry bones, when bone came to its bone and sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin, and “breath came into them and they stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezek 37:7-10). Daniel prophesied that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life (Daniel 12:2).” Jesus talked about this event in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells of the resurrection when he writes, “The last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (15:52).” In 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Paul gives the most complete description of the resurrection: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” So, Isaiah writes first of the resurrection.

            At the end of the age, the dead will live, and their corpses will rise out of the dust. The tomb will become a womb. This is the resurrection, when “those who are Christ’s at His coming (Parousia) (1 Cor. 15:23)” will be made alive. This is what Ezekiel described in the valley of dry bones, when bone came to its bone and sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin, and “breath came into them and they stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezek 37:7-10). Daniel prophesied that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life (Daniel 12:2).” Jesus talked about this event in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells of the resurrection when he writes, “The last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (15:52).” In 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Paul gives the most complete description of the resurrection: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” So, Isaiah writes first of the resurrection.

           

ISAIAH 26:20 – THE TRIBULATION

Now Isaiah tells of a time of tribulation when the people of God are forced to hide until the conflict passes.

20 Come, my people, enter your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs its course.

God’s people are urged to “enter your rooms and close the doors behind them.” Outside is some great “indignation” that is threatening them and, to avoid being annihilated, they must “hide for a little while.” This is describing the time of the great tribulation, which Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:21-22, when the church is severely persecuted, and the best course of action is to retreat into hiding. This is also what John is describing in Revelation 12:6, when “the woman” (the faithful church) “fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God to be nourished for 1,260 days.” The exact event is described again in Revelation 12:14 where “the woman could fly into the wilderness to her place where she was nourished for time and times and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” The church will hide in the wilderness until they are rescued by the returning Jesus Christ. So, we see that Isaiah also wrote about the great tribulation.

ISAIAH 26:21 – THE RETURN OF THE LORD

21 For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their wrongdoing;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.

Now Isaiah tells us about the terrifying day of the LORD when He will “punish the inhabitants of the earth for their wrongdoing.” This is a day of wrath and judgment, a day of thick darkness. The prophets and the Lord Jesus in His Incarnation and the church through her preachers and prophets have been warning of this day for thousands of years, but usually men refuse to hear and refuse to heed and refuse to repent. (See Revelation 9:20-21.) Now the day has come, and there is no room for repentance. The prophet Zephaniah warned of this day: “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry (Zephaniah 1:15-16).” Paul wrote of that day in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Revelation 19:15 presents an awesome image of the returning Christ: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword so that He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” And Isaiah wrote of this day 700 years before Christ.

ISAIAH 27:1 – THE JUDGMENT OF SATAN

21 On that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.

Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy reaches all the way to the end of history at the end of the last day as Satan himself is being judged. “The LORD will punish Leviathan.” And who is Leviathan? He is “the fleeing serpent” and “the twisted serpent.” Does Scripture tell us of any serpents? There was a serpent in the Garden who tempted Eve. In Revelation we read that “the serpent of old, the dragon, who is the devil and Satan (20:2; also, in 12:9).” “The fleeing serpent” and “the twisted serpent” are none other than Satan. Isaiah also tells us of “the dragon who lives in the sea.” And who is the dragon? From the same verses in Revelation, we see that the great dragon is another alias for Satan. Satan is the serpent, he is the dragon, he is Leviathan. From Isaiah 27:1, “On that day, the LORD will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.” In Revelation 20:10, we read almost the same thing from the pen of the apostle John: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever and ever.” And so, just as Isaiah prophesied, so it will be on that day, the day of the LORD.

In this remarkable passage, in four verses the prophet Isaiah gives us sure prophecies of four events that will occur at the end of the days.

SDG                 rmb                 3/22/2021

Raised together with Christ – Colossians 3:1-12 Part 1

If I have died to sin (Romans 6:2), why do I still struggle with sin (Romans 7:15-25)?

If he was a slave of sin, but is now a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18), how can it be that Paul, the model Christian, laments his wretchedness in his struggle against sin (Romans 7:24)?

If the “old man” has been crucified, why does he still influence my behavior to sin?

I was musing on these and other weighty issues this morning and was led to consider Paul’s letter to the Colossians. As I meditated on Colossians 3:1-12, I discovered that the apostle Paul deals with several of these meatier matters here in this passage, so I decided to devote two or three articles to teaching on this.

ALL IS CONTINGENT ON BEING RAISED UP WITH CHRIST

What Paul is going to now teach in Colossians 3:1-12 is all contingent on his implied assumption in the first verse, which reads, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ (3:1, NASB).” The “if” in this verse should be understood as meaning “since,” because everything that follows in this passage applies only if the person described has, in fact, been raised up together with Christ. If you have not been raised with Christ, Paul’s teaching and exhortation will be confusing. But if you have been raised up with Christ, Paul’s teaching will be amazing and encouraging.

TWO QUICK COMMANDS

To his “raised-up-with-Christ” audience, the apostle issues two commands: seek and set. Since you are a born-again (John 3:3) believer in Christ, “Keep seeking the things above (Colossians 3:1b).” Keep hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Keep thinking about your heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Keep eagerly waiting for our Savior from heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). And again, since you have been raised up with Christ, “Set your mind on the things above (3:2).” Your sight is to be fixed upward. Allow your mind to dwell on noble things (Phil. 4:8). Renew your mind through the Word (Eph. 4:23; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:2). These blessings are only possible if you have been raised up with Christ.

DOCTRINE: SPIRITUAL DEATH AND LIFE, AND GLORIFIED WITH CHRIST

Now Paul adds doctrinal truth to his teaching. A word about doctrinal truth: Doctrinal truth is universal in that it applies to all persons in a defined group without exception. Our “defined group” is all those who have been raised up together with Christ. The doctrinal truth is, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3).” So, we see that, according to Paul’s teaching, all true believers have “died.” In some real sense, we have died, and yet it is obvious that we also live. How do we untangle this knot? This is a complex subject that we will attempt to address briefly. Because of the sin of Adam and the Fall of man, all people without exception are born into the world with a bent toward sin and with a love of sin. This “old self” (Colossians 3:9) is a slave of sin (Romans 6) and, unless and until this person is raised up together with Christ, they continue to be under God’s wrath and judgment because of their sin (Romans 1:18). If they physically die in this state, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. But the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the news that when anyone who is living in the “old self” hears that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinners, and they repent of their sin and trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior, at that moment their “old self” dies, their “new self” (3:10) comes to life, and that person is raised up together with Christ. At that moment, that person has died to their old life of sin and they have been raised up with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Their “old self” has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), but they live to the glory of God. So, in that sense the believer has died, yet they live. And since Paul is teaching doctrinal truth, this “died-yet-living” is true of all believers.

Finally, in Colossians 3:4 we learn still more doctrinal truth about those who have been raised with Christ. Since you have been raised with Christ, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Paul speaks unambiguously about that time in the future when Christ will be revealed. It is an undeniable fact that Jesus Christ is going to appear from heaven in blazing glory to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). It is a certainty that Christ will be revealed, but “When Christ is revealed,” what will be true of those who have been raised up together with Him? “Then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” This is the doctrinal truth that the apostle here declares: All those who have been raised up with Christ in life will be revealed with Him in glory in the resurrection. Those who have been raised with Christ will be glorified with Christ (Romans 8:30). (See also Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; 1 Thess. 4:14-17.)

SUMMARY OF RAISED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (COLOSSIANS 3:1-12) PART 1

Here is what we have discovered so far, in Colossians 3:1-4. “Therefore, since you have been raised up together with Christ:”

  • Keep seeking the things above (manifestation of faith / obedience)
  • Set your mind on the things above (manifestation of faith / obedience)
  • You have died in a spiritual sense, because the “old self” that loved sin and that lived a life of sin, has died (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)
  • Your new life of holiness and obedience to God has begun (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)
  • When Christ is revealed in glory, you also will be revealed in glory (This is a doctrinal truth and is a consequence of faith.)

The next lesson will continue with this passage and will see more of what Paul is teaching in Colossians 3:1-12.

SDG                 rmb                  2/27/2021

Psalm 110 – Part 1: The LORD speaks to the Lord

NOTE: This post is longer than most because it is intended to teach how to interpret and understand difficult and complex verses of the Bible. So the purpose is primarily INSTRUCTIVE. rmb

Jesus is the central figure in the Bible. The more a person reads and studies the Bible, the more obvious this becomes. Jesus is the subject of the prophecies and the foreshadows and the types in the Old Testament, as the people of God looked forward to the Messiah’s coming. He is the regal King of the gospels, as He displays His deity through His miracles and His teaching, and He is the suffering servant of the Lord, enduring His passion and dying His sacrificial death on the cross. He is the Firstborn from the dead as He rises victorious from the grave, the resurrected King of kings and the one who ascends to the Father’s right hand. The New Testament looks back to His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection, but the New Testament also looks forward to His Second Coming, when He will descend from heaven as the Judge of all the earth to “tread out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Revelation 19:15).” From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the subject of the Scriptures. He is the glorious one, the star of the show.

But even though Jesus is the Person who dominates the Scriptures, it is not always easy to find Him in every passage of the Scriptures. What I mean is that sometimes Jesus is hidden by the mysterious way that a passage is written. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has inspired a passage in the Bible that is loftier than our current thoughts or that stretches our concept of who Jesus is. Because the Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), there will be times when we can understand the words that are used in a passage, but we may not understand the full meaning of what is being communicated. For those passages, we must slow down and dig deeper to find the treasure hidden in the passage. Psalm 110 is such a passage. This psalm was written by King David about 1,000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and yet it tells amazing truths about the Lord Jesus and about what He will accomplish in His advents.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

ASKING QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE VERSE

            At a first reading, this verse appears to be a complete mystery. The context of the verse is unclear, and the message of the verse is even less clear. What is this verse about? But before we despair, let’s see if we can ask some questions that may give us at least some direction.

            We have already established that Jesus is the central figure of the Bible. As we answer these questions, we will learn more about Jesus and about the whole flow of redemptive history and will see that this verse has a powerful message about Jesus.

  1. Who is speaking in this verse?
  2. To whom is He speaking?
  3. When does this conversation take place?
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?”
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled?
  1. Who is speaking in this verse? First, we observe that the English text gives the name of the speaker as “LORD,” where the name is all capital letters. Why is this? We must understand that the original language of Hebrew had several names for God. The name translated as “LORD” is the Hebrew word “YHWH” or “Yahweh.” This is the covenant name for God that can also be understood as God the Father. Our God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the context of this verse, we would understand this “LORD” to be God the Father. So, God the Father is speaking.
  2. To whom is He speaking? Now we encounter another Person referred to as “Lord,” but notice that only the first letter of that name is capitalized. Again, the English is attempting to capture the meaning of the original Hebrew. The name translated as “Lord” is the Hebrew word “Adonai.” This is a name for God, but it is obviously different from the LORD, who is God the Father. David refers to Him as “my Lord.” Who is this? There is only one suspect for this mystery. Amazingly, in this verse God the Father is speaking to God the Son, Jesus Christ. What the psalmist, David, is relating to us in this verse is an “inter-trinitarian” conversation between God the Father and God the Son.
  3. When does this conversation take place? To answer this question, we need to look carefully at what God the Father is telling God the Son. The Father is telling the Son to “sit at His right hand” until some future date. This means that there must have been some time before this conversation when the Son was not sitting at the Father’s right hand. When was there a time when God the Son was not at the Father’s right hand? That time was when the Son was sent by the Father to earth in His first advent. Now the Son has completed His mission and has accomplished His work (John 17:4; 19:30) and He is returning to heaven. What we see, then, is that God the Father is speaking to God the Son after God the Son, Jesus Christ, has finished His work of atonement on the cross, has been resurrected and has ascended back to heaven. Thus, we see that this conversation takes place when Jesus Christ ascends to heaven after His first advent.
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?” We have already seen that this verse, Psalm 110:1, is telling us that Jesus Christ, God the Son, has completed His work of redemption and has ascended back to heaven. God the Father is telling Him to sit at His right hand. Jesus is to sit. Sitting is what one did after you had completed your work. To be invited to sit meant that your host was inviting you to rest from your labors. “You have earned a rest. Take a load off your feet!” Jesus had perfectly accomplished His mission and had completed His work, so now God the Father invites Him to sit down. (See Hebrews 1:3.) Jesus it to sit at the LORD’s right hand. The right hand was the place of highest honor. It was the place where the king placed his most trusted and valiant counselors. Jesus, who had always occupied that seat until His first advent, assumes the place of highest honor after His mission is accomplished.
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled? God the Father not only invites God the Son to sit at His right hand after His ascension, but He also gives the Son a promise, that He will make the Son’s enemies a footstool for the Son’s feet. Up till now we have been focusing on Christ’s first advent, but now the focus shifts to His Second Coming at the end of the age. We know from other passages of Scripture that there will certainly be a time in the future when Jesus will again rise from His seat in heaven and will again come to earth, this time as a wrathful Judge and as a terrifying warrior. All of Christ’s enemies will be trampled under His feet (Revelation 14:19-20; 19:15, 20-21).

WHAT HAVE WE DISCOVERED?

            As we have carefully and deliberately gone through this difficult verse of Scripture, we have been able to discover some powerful truths. We used thoughtful questions to dig treasure out of this mysterious verse and, by bridging between what we already knew and what careful observation revealed, we uncovered new things about Jesus and about the future of the world.

            The Bible is all about Jesus Christ, and we have learned from this one verse of this ancient psalm of David, written a millennium before Christ was born, that:

  • There is evidence of the Trinity even in the psalms.
  • Jesus will be sitting at the right hand of God the Father throughout the time between His advents.
  • There will be a time in the future when Jesus Christ will return to destroy all His enemies.
  • Jesus has perfectly accomplished His mission and His work of redemption in His first advent and is therefore worthy to sit at the Father’s right hand.

Therefore, we can be encouraged as we make our way through our walk through this life, because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and that He is soon coming from heaven to bring us home to Him.

SDG                 rmb                  12/28/2020

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 27:1 Punish Leviathan, Slay the Dragon

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that we have been exploring in this series of studies from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we have seen in the post of December 1 of last year, Isaiah 26:19 told us about the great final resurrection of the dead when the tomb will become a womb and the dust will give birth to those who will sing for joy. A little later in December of 2019, we examined Isaiah 26:20, where the prophet writes about the time of tribulation of God’s people. We recently (October 2, 2020) examined the next verse in the passage in which the prophet tells us about when “the LORD is coming out of His place,” telling of when Jesus returns. This post will be the final one of the four, examining Isaiah 27:1, which tells of the punishing of Leviathan and the killing of the dragon, and seeing how this relates to the events surrounding the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

PART 4 – The LORD will punish the serpent and will slay the dragon

“In that day the Lord with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

In the context of this passage that we have studied, in the context of what we can now see as a vision of Christ’s return, the meaning of this verse must be obvious. What to Isaiah the prophet must have been puzzling and mysterious, to us with the New Testament is clear. For Jesus the Messiah has already come to fulfill the prophecies of His first advent and has told us Himself of His imminent return. In the book of Revelation, we read of precisely these events coming to pass at the end of the age, exactly consistent with the other events surrounding the Second Coming of the Lord. Isaiah has already told us of the resurrection of the dead, of the great tribulation that will come upon God’s people, and of the glorious time when the Lord Himself will come from heaven. Now Isaiah tells us what will become of Leviathan the fleeing serpent and the dragon.

  • In that day – What day? This expression, “in that day,” is used throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets and almost always refers to “the day of the LORD.” So here, Isaiah is making a reference to the day of the LORD, that day when the LORD will return to judge the earth. The prophets describe this as a terrifying day, a day when the unrighteous will find no place to hide and when the LORD will recompense all sin. That is the day tIsaiah intends here.
  • Leviathan the fleeing serpent – Who is Leviathan? Although there are several Old Testament passages that speak of Leviathan, the creature’s exact identity is difficult to determine. The overall impression is that “Leviathan” is a picture of evil, and of threat and destruction. Leviathan is dangerous and foreboding, and his appearance brings with it imminent threat. The background music strikes a minor key. That is certainly the picture here.
  • But notice that Leviathan is no longer the hunter but is the hunted. Leviathan, that creature of chaos and destruction, is fleeing from the LORD’s “hard and great and strong sword.” His imminent doom is certain, for the LORD’s sword never returns to its sheath until it has accomplished its work. The LORD’s sword “will punish Leviathan.” “Punish” describes the reason for the LORD’s sword (to punish for evil), but the effect is the death of Leviathan. The LORD says, “I have created the smith who produces a weapon for its purpose (Isaiah 54:16).” The LORD’s sword is created to kill the LORD’s enemies. When Leviathan is punished, it will certainly be slain.
  • Leviathan is a fleeing serpent and a twisting serpent – Observe carefully the descriptions of Leviathan. Twice he is called a serpent. Now it is time for Bible 101. “Who is the serpent?” This is the one who tempted Eve in the Garden and thus led man into sin. This is the one who is called that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9).” Yes, in this context, Leviathan is another word for the devil and Satan.
  • Leviathan, the serpent, is also the dragon – We know that the Bible is written such that what appears later sheds light on what was written formerly. For example, what was written in the New Testament sheds light on and informs what was written in the Old Testament. Therefore, based on Revelation 12:9, we just confirmed that Leviathan, the serpent, is also the devil, the serpent. Now, from that same verse (Revelation 12:9) we can see that the serpent is the dragon, for it is the dragon who is explicitly identified as the serpent (“the great dragon, that ancient serpent”). It can thus be concluded that Isaiah 27:1 is not about the destruction of two creatures, Leviathan and the dragon, but is actually about the slaying of the one creature, the dragon. And we know from the New Testament that the dragon is a symbol for Satan.
  • OUR CONCLUSION – What we see is that Isaiah 27:1 is prophesying the slaying of Satan on the final day, “in that day,” when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven on the day of His glorious return. And that is exactly what we find described in the book of Revelation. On that day, Jesus returns from heaven on a white horse with a sharp sword in His mouth to strike down the nations. Then “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11, 15).” His final act of judgment will be “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where (he) will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” Isaiah has seen the events of the last day.

SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

            In this four-part study, it has been shown that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who lived 700 years before Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, prophesied the events of Jesus’ Second Coming with great accuracy. As we compare Isaiah 26:19-21 and 27:1 with the prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming in the New Testament, we see the resurrection of the dead, the testing of God’s people, the great coming of the Lord, and the punishment and destruction of Satan all predicted. To me, there are two applications of this.

  • First, I am again convinced of the Bible’s being breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), for there is no other explanation for the Bible’s supernatural accuracy.
  • Second, it reminds me that there is a final day coming when all the joys and difficulties of all the ages will come to an end. There is coming a day, perhaps very soon, when Jesus will come from heaven with a shout. Jesus will come on a white horse with a sword to judge the unrighteous without mercy. It reminds me that “the Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15:3)” and that His favor will not be extended forever; there is coming a terrible day of the Lord. It reminds me that I have been promised persecution in this world, but that Jesus has also promised me an eternity with Him in heaven. It reminds me that I am to warn the unrighteous of their need for a Savior.

SDG                 rmb                 10/08/2020

A study of the Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15

This originally was going to be a brief blog on this passage from the book of Revelation, but as is often the case with my writing, I ended up being fascinated with the study and so produced a fairly long piece. I hope that you find it instructive and edifying. rmb 9.16.2020

“So, what happens at the Judgment?” My friend had been having a discussion with his wife in preparation for talking to his daughters about the final judgment. He knew that I was working on a book on the end times, so he gave me a call and posed the question.

“Wow, that is a great question! Let me pull together some Scriptures and make some notes and I will call you back.” So, the stage was set.

This post, then, will be an explanation of what happens at the great white throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.

THE TEXT – REVELATION 20:11-15 (NASB)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

UNDERSTANDING THE PASSAGE

Revelation 20:11

            John sees the great white throne with the LORD seated on the throne. In this awesome scene, all creation flees away, trying to get away from the fury and the wrath of God and of the Lamb (compare to Revelation 6:15-17). There is, however, no place to hide. The business at hand is The Judgment.

Revelation 20:12

            Next, John sees “the dead.” This word “dead” is significant because the meaning goes beyond just those who are not breathing. These are the spiritually dead. John mentions “the dead” four times in two verses to emphasize their spiritual lifelessness. At the great white throne, we see the gathering of all the spiritually dead of all time, awaiting their final judgment. That is the identity of “the dead” whom John sees. Regarding “the dead,” consider these verses from the mouth of Jesus:

  • When our Lord was talking to the Sadducees about the resurrection, Jesus quotes from Exodus when God said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:31-32).” Jesus is making it clear that these patriarchs, even though physically dead, are spiritually alive.
  • Perhaps more to the point, In Luke 9:60, Jesus calls a man to follow Him, but the man makes the excuse that he needs to bury his father. Jesus said, “Allow the (spiritually) dead to bury their own (physically) dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” It turns out that there are many who, even though physically alive, are spiritually dead.
  • In John 3:18, Jesus says, “He who believes in Him (the Son) is not judged.” That seems straightforward to me.
  • Jesus also taught that those who have believed in Him will not come into judgment. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).” Two truths are taught by this verse. First, the one who believes in Jesus “does not come into judgment.” That seems pretty easy to understand. But second, those who have eternal life through Jesus are no longer among “the dead,” regardless of their physical state. They “have passed from death to life.”
  • A few verses later, Jesus is teaching about the resurrection and says, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice (the voice of the Son of God), and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, and those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).” So, we can see that, in the resurrection, the ones who will experience the judgment are “those who committed the evil deeds.”

Next, “books were opened.” What exactly are these books which were opened? It is clear that these books determine the verdict that will come from the throne, for John writes that “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” These books, then, are the records of all the sins of each one of the dead who are standing before the throne. They will be judged “according to their deeds.” Their deeds are evil (John 3:19-20’ “their deeds are evil”). Their deeds are their sins, and it is on the basis of these deeds, their “works,” that they will be judged. The time for forgiveness is over. There will be no more mercy or compassion. The offer of the gospel is forever taken away. These have come before the great white throne of the Holy One of Israel with nothing but their unrighteousness and their sins. “There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27).”

THE BOOK OF LIFE (OF THE LIVING)

            But wait! “Another book was opened, which is the book of life.” John does not talk about this “book of life” here, because the issue at hand is judgment and eternal death, but we need to understand what this “book of life” is. First, there are the “books of the dead,” which doom people to the lake of fire (20:15), but there is also “the book of life” (“of the living,”) which admits people into eternal life. The book of Revelation has already spoken of this “book of the living” twice, in 13:8 and in 17:8, so we will take a brief detour to find out more about this book.

  • Revelation 13:8 takes place as the beast that comes up out of the sea is in power and is persecuting the saints. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” TRUTH: This verse makes clear that the names that are in the book of life were written there in eternity past and that they were written in the book of life by the Lord Himself. The inescapable conclusion is that those who were going to have eternal life and who were going to avoid the lake of fire were chosen by God in eternity past. This necessitates the doctrine of election (Ephesians 1:4; etc.).
  • Revelation 17:8 also involves the beast and talks about “those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” The group in view in both these verses is the people “whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” TRUTH: Therefore, the other conclusion from these verses is that, since those in the book of life are known, those who are doomed to the lake of fire are also known from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 20:13

            We find out from this verse where all “the dead” come from. From the previous verse, we know that “the dead, the great and the small,” are standing before the throne, but now we find out that “the dead” come from the sea, and they come from “death and Hades.” This is just another way of saying that all the dead are here. Not one of the dead has been overlooked or has escaped the judgment. Then, once all the dead are gathered, they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. As we have seen earlier, these “deeds” are the sins of the dead who stand before the throne. Their destiny is the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:14

            Death and Hades are irretrievably and inescapably thrown into the lake of fire. Long, long ago, in one of the early scenes of the grand meta-drama, the LORD God had told man that sin would result in death (Genesis 2:17). And so, ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3 death needed to continue to exist because man’s sin continued to exist. Hades is the place where the spiritually dead await the judgment, and so Hades continues to exist until the judgment. But now after the judgment, full payment for all sin has been rendered, either in Christ’s full atonement for all the sins of all true believers in Christ or in the eternal punishment in the lake of fire for all unbelievers. Sin has ceased because there are no longer any sinners. All believers are now glorified and so can no longer sin, and all unbelievers have been thrown into the lake of fire. Death is useless when sin has ceased and Hades has become useless, because all the occupants of Hades have been cast into the lake of fire. Therefore, since they are useless, both death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire.

            The lake of fire is the second death. The first death is when a person dies physically. If that person has believed in Jesus, in the intermediate state they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 6:9-11; etc.) awaiting  the resurrection of the righteous, when they will receive their glorified, resurrection body. Thus, the believer never experiences the second death. (Confirm with John 11:25-26.) This passage, however, is about the unbeliever. In contrast to the believer, in the intermediate state the unbeliever awaits Christ’s return in Hades, and, at the resurrection, they will “come out to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:29).” Unbelievers will go from their temporary home in Hades to their eternal home of unending conscious punishment in the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

            The judgment is made, and the sentence is passed. The book of life, or “the book of the living,” has been examined. This is the book that contains the names of all those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those whose names are in the book of the living are resurrected to eternal life (John 5:29), but there are many whose names are not there. All those whose names are not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire.

APPLICATION

            All you who are now reading this article on the final judgment are still physically alive. You still have time to contemplate the question, “Is my name written in the book of life, or am I headed for the lake of fire?” Hopefully, after reading this article, you are clear on the two, and only two, options.

  • If you have already placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you will never experience the second death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6), and you can be sure that your name is in the book of life. In that case, the application would be to rejoice in the faithfulness of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • If, however, you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; if you have not confessed with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9); if you have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ so as to be saved (Acts 16:31), then your current destiny is the lake of fire. Your application is to change your destiny! This minute you can change your eternal destiny. This minute you can believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you do that, “Truly, truly, I (Jesus) say to you, you will not come into judgment, but you have passed from death to life (John 5:24).”

SDG                 rmb                 9/16/2020

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 26:19 The Resurrection

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus’ first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that I want to explore with this study, from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we will see, Isaiah will tell us about the great final resurrection of the dead, about the time of tribulation of God’s people, about the coming of the Lord and about the destruction of Satan.

PART 1 – THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD – 26:19

“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.

You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy.

For your dew is a dew of light,

And the earth will give birth to the dead.” – Isaiah 26:19

This verse is certainly a prophecy of the great and final resurrection that will occur when Jesus the Messiah returns to end time. The words that Isaiah uses here are very similar to words that other biblical writers will use later in the Bible. In fact, what is remarkable about these words and expressions of Isaiah written about 700 BC is that they express the same eschatology as that of the Lord Jesus Himself and the same eschatology as the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers. Those who wrote God’s word wrote under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit and so their theology is the same.

“Your dead shall live.” Surely this is as straightforward as it can be. When in human experience do dead people live? Dead people do not live. They have died, and their lives are over. Yet the prophet speaks of dead people living. The only possible explanation for the dead living is that they are resurrected, when those who were physically dead are raised to new life. This is not figurative, but literal. The dead shall live when they are raised to life by the command of Jesus Christ on the last day.

“Their bodies shall rise.” Now we can see that Isaiah is not talking about something figurative, for he mentions physical bodies. As biblical revelation unfolds, we will discover that, even if the bodies of believer’s ‘fall asleep’ and are buried and decay, yet they will be transformed into glorified bodies that will rise to meet Jesus Christ in the air (1 Thess. 4:14-18). At the last day, the glorified bodies of saints will rise. Isaiah speaks of this day and this event in this prophecy. The dead shall live, and their bodies shall rise.

“You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!” In this context, the phrase, “dwell in the dust,” refers to those who are dead and buried and whose bodies have gone back to the dust (Genesis 3:19; Psalm 103:14). Isaiah is saying the same thing that he said earlier in the verse using other words. Notice that this verse is a command. Those who dwell in the dust are commanded to “awake and sing for joy.” But how can “those who dwell in the dust” obey this command to awake and sing? The Lord Himself must cause their dead bodies to awake and to sing for joy. Isaiah is prophesying the resurrection of the last day. This is precisely what Jesus foretells in John 5:28-29, “when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of Man and come out.” Jesus echoes the resurrection that Isaiah foretold. They are talking about the same event.

“And the earth will give birth to the dead.” Again, the imagery is unmistakable. Those who dwell in the dust of the earth will emerge and will live again. The earth will literally “give birth to the dead” as those who have been in the tombs and in the graves and in the caves and catacombs will rise. As the earth has received the dead, so there will come a time when the earth will yield up its dead. The tomb will become a womb as the earth gives birth to the dead. This is yet another phrase for describing the final, glorious resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah made astonishingly accurate prophecies about events at the end of the age. We have looked at the prophet’s eschatology with regard to the final resurrection when the dead bodies will rise. Next time we will see that Isaiah also foretold a time near the coming of the Lord when God’s people would need to hide from the fury, which I see as a reference to the tribulation.

SDG               rmb               12/01/2019