The Final Judgment and Reward
The bulk of the book of Revelation has to do with the judgments of God with history, particularly his judgments against wicked Rome for her persecution of the church. Beginning with chapter four, these judgments have been portrayed in apocalyptic symbols. The message of the book would have been complete if the Apocalypse had ended with Revelation 20:10.
But the Holy Spirit did not conclude the book with the overthrow of Rome and her allies. He allowed John to leap forward from that time in history to the consummation of all things at the return of Jesus. At Revelation 20:11 we move far beyond the time of divine judgments within history to the final Judgment of the entire world.
The scene of judgment here is fully consistent with every other fact revealed about that day in the remainder of the New Testament. All humanity will be gathered before the great throne of the Lord, judgment will be rendered according to the deeds done in the flesh, and the decision rendered to each person will be final and irrevocable.
In this section of the Apocalypse, we see the complete drama of human redemption brought to its final act.
I. The Judgment Scene (Revelation 20:11-14)
A. The scene before the great white throne is awe-inspiring one.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
B. The fate of the cosmos. Heaven and earth are pictured as fleeing away.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
1. Small and great.
2. Judged according to their works.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
II. The Heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-22:5)
A. Now that all evil has been destroyed for ever, and all evil agents have been cast into the lake of fire, that the former heaven and earth have vanished, the final judgment brought to a close, and death and Hades destroyed, God creates a new heaven and earth, and summons into being the New Jerusalem.
2 Peter 3:13
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
B. John's attention was on the New Jerusalem.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
1. All the distance between God and his people is removed.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
2. Life in heaven has no inadequacies or unsatisfied needs of any sort. Death, mourning, crying, pain, and the "first things" are done away with there.
Revelation 21:4-7 4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
C. John sees the city from a high vantagepoint.
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
1. God's glory fills the place.
Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
2. Security is guaranteed.
And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
3. Restricted entrance. Limited to those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.
And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
D. No temple in the New Jerusalem.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
1. The glory of the New Jerusalem is overwhelming.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
2. A few negative terms to describe the New Jerusalem.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
F. Place of food, water, and healing.
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
1. Tree of life.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
2. River of water of life.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
G. The face of God will be seen.
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
H. The redeemed will share in the eternal reign of the God whose love and grace have saved them.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
III. Wrapping Up The Apocalypse (Revelation 22:6-21)
A. The drama is complete, and the curtain has been brought down.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
B. The words faithful and true.
1. Written by John's own hand and given to him by the Lord.
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
2. Jesus speaks to authenticate its truthfulness.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
C. An invitation to all.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
This book must have produced overwhelming joy in the hearts of those who received it. They could not see the outcome of their struggle, but the God who has all of history under his view -- future as well as past or present -- could foresee its end. Now he had revealed it to them. They were allowed to know that the victory was assured to the Lamb.
The Lamb has enemies. But they cannot conquer him, for the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to him alone.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.