FOCUS ON REVELATION - LESSON 19

Is God Fair?
Revelation 19 and 20

 

Little Stevey couldn't believe it when his dad told him they were going to the Astrodome. The boy had never seen a professional baseball game in person. And he was going to, what was then, the only domed stadium in the world! Stevey's anticipation was so intense he could hardly stand it. The week before the game dragged by so slowly. One morning Stevey saw his dad in the garage bent over the hood of the car. This must be it! They were going! No, his dad told him, he was just making sure the station wagon was ready for the trip to Houston. The boy felt keenly disappointed. The next morning he saw dad packing. This must be the day! No, his dad said again, they just had to make certain preparations to stay overnight. Disappointment again.

But finally the day came when they really did drive down to the city and walk into this incredible stadium with a dome towering above them. Stevey quickly forgot all about his earlier disappointments. He was right in the middle of the main event. Batter up! The thing he'd dreamed about was right before his eyes.

The book of Revelation actually takes us through an experience similar to Stevey's. Several times it seems to take us to the brink of the second coming of Jesus. But then it detours back through history. Or it takes an excursion to fill in certain prophetic details. We feel a little disappointed. Where's the main event? But now that great spectacle that lies at the center of the book of Revelation is here. In the excitement of Christ's return to planet Earth, we will soon forget all about our earlier disappointments. The long trail of human tragedy, deceit, and death, which Revelation has unfolded, will pale into nothingness as eternity with our forever friend Jesus becomes a reality—right before our eyes.

The Second Coming of Jesus

Read Revelation 19:11-16.

During his vision of the seven seals, John looked through an open door into heaven (Revelation 4:1, 2). In Revelation 11:19 he looked deeper into heaven and saw the chest (ark) that contains the Ten Commandments. Then the innermost part of heaven is unveiled to him. John sees Jesus as a celestial General seated on a powerful, perfectly-groomed, white horse. Jesus gallops down a star-filled galactic passage, followed by the armies of heaven. What a cavalry charge! The soldiers are dressed in pure, white uniforms made from the finest linen. Each is riding a horse the color of newly-fallen snow. What an imposing sight they make! Where are they heading? To planet Earth—your doorstep and mine. They are headed here because we are headed home!

1. In vision, John saw Jesus returning to earth on a white horse as a conquering General.
     What did John say Jesus' eyes looked like? (Revelation 19:12.)
    Glittering diamonds.

    A flame of fire.
    The eyes of an eagle.

2. What did John see on Jesus' head? (Revelation 19:12.)
    Many crowns.
    A rainbow.
    A circle of bright stars.

3. What was Jesus clothed with? (Revelation 19:13.)
    A bright light.
    A pure white robe.
    A robe dipped in blood.

4. What did John see coming out of Jesus' mouth? (Revelation 19:15.)
    A sharp sword.
    A scroll containing the Word of God.
    A river of water of life.

We have discovered in previous lessons that the pure, white robe represents Jesus' righteousness which He offers to all as a free gift. To emphasize the significance of His sacrifice and the purity of heaven, the riders and horses all appear in white.

It's common for soldiers from various countries to wear "dog tags" around their necks, which state their name and rank. The heavenly soldiers and their General are similarly identified.

5. What four names are given to Jesus in this vision? (Revelation 19:11-16.)
    Messiah; the Son of Man; Counselor; King of kings.
    Faithful and True; a name that only Jesus knows, the Word of God; King of kings and Lord of lords.
    Melchizedek; Michael; High Priest; the Prince of the host.

These names of Jesus are really fantastic promises for you and me! Think about it.

  • Faithful and True: Jesus is your best Friend, completely dependable. He is totally genuine, One who always keeps His word.
  • The Word of God: Jesus lived out what God is like. He makes God understandable for us. That is why we need to contemplate and study the life of Jesus each day.
  • King of kings and Lord of lords: This is Jesus' royal title. There is to be no doubt who really is sovereign in the universe. Jesus has won complete victory over Satan.

NOTE: Symbols in this scene:

  • Sword: The Bible or Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).
  • Armies of heaven: angels.
  • Blood on Jesus' robe: His blood He shed for our sins (1 Peter 1:17-21).
  • White robe of Jesus: His righteousness with which He covers sinners.
  • Rod of iron: Symbolizes authority. Also, the shepherd used a rod to protect his sheep (John 10:7-18; Psalm 23:4).

The Destruction of Sinners at Christ's Coming

Read Revelation 19:17-21.

These verses portray again the battle of Armageddon, which we read about in chapters 16 and 17. As Jesus and His angels are pictured descending from the heavens like an army on horseback, the results of the battle are announced. And John gives us another image. He describes the coming of Jesus to unrepentant sinners as an invitation to the "supper of the great God" (Revelation 19:17). This is very different from the "marriage supper of the Lamb" in verse 9. When Jesus comes, all human beings will have chosen between two dinner parties. We can be present at one, but not both. Every individual is invited to the first, the marriage feast of the Lamb. Those who refuse to attend automatically become part of the second, the "supper of the great God." We must choose one or the other. The first supper represents eternal life with Jesus. The second represents eternal death.

6. In this final battle between good and evil, who are on the two sides fighting against each
     other? (Revelation 19:19.)

    The beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies are fighting against Jesus who sits on
          the white horse and His armies.

    The beast and the kings of the earth are fighting against Babylon and the image of the beast.
    The dragon and his armies are fighting against the kings of the earth and their armies.

In verses 20, 21, notice the full and complete destruction of those who've joined the political and religious regimes which oppose God and His truth.

7. What happens to the beast and those who support him in this final battle? (Revelation 19:20, 21.)
    The beast and the false prophet are captured and destroyed with the sword; their
          supporters are taken into captivity until it is decided what to do with them.
    The beast and the false prophet are captured and confess their sins against God; they and
          their supporters are pardoned.
    The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire; the rest of
          their supporters are killed with the sword.

They were all cast into the "lake of fire" or killed by the "sword of God" (His Word). NONE are left alive. There is complete annihilation of sinners—not by God's choice, but by their choice.

Jesus did not want this to happen. The Bible calls Him the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). He does not like war. He did not start this battle; Satan did, thousands of years before in heaven.

For thousands of years Jesus has been patient. He has grieved deeply over starving families, raped women, abused children, the butchery of war, bodies racked with disease and pain. Sin has been allowed to run its natural course so that we humans and the heavenly creation could observe how dreadful sin really is. We will never want it to surface again for eternity. Every created being will understand sin for what it really is. The issues in the great controversy will be clear.

For thousands of years, God has been working to draw human beings to Himself. He came into this world to be born as a man, to live a perfect life, to die sacrificially on the cross in order to save us. He demonstrated clearly what God's character is really like. But in spite of all this, many people still turn their backs on God's offer of salvation. In His mercy, Jesus says it is time to end the pain and suffering of sin. Jesus has been consistently loving and kind, "not willing for any to perish" (2 Peter 3:9). But the time to make all things right has come. Mercy and justice must be meted out.

The time period in the Bible that describes how sin will end on this earth is a one-thousand-year period called the millennium. Interestingly enough, despite its wide use, the word "millennium" is not found in the Bible. The word "millennium" is adapted from ancient Latin translations of the Bible. It is formed from two Latin words: "mille," which means "a thousand," and "annum," which means "year." Revelation 20 will help us to understand what takes place during these 1000 years.

The Millennium (Revelation 20)

Read Revelation 20:1-15.

As previously mentioned, Revelation 20 centers on a thousand-year period that follows the second coming of Jesus. The events surrounding this thousand-year period mark the final act in the conflict between God and Satan that has been taking place since sin entered the universe (we studied about this in earlier lessons in this series). The drama reaches its climax at the end of the thousand years when our sinful world is cleansed forever from sin.

To assist in understanding what we are going to study in the next few verses, the following list summarizes the events that take place during the millennium. The sections that follow this summary will give the details and supporting Bible texts.

Beginning Events of the Thousand Years

  • Jesus returns to this earth.
  • Righteous dead are resurrected.
  • Living righteous taken to heaven.
  • Bodies of righteous changed.
  • Living wicked killed.
  • Wicked who have died remain in their graves.
  • Satan bound on the earth.

Events During the Thousand Years

  • Earth desolate—a "bottomless pit."
  • Wicked are all dead.
  • Satan confined to the earth.
  • Righteous are in heaven with God.
  • A judgment time is taking place in heaven.

Ending Events of the Thousand Years

  • Wicked dead on the earth are resurrected.
  • Satan is loosed.
  • Satan deceives the wicked who are resurrected.
  • Holy City descends from heaven.
  • Wicked surround the Holy City.
  • Wicked are destroyed.
  • New heavens and new earth.

Revelation 20 shows us that two resurrections serve as boundaries of the thousand-year period. Keep this in mind as we look at specific texts in Revelation 20.

The Beginning of the Millennium

The second coming of Jesus takes place (Rev. 19).

8. Whom does God raise from the dead in the first resurrection that takes place at the
     beginning of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:6.)
     Those who have died in their sins without repenting of them.
     Those who are blessed and holy—God's followers.
     Those who died without ever hearing the name of Jesus.

Those who have accepted Jesus (the righteous dead) are resurrected and join the righteous living to meet Jesus in the sky. This is the first resurrection.

We read additional information in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

At the second coming of Jesus, when the righteous are taken to heaven, all sinful human beings who are alive are destroyed. The sinful dead remain in their graves. (In addition to the following texts, see Revelation 6:15-17).

2 Thessalonians 2:8 refers to this event: "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming."

9. After the righteous are raised to life, how long will it be until the rest of the dead—the
     wicked—are raised? (Revelation 20:5.)
    One thousand years.
    Ten thousand years.
    Twenty thousand years.

10. How long will those who are raised in the first resurrection reign with Jesus? (Revelation 20:6.)
    One thousand years.
    Ten thousand years.
    Twenty thousand years.

Then the bodies of all the righteous are changed. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20, 21).

During the Millennium

Satan is bound on the earth; he cannot leave this planet.

Read verses 1-3.

11. How long will Satan be bound? (Revelation 20:2.)
    One thousand years.
    Ten thousand years.
    Twenty thousand years.

12. Where is Satan thrown after he is bound? (Revelation 20:2, 3.)
    Into the depths of the ocean.
    Into the bottomless pit.
    Into an uninhabited world at the far reaches of the universe.

13. What happens to Satan at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:3.)
    He is given one final opportunity to repent of his sins.
    He is allowed to present his case against God to the entire universe.
    He is released from the bottomless pit for a little while.

What will Satan be doing on Earth? Absolutely nothing, except bitterly regretting his loss of heavenly stature and bemoaning the fact that he lost the battle with God. Satan will be unable to deceive anyone because the wicked are scattered in death across the face of the Earth and Christians are in heaven. Satan is chained or "bound" by circumstances to this Earth.

Those who have accepted Jesus live with Him in heaven during the thousand-year period.

Read Revelation 20:4. "And I saw thrones and they [God's people] sat on them."

14. What are the resurrected saints doing in heaven with Jesus during the thousand years?
     (Revelation 20:4.)
    They are praising God day and night.
    They are sitting on thrones participating in the judgment.
    They are praying for their loved ones who have rejected Jesus.

During the thousand years, the righteous will review the cases of wicked human beings and fallen angels, including their leader, Satan. God wants to assure us that all His judgments have been fair. It is also fitting that the martyrs of the faith and other battle-scarred followers of Christ who have suffered for Him will be able to understand God's dealings with the wicked.

God gives Christians the opportunity to evaluate His judgment on those who stubbornly rejected Him. We know what it is like to struggle in a sinful world. Some of those left behind may be relatives, friends, and work associates. We may have questions, like: "Where is Aunt Mary? She donated money to the homeless every year." "Where is Fred? He was such a good neighbor." When we go over all the records and judge the dead "according to their works, by the things which were written in the books" (Revelation 20:12), we will see for ourselves that God has been fair and just in His dealings with everyone. We will see how every individual ultimately has decided his or her own fate, choosing God's side or Satan's.

The Close of the Millennium

At the close of the thousand years the curtain lifts on the final events of the millennium.

15. What happens to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, at the end of the thousand years?
     (Revelation 21:2.)

    It comes down to earth out of heaven.
    It is destroyed by the wicked under Satan's leadership.
    It remains in heaven where the wicked cannot attack it.

The city that has been the home of God's people for a thousand years descends from heaven to our world.

16. What happens to the wicked dead at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:5, 6.)
    Nothing; they continue sleeping in the grave.
    They are cursed by God for their sins, and their dead bodies are burned up.
    They are raised to life.

The "rest of the dead" must refer to the wicked dead, because the righteous dead came to life in the first resurrection at the beginning of the thousand years. So it is the wicked who are resurrected in the second resurrection at the close of the thousand years.

Satan, who has been bound on Earth for the thousand years, is set free.

17. What does Satan do when he is released at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:7, 8.)
    He admits that God is fair and recommends that the wicked throw themselves on God's mercy.
    He goes out to deceive the nations and gather them to battle.
    He asks God for the opportunity to speak to the people of earth and present his case against God.

18. What do Satan and the armies of the resurrected wicked do when they see the Holy
     City? (Revelation 20:9.)
    They surround it, getting ready to attack it.
    They stand in awe at its beauty and strength, knowing they can never enter.
    They repent of their sins and ask God if they may join the redeemed inside the city.

Satan is seizing his last opportunity. He thinks he's back in business. He has the righteous to attack—they've descended from heaven. He has the wicked to lead—they've been resurrected. It's just like old times. Satan will be able to plot strategy with military geniuses from all periods of Earth's history. Generals who have conquered empires and ruled the world can organize and lead Satan's armies. It's a perfect setup. The city is not fortified; the Christians have no guns or ammunition.

Satan gives the command to march against the city. His armies converge from every corner of the globe, marching in precision. They approach the Holy City, which hovers just above the earth. From it God's glory floods the world with His majesty and grandeur. The wicked of all the ages stand under its transparent golden walls. They are poised to attack and seize this magnificent city. But suddenly silence grips the multitude. No one can speak. No one can move. They realize they are standing in the presence of God. And it dawns on them what this means. They are lost! They've given up eternal life! This glimpse of the horror of being lost forever is overwhelming.

The Final Judgment Scene Takes Place

Here for the first and last time, every person ever born on this earth stands in one place at the same moment. What an event! The two sides of humanity are face-to-face. Read verses 11-13 for a further description of this momentous occasion.

The Bible does not fill in all the details, but it appears from these verses that as the wicked stand before God, their entire life opens before them. Jesus unfolds before watching humanity what appears to be an enormous movie. It fills the sky with the full story of His dealings with fallen angels and fallen men and women. God is concerned that everyone understand His fairness. He even wants the lost to see how much He longed to save them. It's their own decision that has placed them outside the walls of that glorious city. Christ's plan to save sinners is displayed in living color. The wicked realize that Jesus loves them with unshakable love. But it's too late! They are compelled to bow before Him as King of kings and Lord of lords, recognizing His justice and mercy.

  • Romans 14:10, 11 declares, "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.'"
  • Revelation 5:13 says, "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'"

For centuries Satan has been slandering God's character, accusing Him of being cruel and unfair. But now all those accusations have been answered. There are no questions left. Even Satan is silent. He has run out of lies. The saved and those who are lost both acknowledge that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is worthy of our love and worship. The largest choir ever assembled, consisting of every human being ever born, declares with one voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain" (Revelation 5:12).

19. What ultimately happens to sinners at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:9.
    They continue their rebellion against God for another thousand years.
    They repent and are forgiven.
    Fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them.

20. What finally happens to Satan at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:10.)
    He is thrown into the lake of fire.
    He is chained and shut up again in the bottomless pit.
    He is torn to pieces by the angry multitude of those he has deceived.

21. When sin and death themselves are destroyed, this is called: (Revelation 20:14.)
    the first death.
    the second death.
    the third death.

22. Who is thrown into the lake of fire at the end of the thousand years? (Revelation 20:15.)
    Anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life.
    Only the Devil and his angels.
    Only the Devil and his angels along with a few of the most wicked and depraved sinners from all ages.

Although Satan and the vast throng of wicked people have to admit that God's way is best, their hearts are not changed. Their characters remain sinful. God's holy fire must destroy sin. That's the final judgment. Satan and the wicked who gathered to seize the Holy City are destroyed forever. That is what is called the "second death," or eternal death. The fire cleanses the earth thoroughly; no trace of sin will be left.

§ § §

On June 9, 1939 England's King George the Sixth received an enthusiastic American welcome from crowds lining the streets of Washington, D.C. He then proceeded to the British Embassy to review a special honor guard. Among them was Thomas J. Michael, a man who had a very special reason for wanting to meet the monarch of the British Empire. As a boy growing up in one of Wales' poor mining towns, he'd missed the chance of a lifetime. The king was going to pay a rare visit to a neighboring community. Thomas went with his dad to stand by the road and catch a glimpse of the monarch they regarded with great awe. But some boys wanted to play soccer. So Thomas went off to a nearby field for a few minutes—and just missed the king's carriage as it drove through.

He'd always regretted missing the king. But now, decades later, he was standing in his uniform outside the British Embassy, as a veteran of World War I. There were fifty men in two rows. As King George began shaking hands, Thomas wondered if he'd actually be able to speak to the monarch face-to-face. His excitement and nervousness was almost unbearable.

Suddenly there he was, in front of him. King George asked, "Captain Michael, where did you serve?" Thomas answered, "Your Majesty, I served in the Gallipoli campaign, in Mesopotamia, and in India." The king reached out his hand and said, "Thank you for all that you did for us."

Thomas J. Michael would never forget those words. They made all the terrors he'd endured in war meaningful. They made him feel that someone understood what he'd been through. But above all they were spoken by his king, face-to-face.

Where Will You Be Standing?

God longs to speak to us face-to-face. He longs to say those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). Where will you be standing when God gives His final verdict? Whose side will you be on? No matter what you've done in your life, no matter what you've gone through, God can make everything meaningful. He can give you a place inside the city with Jesus and the redeemed. So please make a response to Him right now, face-to-face. What would you like to say?

 

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