CHAPTER TWENTY



THE MILLENNIUM

1 "And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

2 And he laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. And after these things he must be released for a little while."

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Words like "abyss" and "bottomless pit" are used several times in the Bible but nowhere have I found precisely what these terms mean. However, two things this passage tells us for sure: (1) God has the key to it and (2), it will be Satan's abode for 1,000 years.

Chapter 19 revealed the end of mankind's rebellion against God during this present age. We saw how God will destroy the evil forces and influences unrepentant-mankind will have had in progress. Now it's Satan's turn.

In this chapter, we see God sending an angel from heaven with a great chain in his hand with which he will bind Satan for a thousand years. Satan is the spiritual force behind all evil and wickedness. I find it interesting that John uses four names in verse 2 to describe him: the dragon, the serpent of old, the devil, and Satan. Obviously, God wants no misunderstanding who He's talking about here.

The Bible identifies God by many names also, such as Jehovah, Elohim and LORD. Each of these names implies certain characteristics about His nature --- all good. Jesus has many names too: Immanuel, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of righteousness, the Light of the world, etc. The names are symbolic of Who He is and His character. Again, all good. And likewise, God's adversary, the primary rebel of all rebels, has several names and titles which are designed to tell us something of his character --- all with evil implications.

Therefore, it is clear the Bible beautifully illustrates that the true nature and character of the primary, supernatural personalities who affect us is revealed by the very names God has given them, whether good or bad. Satan, devil, dragon, serpent, are all Biblically-related to wrongdoing. Even unbelievers use these terms to infer bad connotations. (But with every generation, the secular arena is making less-and-less of evil associated with the devil. It's common to hear people call someone a "little devil", etc., making light of these terms. They even name sporting teams that way, such as in my hometown where the athletic teams are called "Blue Devils".)

Of course, people who do such things manifest their ignorance of spiritual reality. It basically demonstrates their hard-hearted unawareness and/or unbelief of the Scriptures. To their own demise, if they continue in this direction, they may find themselves in the "pit" with the "father" of these terms.

"Satan" is the same person as the "serpent of old" who was in the garden tempting our great-grandparents, Adam and Eve. Since his fall, he has believed himself equal with God and he used the same philosophy on the first pair in the human race. Adam and Eve were fascinated with the idea of personal godhood and self-righteousness, which has ever since been woven into man's thinking, perpetuated by the serpent's lies and suggestions.

It may be hard to believe but this seemingly-eternal, ever-enlarging, snowball-like influence will end! God has a special 'melt-down' plan for Satan. According to the above Scriptures, a God-sent, angelic messenger will place him in the bottomless pit for 1000 years. How wonderful it will be when no outside evil spirit can have access to deceive the human spirit of man.

Some people do not believe in a coming, literal, 1000-year period when Christ reigns as King here on earth. They try to make this chapter say everything other than what it plainly does! The fact is, we shall see the term "1000 years" used six times in this chapter. As I look at this passage, I have no conclusion other than a straight-forward interpretation. And coming from me, that should be significant because as you well know by now, I always search for the Law-of-Double-Reference meanings. I see none here.

The term "millennium" is used quite broadly amongst Biblical interpreters, and some don't like it because the word doesn't appear in the Bible. I have no trouble with this fact because all millennium means when literally broken down is --- 1,000 years. "Mille" means 1000; "nium" connotes years. (The word "rapture" doesn't appear in the Bible either but that doesn't mean the teaching is false.)

Verse 3 has a bit of a puzzle in it. It says, "after these things (i.e., the millennium) Satan must be released for a little while". Why do you suppose God will do that? Think about it. (More on this a little later).

THE SAINTS REIGN WITH CHRIST 1000 YEARS

4 "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."

This verse seems to say that the saints which go through the second half of the anti-Christ period are going to receive the position of Judgeship during the millennium. Recall the verse Rev. 14:13..., "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth..."; this was a reference to those who would become "tribulation" believers, but later losing their lives as Christian martyrs under the anti-Christ's rule. Our current verse under study must be referring to the same believers.

I never cease being amazed at God's timing and involvment in everyday situations. Two years ago I had just examined a patient's eyes and for some reason he started telling me that "by 1992 they want everybody using plastic credit cards". I had not heard this news report. (I have watched this movement for years, believing it would eventually lead to a full-scale, single card, monetary system.) Then I said to the man, "You know that system can't work very well". "Why not?", he asked. I responded, "There are already tremendous abuses in the plastic-money, credit-card system---through theft, loss, telephone deception, etc. I believe the next phase will be to place an identification mark on each individual in an attempt to create an 'abuse-free' system". (Our conversation continued along those lines ending with him saying, "They won't put a number on me!")

I do not accept one popular view which says the "mark on the forehead" pictures mental yieldedness and the "mark on the hands" symbolizes the giving of one's hands to evil endeavors. This could, of course, be a secondary meaning. But I'm convinced the marks of the beast will be quite literal. Furthermore, I believe it won't be long before the evildoers start suggesting its use. (In late 1993, I saw President Clinton on T.V. holding up the new 'Super Card' he wants to see put into effect relative to health care. The mark is on its way to reality.)

The beautiful thing to note in the Scripture above though is that there will be saints who refuse (as my patient vowed) to accept the mark on their bodies. Some will not only refuse the mark, proving their allegiance to God and their defiance of anti-Christ, they will even give their lives rather than receive it. The results of their sacrifice? Exaltation to the position of rendering judgments during the millennium! I suppose God's reckoning is that a previously-martyred saint makes one particularly suited to become a judge. This is a wonderful example of God's trustworthiness to stand behind His Word.

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,..." 1 Peter 5:6.

God's Word is true and dependable. Hang on to it with all you've got, believers. Praise the matchless name of Jesus!

THE FIRST RESURRECTION & THE SECOND DEATH

5 "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection."

6 "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him a thousand years."

This is an appropriate point to give an accounting of the eventual destiny of the spirits (the undying part) of all men. We need to answer questions like, "Who will be on earth during the millennium?" and "What is the meaning of the first resurrection and the second death?". I think a lot of people are confused about exactly what happens when they die. I don't mean to be unkind but what many say sounds more like a fairytale than what the Bible teaches. I'm no different, for I too once held views far removed from what I've learned in the Scriptures. I want to be as accurate as possible so let's tackle the above questions, step-by-step.





First of all, let's recall where we are right now in our study:

1. The Church will have been raptured, so the spirits of those saints are with Christ.

2. The spirits of the dead, Old-Testament believers are also in heaven.

3. All spirits of dead unbelievers are being held in 'hades' to await their final judgment from God; John refers to these as the "rest of the dead" who will not "live again until the thousand years are finished".

So, we are talking about everyone who has died. Some are with Christ waiting to return to "...reign with Him a thousand years" on this earth, the others are unbelievers who remain dead until the "Great White Throne Judgement". (More on that later.)

Verse 6 says those who come with Christ are "blessed and holy". The blessedness results simply by being a Christian. These will be "priests of God" in Christ's earthly Kingdom. The "second death", means eternal hell. It is referred to as "second" because there was already a physical death. The "second death" follows the millennium and the "first resurrection" saints will be unaffected by this second-phase resurrection; i.e., when the "rest of the dead" are raised up for their final judgment.

Above, I talked about everyone who had died a physical death, some believers, some unbelievers. However, only the believers will take part in that "first resurrection". The Bible says resurrected saints reign with Christ. We have already noted that to reign implies authority and rulership. The question is, over what and whom? Surely they won't be reigning over each other for their sinful nature will be gone. At that time, all believing, resurrected people will have glorified, immortal bodies similar to Jesus after His resurrection here 2,000 years ago. Therefore, they won't need to be disciplined by other resurrected saints. They will probably be under command (like angels today) but not disciplined in any ordinary sense, for they will then have unwavering allegiance to Christ, their Lord. The only remaining possibility is this --- first-resurrection saints reign over ordinary human beings! Where did these ordinary citizens come from? Are they sinners? Can they have children and other practices just like today?

Before the millennium starts, Christ will have stopped the war conflicts by the "brightness of His coming". But not every person on earth will have been destroyed. I'm convinced these are the people who will be subject to Christ and His followers during His earthly Kingdom age. I'm also convinced that a major portion of them will be ancestorally-rooted in Abraham.

(Actually, the millennium could begin with a relatively small number of people, but that will change rather fast because God will have renewed the earth and long-life expectancy will have been re-established.)

RESURRECTED SAINTS & "NORMAL" HUMANS TOGETHER?

There are some real interesting prophecies in Isaiah which have never come to pass. For a beautiful picture of millennial conditions, read Isaiah 11, 65 and 66. To give you an idea of what you'll find, note these amazing predictions by the ancient prophet of God:

"There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: For the child shall die an hundred years old: But the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." Is. 65:20.

Folks, history has never seen this. Who can even imagine a one hundred year old child? The idea seems ludicrous to our present way of thinking. This can mean only one thing: God will have restored this earth to its pre-flood condition. Modern, Godly scientists have given much attention to what the earth and the sky was probably like prior to Noah's day. Their general consensus goes something like this: Much of the water we see covering two thirds of our planet now, was once out in space! It existed there as a thick layer of vapor which enveloped the earth. This 'water-canopy' provided ideal living conditions here underneath it, acting much like a terrarium.

(Here's how a terrarium works: It's usually a round-shaped, clear, plastic bowl, into which moist soil is placed. This is an ideal kind of environment for the growth of plant life. If it's well sealed with just the right amount of water in it, very little new watering is necessary. The moisture feeds the root system, some also rising up through vaporization to create an 'atmosphere' within the container which then condenses and falls gently on the external leaves of the plant-life to nourish them; finally, it returns to the soil and then the cycle repeats, etc.)

This little, man-made hothouse is believed to be a miniature replica of God's original design of planet earth. Note the similarities of water conditions on the earth prior to the flood as described in Genesis 2:5&6:

"...for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, (like the terrarium) and watered the whole face of the ground."

However, the above conditions were not good for plant life only; man likewise benefitted from this. Indeed, God created it for man! He lived much longer then (up to 960 years) --- even after his fallen nature guaranteed he would die some day. (I once did a Bible study on chronology. Starting at Noah's life, I checked his age at death, then his ancestors, and noted that only a few generations passed before man's life expectancy became the same as it is today --- roughly seventy.) But almost 3,000 years ago we see the prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of the Lord, said a time would come when this would all change, even children living to age 100! The obvious implication is that most people would live for centuries. But it's very important to note some will still die, in spite of the beautifully restored earth.

Now if you have followed my steps through the Scriptures you'll see that one can arrive at only one conclusion: during the millennium there will be two kinds of persons living together:

1. "Normal" humans and,

2. "Glorified" saints.

Each group will have its own function.

Because of better living conditions brought about by the restored earth, ordinary people will have good health and, consequentially, long life expectancy. I believe these will re-populate the earth to far greater numbers than we can now even conceive. Today's vast polar regions and deserts will most likely be changed to ideal, habitational land. Archaelogical digs have uncovered all kinds of evidences showing that today's wastelands were once lush and green. (If this seems confusing to you, just remember, no rainfall was needed prior to the flood. When the "water canopy" is back in place, there will once again be a perfect balance of the moisture and the temperature underneath it --- even at the poles and today's deserts!)

I think the resurrected saints will be similar (in function, not looks) to the way angels are today --- neither marrying or reproducing. They will look like humans, just as Jesus did after His resurrection, but no ordinary blood will flow through their bodies. It won't be needed. A different form of life than blood will be sustaining them --- God's glorious, "spiritual blood", if you will. The Bible is relatively quiet on this subject. The apostle John said, "...it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is". (1 John 3:2). What a wonderful hope Christians have to anticipate. I don't know about you but this excites me. As "joint heirs" in Christ's Kingdom, our assignment will then be to assist in rulership throughout the planet, reigning over "normal" humanity for one thousand years. Praise God!

THAT OLD DEVIL IS OUT AGAIN!

7 "And when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea."

Now these two verses help substantiate the interpretation I just explained, that there will be two kinds of beings walking about on this earth some day. Surely no one can deny that the Scriptures clearly reveal that Christian-age believers will be raised from the dead (see verses 5 & 6 above): Those will be in the FIRST RESURRECTION. Two facts are known:

1. They can no longer die and,

2. they will one day be on this earth --- reigning.

But also, the Scriptures teach that during the same period there will be people here who live and die. These can't be the ones who reign for they can never die again.

Look again at verse 3. Recall when Satan was placed in the "bottomless pit" at the beginning of the millennium, John said he would later be "released for a little while". Then verses 4 - 6 addresses the millennium itself. But at the end of the 1000 years, verse 7 says Satan will be released again just as John had earlier predicted. And once loosed, what do we see Satan doing? The same thing he's always done --- deceiving people.

The questions are, "who is Satan tempting?" and "can he deceive a resurrected saint?" No, that's impossible! Why so? Because of the promise in verse 6 which says the "second death" has no power over resurrected saints. They will be like the holy angels of our present day and age, completely obedient to God and His ways. They will have a perfected new nature which Satan can't tempt to rebel against God. And yet we see above that Satan is able to "deceive the nations" and "gather them to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea". This is no small group, folks! Since this can't be those who have reigned with Christ, we are left with only this alternative: They are an army of rebellious, sinful humans. Where will these come from?

REBELS IN THE KING'S COURT?

Surely the question must be in your mind, "How could anyone possibly be tempted to go against Christ after living directly under His Holy ordinances and perfectly-rendered judgements?" Remember, that's the way it will be in the millennium. We've already seen that Christ will rule 'normal' humans with a "rod of iron". But we must remember, just because Satan will have been 'tied' during the thousand year reign of Jesus' as King of the earth, in no way reduces unregenerate-man's sinful nature. Thus, although Satan won't be around as a tempter, man's own rebellious condition will be to rise to its own full measure in the millennium, uninfluenced by evil spirits.

Now, no one is sure exactly how things will be during the millennium but let me make the following suggestions:

Imagine yourself commencing the millennium as an ordinary human being. The earth will be a renewed paradise, a wonderful place to raise families, to build homes, cities, etc. You, along with all other ordinary people, will take part in this, but all the time under the guidance and watchful eyes of Christ and the joint-heirs of His Kingdom. Now, many people will appreciate these wonderful things and will gladly submit to the Godly-ruling authorities. The Bible indicates these will occasionally "go up" to Jerusalem to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It will be a time when belief of ordinary people will be based on both faith and by sight, as was the case when Jesus was here the first time. But in the future period, Christ will be reigning as Lord and King.

Some will become "saved" during those days, and not all that differently than the disciples of Jesus were at His first advent. Question: Will this be a 'better' salvation than now and will those living then be more fortunate than us? I think Jesus said no! Do you recall the situation with Thomas when he wouldn't accept the report of the other disciples who had seen Jesus alive? He demanded to see and touch Him himself. Later, Jesus allowed Thomas' wish but said, "...Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jn. 20:29. True, Thomas did then fall on his knees and worship Jesus. But, the point is, just seeing Jesus during the millennium, or a resurrected joint-heir of His, will not automatically insure one will exercise genuine, saving belief. Not everyone who saw Jesus during His first Advent became believers, did they?

Now think about this: human blood flowed through Jesus' veins before. He could hurt. Even die. But at times He manifested some of the same kind of power then as He will in the Kingdom age, and yet many people scorned Him! Does that not almost seem ridiculous? Project yourself as an unsaved person back then into the very presence of Christ. You would not automatically become a believer just because you saw Him render a perfect judgement or miracle in front of your eyes. In fact, if the occasion called for a rebuke against you, you would likely resent Him for it even though you might know it was a just cause! Also, you would probably have a grudge against His close associates (the disciples) who represented His ways.

In the Kingdom age, I don't think it will be much different (spiritually) than it was before. Only in the millennium it will be greatly expanded in magnitude with Jesus and the glorified saints in power and ruling. The Scriptures make clear that certain resurrected saints who were formerly martyred will act as judges then. Just as Thomas worshiped Jesus when he saw Him, some will believe and submit to the Godly authorities and thereby enjoy all the fruits of peace and joy just like believers today, only theirs will be in an environment better than ours is now. Thus, in principle, things will be quite the same as today. The bottom line is that in order to have the joy and peace of God requires belief regardless of surrounding conditions.

So, since it really isn't hard to imagine that man can still rebel even when living in the presence of the Lord, it shouldn't surprise us that he will quite willingly listen to Satan when he is again released. After all, a fallen man in the Kingdom Age, who continues in his unbelief, will be saying in response to Satan's deception, "That's what I've been wanting to do all along. I just haven't had sufficient 'inspiration' and determination to go to war against this Christ and His 'undying gang' who have placed unreasonable demands (His 'rules of righteousness') on me and my kin. Let's 'go for it' men, and see if they are really all that indestructible." And so it will go. God will once again allow Satan a free hand to raise up another army of wicked unbelievers to come against Christ and His Kingdom.

One final thought here on verses 7 and 8: it may be that those who remain alive at the end of the Tribulation will all be believers but do not go into the millennium immortalized. This being the case, everyone entering the millennium would be believers! Some glorified, some not---but all believers. So, where do those come from who Satan gathers to rebel against Christ and His Kingdom at the end of the millennium? At the beginning of the millennium there will be children survivors of the Tribulation and pregnant women. These little ones will have fallen natures just like any other human being living at any other time since Adam and Eve.

To me, this understanding helps remove some of the veil of millennial conditions. The young ones who go into the millennium will have no personal recollection of former things, only what their parents and others tell them. They will not think it extraordinary that there is a King ruling the entire world, nor that He has a host of followers and assistants 'like' Him. Therefore there is no reason to assume these children will automatically grow up to be believers. Their hearts will be as potentially wicked as ours today.

(Christ in you or in me today, via the Holy Spirit, is just as real now as it will be then, spiritually speaking. The only difference then will be that sin-proneness will be completely gone in our new, incorruptible state. But this will not be the case with the "normal" people. Thus, many will hate us because of the difference.)

You may be wondering where I would get such thoughts. I think Jesus may have alluded to this when He was discussing the final Tribulation in Matthew 24. He referred to mothers when He said, "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days!" Matt. 24:19. If we view this verse in the literal sense only, one would conclude Jesus was simply talking about personal problems mothers will encounter during the Tribulation. I don't mean to imply Jesus is not showing sensitivity to the personal sorrows of mothers with small children of that time but I think there's more here than that.

What I want to underscore on this point is the fact that when the word "woe" is used prophetically (as Matthew 24 most certainly is), it usually alludes to something with broadscaled implications. For example, we saw "three woes" earlier in our study and all had to do with world-wide conflicts. Now what I'm suggesting is the possibility that Jesus, while speaking about the problems of pregnant women and mothers with young children during the closing hours of this age, was also looking into the far, far distant future (the LODR), seeing that there would be offspring from these babies which would rise up against Him again at the end of the millennium.

You see, in Jesus' mind (if my guess here is correct), He saw the anti-Christ system which would come against Him at the end of the present age, as being very similar, even a spiritual-continuum, to what Satan would eventually inspire into the minds of some of the offspring of these expectant Tribulation mothers. In any event, whoever they are and wherever they come from, let's now look at the outcome of those who choose to be "rebels in the King's Court" after Satan is loosed.

GOD'S JUSTICE

9 "And they came up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

Mere assent to facts is not synonymous with belief. The above Scripture is really plain talk, folks! The knowledge of God has been around a long time. Preachers, evangelists and lay Christians have been telling the Gospel story for 2,000 years, and yet the masses continue to sin and rebel against God and His prophetically-perfect Word. Unbelief will also continue throughout the millennium; even with Christ and His Bride (resurrected saints) as living proof that God's Word is true and just. There will be many under Satan's inspiration who resist and come against Jesus and His followers on the last day.

But, look at the above verses again. When the armies come, not one earthly weapon will be necessary to stop the invaders. God will take care of this 0ne --- Personally. The rebels will be "devoured" with God-sent fire.

This is it, folks! From then on there will be no more human resistance against God. The battle is over. God's victory is completed. The 'sin-curtain' falls at this final act. Fallen man will have lost in his seemingly-endless desire to be his own god.

That's what it has been all about, friends. Ever since the serpent suggested to Adam and Eve they could be like gods, this same lie has been perpetuated throughout the history of mankind. It was a lie in the beginning. It is a lie today. But THE LIE will come to its end, along with the LIARS, and both will lie with the serpent where they belong. Verse 10 gives us the answer where that will be, as they are "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

Since we have come to the end of all rebellion, one might assume this would be a good place to end this book. I would agree, but the Bible doesn't end here, so I can't either.

THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT

11 "And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

14 And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."



We must differentiate the "Judgement Seat of Christ" (which will have already occurred a thousand years earlier) from the Great White Throne Judgement (GWTJ) we see described here in these verses. You recall verse 5 said the "rest of the dead" (the unsaved) remained so until after the millennium. These too will someday be raised up, along with all who die during the millennium (some believers, some not), to face the GWTJ of God when all shall hear the final verdicts upon all mankind --- commonly called JUDGEMENT DAY.

There will be different kinds of books which will be opened. I presume some books reveal God's perfect Holy Ordinances as well as an account of each person's record of life here on earth. I believe we will see a book of God's own personal 'translation' of the Bible. (I would not suppose God's Bible to be all that different from what we already have. But it will be untarnished, given exactly as it was first uttered thousands of years ago by the Holy Spirit to the prophets-of-old.)

There will be a Book of Life which will have all the names of the saved in it. These will include all the resurrected saints who served with Christ during the millennium as well as the "normal" people who become believers during that period. I believe when true faith is exercised in the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, one's name is immediately written down in this special record book. This will be written with 'indelible ink', folks. I say this because we learned in verse 6 that the "second death" would have "no power" upon the glorified saints who enter Christ's Kingdom to reign with Him. So, these can't possibly face any kind of potential condemnation at the GWTJ.

JUDGED BY WORKS?

Verse 13 is a bit troublesome for us salvation-by-faith-alone believers, isn't it? For it says each one at the GWTJ will be judged "according to his works". What does this mean?

Unbelievers have always loved to ask Christians these kinds of questions: "What happens to the African native who never hears the Gospel? Does God send him to hell? How could he become a believer? He never had a chance!", and so on. It may come as a surprise to you but God has dealt specifically with these questions in Romans 1 and 2. Study the chapters carefully. In essence, it says God knows the heart of everyone. Therefore, He has no trouble in knowing whether they would have come to Him if they had heard the Gospel. What this means is that God, at times, does some of His own soul-harvesting!

Some people (like the African in the jungle), never having heard the Gospel, live out their lives dictated by their inner spirit which has believed all it knew about truth. Their actions reflect this inner belief and these "works" become self-evident of what's going on inside. What then can we conclude other than they will have done the best they could with what they had and will be judged accordingly?

Just because God has been so generous to us "born-again" believers saved in a 'normal' manner, does not annul God's right to Personally join in the salvation process, without our help. How dare we limit God's calling and choosing to only our part in sending out the Word! Our efforts are an important portion of God's overall strategy --- not the sum total of it.

This thinking may mess up some readers' theology, and/or alter your confidence in my credibility. If so, I have a question for you: How do you deal with this statement? "They were judged, each one according to his works."

Now most of you know that the Bible clearly teaches we are saved through no merit of our own. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast." Eph. 2:8. This verse makes plain that salvation can never be by a man's "works" and yet Rev. 20:12 says that the "dead were judged according to their works...". And we know some of these in Revelation 20 who are judged by their "works" will be saved, for in verse 15 we find this: "Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire". To say "Anyone not found written", unmistakeably implies that some names were found written in the book. Therefore, since we know there can be no contradiction here, we must conclude the "works" of Rev. 20:13 embraces more than a mere, literal interpretation would allow.

Some theologians say all Rev. 20:12 means is that since no man's "works" are good enough for salvation, each and every one of these who stand before God at the GWTJ will be sent to hell. If this is so, why should there even be a mention here of the "Book of Life" which contains the names of the saved? Is it merely to let them know their name isn't in the book?!

I believe God (or a representative of His) will be reading some names of people who will go into eternity with Him which you and I had nothing to do with saving. The apostle Paul was likely alluding to these when he wrote, "...these although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ,..." (Romans 2:14-16).

Some people are troubled by this line of reasoning, saying it reduces the motivation for Christian evangelization. They ask, "Why does God need the Church at all?" Such a question reflects nothing but pride.

Please realize I believe God has purposed to save some through you and I only. That is, if it wern't for the Gospel proclamation, some people wouldn't be saved, period. It is in this way that we become partakers in His Kingdom-building process. With pride put aside, we should be encouraged, not discouraged, by the above analysis of how God will deal at Judgement Day with those who never heard the Gospel via the Great Commission of the Church. As I see it, the central thrust of Romans 2:14-16 is that God is the ultimate, fair Judge.

Since the day I decided these are not merely my ideas, but really just a correct understanding of God's truth, it has given me a new inner peace and confidence, as well as a new appreciation of the almightiness of God. The concept also helps me to see what I really am---a servant "in His vineyard". I've thought on this subject many, many times and no matter how I have approached it, I always come up with this undeniable conclusion: the viewpoint that salvation is effectual only through the Church's influence, forces a spiritual paralysis upon God's sovereignty to act when no man is around. So, understanding that God will also reap some souls without my help lets me know He is working while I am working. I like that --- and shall now leave it at that.

EVEN DEATH AND 'HADES' ARE REMOVED

Hades is supposed by most expositors to be that place where the souls of unbelievers go to await the GWTJ. I agree. Of course, from Adam until the end, all face physical death (Exception: the saints raptured alive). But, at Judgement Day, God will even send both Hades and death to eternal destruction! Verse 14 calls this the "second death", which, we recall, has no power over those who participate in the first resurrection.

Since we don't have much Biblical evidence of what exactly will transpire at the GWTJ, there is room for variation and speculation. And, in spite of the fact I spent quite a bit of time on it, I think we shouldn't overburden ourselves too much in this area. Our main focal point should be on the first resurrection because here we have a more sure word of promise for those participating in it. Also, concentrating our efforts here should increase our fervency to get the Gospel out and see as many saved as possible. It is here we find our guarantee that the second death will have no effect. So, let's be about it, Christian friends!