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The Final Judgment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2022 12:01 am

The Final Judgment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 23, 2022 12:01 am

Evil in this world will not go unanswered. God has appointed a day when He will vindicate His name and His people. Today, W. Robert Godfrey considers the encouragement and the warnings of the final judgment described in the book of Revelation.

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The mysterious language used in the book of Revelation can be confusing. What can it teach us today? That the Lord is in charge of history, that even when we're weak, we're strong. Even when time seems short, we have time. When time seems to drag on long forever, it won't be so long. The Lord's in charge, and the paradoxes help us think through the strangeness of our life before the glorious revealed.

Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday, I'm Lee Webb. When the book of Revelation was written, the early church was struggling to reconcile the hope of Christ's reign with the harsh realities of life in a fallen world. It brought relief to those first century Christians, and it's a source of blessing and encouragement to us today. Well, we're returning now to Revelation chapter 20. We've been trying not to take that chapter in isolation, not to take the questions about the thousand years in isolation, but to see this is all part of the judgment on the dragon that's being articulated. And in a sense, I think we're being given a view, a broad view of the whole history of the church and the dragon's role in it, and we're being reminded that all of these things are kind of twofold. The dragon is strong, but the dragon is weak.

The church is weak, but the church is strong. And I think this is really the message we've been seeing all through the book of the Revelation, and it's being given to us here with a particular pointedness and a particular focus that I think is meant to be tremendously encouraging as we contemplate the coming final judgment. And I wanted to note there that verse 3 of chapter 20, where we're told that the dragon is sealed in the pit for a thousand years, verse 3 ends with the sentence, after that he, the dragon, must be released for a little while. And of course, that statement has influenced the way Christians have thought about the future and the coming judgment a great deal.

Even all millennialists by and large have said after the period of the Great Commission when the church has done its work and has preached to the nations and has discipled those who respond to the gospel, then at the very end of the age there has to be a time of particular intense dragon activity just before the final judgment. And it's interesting how it's put here, he must be released for a little while. That word there is micron in Greek, so he has a microsecond at the end.

That's sort of the idea. He has a very short time. This word's only used one other place in the book of the Revelation. It underscores the shortness of this time. But what have we been seeing right along? Now, this may be the most radical thing I say, so put a big question mark in the margin of your notes. Even I'm not sure about this, but I think it's possible. I think it's possible. What we've been seeing right along is that sequence doesn't mean chronology. So it's possible that what John is really saying here is there'll be the thousand years, and then there's the little time, and they're really the same. We'd have to go back and look at all that's said prophetically in the New Testament to decide if that's a real possibility.

I think it's a real possibility that there's not going to be an obvious intensification of evil right before the end. Otherwise, how would Christ's coming be like a thief in the night? In any case, just something to think about. Don't gang up on me.

Don't turn against me. But I think we have to reflect on these things and ask, what are we really being taught? And what we're being taught over and over again is that things that seem to be sequential are really concurrent, happening at the same time. And the thousand years for the church to do its work is the same as the microsecond the devil has to do his.

But whether you think that's worth thinking about or not, we'll rush along. Verse 4, then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image or received its mark on their forehead or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. So there's thrones, and on those thrones are Christ but also His saints in heaven with Him.

Again, particularly the martyrs, but I think the martyrs representing all Christians, and they're enthroned in heaven. They came to life. That's a way of talking about dying.

Dying is a coming to life. They've come to life in heaven. They're glorified with Christ in heaven.

This is not the end. This is in history. So the picture is again of here the strength of the church, the victory of the church, the accomplishment of the church of the church. It's not just that Christ reigns over the world through the whole history of the church, but the departed saints reign with Him. The departed saints are not dead. They are not sleeping, unaware until the end. They're with Christ in heaven. They're seeing and entering in to the triumph of Christ. So they're alive, but the rest of the dead, verse 5, did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. The wicked are not enjoying that life that the blessed enjoy. I don't think that's necessarily to mean they're unconscious. They're suffering torment, but they're not enjoying life. And so this coming to life is the first resurrection.

Again, this is surprising language if we let it surprise us. What is the Christian hope? That in the last day our bodies will be raised, our souls reunited with our bodies. We'll live in the new heaven and the new earth, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. But now John says, yeah, that great resurrection hope stands in the future before us, but in a real sense for the Christian physical death is the first resurrection.

Because we don't die, we are not lost, we are glorified in heaven, alive with Christ to enjoy life there with Him. Verse 6, blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years. The second death, what's the second death?

It's final judgment. There's a first death when the body dies, but there's a second death at the final judgment. But the great purpose here is to encourage Christians with this reality that the dead in Christ right now are priests of God and of Christ and reign with Him for a thousand years.

Think what that would have meant to Christians in the first century, a small group, a small group who probably in most congregations knew of a martyr, and in any case wondered perhaps about their loved ones who had died. And here's a picture, here's an encouragement, and it's the same encouragement for us, isn't it? Death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Death is swallowed up in victory by the life of Christ. So, here's a wonderful encouragement to us.

We don't have to hurry. We're going to reign with Christ. We're going to do the priestly work He calls us to do.

You remember in 1 Peter, we're all called priests? And so, here it is, the victory now and then more gloriously and obviously later. And then verse 7, and when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison, and he will come out to deceive the nations. This is the micron, this is the microsecond now that he has, to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.

Their number is like the sand of the sea. Gog and Magog, you know, again, interpreters want to ask, who are Gog and Magog? Well, if you're a literalist, Gog and Magog are Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog were ancient nations, ancient enemies of Israel. So, you know, it's really not playing fair to say I'm a literalist, literalist, literalist, but Gog and Magog are Germany or Russia or China or name your enemy in any given century.

So, what do we know about Gog and Magog? Well, we know what Ezekiel tells us. And if we read what Ezekiel tells us, we'll find that it's actually very helpful to understanding what is going on here and how we should interpret this and what the Lord is telling us in all of this. Well, we read about Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39. And, you know, it's a very sound principle of Bible study that when you have an allusion to some Old Testament text, you should go back and read the Old Testament text.

And lo and behold, you'll learn a great deal by doing that. And what did Ezekiel actually write about Gog and Magog? This is what Ezekiel wrote, "'You will come up against my people Israel like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days, I will bring you against my land that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. With pestilence and bloodshed, I will enter into judgment with him. I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones,' remember we heard about hailstones, "'and fire and sulfur, so I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.'"

That's exactly what's happening here. This isn't about ancient Gog and Magog being revived. This is about what happened to them in ancient times now happening on a grander scale in the prophetic vision of John, namely that the world is going to see in the final judgment the glory of God, the holiness of God, the splendor of God.

That's what's being represented here. God will vindicate Himself. And then a little later on Ezekiel wrote, "'You Gog shall fall on the mountains of Israel, on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey and of every sort and to beasts of the field to be devoured. I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwelled securely in the coastlands, that they may know that I am the Lord. And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land.

I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. I will not hide my face anymore from them when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God. So here's a wonderful prophecy already in the day of Ezekiel that really only has complete fulfillment in the final judgment, that God is made known in His victory over the nations. God has assembled all of His people. God has poured out His Spirit on His people so that we may know Him whose name is holy.

And it's a beautiful picture here. And it's not that Gog and Magog are going to be revived, but that once again the enemies will think to gather for battle against the Lord. And here we're told in verse 8 of chapter 20 of Revelation, they are like the sand of the sea. It's a huge number.

Who else is like the sand of the sea? The people of God, the children of Abraham. So we mustn't let ourselves think that it's only going to be a tiny number redeemed. There'll be more people than just in this room. There'll be a vast company drawn from the centuries, but here is a vast company drawn for battle against the Lord. Verse 9, and they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints in the beloved city. So, ready for battle? Ready for battle? But fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

Amazing, isn't it? And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The end of the dragon. The end of the dragon. He was strong and he was weak, but the final word, he is destroyed.

He is condemned. That's the judgment here, the final judgment that we see. So this is a powerful picture, isn't it? It's a powerful representation that the Lord is in charge of history, that even when we're weak, we're strong. Even when time seems short, we have time.

When time seems to drag on long forever, it won't be so long. The Lord's in charge, and the paradoxes help us think through the strangeness of our life before the glory is revealed. And so this is really in a variety of ways, I think, wonderfully encouraging to us. And it's not that I really want to fight with other interpretations of Revelation 20. It's just that I fear we've missed the blessing too often by raising weird questions that don't really apply and missing the real point that's being made, that we reign with Christ now, and we have plenty of time to do our work, and the devil has hardly any time at all to do his. We're going to win. That's what Dennis Johnson said when, What's the book of the Revelation all about?

Jesus wins. And we see that really wonderfully here. And then this last segment of the episode on judgment finally comes to the judgment of all mankind. It's not just the judgment of the deceivers, Babylon, the beast, the dragon, but now all mankind who have allowed themselves to be deceived. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.

From his presence, earth and sky fled away and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

So this is the final judgment on all mankind. And the judgment is pictured, and remember this is symbolic language, the judgment is pictured as the reading of books. The image here is there appears to be a kind of pile of books that have the deeds of all of human beings in them. And then there's one book, the book of life.

And the picture here is very important. The book of life has only names. It doesn't have deeds. So the book of life just has the names of those Jesus has redeemed. I suppose our deeds, good and bad, are all in the book of deeds. But if your name's not in the book of life, you'll be judged by the book of deeds.

And that's not a good thing. Those who are only judged by the deeds in the book of deeds will be lost. And those who are judged by the book of life who are judged by the book of life by names written there by the Savior, by those who are in His deeds to be judged will live. So it's a beautiful picture of salvation, of the reality of salvation. Salvation is if your name's in the Lamb's book of life. It's His sovereign electing purpose from before the foundation of the world.

You know R.C. Sproul didn't say that. John Calvin didn't say that. John the Apostle said that. Not even Paul is the only one who said that. It's right here in the book of the Revelation.

Your name has to be written in the book of life from before the foundation of the world. I believe that literally. That's part of the great message here. And those written from before the foundation of the world, their names in the book of life, they will not be lost. Christ will protect them. Christ will be victorious for them.

They'll reign for a thousand years with Him in heaven after they've died to this world, and then they'll be raised at the last day to live forever in the new heaven and new earth. That's the promise of this book. That's the encouragement of this book. That's what we see here. And then really the terrible picture of eternal punishment, the lake of fire where the torment goes on forever and ever.

Again, this is symbolic. We don't know what hell will look like, but it'll be terrible, and that's enough to know. And so the plea is that we would flee from the wrath to come, the implicit plea, and find our life in Christ. So this completes the judgment section and prepares us then to see the last section of the last cycle, namely the holy city, the bride of Christ, the faithful woman, and really in so many ways the culmination of the book, the vision of glory that awaits. Because, you know, in the Bible, in the New Testament as a whole, we're really not told much descriptively about heaven.

We know it's great and good and wonderful, and God is there and His people are there, but we're not told in a lot of detail about heaven. We're told much more detail now about the final state, the new heaven and the new earth, the glory that awaits us after the final judgment and the resurrection of the dead in Christ to life. And that's what we find beginning then for us in chapter 21, this picture of the new heaven and the new earth. Chapter 21, then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.

It's really interesting. You know, if you go back to Genesis 1, we read that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but the earth was empty and dark and covered with water. Right at the beginning of creation, the seas posed a big problem, and now the problem is solved.

The seas are no more. Those of you who spent a lot of money on shorefront property may regret this, but the vision here is of a stable world, a certain world, a world no longer threatened by the chaos of the seas, a new heaven and a new earth. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This is a glorious picture, particularly as a culmination of this book, because in this book, at every point we have seen a contrast between heaven and earth. Those who dwell in heaven are the saved. Those who dwell in earth are the lost. Heaven is the heavenly temple where God and the angels and the redeemed are to be found.

Earth is the place of the dragon and of the beasts and Babylon. And throughout this book, we've moved back and forth between heaven and earth. Sometimes we're called up to heaven.

Sometimes we even see battles in heaven, as we saw in chapter 12, but the point is heaven and earth are entirely separated as realms of existence and realms of self-identification. And now that separation between heaven and earth, which has gone on ever since the fall, is ended. Heaven comes to earth. Heaven comes to earth.

We mustn't miss how fundamental that is, how crucial it is. The heavenly Jerusalem that has existed in glory now will become visible and be brought down to earth and will remake the whole earth and all of its character. And the essential element of that is defined for us here, and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.

Here's the covenant promise from the earliest elements of the Old Testament, reasserted over and over again. What do we need? What do we long for? That God would be in our midst, that He would be our God and we would be His people, that there'd be no separation, that there'd be no distance. There's been a distance. There's been the distance of sin. There's been the distance between heaven and hell.

There's been the distance between what we believe and what we can see. There's been all of these distances and differences, and now suddenly it's all ended, and we'll see the glory, and heaven and earth will be reconciled. This is the picture that's going to be developed now for us, and we'll be able to see that more next time as we look at the conclusion next time of this cycle seven, and then begin to look at how the book itself finally concludes, encouraging us and calling us to Christ.

What an amazing vision of the future. Not only will God pass judgment on the dragon, but He will also resurrect every one of us who has ever lived to give an account for our actions. To those whose name appear in the book of life, He promises an eternity of new life in a new heaven and a new earth. Thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday.

I'm Lee Webb. Dr. Robert Godfrey's series, Blessed Hope, the book of Revelation, is our focus this week. The full series guides us through the last book of the Bible, chapter by chapter, clearing away confusion and offering practical insight.

I don't know about you, but this book has caused me to scratch my head a few times. We probably won't understand every mystery in it, but Dr. Godfrey's series helps us see the hope we have in eternity with our Heavenly Father. We invite you to request the entire series. There are 24 messages on three DVDs, and for your donation of any of our Telligatr Ministries, we would be glad to send it your way. There are a couple of ways you can reach us to make your request.

One is by phone at 800-435-4343, but if you prefer, you can go online to We are grateful for your financial support. Together, we're reaching around the world to proclaim and defend the holiness of God to as many people as possible.

Our founder, Dr. R.C. Sproul, often acknowledged that God allows us to participate in the greatest work in human history—the work of redemption. So, on behalf of all of us here at Ligonier Ministries, thank you for your continued support. Tomorrow, Dr. Godfrey's series reveals the focus of our blessed hope, the New Jerusalem. We as believers look ahead to a day when God will dwell with us, and we will be His people. So we hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-19 07:23:04 / 2023-05-19 07:32:50 / 10

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