A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The Great Tribulation has ended, Babylon has been destroyed, and Planet Earth is ready to receive her King. All that remains is the capture of that unholy trinity that’s caused all the devastation and the annihilation of their army. It sounds like a big job, but with the Lord personally directing events it won’t take long at all.
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” (Rev. 19:1-4)
Hallelujah is made up of two untranslated Hebrew words that taken together mean, “Praise the Lord.” Its four appearances in Rev. 19 are unique to the New Testament. Since “Praise the Lord” is a phrase used almost exclusively by born again believers, it’s fascinating to me that it’s Hebrew version appears 24 times in the Old Testament, the same number as the elders who echo it here. Is this another subtle clue that the 24 elders represent the Raptured Church as I suggested in Rev. 4?
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:5-10)
From the use of past tense verbs referring to the wedding, the bride and the clothing she was given, it looks like John’s describing an event that has already taken place, and indeed it will have, seven years earlier. Notice that while the clothing represents the bride’s righteousness, it’s not her clothing. It was given to her. We’re not righteous by our own works. Our righteousness is given to us by the Lord. (2 Corinth. 5:21) The Greek word literally means righteousness rather than righteous acts. Our righteousness is imputed to us by faith alone (Romans 3:21-22).
Isaiah 61:10 describes this scene more clearly. I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
When John changes to the present tense in speaking of those invited to the Wedding Supper, he’s making reference to believing Tribulation Survivors on Earth, soon to be invited into the Kingdom as described in the parable of the 10 virgins. (Matt. 25:1-13) The Church is the Bride, and the Bride is not a bunch of invited guests, nor even a group of bridesmaids. Like the Church, she’s one body. And she doesn’t need an invitation to her own wedding banquet, because she’s the main attraction. Without her there wouldn’t be a banquet.
The Rider on the White Horse
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev. 19:11-16)
Here is the legitimate Man on a White Horse, not the impostor from Rev. 6. The crowns He wears are diadems, the crowns of royalty. The sharp sword is His Word as explained in Hebrews 4:12, and His robe is dipped in blood as foretold in Isaiah 63:1-6. John gives Him the name from his gospel, The Word. (John 1:1)
“He will rule them with an iron scepter” is a direct quote from Psalm 2:9, a promise given by God to His Son, and by the Son to the over comers of Thyatira. (Rev. 2:26-27) This signifies that His Church will rule with Him. Although those on white horses and dressed in white linen who accompany Him are the armies of heaven, He’s doing all the fighting.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” (Rev 19:17-18)
The contrast between the Great Supper of God and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb is all too evident. I’ll guarantee you that the armies of Earth won’t feel blessed to be invited. They’re the main course.
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Rev. 19:19-21)
In a fulfillment of Psalm 2:1-6 that’s unbelievable in its arrogance, the people of Earth prepare to take on the Messiah and His heavenly army. But their leaders, the anti-Christ and his False Prophet, are immediately captured and thrown live into the Lake of Fire. The massive army that had followed them on this suicidal mission are slain by nothing more than the Word of the Lord’s mouth, their bodies devoured by the birds. I told you it wouldn’t take long.
The Thousand Years
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Rev. 20:1-3)
The purpose of the Millennium is now revealed. Many have wondered why God would put this unique 1000-year period between the 2nd Coming and eternity. I believe it’s a response to man’s three primary excuses for his inability to live a life pleasing to God.
The first excuse originated in the Garden when the woman blamed the Serpent for her disobedience. Ever since then mankind has blamed his bad behavior on the devil’s deceptive influence. So now in response to that excuse, God has the devil bound for 1000 years. No more bad influence.
Man’s second excuse has been the over powering temptation to sin created by the unbelieving world in our midst. So as the account of the Sheep and Goat judgment explains, at the establishment of the Kingdom all surviving unbelievers will be removed from Earth. Only surviving believers will populate Earth at the Kingdom’s outset. (Matt 25:31-46)
Third is the absence of our Lord from among His people for 2000 years. It wasn’t fair, man says, to leaves us alone like that for so long. So all during the Millennium Planet Earth will be the headquarters of the Universe, with the Father in Israel and the Son in the nearby New Jerusalem.
In a few verses we’ll see if things turn out differently with the removal of these obstacles to righteousness. But first let’s look in on the conclusion of the First Resurrection.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4-6)
Jesus promised His Disciples that they would sit in judgment of the 12 Tribes of Israel at the renewal of all things (Matt. 19:28) Now their time has come, as the believing dead from Israel’s past are given their new bodies to join their countrymen in Israel. (Daniel 12:1-2) And the Tribulation martyrs are given bodies as well, completing the First Resurrection that began in the Garden Tomb 2000 years earlier with our Lord, the First Fruits of the First Resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:20)
Take note that although John said these martyrs will reign with the Lord, he never called them kings. So in the Book of Revelation we see three groups of believers in Heaven. There’s the Church in Rev. 5 who are called Kings and Priests. There’s the multitude of Rev. 7:9-17 who will serve God in His Temple but are never called priests, and there’s the group of martyrs from Rev. 20 who will reign with Christ but are never called kings. I believe this is a hierarchy of authority with the Church in the superior position, assisted by the others.
And as the Sheep and Goat judgment explains, Tribulation survivors are judged at this time as well. All this is in fulfillment of Joel 3:14-21.
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Rev. 20:7-10)
We skip ahead now to the end of the Millennium, to see how well natural man has performed in the absence of all his obstacles to righteous living. During the preceding 1000 years Earth will have been restored to its Garden like environment. Perfect weather, perfect peace, perfect rule, perfect conditions. With the return of long life spans, (Isaiah 65:17-25) the population of natural humans on Earth will have skyrocketed as children are born to their believing parents. And like all of mankind before them, these children will have the opportunity, indeed the obligation, to decide whether to allow the Lord’s death to purchase their pardon from sin.
Even with believing parents, idyllic conditions, and a fully functioning Temple in Israel as a memorial to remind them of what the Lord has done, many will reject Him in favor of their own remedies for sin. So many in fact, that when Satan is released at the end of the 1000 years he’ll be able to muster up a huge army for another attempt to kick the Lord off the planet. But of course they’ll be defeated and this time Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire forever to join his fallen henchmen in their eternal torment.
So what’s the point of the 1000 years? It’s to show that there is no circumstance, no matter how favorable, in which sin infested man can live a life pleasing to God. Even after 1000 years of perfect life, perfect peace, and perfect rule, there’s still enough residual sin in the hearts of natural man that he’ll rebel against God at the first opportunity. And so the seventh dispensation concludes exactly like the six before it, in natural man’s utter failure to live in peace with God, requiring a judgment. Jeremiah was right, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jere. 17:9).
The Dead Are Judged
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15)
While he’s describing events at the end of the Millennium, John now turns our attention to the resurrection of the dead, which takes place then as well. It appears that this judgment will take place somewhere in the Outer Darkness, since the Earth and its immediate atmosphere, in which the New Jerusalem exists, are absent.
All the unsaved dead from all ages will suddenly come to life to stand before the Great White Throne of God. Each will see the events of his or her life unfold again as those who chose to be judged by their own works finally get their chance. They’ll see again the times when they heard the Gospel and rejected it, and how they even failed to live up to their own standards, let alone God’s.
Some understand the phrase each person was judged according to what he had done as evidence that God will determine each person’s punishment for failure to accept His pardon on the basis of the quality of their lives. Those who lived “good” lives will receive comparatively less punishment and those whose lives were worse will get more. According to this view, once someone has endured the full measure of his or her punishment, that person will be destroyed and will cease to exist in any form. Only Satan, the anti-Christ, and the False Prophet, they say, are destined for eternal torment. This view is called Conditional Hell and has come into mainstream thinking fairly recently.
Others hold to the traditional position that judgment of the unsaved brings eternal torment for all. Since the only work God required of them was to believe in the one He sent (John 6:28-29) and since there’s nothing mankind can do that will substitute for that, it doesn’t make sense to me that God would judge them on any other qualification. But no matter which view you hold, this judgment is no place to wind up, even for a time, especially when a little study to confirm God’s obvious existence, followed by a decision to receive His pardon, can change everything.
The Lake Of Fire
The Lake of Fire is a place of torment somewhere unknown to us, but the name has an interesting parallel in history that gives us a frighteningly clear model of the torment the unsaved will suffer. The Dead Sea is filled with water so rich in salt and other mineral content that it supports the human body. In other words you can’t sink while floating in (on) it. In ancient times crude oil would periodically bubble up to the surface and solidify into a tar-like substance that harvesters chopped into blocks and towed to the shore for sale. When melted down again, it made a good adhesive to cement building blocks together, and the Egyptians used it in their embalming procedure as well. It was so prevalent on the water’s surface that the Romans called the Dead Sea “Lake Asphaltus” using the word from which we get asphalt. From time to time, during an electrical storm, lightning would strike the surface setting the solidified tar aflame. When that happened they called it “The Lake of Fire.”
Imagine this. You’re in deep water. As long as you keep your head above the surface you can breath. But the surface is on fire, so you hold your breath to sink under the surface to escape the flames. But the water pushes you back up like a cork into the fire. On it goes day and night. You twist and turn and squirm on the surface looking for some kind of respite, however brief. You’d welcome death and long for it, but you can’t die because there’s no escape from the punishment. Get the picture?
Don’t let this happen to you. Get out your Bible and re-read passages like John 3:16, John 6:28-29, Romans 10:9-10, Ephes.2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-7. Make sure you’re saved. No attack against the Bible’s authority has ever been sustained except in the minds of those who stubbornly refuse to believe in spite of all the evidence. The richest and most privileged unbeliever in the world would gladly trade places with the most severely mentally and physically handicapped beggar as an alternative to spending time in the Lake of Fire. All it takes is one decision. Be absolutely certain that you’ve made it, while there’s time.
In our conclusion next time, we’ll go back to the beginning of the Millennium and get a closer look at our eternal home as well as seeing the changes the Lord has in mind for the Middle East. See you then.