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The Dead Are Judged

11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

 


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11. great—in contrast to the "thrones," Re 20:4.

white—the emblem of purity and justice.

him that sat on it—the Father [Alford]. Rather, the Son, to whom "the Father hath committed all judgment." God in Christ, that is, the Father represented by the Son, is He before whose judgment-seat we must all stand. The Son's mediatorial reign is with a view to prepare the kingdom for the Father's acceptance. When He has done that, He shall give it up to the Father, "that God may be all in all," coming into direct communion with His creatures, without intervention of a Mediator, for the first time since the fall. Heretofore Christ's Prophetical mediation had been prominent in His earthly ministry, His Priestly mediation is prominent now in heaven between His first and second advents, and His Kingly shall be so during the millennium and at the general judgment.

earth and heaven fled away—The final conflagration, therefore, precedes the general judgment. This is followed by the new heaven and earth (Re 21:1-27).

12. the dead—"the rest of the dead" who did not share the first resurrection, and those who died during the millennium.

small and great—B has "the small and the great." A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas have "the great and the small." The wicked who had died from the time of Adam to Christ's second advent, and all the righteous and wicked who had died during and after the millennium, shall then have their eternal portion assigned to them. The godly who were transfigured and reigned with Christ during it, shall also be present, not indeed to have their portion assigned as if for the first time (for that shall have been fixed long before, Joh 5:24), but to have it confirmed for ever, and that God's righteousness may be vindicated in the case of both the saved and the lost, in the presence of an assembled universe. Compare "We must ALL appear," &c. Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10. The saints having been first pronounced just themselves by Christ out of "the book of life," shall sit as assessors of the Judge. Compare Mt 25:31, 32, 40, "these My brethren." God's omniscience will not allow the most insignificant to escape unobserved, and His omnipotence will cause the mightiest to obey the summons. The living are not specially mentioned: as these all shall probably first (before the destruction of the ungodly, Re 20:9) be transfigured, and caught up with the saints long previously transfigured; and though present for the confirmation of their justification by the Judge, shall not then first have their eternal state assigned to them, but shall sit as assessors with the Judge.

the books … opened—(Da 7:10). The books of God's remembrance, alike of the evil and the good (Ps 56:8; 139:4; Mal 3:16): conscience (Ro 2:15, 16), the word of Christ (Joh 12:48), the law (Ga 3:10), God's eternal counsel (Ps 139:16).

book of life—(Re 3:5; 13:8; 21:27; Ex 32:32, 33; Ps 69:28; Da 12:1; Php 4:3). Besides the general book recording the works of all, there is a special book for believers in which their names are written, not for their works, but for the work of Christ for, and in, them. Therefore it is called, "the Lamb's book of life." Electing grace has singled them out from the general mass.

according to their works—We are justified by faith, but judged according to (not by) our works. For the general judgment is primarily designed for the final vindication of God's righteousness before the whole world, which in this checkered dispensation of good and evil, though really ruling the world, has been for the time less manifest. Faith is appreciable by God and the believer alone (Re 2:17). But works are appreciable by all. These, then, are made the evidential test to decide men's eternal state, thus showing that God's administration of judgment is altogether righteous.

13. death and hellGreek, "Hades." The essential identity of the dying and risen body is hereby shown; for the sea and grave give up their dead. The body that sinned or served God shall, in righteous retribution, be the body also that shall suffer or be rewarded. The "sea" may have a symbolical [Cluver from Augustine], besides the literal meaning, as, in Re 8:8; 12:12; 13:1; 18:17, 19; so "death" and "hell" are personifications (compare Re 21:1). But the literal sense need hardly be departed from: all the different regions wherein the bodies and souls of men had been, gave them up.

14. Death and Hades, as personified representatives of the enemies of Christ' and His Church, are said to be cast into the lake of fire to express the truth that Christ and His people shall never more die, or be in the state of disembodied spirits.

This is the second death—"the lake of fire" is added in A, B, and Andreas. English Version, which omits the clause, rests on inferior manuscripts. In hell the ancient form of death, which was one of the enemies destroyed by Christ, shall not continue, but a death of a far different kind reigns there, "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord": an abiding testimony of the victory of Christ.

15. The blissful lot of the righteous is not here specially mentioned as their bliss had commenced before the final judgment. Compare, however, Mt 25:34, 41, 46.




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