The Timing: After the Second Coming

The Bible does not specify how long the battle of Armageddon lasts, nor how long the wedding supper of the Lamb lasts. The duration of these events is not as important as the fact that other events prophesied must take place after them. It is, therefore, appropriate to speak of these next events as taking place after, and as a result of – the second coming.

The Destruction of the Beast and False Prophet

Jesus and his church are not to remain celebrating in the air forever. At some point in time – it does not really matter when – Christ and his glorified bride will descend to earth. Having concluded the celebration of their reunion, they must now conclude the other consequence of the coming of Christ – the judgment of this world. John in Revelation speaks of Christ destroying the beast and false prophet:

“And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” [1]

“This is the second death, the lake of fire.”[2]

John says that these two spirit beings (like Satan) are to be judged. They are the spirit beings who have led humanity in its rebellion against the Lord and his Christ throughout the ages. The beast has led the kings of the earth in rebellion against God’s political rule. The false prophet has masterminded and taught the religions of this world to reject Christ and his gospel.

John sees them suffering torment “for ages and ages.”[3] Most translations render that phrase “forever and ever” which is not literal, and it does an injustice to something else that John asserts about the lake of fire, namely, that it is the second death. In a logical universe, you cannot have both. Either these spirit beings will suffer eternally, and not die, or they will suffer for ages, and eventually die. John asserts the latter.

The beast and false prophet are eternally put out of commission at this point by having been thrown into the lake of fire. Satan remains, but he will also be rendered useless in the next event as divine history progresses.

The Binding of Satan

Satan’s judgment is not immediate destruction. Before he is thrown into the lake of fire, he will be allowed to live to see the undoing of his defilement of planet earth.

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.[4]

He will know that redeemed humanity will be undoing the curse that his influence had put on God’s creation. He will not be allowed to deceive the nations during this incarceration. He will have no control over the world that he had controlled for ages.

The Millennial Reign

A separate article will deal with the description of, and an evaluation of the theological debate over the millennium.[5] Suffice it to say that – in this presentation, a thousand year earthly reign of Christ and his church[6] fits into the overall plan to judge the enemies of Christ, and to redeem his creation, vindicating the dominion over the earth that God originally gave humanity.

The Final Battle

After Satan is released, he will immediately seek to lead the world in rebellion again:

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out 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. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.[7]

It is difficult to understand how a rebellion like this can occur after a thousand-year reign of righteousness. Such is the power that Satan holds over us. But the good news is that this rebellion is put down, and then its instigator is definitively dealt with. His place is in the lake of fire prepared for him and his angels, which is the second death.[8]

The Second Resurrection

John’s vision of the final events continues with a reference to the sea and death and Hades giving up the dead who are in them.[9] This second resurrection will involve all those who have died from the beginning of creation – with the exception of those who have already been raised at the παρουσία. Its purpose is to have all those who have ever lived face Christ as their judge.

The Great White Throne Judgment

The purpose for this judgment is to determine two things: the status of all people who have ever lived, and the extent of each unbeliever’s punishment before their destruction. There are only two statuses: saved or unsaved. We will either be in the Lamb’s book of life or not. For those who are not, they will each be judged based on their own works. While their works cannot save them, their works will determine the extent to which they obeyed the light that they had. The punishment will be proportional. Here is another biblical reason to reject the notion that all the lost will be punished perpetually. The sequence is that the lost will be judged “according to what they had done”[10] and then “thrown into the lake of fire”[11] afterward – to be destroyed.

The Second Death

This lake of fire is the second death, and it will do what the first death did. It will put the lost out of conscious existence. The difference is that there will be no resurrection from the second death. In that since, it will be αἰώνιος “aionios” – permanent.[12]

The New Heavens and Earth

After finally destroying all traces of unredeemed humanity, the Lord will recreate the universe to make it suitable for the saved. The new Jerusalem that John saw in Revelation 21 is a picture of that new beginning. Just as the old Jerusalem was intended to represent God’s presence on earth, so the new Jerusalem/heaven and earth will be that presence. God will be among and within us. The second advent will then be complete.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] Revelation 19:20-21, ESV.

[2] Revelation 20:14.

[3] Revelation 20:10.

[4] Revelation 20:2-3, ESV.

[5] see next issue.

[6] Revelation 20:4-6.

[7] Revelation 20:7-9, ESV.

[8] Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:14.

[9] Revelation 20:13.

[10] Revelation 20:13.

[11] Revelation 20:15.

[12] see the next article: The Destinies, for more on the meaning of αἰώνιος.

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