The Consequences of Sin--Part 6
Nov 02, 2009
All of mankind, with the exception of the overcomers, will appear before the Great White Throne to be judged "according to their works" (Rev. 20:13). Their faith (or lack of faith) will determine whether or not they receive "life" (i.e., immortality) at that time, or if they will have to wait until the Creation Jubilee at the end of that lengthy age of judgment.
One must first understand that there are two resurrections mentioned in Revelation 20. The first occurs before the 1000-year age of Tabernacles. This first resurrection is limited to a few, because verse 5 says,
"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection."
Those who inherit immortal life in the first resurrection will have Life in The Age, that is, aionian life. Dr. Robert Young, author of Young's Concordance, translates this term "life age-during." See Young's Literal Translation of the Bible. Rotherham's The Emphasized Bible renders the term "life age-abiding."
Either way, the term "life" pertains to immortality, but the term "aionian" applies it to a specific Age in which such people are able to enjoy this immortality. The overcomers are promised aionian life--immortality in the first resurrection and enjoy the benefits of immortality during that Age.
The majority of people will NOT be given life in the first resurrection, but must await the general resurrection where the rest of humanity is raised to stand before the Great White Throne. When this occurs, no one will yet be remaining in the grave, but all will be judged according to their works. Jesus said of this resurrection in John 5:28, 29,
(28) Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which ALL who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, (29) and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
The general resurrection, then, includes believers as well as unbelievers. The believers will be given "a resurrection of life," and the unbelievers "a resurrection of judgment." The believers, Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:15, will be "saved yet so as by fire." Jesus confirmed this in Luke 12:45-49, speaking of judgment in terms of a flogging and then referring to this as a "fire" (vs. 49).
Nonetheless, after these short but necessary corrections, they will be given life because they were believers. The rest of the dead, however, who for one reason or another did not avail themselves of the divine provision for sin through faith in Jesus Christ, must enter "a resurrection of judgment."
Each will be judged on his own merits, according to his knowledge, authority, and the light given to him in his life on earth. The only factor that all of them will have in common, insofar as judgment is concerned, is the time frame. Because sin is reckoned as a debt, each person's debt to the law will be tallied according to his works. No one will be able to actually pay off that debt, of course, regardless of the length of time given. Hence, according to the law, they will only be set free by the law of Jubilee, where all debt is canceled regardless of how much yet remains.
For this reason, all unbelievers will remain under authority during that entire age, which I believe will be 42,000 years. The Creation Jubilee, based on a "day" being (in this case) 1000 years, is the point where God says, "It is enough." That is the day contemplated by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:27 and 28, when God will be "all in all." This is also the day seen by John in Revelation 5:13, 14,
(13) And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." (14) And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Matthew Henry's Commentary says of this,
"This glorious song, thus begun by the church [in Rev. 5:9-12], and carried on by the angels, is echoed by the whole creation; all the creatures adore that great Redeemer, who delivers the creature from that bondage under which it groans, through the corruption of man, and the just curse denounced by the great God upon the fall."
Once we understand the end of the story, we may see the ultimate parameters of sin and judgment. The Bible presents us with a Creator who is fully sovereign, having no rival. Satan is presented, not as an independent god who is in competition with the Creator, but as one who is subject to the Creator. Thus, sin and its condition does not continue for eternity. The remedy of Jesus Christ was to purchase the entire world by His blood. The resurrection is the great foreclosure upon all that He redeemed. The judgment is designed to correct and teach the world righteousness, much like a father "judges" his children in righteousness.
The fact that all of creation will be restored to the Creator does not eliminate the need for corrective judgments. The overcomers are those who received correction in their life time on earth. The church (i.e., the non-overcoming believers) will receive some correction at the resurrection. The unbelievers will be judged in a wide variety of ways over and beyond their time spent under authority.
For theft, a man may be judged in terms of labor to recompense his victim. For murder, a man may have to serve the victim to repay the number of years he was deprived on earth. For more serious sins such as torture, it may be that the man may be subjected to the same type of torture that he perpetrated upon each victim. (Recall Ex. 21:25, "burn for burn").
The primary new factor to be considered is that in the age of judgment people will not be subject to death, because death itself is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). It may be that murder will be punishable by death, but the person will then be raised again to face the rest of the charges for his sins.
Whatever the case, we can be sure that God will mete out judgment in accordance with His law with the perfect balance between love and justice. Religious and political leaders who have burned people at the stake by their own perverted system of justice may find themselves at the receiving end of their own judgment. They will be judged by their own standard of measure (Matt. 7:2).
So while the lake of fire is not specifically a torture pit, there could be quite a bit of pain involved in the law's judgment. Certainly, 40 stripes can be painful. I believe that those who tortured people in this life will receive an equal amount of torture in the age of judgment, whether it be waterboarding, burning at the stake, or pulling out one's fingernails. For those whose sins have not been covered by the blood of Christ, they will face the absolute justice of the law. It will be an eye for an eye, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
But it will not be "eternal."
For the vast majority of people, the judgment will be relatively light, because most people do not murder or torture others. Most have some sense of decency, and they will be judged according to the light that they were given.
The point is that all non-believers will face the consequences for sin at the Great White Throne. The same consequences will not be meted out arbitrarily upon all, but each will be judged according to his works. The One who loves His creation will restore the lawful order to all victims of injustice.
This is the final part of a series titled "The Consequences of Sin." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones