Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation

Chapter 20

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time." (vv.1-3)

This graphic picture of the dragon (Satan, the devil, or the crafty serpent) being bound, is not to be understood in a physical, literal way. How can a physical chain bind a spirit? That is a physical impossibility! Therefore we have to look at a spiritual chain. What spiritual chain can bind Satan? Again, we have to look at this symbolically to receive the message it is conveying.

In this scene John saw an angel coming down from heaven. Usually we think of heaven as being up in a physical sense, but we must also think of it as being up in a spiritual sense. This messenger must be the Lord Jesus Christ, for in chapter 1:18 we see that He has the keys of death and of Hades, and here He also has the key of the abyss, and He carries these keys in His own right. He received them after He had "disarmed the rulers and authorities." (Col. 2:15) His public display of the disarmed rulers and authorities proved His triumph over them. John saw this messenger descending from a higher realm to a lower realm, carrying the key of the abyss.

The word "abyss" comes from the Greek PHREAR. It is of uncertain derivation. The Complete Word Study Dictionary says, "It is a hole in the ground, for holding water or for other purposes, i.e. a cistern or a well, figuratively, an abyss (as a prison)." The adjective "bottomless" and the other references to the abyss in Rev. 9:1-2; 11:7; 17:8 reveal that this is not a well for holding water. Instead, it is a prison in which evil powers are confined and out of which they can at times be released.

An abyss is a gulf or chasm. A bottomless abyss would be too deep for measurement. In Semitic symbolism it signifies a condition where there is no bottom. There is no ground (foundation) to stand on. In Genesis 3:14, the serpent of old was given ground to move on, and dust to eat. This ground was taken away from him when he was thrown into the bottomless pit. This happened to the serpent in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The serpent now has no base for his activity in the life of the new creation man. His foundation is gone, for the new creation in Christ is a spiritual man. There is no dust in him on which the serpent can feed.

Where do we find this abyss? It exists in the natural carnal mind. There is no bottom to all the evil it can dream up. Furthermore, evil has no foundation, for it is not truth; it comes out of lies and deception. Lies are not reality; only truth is reality. Truth reveals the fact that lies have no ground or foundation.

Christ has the ability to do away with our satanic thinking by giving us His mind! The key symbolizes His authority to open and close the door to the abyss, and the chain symbolizes His ability to bring something into captivity. In verse 2 as well as in chapter 12:9, we learn that the dragon is another name for the serpent that lured Eve into disobedience. Notice the various names that describe the dragon. He is called the serpent of old (crafty, creeping), the devil (slanderer) and Satan (adversary).

Genesis 3:1 tells us that "the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field." The word crafty means subtly deceitful, sly, cunning and artful! Therefore the serpent is a very dangerous enemy. Since our mind has received the serpent's thinking, it is craftier than any beast of the field! Eve fell for this crafty serpent because she conversed with him, listened to his lies, and then sidestepped what God had said.

Jesus, on the other hand, didn't enter into a debate with Satan to prove him wrong on technicalities, but withstood him by declaring what God had said! If we try to prove Satan wrong on technicalities, we enter into a conversation with him, and this gives him an opportunity to lure us into his way of thinking. Jesus knew that whatever God said, settled the issue, so He just spoke the words of the One who is truth and has all authority! He proved His sonship by His obedience to His Father God! We do well to follow Christ's example!

The devil needs a body in order to do his evil work. If he can influence and control man's thinking, he has a body that will do his evil work. Man's carnal thinking is Satan's base of operation. This base is removed when we are born again and receive the mind of Christ." Jesus said, "...for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (Jn. 14:30) In Christ's mind there was no ground for Satan (the devil) to feed on, and therefore he had no base of operation. The devil could not get Jesus to believe the deception he had so cunningly devised. Christ's mind would not receive anything that did not come from God! He only received truth!

Only the death and resurrection of Christ has the power to do away with the devil's thinking in us. Our new birth gives us a new nature and transforms our mind. This enables us to submit to Christ's authority so that our thinking becomes one with His thinking. Our obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit shows that the serpent has lost his ground. He can no longer influence and control our imaginations. The works of the devil are destroyed by our obedience to truth! The mind of Christ chains him and throws him into the bottomless pit! Only the death and resurrection of Jesus could make this possible. Our new birth gives us the mind of Christ, and enables us to live out of His mind of truth, causing the devil to be bound in us.

"And bound him for a thousand years." This sentence, taken in the natural understanding, has brought forth the idea that Satan will be bound physically, and thrown into the abyss for a literal thousand years. They say that during this time Christ will not have any opposition from Satan, so Christ can reign supreme together with the overcomers. This introduces the idea that Christ is not strong enough to reign supreme when there is opposition, i.e. in the midst of His enemies. In other words, we have a weak Christ and a strong Satan. They say this will be an idyllic time in the history of humanity. These 1000 years are called the millenium by them because, in the secular world, 1000 years are called a millenium. However, the word "millenium" is not found in the Bible. In spite of this fact, people have made a doctrine out of it. You may have heard of pre-millenialists, post-millenialists and a-millenialists.

A pre-millenialist is one who believes that Jesus Christ will come and set up a physical kingdom in Jerusalem, and reinstate the temple and its sacrifices for 1000 years. During this time the devil is bound, so Christ has no opposition. The physical nation of Israel will be top dog in the world. That is a position held by probably the majority of evangelicals, and was put forward very clearly in "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey. We do not see this as being biblical for many reasons. It implies that Christ's sacrifice is not effective enough to do away with sin, that Christ's reign is a natural physical reign instead of a spiritual internal one, and that the devil is able to prevent Christ from reigning in the midst of His enemies.

The post-millenialist believes that the kingdom of Jesus Christ will gradually get stronger and stronger, until the whole earth comes under His rule for 1000 years. This idea is not very popular today.

An a-millenialist is one who does not believe there will ever be a millenium, but that the number 1000 is symbolic even as the other numbers in the book of Revelation are. Being an a-millenialist guarantees that one will not be accepted by most Christians. It is considered a cause for total rejection. People feel so strongly about the fallacy of this belief, that they may even ban a pastor from the pulpit because of this.

In the past, God dealt with natural Israel. God proved that natural man is unable to keep His commandments. Today God is dealing with spiritual Israel - the true Israel, the descendants of Abraham according to faith! We do not believe that natural Israel will ever again hold a favored position with God. There is no difference between the Jews and Gentiles. Since all have sinned, all have to come to God through faith in Christ! God has always dealt with a people of faith - first in the promised Messiah, and now in the Messiah who has come. They are the people who have been born supernaturally, even as Isaac was! While Israel was carrying the prophecies for the coming Messiah, and waiting for Him, they were the chosen people. After He had come and finished His work of redemption, the chosen people, the Israel of God, are those who have faith in the Messiah who has come.

So natural Israel is placed alongside all the other nations in the world today. Israel's future lies in receiving her Messiah, and becoming part of the church of Jesus Christ, where all are one in Christ - whether Jew or Gentile! (Gal. 3:26-29) If God's plans would include a temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and have the sacrifices reinstated, it would invalidate the sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore we cannot subscribe to that. Having put away sacrifices, God will not reinstate them.

Back to the number 1000. Thus far we have seen that all the numbers in these visions are symbolical, so why should 1000 be any different? One thousand is ten cubed or 10x10x10 - and ten is the number of completion. Ten cubed is total completion. This period of completion began when, by His resurrection, Jesus proved His victory over the devil. Christ's resurrection rolled away the stone that had sealed the tomb of our mind. Ignorance and unbelief still seal the minds of the unsaved. Completion begins in us when we are born again, and ends in us when we are fully surrendered to God. It is the fulfillment of God's plan and purpose for us!

"And he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him." The dragon was cast back into the mind of the old humanity. The dragon cannot exist in the new humanity. He can only deceive where he is allowed to exist; he cannot deceive where he is not present. When the light of Jesus Christ shines into our hearts, the dragon is exposed and expelled, for he cannot live in light. His exposure causes him to lose his power, for his deception only works in darkness.

"So that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a season." The nations symbolize our imaginations. A wrong understanding exists here because the Greek word META is translated "after." It actually means "in the midst of" - not "after". In the midst, or during the time that we are brought to completion, Satan is released for a short time. Why? So our faith can be tested! A testing time always involves faith. Abraham's faith was tested when he had to wait 25 years for the promise of a son by Sarah to materialize. During our waiting time for God's promise to be fulfilled, the enemy tries to tear down our faith.. God always seems to wait with His provision until we have exhausted all self-effort, and the situation seems absolutely hopeless!

This testing time gives Satan an opportunity to tempt us with his lies. He has a smorgasbord of substitutions for obedience. For example, he tells us that a shortcut will bring us to our goal easier and faster than obedience, and that God's way is too hard. If that doesn't work, he tries to plant doubt in our mind as to God's ability, His love, and His ways. Satan tells us his ways are better and easier, and that he is really for us. Why not obey him and try a little self-effort? Why not substitute choice for obedience? His subtle lies about God are aimed at destroying our faith in God and His promises. His arrows are aimed at cracking our shield of faith, thus providing an opening for his lies to permeate and rule our thinking. He wants us to take our eyes off Christ and His ability! We need this testing, for how can we be overcomers if there is nothing to overcome? James tells us that we should count it all joy when we encounter various trials. Why? Because the testing of our faith produces endurance, resulting in perfection and completion, and lacking in nothing!

"Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (v.4)

John saw thrones, and people sitting on those thrones. Not everyone has the authority to sit on a throne. This authority is reserved for rulers  for kings! In the Old Testament we see that God had planned to rule His people through the priesthood. However, the people rejected God's rule, and instead, wanted a king so they could be like other nations. They preferred a pagan government to a divine government; they preferred a physical throne to an invisible throne in the heavenlies.

A throne typifies authority and judgment. A judgment is a statement that declares what is true; it is not a penalty. It may be a favorable judgment or an unfavorable judgment. If it is an unfavorable judgment, a penalty that is consistent with the verdict may be imposed. Everything that does not measure up to God's standard is a lie. We need truth to dissipate the lies we thought were truth. We need God's judgments, for we cannot trust our own; in fact, it is impossible for the natural man to judge rightly without having truth as a standard. Humanity's inability to judge Jesus Christ correctly is a graphic example of its poor judgment. It judged Him to be an impostor, so it crucified Him.

Only God can see and know the intent of the heart, and make a true judgment. Christ brings us the revelation of truth. Those who are in Christ, and can hear what the Spirit is saying, can judge correctly. They can then tell others what this judgment is. For this reason judgment was given to those who sat on the thrones. His judgments are always good and right! Isaiah tells us that the people will learn righteousness when they experience God's judgments. (Is. 26:9)

Furthermore, John saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus Christ. We know that many believers have been beheaded physically because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Not all overcomers have been beheaded physically, yet here they are identified as people who have lost their heads because of their testimony of Jesus. Heads are very important for many functions, and identification is one of them. How can we identify a body that has no head? Modern technology makes this possible in the physical realm, but not in the spiritual realm.

In symbolism John is telling us that these people have lost their old identity. Our old identity was in our Adamic nature. We worshiped our own thoughts and ideas. That is the worship of the beast. The only thoughts that are true are the thoughts that come from the mind of Christ. In Christ we are new creations with a new mind and a new identity. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Cor. 5:17) Being in Christ does away with our old identity; it does away with trying to improve our old identity through self-effort and dreams of grandeur. Christ has taken our wrong identity away, and given us a new identity.

Our new identity is a present possession! It is not an identity that we will receive after our physical death and resurrection. Paul tells us that when we were dead in our transgressions and the uncircumcision of our flesh, Christ made us alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. Since we have been made alive after we were dead, we have been resurrected into life - the life of Christ. We need Christ's life to be in agreement with Him and then we can reign with Him! In the light of the New Testament it is obvious that those who reign with Christ are the overcomers.

Those who are a testimony of Jesus have a mind that is free of beastly thinking. We know that their thinking is not subject to the rule of the beast because the number 666, the number of man, symbolizing carnality, is not on their foreheads. The number 666 on the foreheads of unbelievers is not a visible number; it is not a microchip placed under the skin; it is not a number that has been placed on the forehead or on the hand by man. In keeping with this vision it is a symbolic number, signifying man's unregenerate heart condition. Those who do not have this number are free of beastly thinking. Those who are in Christ refuse to bow to the lies of the false prophet! Religious Babylon or the worldly church system, does not accept those who have their identity in Christ.

Neither is the number 666 on the hands of the overcomers. The hand symbolizes works or ministry. A ministry that has its source in the philosophies of the human mind carries the number 666, and is characterized by great zealousness and endless programs and activities. So often Christians think that their relationship with God consists of pleasing Him with their works instead of with their love. God is not interested in works that produce and promote self-righteousness. We all need to know that God loves us and desires a relationship of love with each of us. Our works will then flow out of this relationship.

And they "reigned with Christ for a thousand years." A thousand years represent the completion of a period of time  not necessarily what we call a thousand years. Since Christ's reign is a spiritual reign, His judgment and authority must also be understood to be spiritual. As we have already mentioned, the word "with" is translated from the Greek META  and it means "in the midst of." They are reigning in the midst of Christ. Christ is the head, and we, corporately, are the body. In His body each individual member is to show or represent the nature of Christ. Just as Jesus Christ was the exact representation of the invisible God, so we are now to be an exact representation of the invisible Christ; just as He reigned over sin, so we are to reign over sin together with Him. God's discipline in us is changing us into the image of Christ.

"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection." (v.5) We have already mentioned that the dead are those who are still in their trespasses and sins, for they have not received the life of Christ. God has a time for all those who are dead in their trespasses to come to life, but the thousand years have to be completed first. The thousand years represent the time in which God picks the first fruit. God has an appointed time for everything! After God has picked the first fruit, the rest of the dead will be brought to life.

"This is the first resurrection." The word "first" is translated from the Greek PROTOS, meaning the foremost in time, place, or importance; it is the first thing or being of its kind. It is the original; an original pattern or model; prototype. This prototype resurrection has been going on ever since Jesus Christ's resurrection. To understand the meaning of this resurrection we need to search the scriptures for further illumination.

In Ephesians 2:5-6 it states that "even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Romans 6 also states, that as we have been baptized into Christ's death, we have also been raised into His life. (vv. 3-4) Since we have been made alive with Christ, we are seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of God. The first resurrection takes place in our spirit. "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Col. 2:12) Being raised into life in Christ is the first resurrection. In baptism, we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of Christ indwells us.

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection." Resurrection is Jesus Christ; it is not a one-time historical event. Since Christ is in us, we have His life and His mind. This new mentality has produced a resurrection into life! This first resurrection is continually taking place until we have been totally changed into His nature. The number, one thousand years, represents this total change  the completeness of Christ's resurrection in us.

"Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." (v. 6)

The second death does not refer to a physical death. Those who refuse to receive the life of Christ reside in death, and they will have to undergo another death before they can be freed from the death that is in them. In the last verses of this chapter we learn that the second death is the lake of fire, and it is for all who have not received the life of Christ. By now we know that this fire is a spiritual fire that consumes the carnal nature. The lake of fire brings an end to the carnal nature. Those who have a part in the first resurrection have already judged the carnal nature to be deceitful, and have already received the mind of Christ. They already have life. Death has no power over those who have been resurrected into life, for God's life now resides in them!

"They will be priests of God and of Christ." "They" refers to those who have part in the first resurrection. In 1 Peter 2:9 it says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

What a privileged people we are! We have been called "out of darkness into His marvelous light!" No longer are we who we used to be! Instead of being under Satan's rule, we have become a people of God's own possession and members of His royal priesthood! This is the high calling we have in Christ! Priests are concerned with the things of God. They are intercessors, praying that the people will hear and obey God. Overcomers join Christ in His intercession for people - for Christ "always lives to make intercession for them." Just as Christ intercedes for us, so we also need to intercede for the lost. We pray that they may be raised out of their carnal mind and come into truth.

Overcomers rule under the leadership of Christ. Christ is in the midst of them and they are in the midst of Him! Possessing His life brings us into union with Him! Overcomers do not rule in their own right or might. Everything they do and say has its source in Christ! Since there was nothing in Christ that Satan could latch onto, there is no point of contact for Satan in those whose source is Christ. Therefore they can reign with Christ over the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16)

"When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore." (vv. 7-8)

At the beginning of this chapter we learned that Christ has bound Satan in the lives of overcomers. A captive Satan is not free to do his work unless he is released. However he is not bound in the lives of unbelievers and in carnal Christians, so in them he is free to stir up great hatred against the saints. The mind and imaginations of unbelievers will receive the lies the devil feeds them  not that they need much help  and they will gather together to destroy the saints.

"Gog and Magog." What do they symbolize? The name Gog means mountain, and a mountain symbolizes a strong ruler or a great difficulty. In 1 Chron. 5:3-4 we learn that Gog was a Reubenite. In Genesis 10:2, Magog appears as the second son of Japheth. The name Magog means the region of Gog. This is corroborated in Ezekiel 38:2, where Magog refers to a country or people of which Gog was the prince of Rosh. He headed up a very strong military alliance that was well equipped with cavalry and the weapons of that day. In Ezekiel chapters 38-39 we see that God gathered this great multitude of people together. The people thought they were assembled for the express purpose of destroying Israel. However, God had a different purpose, namely, that the invaders were to be destroyed. Through the power of God, those who opposed Israel were crushed, thus letting everyone know that God is the Lord!

Symbolically, Gog and Magog represent all who are against the true Israel of God  whether they come from the ranks of outright unbelievers or from legalistic Christians. (Reuben was Jacob's first son by Leah, the wife that was his by legal determination. So Reuben and his progeny represent legalistic Christians.) This truth is portrayed in symbolism, when Ishmael, the son of self-effort, persecuted Isaac, the son of promise. We can easily understand that unbelievers would be against believers, but it is hard to understand that legalistic believers can be against believers who are listening to the Spirit. However, legalism keeps people from appropriating the promises of God; it keeps them bound to laws and doctrines, thus causing them to feel the need to produce their own righteousness. Spiritual believers do not fit into the mold of legalism, nor can legalism control them. Legalists are against all those whom they cannot control.

Those who are against believers are listening to the lies of the devil. The devil is void of truth, so he can only dish out lies, and his lies produce fear in those who listen to him. No wonder Peter declared that "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) That sounds pretty ominous and frightening until we remember that a roaring lion is not on the kill. It's the silent lion, the one that stealthily creeps up on its prey, that is out to kill. The lion that roars at night scares everything in the forest out of its wits. The devil gains power over people by instilling fear through deception, thus gaining dominion and control over them. He devours them by taking away their true identity and by keeping them from believing the truth. When we resist him by declaring the truth, he has lost his power, and he flees from us.

Wherever the light of the gospel goes, it does away with the darkness that is holding the people in bondage to the devil's lies. Missionaries relate story after story how people have been set free from their former addictions and demonic power. In North America we don't see people being freed from their bondage as much, because they still desire to cling to their traditions and deceptions. We expect pagans to turn from the error in which they have been trained, but Christians are not willing to turn from the error in which they have been trained.

Simeon prophesied over the baby Jesus in Luke 2:32, and said that Jesus would be a light of revelation to the Gentiles! The light of Christ brings freedom from the darkness that marks and characterizes the devil's domain. When the light of Christ comes into our heart, it takes away the darkness that is in us.

"And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven, and devoured them." (v.9) This great multitude of peoples are united in purpose, and therefore have gathered together to do away with the people of faith. Their determination to exterminate the people of faith does not present a problem to God. They do not realize that God is using this situation to do away with Israel's enemies. So let's look at the way God has done this in the past and see how it symbolizes this spiritually.

In the book of Exodus we see how Egypt's controlling power over the Israelites was completely destroyed. After Israel's release from Egypt they were free to worship God. But Pharaoh suddenly realized that he had lost all his slave laborers. Like a raving maniac he chased after them together with his mighty warriors, horses and chariots! Israel was in a dilemma! On each side of them was a mountain, before them stretched the sea, and behind them was Pharaoh with his great army. Israel did not see any way of escape! They were afraid because they did not understand that this would result in a great deliverance for them! Only Moses understood this! God completely freed them from their Egyptian bondage by causing the Red Sea waters to flow over and engulf the entire Egyptian army. The ruling power that had subjugated the Israelites was destroyed! What a beautiful picture of the complete destruction of the carnal mind's rule in our lives!

God's ways usually surprise us! He surely surprised Saul of Tarsus when he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians and throw them into prison. God sent His fire, and Saul became a Christian - he became one of them. Have you ever set out to prove someone wrong, and in the process you became convinced or persuaded that you were in the wrong? This has been our experience. We came from a denomination where we were taught that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not for today. When we visited a camp where they taught otherwise, we were determined to prove them wrong. After a careful study of the scriptures, we became convinced that we had not been taught correctly. Instead of proving them wrong, God sent His fire, consumed our wrong thinking, and baptized us in the Holy Spirit! So God sends His fire to consume our wrong thinking.

"And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city." The beloved city is another name for Jerusalem (the habitation of peace). After David transferred his residence to the fortified city of Jerusalem, he called it the city of David; it was also called the city of God. Since this city was built on Mt. Zion, it eventually was also known as Zion. The presence of the ark of God in that city gave Jerusalem spiritual significance as the place of worship and praise. With the transfer of the ark to Mt. Moriah, the temple area was also called Zion. Eventually the inhabitants were also called Zion.

In the New Testament we read about the old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem. In Galatians 4 we learn that Hagar represents the covenant made at Mt. Sinai (slavery). Therefore she represents the present Jerusalem, and she is in slavery with her children. (v.25) Sarah represents the new covenant (the Jerusalem above) because she brings freedom to her children. (v. 26) The new Jerusalem is symbolized by various names of the old Jerusalem, such as Mt. Zion, the city of David, the beloved city, as well as the city that is above, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the bride of Christ. It also tells us that even as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so those who are born according to the flesh persecute those who are born according to the Spirit.

Because of the 2,200-foot elevation of Mount Zion, the road to Jerusalem was called an ascent. Enemy troops had to travel upwards to encompass the city. The great multitude described in this verse is travelling up the mountain, bent on overcoming spiritual Israel, oblivious of the fact that it was God who had gathered together all the enemies of the true believers, in order to destroy them! Our God is a consuming fire, and He consumes all our dross (our wrong thinking).

Revelation has a way of showing us how thorough God is in His cleansing process, and how everything that is not of Him has to be destroyed! The judgment against the Adam man, the man who brought sin into the world, was accomplished on the cross, and this judgment now has to be actualized in us. This is the power of the gospel! This is the mandate Paul received from God. Paul was sent to the Gentiles in order "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me." (Acts 26:18) The light of the gospel of Christ causes the devil to lose his power to deceive the nations (imaginations) that dwell in us.

The Father has promised His Son that He will give Him the nations as His inheritance and the very ends of the earth as His possession (Ps. 2:8), and He has the authority, power and resources to keep His promises! Man rises up against God, but nothing can stop God's promise from becoming actuality! When God sends His consuming fire, it will always accomplish its refining purpose.

Most Christians are more interested in having Christ set up His kingdom in the present physical Jerusalem and reign over all the peoples from there, than in being freed from all their carnal thinking. They do not understand that Christ's kingdom is a spiritual rule that takes place within us. Although all of us would like to be freed from the injustices and difficulties others inflict on us, this cannot take place without God's cleansing fire. Christ's kingdom is not in the seen realm; it is within us, so everything that does not belong to His kingdom has to be judged as being false, and discarded. Those who are subject to the rule of Christ overcome the world, for His rule overcomes their carnal thinking.

A look at the life of Christ reveals that His rule on earth consisted of an internal rule. He ruled over His own will by delighting to do the will of the Father! He listened to the Holy Spirit; He never did anything on His own initiative. We too have to flow in the Spirit. When we are in agreement with Christ, we are rejecting the devil's accusations and temptations, and we are ruling with Christ over the thoughts of the carnal mind. In delighting to do God's will, we are reigning with Christ.

Reigning with Christ includes participation in the work He is doing, and intercession is one facet of His work. In Hebrews 7:25 we read that Christ ever lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through Him. As we intercede and pray for people, and ask God to bring His kingdom into their earth, we are joining Christ in His work of intercession. We want God's will to be actualized in us as well as in others.

"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (actually, for the aeons of the aeons - ages of the ages)." (v.10) The "ages of the ages" is not forever, for ages belong to the realm of time.

A literal interpretation of the lake of fire pictures a scene filled with horror and terrible suffering that never ends. Many equate the lake of fire as being synonymous with hell, even though it clearly states that hell (Hades) will be thrown into the lake of fire. (v.20). The faulty translation of the Greek words HADES (a dark unseen realm, grave, a place for the departed dead) and AION (age) has created a mental image of a fire that will burn forever whatever is thrown into it. The Concordant Literal Translation has correctly translated it as "the eons of the eons".

People think they can compare this fire with the burning bush that Moses saw  a bush that burned, yet was not destroyed. Therefore people think that this lake of fire will burn forever without destroying that which is thrown into it. Let's remember that the burning bush was not hurt by the fire. Nothing was even singed! It did not suffer from the fire. Therefore this illustration does not apply to the lake of fire, for the lake of fire consumes everything that is not of God - everything that is corruptible. After it has consumed everything that is combustible, the fire ceases.

The devil is a slanderer  he tells us lies about God, about ourselves and about others. He wants us to have a false image of God in order to exalt himself and to destroy our faith in God. He continually accuses us of wrongdoing, so that our eyes are focused on self-effort instead of the righteousness that is ours in Christ. He also lists the sins of others so that we blame them for our shortcomings. His purpose is to ruin everyone's reputation but his own. We need to be careful that we do not adopt his methods.

Here the devil is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. The word "brimstone' comes from the Greek THEION, meaning sulfur. Sulfur was added to every sacrifice for purification. So this is a fire that purifies. This lake is not burning with a literal fire, but with a spiritual fire! These literal pictures are to give us spiritual knowledge, and the lake of fire is no exception to this rule.

The beast and the false prophet are also in this fire. The beast represents our carnality, and the false prophet represents religiosity. The religiosity that is within those who have not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, depends on self-effort and obedience to the rules and regulations that have been imposed on them by their particular brand of religion for their righteousness. Disobedience to the false prophet's orders brings prophecies of doom and gloom to them. He loudly proclaims that God's ways are too hard, and that his ways will bring them to the same goal by an easier route. Religiosity desires self-fulfillment, and its ears are deaf to God's voice. The cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit has dealt with the beast and this religious imposter in the lives of true believers.

Here we see that the beast and the false prophet are being tormented in this fire. The word "tormented" should actually read "touchstone". A touchstone is used to reveal the quality or purity of a metal. We need a touchstone to reveal our beastly nature and our religiosity. The beast and the false prophet are devoid of truth; they lack purity of thought and action, and always oppose the truth.

In Hebrews 12:29 we read that God is a consuming fire. The Holy Spirit reveals the areas that lack purity so that God's fire can burn away all our carnality (the beast) and all our religiosity (the false prophet). His fire consumes everything that is corruptible, and that includes our carnality and religiosity. Those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, willingly receive the consuming of their carnality and religiosity, even though the process is difficult, and they rejoice when they are freed from it. These are not thrown into the lake of fire.

The ministry of the touchstone is to bring a revelation to corrupt humanity of its corruption. This is not an easy task! Those who refuse to hear the voice of the Spirit will be thrown into the lake of fire - into situations that are so difficult that they will be forced to admit that they need help, and that their philosophies and dogmas are useless. It may take a long period of testing - even to the ages of the ages - for them to admit their stubbornness and pride. But the lake of fire faithfully burns and burns until all carnality and religiosity are burned away. God's consuming fire burns in the first fruit of every generation until every vestige of carnality and religiosity is burned away, and it will do the same in ALL who make up the harvest and the gleanings, until ALL is subjected to Jesus Christ! Eventually ALL will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them." (v. 11)

The things John saw in the spirit are truly amazing! He saw a great white throne, he saw the dead, he saw the books being opened, and he saw the dead and death and Hades being thrown into the lake of fire. He knew that all these scenes had a spiritual significance.

Let's look at the spiritual significance they have for us. These vivid pictures are to give us an understanding of what is taking place within us. A natural understanding of this scene pictures a numberless multitude of people  from the time of Adam to the time of the coming of Christ  standing in line, waiting for their turn to be exposed and judged. Court proceedings require witnesses, arguments, evidence, and a judge. Can you imagine how many millenniums it would take to judge each individual sin of an untold number of billions and billions of people? Yet this is the myth created by the carnal mind. It cannot understand the symbols God uses to bring us spiritual understanding.

A throne is a place of authority. A king sits on his throne to govern, to rule and to judge. We know that God's kingdom rule is within us. Therefore His throne must also be within us. If Christ is our Lord, it follows that He is ruling us from His throne that is within us! It is a great throne because no other throne can compare with it. Only after the believers have overcome the world that is within them, can they reign with Christ over the nations. In 1 Cor. 6:2 Paul asks the question, "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" When the overcomers are ruling with Christ, the throne becomes a many-membered throne.

It is a white throne. White symbolizes purity and light. Only a perfect knowledge of truth and righteousness can bring perfect judgment. It is pure, and its purity reveals all sin - even the secret sins. No corruption is tolerated! This seat of authority does not accept bribes, nor does it make deals.

"From whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them." The earth symbolizes the earthy part of us, that is, our carnal nature. We have all received the old Adamic nature; we have all borne the image of the earthy. When the brightness of Christ's light and truth floods our hearts, our earth, which is our carnality, has to flee. There is no place for carnality in the presence of Christ (the truth)!

Our heaven also flees away. In the scriptures, "heaven" is usually used in the plural. The translators have not been accurate in their translation, so we get the impression of one heaven. When we look out on a starry night, we call that expanse heaven. Paul said that he was caught up into the third heaven. Christ ascended far above all the heavens. (Eph. 4:10) So there are many heavens.

To most people heaven is a physical place of elevation and perfection. It is the place they want to go after they die. Instead of desiring the life of God, they desire stately mansions, luxurious living and idyllic circumstances. The most idyllic circumstance to many is when they can have their own way. These earthy ideas of heaven have to flee when the glorious presence of God fills the heart. Since preachers often substitute heaven for life, it is not surprising that these concepts are so prevalent.

The scriptural and true heaven is the invisible place where God dwells and rules by His Spirit. God rules His children from within their very being. Therefore heaven is within those who are ruled by His Spirit. God's rule is higher than the rule of self. When the Spirit within us reveals spiritual things to us, the heavens are opened to us. When heaven was opened to John, he saw a spiritual dimension. There are many spiritual dimensions, so there are many heavens and levels where we can experience the life of God. In our upward walk with God we have many spiritual experiences.

It is wonderful to know God in His heavens. Each heaven speaks of a sphere of life, a plane of relationship and a level of experience in the Spirit. In Ephesians 1 it says that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. There are various levels of authority that we have in Christ. Our level of faith, love and obedience determines the heaven in which we are living, for they reveal our intimacy of relationship with Christ, and establish the authority we have in Christ.

All carnal ideas have to vanish in the light and brightness of God's righteous rule! The brightness of His light exposes all the deceitfulness of the human heart. It exposes the man of sin  the natural man  for he exalts his ideas over and above the truth that God is. God's brightness exposes the traditions and rituals and all the things that we substitute for a relationship with God; there is no longer a place for them, for they are all being destroyed when God's brightness illuminates us! This is an ongoing and a progressive process in the life of every believer.

"And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which are written in the books, according to their deeds." (v. 12)

What an awesome scene! Before the throne stretched a huge expanse filled with dead people - both the great and the small. We generally call a place filled with dead people a cemetery. However this was not the usual cemetery. Instead of buried bodies and gravestones giving them identity, all the dead were standing up!

Obviously this has to be a spiritual scene. Who are the dead? The Spirit declares that "the mind set on the flesh is death_and you were dead in your trespasses and sins." (Rom. 8:6; Eph. 2:1) This deadness is a description of the mind that is not focused on Christ and is not submitted to Him. How do we come out of this deadness? Paul gives us the answer in Eph. 5:14: "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." To come into life, we first have to be awakened; then we have to rise from the dead. Rising from the dead is called resurrection. Jesus Christ is the resurrection! Receiving His life brings us into resurrection. We also call this being born again! "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (Eph. 2:4-5) (Emphasis ours.) Standing before the throne are the dead, namely, all who are dead in their transgressions, and therefore fleshly or carnally minded.

"And books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life." Two kinds of books are opened. Since the second book is identified as the book of life, the first set of books cannot be books of life. Anything that does not belong to the realm of life belongs to the realm of death. An open book symbolizes that it is ready to be read and have its contents disclosed.

John perceived that each person is an epistle - an open book. Paul also perceived this. He said, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men." (2 Cor.3: 2) Since the first set of books reveals the lives of those who are living in the death realm, they must be living according to the law - those who hold to the observance of the law for their deliverance, sanctification and righteousness. These live by "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not". The more laws they keep, the more righteous they think they are. But the law only brings condemnation because no one can keep the whole law. The law was not given in order to give us life, but to show us what sin is, and to lead us to Christ.

So the first set of books reveals the deadness of the deeds of the carnal mind. Everything that does not flow out of life has to be judged as being in the death realm. So this judgment is against the carnal mind and the deeds that it propagates. In Gal. 5:19-21 some of these deeds are listed. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity,, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." "Things like these" include religiosity and its works for righteousness.

But another book was opened  the book of life! This book is a revelation of Christ and His love, grace and mercy! Life does not depend on our performance but on our union with His life. A fruit-bearing branch has to be united with the source of its life. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." (John 15:5) Life bears fruit, and this fruit feeds others! The life of believers reveals the Christ within them, so they are living epistles.

As we continue with this study, let's remember that these events occur internally. This does not refer to a one-time judgment that takes place after our physical death at the end of time. Our sins are not shouted from the rooftops. This is not an external judgment, but one that takes place within us daily.

The opening of the book of life brings a revelation of life. This revelation forms the basis for judging everything that is in the death realm. The first book reveals what is in the death realm, and the second book, the book of life, declares judgment on everything that is in the death realm. Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." It is His life and truth that reveal the lies and deception of the imposter, and judge him. The truth reveals the counterfeit, and the counterfeit is recognized as being worthless. In order to be changed into the image of Christ, all the deadness of the carnal mind has to be overcome by the mind of Christ. The message of love and life accompanies this judgment. God's judgments are always redemptive! As someone has said, "He judges the worthless in order to give us the priceless!"

Christ's ministry is one of righteousness - not of condemnation. His standard of righteousness does not accept man-made standards, doctrines and traditions. His love reached out to the publicans and sinners; it included everyone. `For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) God's goal is to save the world, and in order to achieve this purpose, all fleshly activity has to be judged as being worthless.

Judgment is an important subject in the scriptures. Our natural reaction to judgment is fear because we do not understand its importance. Paul exclaimed, "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Rom. 11:33) God's judgments were even beyond Paul's understanding! However, righteous judgment is needed for righteous living, and God has appointed Jesus Christ to judge the world in righteousness. (Acts 17:31) The light of Christ reveals the hidden thoughts of unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, revenge, etc. His judgments give us the revelation of what is in the life realm and what is in the death realm. When Christ comes to rule in us, His truth and light constantly judges our carnal thinking.

The cunning adversary has deceived Christians into fearing God's righteous judgments. The dominant religious thought is that fear will influence and motivate people to do good deeds, and that good deeds will change them into being good people. Many evangelists use fear tactics in an effort to get people into the kingdom of God. The misunderstanding of the word "judgment" plus an awareness of frequent failures causes Christians to dread God's judgments instead of welcoming them. They think of judgment as punishment, and that this judgment will take place at the end of time. They do not realize that God's day is always. We need God's judgments now, so we can live a life of righteousness now. They free us from the unforgiveness, hate and bitterness resident in our carnal nature, and bring us the blessings of love, mercy and grace.

God's judgments are first and foremost internal, ongoing, and always redemptive. How could they be redemptive if they were only reserved for the future, and we could not benefit from them?. God does not judge us in order to destroy us! He opens our book to deliver us! Since Jesus said that He did not come for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, our eyes have to be opened to our unrighteousness and corruption so we can realize our need of deliverance. Therefore we can thank God when He exposes our need! God is faithful, and He will not terminate His judgments until all the lust of our flesh, our pride and our love for this world have been dealt with. His goal is for each of us to be conformed to the image of His glorious Son! This is the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Our lives are open books for others to read. Paul said, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Cor. 3: 2-3) When Christians reveal the nature of the Christ within them, their lives will judge those who walk in carnality. "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." (2 Cor. 2:15) The Christ in us is the Spirit of the living God, and His life in us is an open book, holding forth the Word of Life to all who come under the sphere of our influence.

"And the dead were judged from the things which are written in the books, according to their deeds." We either belong to the category of those who are alive in Christ, or to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins. God's judgments are based on the source of our actions. The source reveals whether our actions come out of obedience to God or out of obedience to our selfish desires. Just as an earthly king's judgment and rule proceed from his throne, so God's judgment and rule proceed from His throne. Since God resides in us and rules us from within, His throne must also be within us. These judgments do not determine whether or not we go to be with the Lord after we die physically. Instead, they determine what needs to be placed into the cleansing and refining fire! God uses judgment as a tool in His redemptive and restorative processes. The natural understanding thinks it is the end, but God uses it as a means to transform us into His image.

Judgment has to take place in every believer. Even though we have the mind of Christ, the thoughts of the carnal mind reside alongside our true mind, and they always have to be judged as being in the death realm. Our thoughts precede our deeds. Our actions, aims and endeavors need to be judged and cleansed from all forms of selfish desires. Wrong actions will follow thoughts of unforgiveness, bitterness and jealousy; therefore they need to be judged. Difficult situations reveal both our strengths and weaknesses, and show us the areas in which we need to change.

James declared that faith without works is dead, and in Hebrews 11:6 it says that without faith it is impossible to please God! Therefore our works have to flow out of faith. Works that are produced by self-effort are dead works, and therefore do not qualify for a reward or an inheritance. This truth is foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the birth of Abraham's son Ishmael. Ishmael was produced by self-effort, so he did not receive an inheritance. The inheritance was reserved for Isaac, the son of promise, for he was born according to the promise of God, and not of self-effort.

"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds." (v.13)

The sea represents all unregenerate humanity, for at one time we were all dead in our sins and transgressions. It is only in Christ that we can be made alive! The natural mind is hostile toward God, and therefore cannot receive the life of God. Rom. 8:6 says, "The mind set on the flesh is death." We have to agree with God's judgment of the carnal mind. Judgment brings knowledge. When knowledge comes to the ignorant, the sea has to give up its dead.

Hades, the realm of the departed dead, also has to give up its dead. For the meaning of Hades I would like to quote the explanation of J. Preston Eby. "The word HADES is a Greek word most often translated "hell". Concerning the literal meaning of the word HADES there can be no doubt. It comes from the Greek A(I)DES. The "a" is a prefix which is equivalent to our "un", and the stem "-id" means perceive. Thus we have UN-PERCEIVE or imperceptible; the unseen. That is Hades  the unseen world, the unknown realm. Our English word hell is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word, "hillan" or "helan", meaning a cavern, anciently denoting a concealed or UNSEEN place. In parts of England men still say, "I plan to hell my potatoes," meaning to bury them in a hole or pit, that is, in a covered place, out of sight. And in the old days a young couple seeking to be alone, sought a hell, a place where they could make love without being seen by prying eyes."

Our understanding of hell as being a literal agonizing, torturing, burning fire that never accomplishes a change in the nature of that which is being burned, comes from paganism. The pagan idea of hell prompted the usage of "everlasting fire" in many of our translations of the Bible. The Greek New Testament never uses these two words in combination.

So let's look at v. 13 again, and insert the meaning of the symbolism. "And the sea (that is, all unregenerate humanity) gave up the dead which were in it, and death (i.e., the carnal mind) and Hades (i.e., the place of the departed dead), gave up the dead which were in them." Every realm has to give up its dead. This includes the business, intellectual, scientific, political, and even the religious realm. Every death realm has to give up its ignorance, darkness and superstitions. All has to be brought to the light so that it can be dealt with.

Can you see what this is telling us? It is giving us the message that the grave, darkness and the flesh, are not as powerful as we thought they were. All these realms have to release their dead! "The last enemy that will be abolished is death." (1 Cor. 15:26) The obedience of Jesus Christ is greater than the disobedience of Adam! It overcomes the death we had in Adam, and brings us into life!

"And they were judged every one of them according to their deeds." Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16-20)

The fruit reveals its source. Good fruit has its source in life, and it will also bring forth life. The deeds of the flesh do not have their source in life, and therefore are unable to bring forth life. Only the deeds that have their source in death (the flesh) need to be cast into the fire.

The truth is that fire always changes the nature of what is being burned; it destroys the old nature. For example, when wood is burned, it is changed into gases and ashes. The old nature of the wood has disappeared. When metals are subjected to extreme heat, a refining or separation from their impurities takes place.

"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." (vv. 14-15)

We have been so inundated with traditional thinking that it is difficult for us to see what the scriptures are actually revealing. Natural understanding of this verse causes us to see God in the wrong light. It causes us to see God as a monster who unmercifully subjects all unbelievers to an eternity of torture. The scriptures do not say that, but the traditional church teaching implies that. Since the scriptures do speak of "unquenchable fire", we assume that this fire will always exist. But that is not the case, for unquenchable fire simply means that it cannot be extinguished until it has accomplished its purpose. It is not an everlasting fire. Jeremiah 17:27 says that God will kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem and it will devour its palaces, and it shall not be quenched. This fire is not burning today, since it has accomplished its purpose, and therefore it is no longer needed.

Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire - this is a forced entry. Although they did not desire it, they were forced to endure it. Humanity's first death took place when Adam sinned. His death was our death. The scriptures tell us that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins. The second death is the lake of fire  the fire of God that consumes our carnal nature with its wrong desires and lusting for the things of the world.

Those who have their names written in the book of life are not thrown into the lake of fire. Why? Because the Holy Spirit has already done His refining work in them! John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. The purpose of this fire is to cleanse each believer from all carnal or fleshly thinking. Therefore believers can welcome the work of God's consuming fire. They recognize that His fire is necessary to consume all their dross, and to change them into the image of Christ. Everything corruptible has to be consumed.

The process of death to sin works in all who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. In Romans 6:10-11 we read that the death Christ died, He died to sin. Even so we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (v.3) We have been baptized into His death to sin. God's consuming fire brings us into this death experientially, and transforms us into Christ' s likeness and nature.

Christ's only desire was to please the Father! Even as Jesus was dead to all sinful desires, so we have to die to all the allurements of sin and self-exaltation. The ruler of this world didn't find any love of self in Christ's life, so he could not connect with Him. For this to be actualized in us, all our love for the things of this world needs to be destroyed. Life overcomes death, and in God's marvelous dealings, life also produces a death to sin in us, so that we who have life, are not cast into this lake.

Only those who do not have life are thrown into the lake of fire. This fire hurts pride, self-esteem, lustful desires and everything the world cherishes. God wants everyone to come into life, and He will do whatever it takes to get prideful man to recognize his need to change. God's purpose and methods are always redemptive! God's consuming fire burns until He has accomplished His purpose in everyone. The lake of fire is not the end  it is only the means to get even the vilest sinner to see his need to receive Christ.

Paul wrote, "For He has put all things in subjection under His feet, so that God may be all in all." (1 Cor. 15:27,28) At present we do not see that, but it will come into being - it will be actualized. God's promises are sure, and He is able to accomplish His goal. The lake of fire is part of the process to accomplish this goal!

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