Reading 3

Further transcripts

Revelation 20:14-15

Plumstead Conference

"And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire." (v.14)

It would seem briefly that the purpose for which death and hell (hades) existed now cease to exist, and as such they can be cast into the lake of fire, done with. This bearing away we shall find in chapter 21 verse 1.

Are death and hades being figuratively personified when they are cast into the lake? We seem to be thinking of death and hades as conditions rather than persons, so presumably it is a figurative expression.

It does look as if death and hades are personified or set forth as persons here, and like two age-old executioners they are no longer required because sin no longer exists to mar the universe. Their purpose is ended and they are discarded.

The expression is very strong here. Death and hades both are cast into the lake of fire, death is more the first death as we mentioned this morning, and immediately thereafter the condition, the second death, which is the final and definite separation from God forever. With the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden, "it was appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb.9:27). Preachers have often said that those who know not the Saviour will certainly die twice but those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ may not even die once. Those who are alive and remain when the Lord comes into the air will be taken out of this scene of sorrow and death. He is coming soon. Now is the decision time - and there is no time to hesitate and be lost.

The picture shows us that these two voracious monsters that have devoured so many of God's creatures are finally themselves destroyed. That is the idea. In the end they are dealt with. It concurs with what we learn from 1 Corinthians 15:26, that "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death". In Revelation 21:4 this matter is confirmed. Death will cease to occur, even though the second death endures forever. What a wonderful thing for the believer to take account of, no fear because he is in Christ. These Scriptures, although carrying a very solemn warning, still do have a note of very real comfort for the believer.

Death is usually regarded as an enemy and yet God uses it today to bring His own into His presence. In psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints", although strictly a Scripture with a future reference still has a note of cheer in every dispensation. "Death is yours" says the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:22.

In the Authorised Version and also the Textus Receptus it leaves out the words "even the lake of fire" after the words "this is the second death". We may wonder why it is put in. Perhaps to guard against the thought that the casting of death and hell (hades) into the lake of fire is the second death. It is not. The second death is the lake of fire itself. The Scripture itself is agreed in the majority of the manuscripts.

All this confirms what we have already heard that death is to be separated from God. The second death therefore means nothing less than to be eternally separated from the life of God, a dreadful thing to consider.

"And if any one was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." (v.15)

A distinction must be carefully observed between the books where the deeds of our responsible life are recorded and the book of life spoken of here. Both books are related to the judgment. Persons will be judged according to their works as it is written in the books. This will include the failure of man under responsibility, all that men have done in self-will. John writes in his first epistle that "sin is lawlessness" (3:4). But the lake of fire is in contrast, to the book of life. It is because men did not receive the grace and the Lord Jesus that they end up in the lake of fire. In connection with the books related to responsibility there are differences in the severity of judgments, but in connection with the book of life there is no difference. He who is not found written in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire. We do not separate those things from each other, but this distinction helps us to understand the verses better.

This morning reference was made to the distinction between the book of life and the Lamb's book of life, could you just add a little bit to this please?

As to the Lamb's book of life we have Scripture to tell us that names once registered in the Lamb's book of life will never be deleted from it. But with reference to the book of life, there is the suggestion of a possibility of deletion from it. In the promise to the overcomer, you remember, faithfulness on earth means that the person's name will not be deleted from the book of life (Rev.3:5). The truth therefore is that every responsible person from a responsible age upwards has their name registered in the book of life, but his or her name may be deleted from the book of life. So when the great white throne judgment takes place the judgment dependent upon the works, there is an appeal in case of any doubt, 'Is the name still in the book of life?' And it would seem that those whose sins disqualify them have had their names deleted from the book of life. However, we learn from the end of chapter 21 that the final appeal is a positive one. Those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will never have their names deleted from that book.

Would you think that the first book that you referred to, where the names might be deleted, could perhaps be described as a book of 'Christian profession', rather than real confession?

I think it should be even wider to include all responsible persons, although that would certainly include professing Christians.

So I understand that you mean that every person who is born, given life in that sense, is written initially in the book of life, and so they could be, and they are, deleted if they have not that new birth which qualifies entry into the kingdom of God.

Yes.

Could you say a little more as to what you mean by responsible persons?

I am sure others can add, but we know that there are children who have not reached a responsible age, who are ushered into the Lord's presence, not disqualified by sin because they have not reached a responsible age. The book of life, I suggest, also includes those who have not reached an age of responsibility before God.

As to the fixation of that age, this is a very difficult question and probably variable; but it has been pointed out that Jairus' daughter at the age of 12 was at the point of death (Mark 5:23). This may possibly be the answer. It is interesting that in the Jewish community a boy becomes of age at the age of 12, and he has his bar-mitzvah at that age. So there maybe some suggestion from Scripture and from Jewish practice that twelve is approximately the age upon which they embark upon responsibility.

The interesting Scripture is Rev.3:5, where we read of the name which can never be taken out of the book of life. It is given there as a comfort to the saints who were having their names scored off the registers of the various churches. The Lord says to them in affect, 'They can score your names off the church registers here, but I will never score your name out of the book of life'. That means it never will be. That name is written, I take on the basis of Ephesians 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world". It sounds Calvinistic, but scripture says that it was written in a past eternity. God knows His sheep, and although we do not know how God works to bring in His sheep, we still go out like many others with the glorious gospel, glad to know that God will still bless His word.

We have already studied this morning that the books were opened (v.12), but now we learn that the book of life is opened (v.15), seemingly to confirm that the judgment is just. It is a figure of speech to convey the truth more distinctly to every mind.

It is clear that these persons were never converted because they are not written in the book of life. God's righteousness now extends to these persons, He will act in righteousness in regard to them. They receive what is their due reward. They never wanted to be in God's presence on earth, never wanted His company, so He righteously gives them what they have always desired. What a dreadful thing to be separate from God eternally. It was a terrible thing for them to be in the presence of God in their unrepentant, unconverted state, but this will be far more terrible. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, to stand in God's presence at any moment unprotected by the blood of Christ (Heb.10:30-31). If we have any sensitivity at all we can only say it is too terrible to contemplate.

It was said last year, and most effectively, that not to be in the presence of God will mean to be in the presence of Satan himself, the Beast and the Antichrist. So the company in which they are found is just the exact opposite of the position of the simplest believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. All this surely helps us in appreciating our precious Lord in the work He accomplished on Calvary's cross.

There is no clash between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. There is a perfect, total, exact, balance. But keeping this Scripture in it's own context, we started with being advised to see the accountability of every responsible person, no-one will be in the lake of fire because they were not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. If they are in the lake of fire it will be because they will be condemned righteously as sinners by practice. Keeping that in mind, I think it helps to put some of these questions to rest. Let us keep things it in their own context.

When men are in charge of keeping the books they make mistakes. In many churches here today they make mistakes. Need we say our God makes no mistakes? The books in heaven are updated continually. Scripture makes a slight difference between the time the names are written. In Revelation 13:8 it says "written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world", and that refers to the elect who will enjoy the earthly kingdom in the world to come. As to the heavenly saints who are elect in Christ "before the foundation of the world" (Eph.1:4). It seems clear the book of life comprises the names of those elect in Christ before the foundation of the world, that is, entirely apart from man's responsibility. Man will be charged and will be put away from the presence of God if they have not received Christ, but this does not contradict God's eternal councils.

The most blessed thing about heaven is that we have the Lord Jesus for company and all who are His. There is a distinction between a house and a home. With a house we have bricks and mortar, but a home is the persons who are in it. We discovered that the Germans make a distinction between the house and the home, but I am not sure that the French language makes the same distinction.

There are another two references which call for attention. In Hebrews 12:23 it speaks about "the church of the first-born, which are written in heaven", and also in Luke 10:20 when the seventy were sent forth when they were alone with the Lord Jesus He said to them "Rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven". Is this the book of life they are written in?

Both of the Scriptures clearly refer to heavenly saints, thus distinguishing between heavenly saints and earthly saints.

There seems to be some significance to the word 'cast'. Death and hades are cast into the lake of fire. Certainly it suggests throwing it away, you are getting rid of it. What a terrible thing for a person to be treated thus, to be "cast into the lake of fire". I wonder if that is borne out by the original language, or whether that is the correct thought to have, and if so, it really suggests how dreadful and fearful a thing this is for an individual.

The same word is used in verse 10 of the same chapter, the Devil is cast into the lake of fire. It is the same thought, thrown, cast out.

The Greek word simply means 'to throw'.

To get a full answer to the question you need to look at all the references that the Spirit of God uses in respect to thrown. This takes a long time but the translation seems suited to the particular place here, 'got rid of'. There is nothing wrong with the English translation but I would not like to make too much of the word 'cast'.

Does not this come very close to the expression "I will spew thee out of my mouth" (Rev.3:16)?

No doubt, in effect, yes. But spewing carries also the thought of nausea. Lukewarm tepid water is a suitable description of unenthusiastic, half-hearted Christian profession. Where there is no conviction in the testimony, needless to say, there will also be no results for God.

Scripture does seem to suggest a distinction in manner, or mode, of disposal. When the first heavens and the first earth have served their purpose, it says 'as a garment which has been worn much and well loved and has served it's purpose, neatly folded and put to one side'. That to me seems very much different to a specific act of judgment involved in spewing out of the mouth or casting away to it's final destination. One is done with love and respect, but the other is done in condign judgment.

There is another point in Jude 13. We read there of those who are "reserved in blackness of darkness forever". People will say on the street when we are preaching 'Oh, I will be with my friends in hell', but they are not going to enjoy their companionship, they are going to be sufferers in the lake of fire to the ages of eternity.

This raises another point. Is this a temporary state until the time of judgment?

There is a difference between verses 6 and 13 in Jude. Verse 6 reads "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day". This speaks of fallen angels not man. Verse 13 speaks of man. Our Lord spoke of hell as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth". The rich man, as we see in Luke 16, had five brethren that he did not want to come there with him. He was just in the flame, which was not the real lake of fire as yet. He was waiting for the judgment, but he did not want anybody to come even there. So scripture does seem to make clear distinctions between the intermediate and the final state of the sinner.

It was interesting what you said about the way the various things are disposed of. You spoke about being folded up as a garment, but do we not have in 2 Peter 3 "the elements shall melt with a ferment heat". How do these two methods of disposal get on?

I do not see any problem. One is the fact that creation having served it's purpose and therefore there is no longer any need for it. The means of the disposal is a detail compared to that.

Before we embark on chapter 21 are we all satisfied that we have finished chapter 20?

Could we have a word about the significance of the word "lake"? It is a lake of fire (v.24). Elsewhere we read of the "Gehenna of fire", we also read of "unquenchable fire", but it says here "lake of fire". In chapter 21 verse 1 we read of a sea. It does not say a 'sea of fire', it is a lake. A lake surely conveys the thought of containment, confinement. A lake has boundaries, not like a sea. This, to me, is a very profound thought that the time will come when evil will be contained within a fixed boundary. The Devil, his angels, fallen and impenitent man will be dealt with completely. Our hymn (no.48) expresses this,

            "All taint of sin shall be removed,

              All sorrow done away;

              And we shall dwell with God's Beloved,

              Through God's eternal day.

This will be universal bliss, there will be the blessing of God everywhere, safe from this terrible place of limitation and confinement.

A further thought about the darkness. In the plagues in Egypt (the ninth plague) the darkness was a darkness that "could be felt" (Ex.10:21). It also says that they saw not one another. It gives us some impression of what eternal darkness will be.

It is important to see that God will deal effectively with all that Satan has brought in. This is quite as important as the other aspect of the blessing that He will bring in. Sin having come in, God's righteousness and holiness demands that evil must be dealt with, and it will be done thoroughly and finally, and leave room for what is now before us in chapter 21.

It says here "If anyone was not found written in the book of life". We may ask the question 'Is there going to be anyone?' The answer of scripture is definitely that all will be thrown into the lake of fire without any exception. John 5:24, so often quoted in gospel preaching, tells us that those who have believe have eternal life and shall not go into judgment; it is not possible. These people who stand here in front of the great white throne have no place in the book of life, so they are all cast into the lake of fire. It is terrible. This is the same expression that we also have for death and hades, so there will not only be in company of Satan, but they will the company of death and hades. They have gone out of death and hades, but this is no victory, because they will find death and hades again in the lake of fire for all eternity.

Could we conclude this solemn section with a few words of vindication for our Lord Jesus Christ and the proof of His victory. In Philippians 3:21 we see the effective power which the Lord has to subdue all things to Himself. It is going to be a long process, but He will subdue all His enemies, first when He comes, then during the millennium, concluding with Gog and Magog and his hosts at the end (v.8). All will be subdued according to His power, death and hades, Satan himself, and then it says here "everyone". So everyone who has ever resisted, who has ever opposed the Lord Jesus will be subdued then. Given that the book is entitled "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", perhaps that is an aspect we can see as well, that it is really a proof of His final victory.

Judgment has been committed into His hand (John 5:27) and consequent upon the judgment every mouth shall be stopped. We find this in connection with the man who came into the marriage supper without his wedding garment. He was speechless (Matt.22:12). Everyone who finds himself in this position will have absolutely nothing to say. God will be justified when He judges (Ps.51:4).

Do all these things help us to appreciate the wondrous word at the very beginning of the New Testament. We read "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt.1:21).

Certainly. Another well known passage is John 1:29 "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world". On the cross the Lord dealt judicially with sin completely - according to God's measurement of sin, during the millennium with the power of sin, and at the end of the millennium with the presence of sin. The victory is complete and final.

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