Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Revelation 20:11-15, The Great White Throne of Judgement (The Study of the Apocalypse)


Everyone will face the last judgement. This passage is both the 2nd resurrection and the 2nd death. It is interesting that the actual words “2nd resurrection” never occur in Revelation, but is inferred here. The order and how the people get to the final judgement depends greatly on the view held.

1.Premillennialism sees all believers resurrected in the “1st resurrection” and “the rest” resurrected (2nd resurrection) for the final judgment. The believers are judged first, followed by the unbelievers.

2.Amillennialism sees the “1st resurrection” as an “intermediate state” for believers throughout the church age and the “2nd resurrection” as the bringing to life all people, both believing and unbelieving, for the final judgement.

3.Postmillennialism sees “1st resurrection” only for the martyrs spoken of throughout the Apocalypse and the “2nd resurrection” as the rest of believers as well as the unbelieving.

Beale* (Pg. 1034) asks the question: “How can deceased believers be included in the realm ruled over by malevolent powers?” His answer is “...until the final resurrection, though their spirits are with the Lord, their physical bodies still lie under the power of death and Satan and the old world.” He points to 1 Corinthians 15:50-57:

Κορινθίους α 15·50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ. 51 ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, 52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γὰρ καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. 53 Δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν. 54 ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος·
κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. Κορινθίους α 15·55 ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος;
ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; 56 τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· 57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

     50 But I say this to you, brothers, that flesh and blood are not able to inherit the kingdom of God, neither is the perishable able to inherit the nonperishable. 51 Behold, I speak a mystery to you: All will not die, but all will be changed, 52 in a moment, in a blinking of an eye, in the last trumpet. For he will sound a trumpet and the dead will be raised nonperishable and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on nonperishable and this mortal put on immortal. 54 But whenever this perishable may put on nonperishable and this mortal may put on nonperishable, then it will become the written word:
     ‘Death was swallowed up by victory. 
55  Death, where is your victory?
     Death, where is your sting?’ 
56 But the sting of death is sin, but the power of sin is the law. 57 And favor to God who gives to us the victory through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed one.

     11 And I saw a great white throne1 and the one sitting on it, whose face2, the earth and heaven fled away from and no place was found for them3 . 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing4 before the throne. And books were opened5. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books; according to their deeds6. 13 And the sea7 gave the dead who were in it and death and the realm of the dead8 gave the dead who were in them. And they were judged, everyone according to their deeds. 14 And death and the realm of the dead were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death; the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

1 θρόνον μέγαν λευκὸν (a great white throne)

“Great” here probably means ‘huge” or “large”. “White” represents “holiness” and “purity” which are common themes throughout the Apocalypse.

     This could also be indicative of the preeminence of Who sits on the throne, as fitting for the King of Kings.

2 οὗ ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου (whose face...away from)

The phrase is actually a relative pronoun οὗ “whose” plus a prepositional phrase ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου “away from the face” or “away from the presence”. I broke up the prepositional phrase to make the passage flow a little smoother.

3 This statement is looking forward to 21:1. The first heaven (sky) and earth must go away in order for the the new heaven and earth to come down. Osborne*** thinks that this means that total destruction has come to the first heaven and earth. (Pg. 721).

4 ἑστῶτας (standing)

Greek: “having stood”.

5 An allusion to Daniel 7:10.

6 Osborne*** sees verse 12 as the judgement for the righteous and the latter verses as judgement for unbelievers. (Pgs. 721-722).

     Only the dead are judged according to their deeds. Those in the book of life are judged for life.

7 The sea has been seen as an evil place throughout the Apocalypse.

8 ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης (death and the realm of the dead)

Greek: “Death and Hades”. Death and Hades have already been spoken of in 1:18 where Jesus holds the keys to Death and Hades, and in 6:8 where Death and Hades ride the pale green horse.

The throwing of Death and Hades into the lake of fire brings to mind Paul’s passage in 1 Corinthians 15:26:

Κορινθίους α 15·26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος· 

26 The last enemy to be put to an end is death.

In 1 Corinthians 15:26, the infinitive verb καταργεῖται, which I have translated “to be put to an end”, can also mean that what death produces will no longer have an effect. That idea is also here in the Apocalypse. Death and Hades no longer have an effect on believers as the two are completely separated. Interestingly enough, the unbelievers are now placed in the very place where death and hades now reside.

NT = New Testament 
OT = Old Testament 
ESV = English Standard Version 
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version 
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A 
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV) 
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)

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